Social Encore: Mori by Art+Flea
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
If you are looking for a gift that is unique, not mass-produced and locally made, check out Mori by Art+Flea at Ward Village.
Founded and curated by Aly Ishikuni, the boutique has a modern and selective vibe. Unlike Art+Flea’s monthly event with up to 70 vendors, Mori features six artists and designers that rotate every three months. Ishikuni said Mori gives buyers an opportunity to stop by a physical space to shop versus anticipating the monthly Art+Flea event.
Ishikuni started doing events like Art+Flea several years ago when Fresh Cafe had a small boutique section called the Candy Shop. She wanted to create an event that served as a get together while offering a way for people to spring clean their homes.
“It started out as a small garage sale type of event,” said Ishikuni, “I then met former co-founder Nicole Franco and with Tiffany Tanaka we took the garage sale feel, made a few tweaks and created Art+Flea.”
From art, food trucks, vintage sellers to designers, Art+Flea started at Fresh Cafe with a vendor list of 20. Today there are more than 700 vendors on Art+Flea’s roster, with up to 70 at a time taking part in the monthly event at its new location behind REAL a gastropub.
Although Art+Flea is a strong monthly event, Ishikuni wanted to have a boutique that featured several designers who relied on their craft for a living.
“Art+Flea has a feeling of being free, fun and wild,” she said. “When creating this storefront, I didn’t want to make it a typical boutique. With this, I wanted to separate the brand and create it to simulate a gallery.”
The shop is sectioned off by designer, giving each vendor a dedicated space and allowing each to be uniquely curated and displayed.
Some of this month’s featured artists and designers include colorful works of art by POW!WOW! artist Remi Meade; reversible and stylish bikinis by Soriya Swim; upcycled containers that have cute succulents in them by Una Amante; plus Mistprint hand-drawn and water-colored cards by Mistee Uyehara.
While there are rotating vendors, Moon Collective and Big Bad Wolf are two permanent designers that will be sold at the store, with Mori being the only location to sell the entire Big Bad Wolf collection. The kids collection was started by POW! WOW! merchandise and event director Amy Wong.
After working for high-end retail brands like Ferragamo and Kate Spade, it was natural for Amy to create the POW! WOW! merchandise line. She wanted to create her “own passion project.”
Wong noticed there wasn’t a wide selection of street wear for kids. Inspired by her husband, POW! WOW! founder Jasper Wong and 2-year-old daughter, Ella, she was inspired to create a brand heavily influenced by street art and culture.
“Now that my daughter is getting older, I feel like she doesn’t fit into the whole pink Hello Kitty vibe,” she said, “ I found myself shopping for a mix of boys and girls clothes for my daughter.”
A true line for the unordinary kid, the collection collaborates with a new artist and runs a limited supply of shirts each month.
“I thought (if) adults are able to get limited edition type of stuff, why not have those for kids, too.”
The line launched in October with pop artist Yoskay Yamamoto. This month’s featured artist is Taiwanese American visual artist, James Jean, who has worked with brands such as Prada.
“We wanted a fun and outside of the bubble brand and that is why I curate with a different world-renowned artist every month,” she said.
Ishikuni said she wants Mori to be more than a boutique but also a place where people can see wonderful pieces of art like current art installation by Kamran Samimi, learn how to grow their business, and act a co-working space as well.
Ishikuni said she understands how it is to rely on art and designs as a means of living. A hobby that turned into a full blown business, she created an upcycled line called Mechakawa Vintage, turning old muumuu dresses into modern and wearable tops. Her persistence and determination landed her clothing into stores like Urban Outfitters.
She admitted that even though some artists and designers are great creatives, they sometimes need a little help with things such as simple business practices, building a website and even learning about branding. By holding workshops at Mori, she hopes to educate and give vendors the tools that they need to succeed.
Using former vendors like Barrio Vintage and Machine Machine Apparel as examples, she said she hoped artists and designers are able to cultivate their niche and target demographic by learning at Mori.
“My end goal is that these vendors will eventually open up a shop one day,” she added.
Mori has two floors, with the upstairs floor acting as the shop’s office. Ishikuni said she will create a co-working space for artists and hopes to move in six to eight tenants by the end of January.
“A lot of artists and designers don’t have a permanent work spaces and many don’t want to work from their home,” she said. “We want to give artists and designers an alternative option hoping to create a creative hub up here.”
With the boutique location near trolley stops, she has seen an influx of tourists attend Art+Flea and the boutique. She hopes to expand Mori to the outer islands and even overseas to Japan.
“With Mori and Art+Flea, I also want to show tourists that Hawaii is more than the typical luau and Waikiki scene,” she said. “I want them to know about this underground art and music scene that we have and love Hawaii.
“Mori means forest in Japanese and I hope that this becomes a gathering place for creatives. I look at each designer and artists as a tree and having us all grow together here at Mori.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.