What difference can we make in shopping local?
Kauai designer, Chanterelle, believes that by keeping it on the Island, we can help sustain locally based and made businesses here in Hawaii.
She teams up with her brother, a local goldsmith specializing in high end made-on-the-Island handmade pieces, to sell her clothing and his jewelry as a pair in store. They both prioritize making their products here locally, supporting the Island.
So how did this family of creatives get their start in Hawaii and Chanterelle with her designs?
It all started with a vacation from Maine at the young age of 6 years old. The family left during an ice storm in winter, and upon seeing the bougainvillea, green grass, and palm trees, Chanterelle said “there’s flowers here in winter…it’s paradise! If we don’t move here now I’m moving as soon as we can.” So they sent their seats home empty and stayed on the Island, all knowing it was home to them, and made a life here.
Growing up, Chanterelle was homeschooled in passion led learning. Her focus was none other than sewing and fashion, as she loved fashion and draping things around before she can remember. Even from a young age she picked out her own clothing and her mom’s as well and received her first sewing machine at the age of 7!
"If you take a child interested in something and ready for it, they will learn everything about it and the history," she tells us, just like she did while fascinated with the history of costuming.
These days Chanterelle also teaches, passing on what she knows to her students.
“Fashion is an influence all the time,” she says, “what we wear and choose and how we present ourselves and the climate…in Hawaii we don’t design winter lines the same way, as there’s not a huge change. It’s a whole different thing to be designer in Hawaii than in Maine.”
Chanterelle’s overall style has remained a consistent, elegant, timeless beauty. She labels it “edgy within classy,” alluring but also tasteful. Since launching her own line at 17 years old, she has matured into her style from where she started. Notably, her favorite styles to design include elegant, ballroom, red carpet, bridal, fairytale, and ethereal.
At a young age, Chanterelle's sewing mentor helped her through every step of making the ball gown of her dreams, with a puffy skirt, lace, embellished sleeves, and all of the details, meanwhile teaching her that there is no such thing as too difficult. Learning each step of the way, this learning method served in her career and design skills. She has since developed tricks to putting things together, and if she wants to create something she can figure out how to create it. There are no limits or rules; if she wants to make it she’s going to!
Carrying on the lessons she learned to the next generation, while her students don't yet have the ability to make the pattern on their own, she works every step of the way to help them understand what they’re doing, and with each time they learn how to do the next step.
Not only a talented designer, but a musician as well, she even learned the harp during the break of the pandemic. Coming from a line of singers on her mother's side, she has been involved in music her whole life. Choosing violin as her first instrument, she then fell in love with piano. She says she had perfect teacher, a match made in heaven, who inspired her and never had a student so interested in learning.
Believing that all kids are talented, she thinks most are never given the opportunity to let that come out. “You can’t just let a kid choose what they’re interested in," she says, "but have to guide them and help them to mastery. There’s always going to be a learning curve, you just have to help them through it.”
Chanterelle worked herself into a secondary career of teaching, recognizing that people want skills and trades are important.
Her best advice to an aspiring designer? “Go learn to sew. You will design better if you understand how to put it together. If you want to be really good at your craft, go learn how to do it. Like business owners, learn how to do it first so you know how to do it right.”
Living in a place of natural beauty that she says is inspiring to work around, she calls the beach her second office. When seeing part of a design that she likes, she’ll take inspiration from the concept and build a whole new design off of it. There’s no one way in which she creates her designs, she says, as it can come from anywhere. For her it is nature inspired; she doesn’t watch fashion trends but sources organically and naturally from inside herself.
What is the mission of such a talented creative individual such as Chanterelle?
Well, she has multiple, narrowing it into three parts: Her first mission when designing for a woman, is to help them to feel beautiful and confident in themselves. What she does different is designing for the customer who’s wearing the dress, paying attention to where lines fall, listening to what makes them feel good and their insecurities, and enhancing their features. It’s all about listening directly to women, she says.
“When you feel good in what you’re wearing, you have the confidence in your ability to live and be happy and attract good things from that.” Telling us of a time that someone raved about her designs, she says,
“That’s why I do it...to make people feel that happy…working with a bride to make their special day so special…designing to make those special moments for people. It’s about confidence, beauty, happiness.”
Her second mission is teaching, to inspire the next generation like she was inspired and to give them skills to follow to whatever level they can do it.
“There’s so much depression from people not feeling meaning in their lives or feeling useful,” she says, “too much of a ‘me’ society, only for themselves. But if you give people things to do to feel productive and make something for other people, it gives them the ‘I made this, I know how to do this’ inspiring feeling. That spark and light in their eyes when they get it and make an accomplishment they can be proud of, that’s why I teach. There’s nothing like watching that light in their eyes.”
As for her final mission, this being a personal one, she wants to make things here, support local and give people jobs they can enjoy doing here on Island. Her students have become her employees and love working because they enjoy their work.
A big believer in energy, she has had clients who pick out a dress that felt like love and that was one of hers, because it was made by her and people on the Island who love what they’re doing. It’s different, she says, and made with love.
So what’s next for Chanterelle?
She is still finding this out herself! After a whole year of break and reinvention, she’s hoping to have bridal take off now that things are opening up and weddings happening again. Seeing where things go, she doesn’t know for sure but hopes for bridal and red carpet events to be part of the future.
Her main focus remains the same - making everyday pieces for women to feel beautiful every day of their life.
Mahalo from the KAPAMAG Team,
Written by Katlin Tara for KAPAMAG
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