The Candy Shop, a new boutique, gives new designers a place to sell their wares
Like a lot of people, Tiffany Tanaka and Courtney Young seemed to be wasting a lot of time at the mall when they were younger. "We'd go to Ala Moana and look at everything, then we'd go to Kalakaua and walk up and down and just look, especially at all the Japanese vintage shops upstairs; we knew all of them," said Tanaka.
The Candy Shop|
831 Queen St.
Call 589-1102, ext. 205.
Now that she's expanded her original business, the eBay-assistance shop WeSellThings4U, into a separate DIY boutique called the Candy Shop, it turns out the two friends hadn't been wasting time at all, the mall having served as a laboratory for creating their own retail empire.
"We'd talk a lot about it. Having a shop was a big dream, mostly Tiffany's," said Young.
Tanaka, an avid eBayer, started WST4U with the simple notion that non-tech types or people without a lot of time might want help listing their unwanted possessions on eBay, and she was right. From a tiny upstairs room in Kakaako, WST4U -- opened with Jana Park, who will continue to serve as its general manager -- expanded to the first floor. The Candy Shop opened next door last Friday.
Just as eBay put the power of secondhand selling and Internet retailing into the hands of consumers and small businesses, the Candy Shop offers an empowering experience for DIYers, or do-it-yourselfers, independent designers in need of an outlet for their one-of-a-kind or limited-edition wares.
The boutique features a mix of young local and mainland designers, including lines like Spicy Toast, created by Erika Davies of San Diego, whom Tanaka discovered on eBay.
"I'd been seeing so much online in DIY and had been thinking about expanding," Tanaka said. "It made sense to have an outlet for those who couldn't make it in a regular store environment."
Local brands on the Candy Shop racks are Akane, Dan Weaver's CutNSewn, Fiume and Shop Toast (not to be confused with Spicy Toast; see accompanying story on D1). Prices start at about $3 for a trio of buttons from Shop Toast, about $29 for men's T-shirts and $60 to $90 for dresses. Other local designers about to be added to the mix include Asael, Roketo and Bliss Lau, the latter also a classmate at Punahou and a Parsons graduate who runs her business out of New York and will be teaching handbag design at Parsons.
The designers reflect the varied styles of the principals.
"I'm more trendy whereas Jana's more abstract," said Tanaka.
Young said he enjoys the freedom of being different from one day to the next. Wearing a Chanel camellia earring in one ear, he said he appreciates everything from hip-hop to couture fashion.
"Since we were little kids we always wanted to be different," he said. "We didn't care what anyone else thought."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Candy Shop partners clockwise, from left, Johnny Nguyen, Courtney Young, Jana Park and Tiffany Tanaka show the Lifepod display at their Kakaako boutique. Tanaka also started the eBay seller store WeSellThings4U
, located next door to The Candy Shop. CLICK FOR LARGE
Mistakes came with the territory, but they never regretted the "fashion don't" moments that led to the development of their style sense.
"There's this quote I read somewhere that I really love: 'Sometimes we missed the mark, but we were always ahead of the curve,'" Young said.
"Shopping is definitely a fusion experience. We just let things flow," said Tanaka, whose low-key demeanor belies her entrepreneurial fire and determination, which Young knows firsthand.
After graduating from Punahou, he studied tourism planning and management at New York University before taking a management position at New York's W Hotel. He intended to return home one day to work in his field but returned last summer, earlier than intended, to become general manager of the Candy Shop at Tanaka's request.
She also pressed another friend, Johnny Nguyen, to return home from Texas.
"I have so many friends who are dying to move back home, but they don't have an outlet for their talent," Tanaka said. "One of them, Jose Gavieres, just designed the new logo for the Grammy Awards. No one in Hawaii could afford him. I want to create something for people like him."
Tanaka's been there, having studied fashion design in California and returning home to few prospects in 2003, to care for her grandmother.
"Finding a job was hard. The only thing was Ala Moana retail or visual merchandising at the luxury boutiques, but people who have those jobs have been there for years. None of the (independent) boutiques were open yet.
"I kept on eBay, always keeping fashion in mind. Surfing eBay helped me a lot. If I couldn't sleep, I was on eBay."
Although the DIY movement started within various subcultures as a critique of consumer culture, in today's diverse marketplace, DIY boutiques allow creatives to reach an appreciative audience beyond their usual social network.
In addition to clothing and accessories, the Candy Shop also stocks music by local indie bands and deejays, and on the floor are books, collectibles and sewing machines that are not for sale, but are intended to foster the indie, DIY spirit.
"We want it to be a learning place," said Tanaka, who wants to make it easier for people to convert their ideas into reality, something that might have helped back when she and Park were high school juniors who dreamed of having their own clothing brand. They are currently working on a line called Do It Yo'self -- but back then they imagined a line called Puka Pants, with a puka shell embellishment as its signature.
"It's all about having the dream," Young said. "Without that, we wouldn't be here."