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Flying a new route


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POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Twin Islands Clothing LLC was launched a week ago, three years to the day after founder Mike Miller's twin brother Peter died in the Hawaii Air Ambulance crash on Maui. Peter was the pilot.

Mike lost his job as an Aloha Airlines pilot nearly one year ago.

“;My last flight was ... March 19,”; he said Thursday.

Twin Islands is taking baby steps, via e-commerce, offering $20 made-in-the-U.S. shirts and $3 stickers.

He did not set out to launch it on the anniversary of his brother's death.

He said he had asked his Web designer when his online store would be ready, and the answer “;kind of sent chills up my spine, how it all worked out.”;

With no advertising budget, Miller's Web designer put a share button on the site for shoppers to click on and post to Facebook.

He plans to expand, but already “;I've been overwhelmed with the amount of orders. Shipping and handling is not much fun, but it's good being busy.”;

Both twins followed in their father's footsteps.

Emmett Miller flew for Aloha for 33 years before his 1992 retirement.

“;I was trying to carry on the family tradition of being an Aloha pilot,”; the younger Miller said.

But Aloha shut down.

“;I would love to keep flying. The ultimate job would be with Hawaiian Airlines,”; he said, but openings were limited.

In a hotel lobby far from home, after a successful interview with a different airline, “;I started thinking of Peter,”; he said, and the idea for Twin Islands Clothing popped into his head.

“;Peter always had a dream of starting a clothing company,”; Miller said.

The airline gig would have him away from home 25 days a month, and he did not want to leave Hawaii for a new job.

He told the airline he changed his mind — and established Twin Islands.

The company is named after the Mokulua Islands off Kailua — where competition surfers Mike and Peter could often be found.

“;I've been in the surf industry my whole life,”; he said, and he was long sponsored by the Hurley surf and skate lifestyle company.

The twins were well-connected, had “;seen all the clothes and been around it, and I think I have the knowledge to be doing it myself,”; Miller said.

He added that “;throughout this process, I've sensed (Peter's) presence around me.”;

Peter was known for helping underprivileged kids get into surfing, often giving them his surfboards.

A nonprofit foundation bearing his name carries on his mission and stages an annual surf contest at Kalama Beach Club in Kailua. Young surfers pick up applications to enter the contest at Hawaiian Island Creations in Kailua.

“;They've been a really big help to the foundation,”; Miller said.

Not a graphic designer himself, Miller created the logo with fine-tuning help from older brother Tony, who works for Channel Islands Surfboards in California.

The bird “;represents Peter hovering over the islands,”; he said.

The encircling wave depicts the wrap-around familiar to area water-folk.

HIC President Stephen Tsukayama said he has known the brothers for years, likes the logo and feels the Web site appeals well to the longboarding market.

“;It touches a broad market, young and old. The feeling of Kailua, laid back — and surfing,”; he said.

Miller is smart to start his business online, Tsukayama said.

He has seen local surf clothing startups come and go, but the successful ones have found a way to be “;unique.”;

“;I whole-heartedly support him, keeping his ideals alive and keeping the whole surfing thing in the forefront of whatever they do,”; said Tsukayama in praising Miller for honoring his brother's memory.

Losing his brother and his dream job were painful, said Miller, but the job loss became an opportunity to start a business that “;I have a passion for,”; he said. “;And I lost Peter, but I think Peter is working with me on this journey.”;

“;I was always the quiet twin, he was the go-getter,”; Miller said.

Now, “;I represent both of us ... My mom sees a different me now.”;

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at

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