Meet Eriko Paquin
Owner and Designer of Haitai Hawai
Facebook: Haitai Hawaii
Tell us about yourself, your business… I was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan where I later met my husband and was introduced to the American lifestyle. When my husband and I and two children moved to Hawaii in 2009, I was quickly introduced to the Japanese and Okinawan communities on the island. Reconnecting with my Okinawan culture, I was proud of my heritage and wanted to share my culture with others. Although I was familiar with crafting prior to moving to Hawaii, I was able to build my business after several years of attending craft fairs throughout the island.
My favorite part about doing what I do is meeting new customers and reconnecting with loyal ones throughout the year. Despite the sudden halt in my business early 2020, I took this opportunity, with the help of my two daughters, to explore reaching customers virtually. Since then, Haitai Hawaii has been able to reach more customers who share an appreciation for Japanese Obi fabric beyond our beautiful island.
How would you describe your art/craft? I make a variety of hand bags and home décor using gently used Japanese obi in addition to small gift items, jackets, and eco totes made with Okinawa Kasuri fabric. It is my passion to repurpose the Japanese obi into something more contemporary and modern so that the everyday women can look her best!
What kinds of items do you sell? What is the price range? I sell a variety of hand bags and clutches, wall hangings, table runners, and wine covers using gently used Japanese obi. I also sell eco totes, jackets, face masks, lanyards, and checkbook covers using a variety of Okinawa kasuri print fabric. My products range from $14 (mask) to $105 (Large obi tote).
How long have you been doing this? After moving to Hawaii, I started using vintage and gently used obi for crafting in 2011. I originally started participating in craft fairs around the island of Oahu where I got to meet so many new and returning customers who share an appreciation for Japanese fabric. I was later provided the opportunity to try my hand with virtual selling in 2020 and have since reached customers for the first time outside of Hawaii on Etsy.
Have you travelled to Japan? Yes, always! I was born in Okinawa, Japan where I later met my husband and had two girls. Due to my husband’s work, we had to move often but we made sure to visit my family every summer in Okinawa. We also lived in Tokyo for 5 years before moving to Hawaii. Since 2009, I have tried to visit Okinawa every year.
What is your favorite thing about working with kimono fabric? My favorite thing about working with kimono and obi fabric is the opportunity to bring these fabrics back to life. Obi is a traditional Japanese fabric but is no longer used as often as before. Especially here in Hawaii, I hear many families who store their “grandma’s” obi in a box or shoved in a closet and hidden away and think "mottainai". Giving these fabrics a second life fills me, and my customers, with joy knowing that they can carry on a little bit of the Japanese spirit.
What is the most challenging thing about working with kimono fabric? Because every obi itself is one of a kind, it is difficult to have a lot of the same product in stock. Also, once in a while I feel guilty cutting a very nice obi to make my smaller hand bags so I try to save these patterns for wall hangers to preserve the design.
See more of Eriko's creations below: