Last Thursday, Nāpali Souza (pictured above, right, with Noah Serrao), one third of the trio behind label Salvage Public, was busy affixing buttons and grommets to surf shorts at the fashion resource center Cut Collective in Ward Warehouse. “They have the equipment we need,” he explained. Souza and his partners were in the final stretch to get their merchandise ready for their first store—a sliver of space in Ward Village’s South Shore Market opening this Friday, Nov. 11. Taking inspiration from Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, Howard Hughes Corp. is featuring island-based retailers and food purveyors.

Salvage Public, founded in 2012, is one of the 13 emerging companies that have found a home in this space under T.J. Maxx, and also happens to be one of the entities arts of Hawai‘i curator Healoha Johnston selected to be in the exhibition Hawai‘i in Design, we are proud to report. Since the exhibition opened in March, Salvage Public, which makes surf-inspired T-shirts, surf shorts and caps for men, has been all over the media, from the New York Times’ T Style Magazine to Hawaii Public Radio. And now they are a physical space.

Salvage Public shirts on view in ʻHawai‘i in Designʻ

Salvage Public shirts on view in ʻHawai‘i in Designʻ

“It all happened in the last six months,” says Souza, who admits he’s been running on fumes for the past year. “This is a new thing for us. We wanted to have a brick-and-mortar presence, but it was hard to find the right spot. Our office is in Kaimukī and I live in Pālolo, but there’s not a lot of turnover in the area.”

Then Howard Hughes approached Salvage Public. “We learned they had a little space for a brand like us, and we thought, let’s give it a try. We’ll be surrounded by local brands that have a longer history here, so we’ll be able to introduce ourselves to a new audiences.”

Souza reports that their South Shore Market spot will carry Salvage Public casual wear as well as other finds. “Surfing’s in our DNA—we’ll have surfboards that are a little more funky, retro shapes, by our friend Toots who is a well known surfer down at Queens, wax, and a nice sunscreen from Korea. We’ll also have art and Hawaiian history books—things we’re into—and stuff that’s made here, by our friends, like jewelry for men by a.wattz dezigns, as well as a collaboration with Island Slipper, which makes their stuff in Pearl City. It will be a matter of adding and subtracting as we go along.”

While the work has been hard, “it’s good fun,” says Nāpali. “We have support coming from so many different directions, from our families and girlfriends, and it’s little plugs like you guys.” The Salvage Public team is still learning as they go along.

“We worked with a really talented photographer last week, and had the opportunity to work with talented, professional female models for the first time—who give you a new pose for each shot. A big change from the guys we tell, ʻStand there, just keep standing there,’” Nāpali laughs. “It was a cool experience. All these little things feel like part of an evolution and growth.”

Has being in Hawai‘i in Design had any impact on Salvage Public? “The fact that we are, in the show reflects the brand because of our own personal interest in art,” says Souza. “It reinforces the direction we’re taking, reinforcing the way we see ourselves. It’s let us know we should keep doing what we’re doing as far as our interests go—not necessarily in fashion but in informing the aesthetic. Being in the exhibition has also introduced us into people we wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise.”

You can meet Nāpali and his partners Joe Serrao and Noah Serrao at South Shore Market on Nov 11. “Weʻll be there all day!” says Nāpali.

11.4.2016