Designs For The Isles In Tapa Batik
Joan Smoyer and Cevza
Zerkel model Noa Noa
Joan Smoyer turns tapa designs into batik and puts them on men’s shirts, ladies’ dresses, and sarongs in all different colors: sky blue and black, deep red and pale yellow, purple and white. Her lifelong love of art and the islands is combined into her store Noa Noa, where her tropical designs come alive on mannequins.
“I’m an island lady, and I love living on all kinds of islands,” says Smoyer, who has lived in Guam, Saipan, Fiji, Bali, Maui, Oahu and Manhattan.
Noa Noa means sweet scent in Tahitian, and she picked that name as it portrays the island and the colors and “sensual island living.” Noa Noa is also the name of painter Paul Gaugin’s autobiography.
Her sixth retail store made its debut earlier this month in the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Nestled past the lobby entrance and a stone’s throw away from the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, Smoyer has placed her most popular designs in this 450-square-foot boutique. The ladies’ one-piece dress with a top that can be belted into a halter top, bandeaux, or even a shorter dress is a best-seller of the resort wear. Other popular fashions include the casual top and pant set, scarves and tapa cloths.
The art major from New York City’s Hunter College opened a store in Saipan over 25 years ago, which is now closed. Her first store in Hawaii was on the Big Island in 1983. With three stores on the Big Island and one on Maui, the Kaneohe resident’s 1100-square-foot Ward Centre store opened eight years ago.
“All the stores are the same and different,” says the fashion expert. “The demographic is different at each location. In the Ward store, I need to keep things fresh so the locals keep coming back. My other stores are based in malls.”
For most of her entrepreneurial years, she has been living in Bali overseeing the production end of the business, while relying on her store managers to handle the daily operations in Hawaii. These days, she’s living on Oahu and trying to manage the production end from afar. Some of her challenges include production, shipping, the holidays and getting through the bad times such as Sept. 11.
“When you’re a small business, you’re always challenged with things that big companies can absorb,” explains Smoyer.
With more than 25 years of experience in business, some lessons that she’d share with new business owners are to know what your concept is and find a place for that. “It takes time to establish a business and, hopefully, you’ll have enough funds for at least a year,” she advises. “And trust your instincts.” Smoyer trusts her instincts by making each piece different. She says her salespeople can help customers interpret the clothes, and what will look good on them. “I love tapa; it’s a design that is ethnic and satisfying,” says Smoyer, whose shops are decorated with valuable cultural artifacts from Indonesia and the South Pacific.
For more information, call 949-8980, or 593-0343.
Noa Noa at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; Ward Centre 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
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