Nāpali Souza + Reise Kochi

Nāpali Souza is the co-creative director of the Hawaiian influenced menswear brand, Salvage Public. Reise Kochi is the designer of the namesake body, leatherwear line, Reise Kochi Leather. Here, they discuss the challenges of being Hawaii-based designers and what impact they hope to make upon the local industry through their brands. Read the rest of the interview below.

Interview: Nāpali Souza + Reise Kochi  | Transcribed: Geremy Campos | Fimed By: Andrew Tran

Nāpali Souza Interviewed by Reise Kochi

Reise: What do you do?

Napali: My name is Napali, I’m from kailua, and about four years ago I started, what was at the time, was just making t-shirts with a friend of mine. Now it’s evolved into a business, a brand that we hope is representative of Hawai’i. For Salvage Public, with any business, you’re wearing every single hat. So, there’s a co-creative direction between myself and partner, Joe. On my part, I typically take care more of the numbers side of the business.

Reise: What is that process like?

Between me, Joe (Serrao), and our third partner, we throw out ideas, thoughts and in the process of designing each season, things rise to the top. All of us have that creative self and Salvage Public is a way to express that.  We think about design, the graphics, and also the language of it, how it sounds, how it looks; all of us touch it at various parts of the process.

“We’re very interested in what this brand can represent for Hawai’i; for local culture, for our memories and experiences growing up here, how that’s unique from the rest of the world…”

– Nāpali Souza

Reise: How do you start designing the collections?

We typically pull inspiration, visuals, and it’s a lot more intentional because we’re thinking about operating on this global industry schedule. You need to adhere to the sample making process, trend forecasting, and all of that. Our process is evolving to accomplish all of that. Before we used to think, white on black / black on white, we’re good on that! 

Reise: Do you find it hard to locate resources here?

Napali: Well, there are factories that are still in existence and you can cut and sew stuff locally, but you’re limited in how technical your garments can be, how heavy your fabrics can be. If you’re looking to create other things you need to go elsewhere, board shorts for example.

There are smaller brands like us that are doing cool things and I wonder what impact that’s having and if it will continue to grow in the future. That’s one thing we hope, salvage public, can contribute something economically. Jobs, opportunities for kids coming out of school who want a different way and can’t go to NY or LA to do it.

Reise Kochi Interviewed by Nāpali Souza

Nāpali: You’re much more specific in your design sensibility, so can you tell me how you arrived at where you are?

Well, I was trying to be a pilot. I thought that was the career I wanted to take, but during classes I would sketch dresses. I never really thought I’d pursue it and then I just realized, I sketch so many dresses that maybe this is a passion. I’ve always had that it me, but was always discouraged to try for a career in fashion though eventually, I went to HCC for Fashion Design.

After that, I worked for Ari South for a little bit which was such a privilege because I got to design right after graduating. A lot of designers here don’t have that opportunity to go right into design. I was doing patterns based after my own designs and I was there with her for a year or two. Now, I’m focusing on my own collection.

Nāpali: How did you get into leather work?

I found a satchel in my garage, a western satchel and I asked my mom where she got it from and she said that my grandpa made it. My grandpa was self-taught, he did everything; ukuleles, furniture, everything. Finding that was kind of an aha moment. And at that time, I was designing fabric bags for Ari but was more interested in leather materials for structure. I wanted to make clothes, but not clothes; so I found body harnesses. That’s kind of how I fell into it. I want a full brand of everything; bags, body-ware, leashes for dogs…an overall leather brand.

“It’s hard for students who come out of school to find manufacturers and produce small lines. They have to contract home sewers in order to do it. That’s a limitation. Young designers here are like, ‘Where do I start?’”

– Reise Kochi

Nāpali: How does leather connect with you to Hawai’i? Through my own studying of history, Hawaiian cowboys pre-existed the American cowboy. So there is a long tradition of cowboy-ism which I connect to leather. It’s interesting that leather might not be connected to Hawai’i when people think of that.

Hawai’i kind of lost that feel of creating leather goods. I went to Waimea looking for tannerys, but there’s nothing there for that. I bring in my leather from California, but it would be nice to have it from Hawai’i.

How do you see yourself overcoming that your brand isn’t necessarily built for Hawai’i?

Making things that people in Hawai’i use; yoga mat holders, beach towel holders, succulent holders. That’s what I’m working on now and how I’m sliding into that market. I still have fun with it, so it’s not like I’m giving in.


Additional photography provided by Salvage Public and Reise Kochi.

Special thanks to Andrew Tran of Redefined Media for filming and editing the video, Anna Archibald for on site production, and Hound & Quail for giving us a beatiful set to film on.


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