Stitching Together A Creative Career

Shannon Hiramoto

Shannon Hiramoto

Shannon Hiramoto | Owner of MachineMachine

Please tell us about your business. I sell handmade clothing using new and vintage fabrics, usually one or two of a kind. I create dresses, tops and skirts for women. I also make trucker-style hats and hand-stitch vintage fabric on them. I began my business, MachineMachine, in January 2007.

Why did you start your business? I was looking for something creative to do. I graduated from the University of Hawai’i with a degree in printmaking and English, but I was unsure of where to head. I just knew I wanted to be creative. I moved back to Kaua’i and was helping take care of my grandfather, who was sick, and while I was home I started sewing again, which was something I did in high school (I learned from my grandmother). And then I heard about Etsy (etsy.com) and thought, well, I’ll just throw some of these dresses up on Etsy and see how they do. They started selling right away and it was really exciting, so I just kept making more and more. Stores started finding out about me through Etsy and word-of-mouth, and then I just committed to it and decided I should pursue it.

Where do you buy your fabrics? I get a lot of my new fabrics from the Internet and sometimes the local fabric store here. And then the vintage fabric I’ve been collecting for awhile. I get fabric at thrift stores and garage sales. I’m just constantly hunting and collecting like a little squirrel.

How would you describe the style of your clothes? Casual, but easily dressed up. They convert from daytime to nighttime really easily. I’ve seen girls wearing them to the beach or to weddings. The pattern is wild and heavy on print and color. I like bold, artistic, flashy prints mixed with solids.

MachineMachine hats. Coco Zickos photos

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? There are so many reasons why I enjoy what I do. It’s nice to be able to have a career that’s creative, and every day I wake up and I’m excited because I get to put out the ideas in my head and actually have a purpose for them and insight for them and a reason to create. And I enjoy when people tell me I inspire them and that they want to learn how to sew and they want to create things too.

What is the most challenging aspect of what you do? Having to be disciplined and really be hard on myself sometimes so that I work when I have to work – setting up the boundaries between work and play.

What is your secret to small-business success? You have to ride through the fear and stick with it because it will take awhile to be profitable. And that’s true with any small business. The first couple of years are going to be just making it and paying off your costs and working really, really hard. You have to hang in there and you have to be standing behind what you’re making so that other people will believe in it. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing, it will be reflected in your product and it will be a great product because of that.

Where were you born and what high school did you graduate from? I’m from Kaua’i and graduated from Kaua’i High School in 1998.

Where can people purchase your products? At Halele’a in Kukuiula, Work It Out in Kapa’a and Oscar’s in Kilauea. On O’ahu, there are about six shops, on the Big Island there are two and on Maui there are three shops.

How did you come up with the name MachineMachine? I use my sewing machine (Singer) and my serger. Those are my two go-to machines, so without them there would be no MachineMachine. Also, when I was first beginning the company, I was really into the intersection of technology and handmade and the importance of craft, and remembering that objects should have integrity and we should nurture artisan creations. We’re really disconnected from the things we buy, and I was trying to create things that people could hang on to for awhile. I want the product to resonate with you, so the name MachineMachine was supposed to lodge the idea of what is machine-made, what is handmade and what is the difference.

Do you have any special events coming up? March 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Halele’a at the Shops at Kukuiula in Po’ipu there will be a group of different artisans coming together for a truck show called Make it Kaua’i. machinemachineapparel.com

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