Telling All About A. Ell Atelier
Proprietor, A. Ell Atelier
Please tell us about your business. A. Ell Atelier is a boutique located in Kapa’a. We make a lot of our own items here in the shop, and we have a workspace in the back with sewing machines to make our clothing. We carry and make men’s clothes, women’s clothes and wedding dresses. In addition, we carry a lot of other products from local artists like jewelers who have really unique, quality items. We even sell art now. Basically, we have something for everybody.
How did you start this business? After attending a fashion design school in Seattle, I came out here for a summer vacation in 1998 and never left. I’ve always been in retail and have always loved working in clothing stores, so when I moved here, I worked at a retail store. I noticed women were coming in looking for wedding dresses. So that’s how my business started on Kaua’i. I started making custom wedding dresses. I started working from home and about seven years ago I opened my first workspace in Kapa’a. We eventually started carrying more items like hats and more festive, fun items that weren’t just wedding dresses.
When did you begin making clothes? I started making my own clothes when I was a little kid. My mother taught me. We didn’t have a lot of money, and that was one of the ways I could have my own clothes.
What is your favorite item to make? Sometimes making hats is really fun because it’s so creative and I can mix and match fabrics, and it’s quick. But sometimes the 50 hours spent making wedding dresses is fun, too.
What makes you get up every day to do this? For the last three years or so, it’s been the business. I really love running a business. I like the front end a lot now, that’s what gets me more excited. It’s gotten harder to do the sewing part because the retail part requires so much energy now, but I love it. I come in and want to move everything around and talk to people and find out what’s selling. I love the business aspect of it.
What sets your business apart from others? Focusing on supporting kama’aina – it’s been our foundation since the beginning. And we want to offer items that can’t be found anywhere else. Also, everything is made of good-quality materials. In addition, there is a story behind everything because I become friends with all of the artists we carry in here, so there’s a connection to everything we sell.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do? It feels like home when I come in here, and making it a place I want to be in. When I remember every once in awhile to stop and look around, it is really, really rewarding to me because it’s so beautiful, and I can’t believe I’m doing this. And it’s rewarding that people are responding.
What’s the most challenging aspect of what you do? Being inspired from the design sense. For me to be inspired, I really need to go hiking or sit with beautiful music, and I just don’t have that space anymore time-wise.
What are some future plans for your business? I hope to have another store, maybe on the North Shore or even in Oregon.
If you weren’t doing this and you could do anything in the world, what would it be? I’d be a successful musician. That’s my dream.
Open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
4-1320 Kuhio Hwy., Kapa’a islandhempclothing.com 212-7550