HiLife 10 Years, a look back...
In 1990, I sat in my car in a parking lot somewhere in Iwilei, thinking to myself how this could change everything.
I had my very first job interview. I was a couple weeks away from graduating from HCC with a commercial arts degree. Joining the adult work force at the age of 20, you don’t feel like growing up, giving up the party lifestyle of a college student (even if it was just a community college), I was having way too much fun to jump into a 9 to 5 full time job, but I could not pass up this opportunity. It was a dream job, something I always wanted since I was in elementary
When I was a kid, my mom used to buy blank white t-shirts for me. She would give me some markers and I would design my own t-shirts and wear them around my neighborhood playing in the streets, I must've looked nuts, but it was my passion, and she supported me in every way she could. My dad wanted me to become an electrician, but i told him I needed to work in an office with A/C.
In a couple of days, I got a phone call from one of the biggest surf companies to come out of Hawaii, Local Motion. I accepted the opportunity to be a graphic designer, and worked along side amazing talent. I was beyond stoked, and soaked up every chance i got to learn, improve and become a better designer. My salary was $6.50 an hour (same as working at zippys at that time). BUT, I got to wear t-shirt, shorts and slippahz everyday. DREAM JOB.
I was mentored, raised, and became a part of a real ohana at Local Motion. I learned a lot about the surf industry, we ate, traveled, celebrated, laughed, cried, and worked together for years. Some of them became my dearest aunties, some brothers and sisters, some heroes and some legends. All influenced me in some way and truly made me a better person.
In 2001, I decided to leave the company I considered family, the place I called home, and the brand that is still a part of me til today.
Now at the age of 31, I decided to pursue my next goal in life before more responsibility (marriage, house, mortgage, kids) would prevent me from achieving it. I walked into the president’s office, thanked him for all the opportunity he had giving me. Thanked my boss, and co-workers and stepped into the unknown.
I started a design company called "Grass Shack Graphics" I got the opportunity to meet and work with even more influential people and companies designing logos and t-shirt graphics, freelance life was good, working from home in my bibidis and making my own hours, the freedom was good, but scary.
In my career as a graphic designer, I always wondered what it would be like to start my own brand. Take all the knowledge and experience I consumed over the years, and put it to test. Do it my way. My vision:
Stay true to your core values.
Chase happiness (instead of money) with your work.
Be honest and fair with people.
Treat everyone with respect.
Build a brand that has integrity, and that people will be proud to represent.
Promote Hawaii and all its special treasures.
Try to always share and live aloha.
And never ever forget where you came from.
In 2006, I created a brand called HiLife Clothing Co. it started with some ads in mags, a sticker, then a t-shirt, then a cap... then all of a sudden, I could not believe Its been 10 years. It’s been a great ride, challenging at times, but still fun. But most of all, I’m so grateful, humbled, and honored that it’s still going. Here’s to another 10 more…We ain’t done yet!
Rob and Donna Burns, Leigh Tonai, George Kam, Dale Hope, Koji Minami, Calvin Maeda, Marshall Marumoto,
the entire Local Motion Ohana, Stan and Noriko Matsumoto, BJ Sabate and Ohana, Maui Bay Staff, Butigroove and Waikiki Crew,
My family, friends and my wife, Sherri.
Mahalo for all your years of support, friendship, guidance, patience, and belief in me.