Meet Melody Torres, creative and part owner here at Wings. We took the time to sit down with Melody and ask her about her role here, how she got started, and her advice for running a small business.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role here at Wings?
I guess you could say that my main role is bringing Wings art to life. I do this through our screen printed clothing, decal dishware, hand-dyed color palettes and our retail sales. Wings head designer, Samantha Howard, is the artist coming up with all of our creative concepts- drawing the illustrations, designing the handsewn pieces, and fabricating our jewelry line. I get to bring many of her concepts to fruition by doing a lot of the hands-on creating- printing the clothing, adding decals to dishware and mixing up the dreamy color palettes that make our shoppers swoon.
On the retail sales end, I love painting the picture for our shoppers of all the inspiration and creativity that goes into both designing and making these wearable works of art.
What was the catalyst in starting Wings?
Wings began as an art project in college. I jumped on board about two years after Wings was created by Samantha. At first it was just something fun to do with a friend, but it became apparent pretty quickly that there was a demand for the kind of art we were creating- something hand-crafted. The Maui community really loved what we were doing and embraced us. Sam and I have now been running this business from the island of Maui for 14 years!
Can you tell us a little bit about the screen printing process?
Choosing the right art and color scheme for each body style is one of the hardest parts of the printing process. Each garment showcases the design in a different way and they don’t all work together! Each round of printing starts with unpacking all the blank garments and separating out anything that’s getting dyed and then organizing each body style into print and ink color piles.
Once all the decision making is done, I generally throw in my headphones, mix up my ink colors, and get to it. I love when I’m able to get into some good music and hit a rhythm with the printing that makes everything just flow seamlessly.
Has this always been your creative outlet?
No, definitely not! As Wings has evolved, so has my creative repertoire. I’ve learned all of the elements that I do for my job as the business has grown. As the demand for screen printed apparel grew, my role shifted from assisting Sam to taking over the entire printing process. After a few years, I became the sole screen printer and garment dyer for the Wings line!
How did you get started with garment dyeing?
Dyeing came along a few years later. After several years of printing on the same apparel lines, we grew tired of their color offerings. Simultaneously, we were growing the collection of handsewn pieces and one of the biggest hurdles of sewing a clothing line in Hawaii is sourcing the perfect fabric for your vision. These growing needs led our team to start creating our own color palettes. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally got the dye process down! All of our dye colors are chosen with intention to represent a mood or a season and are some of the most important parts of the expression in our pieces.
What do you value most about running a small business?
The thing I value most about running a small business in Hawaii is being a part of our North Shore community. We’ve been creating jobs locally since 2008 and are dedicated to producing the majority of our goods right here on Maui. It’s important to us to operate this way because we care about providing opportunities for local residents who want to thrive here on the island. I’m so appreciative of our local and visitor shoppers for loving what we create and enabling us to do what we are passionate about.
What advice do you have for young makers and small business owners at the beginning of their journey?
Just because you’re pursuing something you’re passionate about does not mean it’s going to be easy. There are a thousand reasons to give up when it’s hard but even more reasons to keep on going. Believe in yourself and keep on pushing toward your goals. Don’t be intimidated by people who are smarter - hire them, seek advice from them, whatever it takes. There’s so much to learn at every step of the journey.