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Jordan Higa photo by Shaneika Aguilar/NMG Network

Oct 04, 2018

Local Illustrator Jordan Higa Takes Flight

Photos by Shaneika Aguilar/NMG Network

It's no secret that Honolulu is undergoing a creative renaissance.

To be sure, large metropolitan hubs like New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo are now turning toward the creative energy bubbling over in the Islands for inspiration. And while there's a seemingly endless list of photographers, writers, designers, and painters leading the creative charge, we have an extra sweet-spot in our heart for the multifaceted Jordan Higa. Sister to social media and fashion guru Lindsey Higa (aka Pineapple Ice) Jordan has forged a sterling reputation for being both a supremely talented designer, illustrator, and dog-lover, who's inspiring work has appeared in international publications like Conde Nast Traveler as well as boutique hotels like The Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club. Recently, we caught up with Jordan to discuss her evolution as an artist, her favored mediums, and where she envisions the creative scene in Honolulu going next.

At what point did you begin to think of yourself as an artist?

When I was a little girl, I loved to draw. Of course, so many children do, but I think I had a special infatuation with it. I can remember sitting in my parents' room, trying to recreate these paintings of ballerinas from an Edgar Degas book my mom had almost every night before bed. I would spend hours trying to emulate his approach. I was still pretty young, maybe 6 or 7, but I think that helped spur my love of art and desire to create. My parents were also both hugely supportive of the arts and supporting our artistic interests, which gave me the confidence to keep pursuing art throughout my childhood and adulthood.

Let's talk about your backstory. You grew up here in Honolulu with access to all of the wonderful elements that come with growing up in Hawai'i, but you moved away for school to further your studies.

Yes, that's true. I feel so fortunate to be able to call Hawai'i home, but after I graduated high school, I was looking to expand my viewpoint and moved to San Francisco where I studied design before moving to New York to take a job as a digital designer for Helmut Lang and Theory. I learned so much while I was there. It's so fast-paced. It forces you to be sharp, quick, and creative, but Hawai'i always called out to me.

What was it that called you back to Honolulu?

The burgeoning creative scene seemed to be really making its mark. Publications like Contrast— paired with the opening of a host of new retail stores and a rapidly expanding design scene—really helped draw me back home. I looked at all of these great, creative things happening in Honolulu, and I was sort of taken aback. Like, wow, they're really doing some authentic, interesting stuff back home. Soon, people on the Mainland in various creative fields were looking to Honolulu for inspiration. I think that's because people here were telling a story that no one else could tell. It's such a unique place, and now that it feels like it's finding its voice, and we're embracing who we really are, it really seems to be coming into its own.

Can we talk about your illustrations a bit? In addition to working full time as a designer at a local agency, you also have your own greeting card line?

I do! It's called Hontas Higa.

As I mentioned, I've always loved to draw and while I was in New York, I was making these really elaborate birthday cards for my friends. Once I moved back to Honolulu, I started doing them and a good friend of mine, Megan Tomino—who's a local photographer—really pushed me to take them to the next level. So, I launched the first round out of a pop-up shop at Cookspace in the old Ward Warehouse and have been making these cards for a variety of boutiques throughout the city ever since.

In addition, your illustrations have been featured in a variety of publications, including Conde Nast Traveler, and your photography was displayed on Surfjack Hotel merchandise in Waikiki. It looks like you're staying quite busy.

Oh, man! Yes, it's been busy, especially while balancing a full-time job, but it's been both fun and rewarding at the same time. I'm honored to share my illustrations with magazines like Conde Nast Traveler and other brands with such a rich legacy. Anytime I can lend my aesthetic to a huge audience with a such a deep history is great. Between projects like these and my stationery line, I'm definitely staying busy. And it feels like there are a lot more opportunities to create, so I'm really thankful.

Where do you see your next move taking you?

I'm looking to expand my products and focus a little more of my attention toward textiles. More specifically, I'm trying to connect and interweave my love of design (along with all of the know-how I've learned from these fields) into a new fashion-themed project. Compared to when I worked at Theory and Helmut Lang, I feel like I have this whole new perspective influenced by Hawai'i that I want to explore. I want to bring the energy and authentic stories and viewpoints we have here into a new medium and do something fun. I'll keep you posted as it evolves!

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