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Sep 13, 2016

True to Form

Photos by Salvage Public

Salvage Public, a modern, surf-inspired apparel brand, is making waves and turning heads across the country.

Based out of Honolulu, the brand—with their clean lines and carefree vibes—has been featured in Sunset Magazine and the New York Times Magazine recently and has developed a following of surfers, fashion-minded individuals, and people proud to rep an authentic representation of Honolulu's culture. All that, and they're barely three years old. To boot, on the heels of their success, Salvage Public is readying to open their first brick-and-mortar store in the soon-to-be debuted South Shore Market at Ward Village. To learn more about one of the city's most exciting new brands, we dialed up Joe Serrao, one of the founders, to talk shop.

Tell me your backstory. Where'd you grow up?

I grew up going back and forth between Hawaii and the East Coast. My mom lived in New Jersey and my dad lived in Hawaii. It was two extremes, but I loved it. When I was a little bit older, I went to Kamehameha for school and then went to the mainland for college. Before I started Salvage Public, I spent some time in L.A. doing commercial real estate. While I was living in Los Angeles, I started to rethink what I was doing and wanted to follow my passions and do something creative. I took some basic screen printing classes and moved back home in 2012 and started the brand a few months later with my friend Napali Souza and my brother Noah.

What made you want to start the brand?

I felt like I was just checking off boxes. Go to school, get a job, etc. I was just going through the motions. Then I took a step back and wanted to do something more creative and challenging. I wanted to do something that I was interested in and I've always appreciated fashion, design, architecture. I wanted to build a brand that would be an outlet for my creativity. My partners felt the same way and Salvage Public was born.

How would you describe the brand?

We're a modern, American men's sportswear brand. We're a surf-inspired take on Hawaiian point of view.

In the three years since you officially launched, the brand has taken off and really grown. Recently, Sunset Magazine and the New York Times Magazine profiled you guys. How does it feel to have something that you're so passionate about resonate with so many people?

It's so crazy. I guess it doesn't really seem real. Being in it so close, it doesn't feel real. It hits you at certain times. When we saw the Sunset Magazine story, it really hit me. But we're so close to it, we don't really have that perspective just yet. I'm amazed at some of the press we've gotten. We have some cool stores in Japan that we sell to as well. But my thoughts are continuously on working to make it better. So we don't really have time to reflect on the success.

What's been your biggest challenge?

I'd say manufacturing and learning supply chains. We didn't have a lot of connections to the fashion industry before, so we had to build it all out ourselves. It's been a ton of work, but a great learning experience.

Part of what makes the brand so interesting to us is that it feels like it's a very authentic representation of Honolulu surf culture today. How important would you say that authenticity is to the brand?

I think that's huge. It's a building block for us. We rely on that authenticity to showcase the brand and we put a lot of effort into our look books and the narratives we string for the season. Even down to what we're naming styles and products. It's very cohesive and Napali is really to thank for that.

You're about to open up your first brick-and-mortar store at South Shore Market. What can we expect?

I think it's going to be a very well curated space for us. We're really excited to be there. We think it's the perfect location. That area is really changing. I think it's becoming a community and that's important to us. I think Hawaii needs more communities. We're building out all of the fixtures ourselves. That's been a huge undertaking. That's Noah, my brother's, specialty. He's amazing. The space will have a lot of natural elements and will be stocked mostly with our stuff. We'll have a few other pieces that compliment what we do as well.

When is the opening scheduled?

We're supposed to open up on lucky 11/11. It's gonna be a blast. Please come check us out when we open the doors.

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Salvage Public

1170 Auahi St.

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