The mission has always been to draw. Draw from Pacific roots and culture to create beautiful work and meet the design needs of our community.
From the beginning the Pacific has always been a source of inspiration for me. It seemed natural to be drawn to artistic elements of the ocean. Being Samoan, cultural ties were strong in my family, and the hand-made crafts, fabrics and books around the house always reminded me that art was interwoven into our island heritage.
Then the art of graffiti came along and introduced me to the street life. The idea of getting up, getting fame. I think every kid is drawn to that idea no matter what generation you’re from. But graffiti art is a skill with it’s own rules and it’s own history, so if you wanna be great you gotta study and practice just like any art form. It was the 90’s though, and the graff scene in LA blended together with the party crews and gang life. The crew I ran with was deep in it, mixing art and tagging styles with freeway destruction and street violence.
Many thanks to the Lord above for a family that put up with my craziness and for keeping my brethren alive through those trying times. I made it to art college and eventually found the path to channel my creativity: T-shirts.
Working with t-shirts and brands in the action sports industry since ’94, I’ve always been drawn to connect my art with fashion. T-shirts fulfilled the desire that I picked up in the graff world: Getting up. Getting fame. The idea that someone is wearing your art; that they identify with the idea you’re expressing. Man, that’s Getting Up on a whole other level. it’s legal, it’s cool, and if you do it right, it’s a living…
Watching surf and lifestyle brands profit from island art and culture, I admit that they did a very good job for being non-islanders. They had the resources and the experience to utilize the art styles properly. Two things bothered me about this: I didn’t see any island faces creating at that level, and these brands didn’t make my size!
It was 1995, and Samoan Flag Day in Carson, CA was my shot. With the help of my cousins and friends, I produced two t-shirt designs that told the history of the event, walked around the festival with the shirts in a milk-carton crate and a sign that read “T-shirts $10”. It was a done deal. The event is a week long affair yet we sold out in four days. There had never been an event t-shirt, let alone one that celebrated the heritage of the historic occasion – I had two t-shirt designs.
We used the revenue as start-up funding for JP South Pacific. This was the brand name I would carry, and for long stretches of time – put on the shelf, from 1995 – 2011.
It was through the pushing of old fans and friends (who were still rockin’ stickers on the cars), and the help of my future wife that I started JPSOUTHPACIFIC back up in ’06. But who knew the “Great Recession” was on the horizon? It made business very tough, but we scratched and clawed, then diversified the business to offer design services to the community. It kept us afloat for awhile, until the “GR” strangled the local businesses and non-profits to the point of non-payment for my services. It was time to get a real job…
2010 landed me at a skateboard footwear brand where I learned all about development for Cut & Sew apparel. In my early days I shied away from Cut & Sew design because of it’s complex construction and need for knowledge of fabrics and functionality. I saw no creativity in that line of work. I know now that there’s an art to designing apparel if you can tune into that channel. For me personally I’m glad for the experience, as it ties into my creative work with t-shirts. I’m now confident of my skills to design apparel pieces like jackets, denim and button-downs to compliment and add to my product line.
Today I continue to meet design needs for our community. Never advertised or pushed, but always through word of mouth and my inability to say no! This “Great Recession” may be a curse, but it’s also been a blessing. We’ve learned resourcefulness, humility and flexibility. And we’ve connected with so many new people and cultures. We even helped open a museum for our community! It was through my work with these new partners, that I was drawn to change my brand name from JPSOUTHPACIFIC to JPPacificOriginals. Our roots draw from every region of the Pacific, and whether it’s original art I create or the original cultures in and around the Great Ocean that I draw inspiration from, all the work we do is a Pacific Original.