Re:Start mall's design store Hapa is gaining an international reputation.
For a business that is little more than a year old, design store Hapa is making a big impact. When Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Christchurch in November, Hapa was on their itinerary, and singer/songwriter Anika Moa has named Hapa her favourite store at the Re:Start container mall (in an online Travel Insider Guide to Christchurch).
Hapa produces its own range of jewellery and other handmade items, and also works closely with Christchurch artists and designers. Students from the Design and Arts College of New Zealand are given the opportunity to display their creations at Hapa to trial new ideas.
"Love the extraordinary" is the catchphrase of business co-founders Maureen Taane and Yuri Bacas Hosaka. The pair are responsible for the store's eclectic range of bespoke gifts, jewellery and homewares, and increasing number of one-off pieces.
"Eighty per cent of the stock is New Zealand-made and most of that is made here in Christchurch," says Japanese-born Yuri, a designer who moved to New Zealand with her husband just a month before the September 2010 earthquake. It wasn't the best time to make a fresh start in a new country, but Yuri knew she wanted to settle here and start a business, and Maureen has proved the ideal business partner. Maureen managed designer gift store The Vault in City Mall for 17 years until the February 2011 earthquake shut it down.
The business name is derived from the owners' cultural identities. Yuri was born in Japan but grew up in Madrid, Spain, while Maureen's ancestry is a mix of Ngati Maniapoto and French/Scottish/English. Hapa, the Hawaiian Pidgin word for half, also refers to mixed-race heritage.
Hapa has been a source of support and encouragement to keep going, despite present difficulties, particularly for those still working out of garages at home after losing studios in the earthquakes.
Christchurch-made jewellery includes unique work by Akin Jewellery, Little Fritter Design, Hello Lovely and Pam Jacomb Design, sharing shelves with approved greenstone products, liquefaction pottery and "Christchurch love" mugs. Limited-edition T-shirts have proven extremely popular and designers Mickey Lin and Ra Thomson, of MisterR, sell some of their beautifully made clothing accessories there, too. Woodturner Don Harkess used to work at the Arts Centre, but now sells his wares at Hapa. New Zealand artists, such as Daniel Kirsche, are donating proceeds from sales at Hapa to help with projects around Christchurch (the beneficiary, in this case, being the New Brighton Project).
"We think the Hapa concept works well for Christchurch too: the city is a mix of old and new. Maureen and I share the same vision and our skills are complementary. We clicked from the start," says Yuri, who balances her business commitments with the demands of caring for her baby daughter, Yuki. Maureen's daughter, Forest, is 19 and helps out at Hapa in between studying law and psychology at the University of Canterbury.
Constant research underpins Hapa's success. Maureen and Yuri devote many hours to looking at design blogs and websites, as well as going to markets to check out the latest trends. Their goal is to get things made locally, if possible. "We're only limited by our imagination," Maureen says.
Maureen is also the merchandise manager for Tikidub Productions, working alongside her brother, singer/songwriter, producer and audio engineer, Tiki Taane, and sister Ninakaye Taane-Tinorau, Tikidub's managing director. "My brother is releasing an album in April at the start of a six-week Australasian tour, so it'll be a busy time for us. Fortunately, we're lucky to have one part-time and one full-time staff member at Hapa, who are both flexible and awesome, so everything gets done between us."
Hapa has close relationships with local suppliers and usually works three to four months ahead when developing new product lines. Its next move is a greater focus on organics and sustainability.
In the meantime, the royal visit remains a memorable finale for 2012 and an inspiration for 2013. "It is further recognition that what we're doing is worthwhile and our efforts so far have not been wasted," Maureen says.