Maui-born and Kihei-based photographer Amity Mason has created a razor-sharp niche that embraces Hawaii’s unmistakable sense of place. Her one-of-a-kind handbags, adorned with iconic isle motifs, suit themselves to almost any occasion, be it a beach day, luau or a reception at the Arts & Cultural Center. This, she maintains, is a natural outgrowth of her island roots.
“When not sewing, you can find me in the ocean – surfing, swimming, paddling,” says Mason, whose name fittingly means friendship and love.
Amity Mason Designs, a division of Amity Mason Photography LLC – think weddings, portraits, nature, and landscapes – specializes in handbags made completely from local materials and typically adorned with a swatch of eye-catching fabric – palm fronds, red and yellow hibiscus, monstera leaves and other exotic flora, as well as pink and green starfish. These zipper-top clutches boldly capture the ambience of Hawaii’s natural settings in a way both stylish and understated.
This booming side-business began with a curious urge to sew. Acting upon that impulse, Amity took classes in fashion technology at the University of Hawaii Maui College. She credits program coordinator Cheryl Maeda with inspiring her to pursue her purse line. The result is a rare blend of local nature with a sense of urban art, combining vinyl, ticking, corduroy, and other fabrics with colorfully splashy zippers to achieve a compelling cohesion.
“It’s about fun – dressing up, dressing down, a little sparkle (with) a classic look,” says Mason. “Ladies love bags and can never have enough. I enjoy having a fun clutch that makes me smile to carry around the day, whether it’s running errands, meeting friends for lunch or happy hour or going grocery shopping. It puts a smile on my face.”
She adds, “These are also for the man who wants to give a great gift to his lady.”
The most recent Made in Maui County Festival, she says, proved invaluable in raising her retail profile, and has prompted her to try even more unlikely fabric combinations, some in collaboration with designer Rebecca Woolbright. Photographs on fabrics with leather? Gray or tan micro-suede?
The clutch is her canvas.
Marketed under the name A.M.I.T.Y. these bags also often have surprisingly lush interiors.
“Right now, I am really into lime green, orange and sparkle!” says Mason. “Not necessarily all together, but I will incorporate one or two of these elements into my creation.”