A few years ago, Katie Browne combined a few of her favorite things, fabric, shopping and thrift stores, with a talent for sewing, and started creating unique apparel and bag designs, which she now sells under the label BoxEleven.
Maui Made: What is unique about BoxEleven Designs?
Katie Browne: I use fabric that is purchased in limited amounts with no option to buy additional yardage, so each item is a one of a kind, or a limited edition. The thrifted and vintage fabrics are rarely in pristine condition and might have small holes or portions faded by the sun, but i don’t consider those to be flaws; the imperfections tell a history of the item. If you find an applique on your item, it means that i discovered a hole or stain and decided to cover it with a small scrap, rather than waste a large portion of fabric. I also utilize parts of textiles that most clothing manufacturers hide or trim off because i want to offer a view into the making of the fabrics themselves by highlighting details, such as the marks and indents in the fabric edges that occur during the weaving process, or the marks and signatures left by the fabric dyers.
MM: What’s your most popular item?
KB: I think my most popular item right now is a new design, the Skater Dress, which is a super-comfy and flattering dress made in a variety of knit fabrics in different colors and prints.
MM: What are the best ways to meet new customers on Maui and online?
KB: For me, the best way to meet new customers on Maui has been to have a booth at Seabury Hall Craft Fair. It’s the only craft fair I do on a regular basis, and I always meet a ton of new people and reconnect with past customers. Instagram has been a great way to meet new customers online, because it’s so easy to post cute pictures and comment and like other people’s cute pictures; I’ve connected with a lot of like-minded creatives this way.
MM: When did you realize this could be a business and not just a hobby?
KB: About 12 years ago I made a bunch of one-of-a-kind purses, put together a Trunk Show with a few other artisans and made some sales! I didn’t sell out but I was really excited to discover that other people liked the fabrics I paired and I realized that with enough hard work and focus, I could turn my favorite hobby into a business.
MM: How did you learn how to sew?
KB: I’ve been sewing for most of my life, but learned all kinds of tricks of the trade when I entered the Fashion Technology program at UHMC in 2010. I thought I knew how to sew….until I started taking classes under Cheryl Maeda, and realized I had a lot to learn! It was an excellent experience, and Cheryl is a very thorough and skilled teacher.
MM: How long have you been on Maui? Where are you from?
KB:I’ve lived on Maui since 2005. I’m from Carbondale, Colorado, a little town high up in the Rocky Mountains.
MM: What do you do for fun?
KB: For fun I like to sit in the sun, read my favorite fashion mags, shop for fabric and shoes, and daydream about my next collection. I love funny movies, lilikoi margaritas, and dinner parties with friends! I also like to draw and sketch, and will find scraps of paper all over the place filled with doodles; for some reason it rarely occurs to me to actually draw IN my sketchbook.
MM: What are some of the best thrift stores/ vintage shops on Maui (come on, spill your secrets!)
KB: All time best thrift store is Savers in Kahului- they have such a high turnover rate and a ton of stuff to go through. My favorite vintage shop is Paia Trading Company, which has a very nicely edited collection of paper ephemera, vintage glassware, Pyrex dishes, and so many fantastic other goodies!
MM: You have an Etsy shop set up as well – any tips for sellers?
KB: I think Etsy is awesome! It’s the first place I go online every morning after I check my email. I love the Quit-Your-Day-Job series and the carefully selected treasuries; I’m constantly amazed by all the beautiful and imaginative things that Etsy shop owners create. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good tips for sellers as my sales are fairly low on Etsy.
MM: Good and bad news of being your own boss?
KB: The best part of being my own boss is that I have complete control over how my business is run- I get to choose all the fabrics, decide which of my designs I want to produce, and take all the credit for my successes. The most challenging part of being my own boss is that I’m responsible for EVERTHING, which can be difficult because I have to do all of the tasks that a business requires, even ones that I’m not good at, like bookkeeping.
MM: What’s next for BoxEleven?
KB: Next for BoxEleven: getting some wholesale clients on the mainland!! I’ve had a good response from boutiques throughout Hawaii, and I would like to expand my list of stockists to a select few shops on the West and East coasts.
MM: What’s the inspiration for the name?
KB: My mom came up with the name BoxEleven, and I know it comes from her mailing address (as in, POBox 11) but I don’t know why she chose it. All I know is that when she told me she wanted to name her catering and cake baking business BoxEleven, I thought it was so awesome that I stole it from her.
MM: Where can people buy your clothes?
Online, I have my own shop*, an etsy shop, and I have items on Beach Wahine. (*NEW NOTE: Katie is currently setting up a new online store, contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order!)