At night, during that mystical stretch of time between sleep and consciousness, Jana Lam has visions. She dreams of palm leaves and plumerias, of pineapples and seashells. She wakes up in the dark, scrambling to commit the reveries to paper before they slip from memory. This process might be why her patterns—geometric prints of flowers, shells, and leaves set in pastel—seem so dreamlike.
Lam is a textile designer who was introduced to the tactile art while attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. At her Hawai‘i Kai home, which doubles as a studio, Lam crams corners with rolls of vibrant fabric ready to be transformed into handbags, pillow covers, and pareos for her eponymous brand. She is constantly sketching ideas for new prints. With the help of a small crew of seamstresses and colorists, many of her products are handmade merely a few steps from her living room.
Much like the designs appearing in her dreams, Lam’s business came to her by happenstance. In 2010, she and her husband moved back to Hawaiʻi. They were unemployed, suffering the aftershocks of the recession. “Everyone was being laid off and the economy was down,” Lam says. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Her husband encouraged her to build a printing table and start creating. By November of that year, she had a portfolio filled with designs, which she ended up showing to a boutique owner who commissioned her to make handbags for her store. Seven years and two toddlers later, Lam’s hobby has blossomed into a full-fledged accessory company, with products carried by stores as large as Nordstrom.
Lam’s designs continue to be an homage to her life in Hawaiʻi. The motifs are inspired by the lush greenery and miles of beach that surround her home. The tessellating patterns are a tribute to the aloha print, which has been a part of Hawaiʻi culture since the 1920s.
“Everything is very Hawaiʻi inspired,” Lam says. “But I’m not trying to be that person. It’s just who I am and the way that I think.” In her bright designs, Lam envisions a dreamier Hawaiʻi.
For more information, visit janalam.com or @janalam.