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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

Three shops specialize in goods from Indonesia

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

There seems to be an Indonesian invasion afoot on O'ahu. At least three home-oriented stores have sprung up recently, each with its own character and emphasis. While some of the merchandise crosses over, the individual taste, style and philosophy of the owners is evident.

Zeku — A visit to Zeku has a sort of zen feeling. That's not surprising as owner Ryoji Okamoto created the store with nagomi, the Japanese concept of relaxation, in mind.

Okamoto's background is in visual merchandise. His family's business in Japan sells fixtures and packaging to jewelers. He is passionate about the islands of O'ahu and Bali and has traveled extensively on both. In fact, he is a part-time resident of Hawai'i in the Waikiki Landmark condominium, where Zeku is.

"I feel a sense of spiritual healing in Bali and Hawai'i. They are special islands with special people and products," he said.

Okamoto works with an interior designer on Bali to produce a line of furniture that combines the materials of Indonesia with the aesthetic of modern Japan. They also have created tableware in soft matte finishes in fabulous colors like celadon, banana yellow, black and white.

Imports are an eclectic mix of antique and new home accessories, textiles, wood furniture and floor mats. There's a penchant toward the rough-hewn and handmade, yet everything has clean, simple lines.

In the back of Zeku is a small collection of silk dresses and jackets by a Japanese design firm, Press 601. The elegant pieces combine hand-painted silks with kimono fabrics.

Toko Kain — Peter Raub spent years as a textile artist in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Then he fell in love with Hawai'i and decided to find a way to stay here. So he opened Toko Kain, a little specialty shop with a name meaning "fabric shop," now located in Kilohana Square.

"I chose the arts of Indonesia because it is one of the most unique and wonderful fiber-arts countries in the world," Raub said. He works with Studio Ardiyanto on Java, where weavers and batik artists "have a feel for the traditional but with contemporary interpretations" in fiber art. He has also found exquisite traditional batiks.

Raub travels to Indonesian artisan studios frequently to collect beautiful soft furnishings, table linens, baskets, shadow puppets and other artifacts.

His collection of batik shirts offers an interesting alternative to the aloha shirt. He also has a fun collection of beaded bags designed by Ina Lieum as well as wearable batiks for women.

East of Java — Two years ago, Sui-lan Ellsworth traveled to Indonesia to buy doors and cabinets to give her Manoa home more character. She loved everything she found. She hired general contractor Bruce Lagareta to build the home, and he enjoyed working with all the Indonesia fixtures and artifacts so much that he decided to open his own Indonesian import shop, East of Java, at Manoa Marketplace.

Lagareta hired Ellsworth to help with buying; now they both visit Indonesia frequently, sometimes together and sometimes separately.

Lagareta and Ellsworth have different tastes, so the store represents a cross-section, a sort of "he said, she said" approach to buying.

There are unusual furniture pieces like canopied beds and carved pune'e, as well as lanai furniture and wood sofas. Ellsworth makes or commissions pillows in Indonesian, off-white textured fabrics as well as bright colored cottons.

Home accents include Wayan puppets, huge color-splashed butterflies and bamboo table mats. While furnishings are the focus, they have also brought some batik backpacks, basket purses, embroidered slippers and batik aloha shirts.