In the midst of the Pacific Ocean, there is an island that simply has it all. Its beauty and steady tradewinds lured a Scottish sailor & his wife away from city life: Valley Isle, that is Maui, in the Hawaiian Islands chain. An eternal love affair was to begin
Nestled at the edge of a gulch, I find the Maui home of this particular Scotsman, Richard Imrie, who moved his entire family here from New York City in the mid 90s. Their plans back then? “Never a plan! Just a leap of faith!” says Pippa, his wife. “We wanted to live the dream Maui lifestyle. Richard had had the property for a while and wanted to build something on it.” So they did. Richard, the patron, an avid windsurfer and sailor, is pretty gifted in building and designing houses (and fixing those classic cars the family clan is driving). “Back then”, recalls Pippa, “we were living off the grid with catchment water and a generator and a few solar panels. Sometimes electricity was a bit of a problem. Especially doing homework with the kids by a dim light bulb was a challenge! But we had enough to eat, our chickens in the garden and plenty of wind to dry laundry. It was an adventure!”
The hippiesque spirit remains within the Imrie clan. But their careers are first class. Pippa Imrie, who grew up in Scotland, landed a job in the British Vogue art department and made her way into the Vogue fashion department in London. “This is where I wanted to be. But then I met Richard and children arrived. When we moved to the States, I started my own children's fashion catalogue, called Pippers, whilst the children were growing up.” Richard Imrie shot those Pippers catalogues. An accomplished fashion, celebrity and couture photographer, Richard Imrie lived his dream career shooting in all fashion capitals: “I have had the best years from the seventies throughout mid-nineties in this fast changing business.” Look no further today, New York’s Sunday Times’ magazine cover recently chose Richard Imries’ portrait shot of a young and freakishly lavish Rod Stewart.
“I loved the Pippers catalogue shootings in the early days. We would always get days off school, which was such a treat! On top of that we would get to go on jaunts to shoot at beautiful spots on Maui”, recalls Caitlin, one of their three stunning daughters. Like their parents, the love for the outdoors and the ocean is in their veins. Caitlin: “That is why I love Maui so much, it is so versatile. One minute you are in the rainforest, the next you are on the Northshore with huge waves and howling tradewinds, or you are walking through a mountainous field upcountry. And at the southern shores you would take your dream vacation.”
Richard was originally attracted to the Northshore of Maui to live out his passion for windsurfing, “because the best fun on Maui is for free!” Ho’okipa Beach Park, overlooking some of the world's best reef breaks for wavesailing, is a great stop to watch the world’s best in professional windsurfing. Caitlin and Tamsin, their eldest daughter, are true watergirls: they practice windsurfing, boogie boarding, surfing, stand-up paddling or longboarding, depending on conditions, winds and waves. Caitlin: “As long as I get in or near the ocean every day I am happy!” The youngest of the pack, Lola, is an avid boogie boarder: “It is so much fun! You laugh a lot and it is really good exercise.” Tamsin's little son Archer is playing in the sands whilst his aunties hit the water.
The outdoor and ocean sports activities on hand have attracted a unique mix of residents on the Northshore stretch. Before most of the US mainland could spell “yoga”, it was already taught on Maui for ages. Caitlin: “I would have to say that Maui has the most health conscious people I have ever met. Many really focus on maintenance through a balance of physical activities, yoga, and eating well. The only grocery store, located in Paia, is an organic market selling lots of local produce.”
The artist scene is especially alive in the old sugar plantation town of Paia. This tiny Hawaiian gem has remained its charme due to its characters screening and strolling the streets. Where shoes are optional, guys and girls with surfboards are cruising by, hippies of any age wander around, and a mix of high-end fashion stores in colourful plantation houses meet mom-and-pop stores, that been there forever. In recent years a few well-curated art galleries have opened and attract art buyers and collectors from all over the world.
In 2006 Tamsin and Caitlin opened Imrie Maui, their first boutique fashion store. “It was hard in the beginning, as we have had no experience in business. Mum and Dad were both really helpful, Dad fixed up the store and these first few years made us all really close.” Imries Fashion & Accessories has since then expanded into three other locations, Montauk, NY, Westhampton Beach, NY and the recently opened St. Barths in the Caribbean. Tamsin: “We really try to stay true to our look. Simple styles, good quality, easy to wash, and good accessories. The store reflects our personal styles.” It has proven successful and they are now adding their own designs to the shelves. Lola: “We make what we can’t find anywhere else. If there is something missing in our closet, that is what inspires us.”
Travellers for life, the Imrie clan never seems to stay for too long at one place. Caitlin: “I have always loved travelling and doing things that aren’t expected. Sometimes they seem scary at first, but most of the time I’m so happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone and accomplished a personal goal. It is very rewarding.” Tamsin and Lola are no different, so are sons Max and Chico Imrie, both photographers, who shoot all over the world. What travels with the Imrie girls? “A squishy pillow. Organic creams. Tea bags. A lot of the time Caitlin travels with a suitcase full of organic food!”
Despite all the traveling, Maui remains a beloved home base for the Imrie girls and their parents whose entrepreneurial courage and gipsy spirits are very refreshing. It is another evening on the Northshore. The tradewinds blow their final whispers, the sun sets behind the West Maui Mountains. A beautiful day on the Valley Isle comes to close. The Imries prepare dinner. You can't help but feel their bonds of love, the ancient Hawaiians named it “Aloha”.
Imries Maui favourites:
For food: Mana Foods. 49 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, HI 96779
To lunch & coffeinate:
Cafe Des Amis. 42 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, HI 96779.
Maui Coffee Roasters. 444 Hana Hwy, Kahului, HI 96732
For dinner: Fish Market. 100 Baldwin Avenue, Paia, HI 96779
To shop (of course): Imrie. 93 Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779
To buy art:
Maui Hands, 84 Hana Highway, Paia, HI 96779.
Avi Kiriaty’s Art-Pacifica Prints, P.O. Box 791543, Paia, HI 96779
For a swim: Baldwin Beach Park
For a surf: Ho’okipa Beach Park
For a windsurf session: Kanaha Beach Park
Must-buys during your Maui stay:
Paia T-Shirt, banana bread, local organic produce at Mana Foods.