Sisters Kiki and Kenna Pagador were born and raised on O'ahu (Mililani), and you can feel their Aloha Spirit the instant you enter their darling, golden-floored jewelry store, Kiki Designs, on Pacific. They have the Hawai'ian tunes playing, they welcome you with warm smiles and open arms, and the gems they work with all have that organic feel that comes from the love of nature the ladies developed growing up on the island.
They came to the Mainland for school, attending Santa Monica College and Loyola Marymount. At LMU, Kiki developed a non-profit called MAD IDEA (Making A Difference Initiating Dialogue on Equality for All), where she ran the program with speakers and panels discussing equality in race, gender and sexual orientation. I knew there was a lot going on with these girls from the moment I met them, but just now found out exactly how much.
From the non-profit, Kiki went on to work at an Arts and Healing center in Santa Monica, and then when Kenna came over for school too, they both got jobs at Ritual Adornments, the late, great bead shop on Main Street (which has since moved to New Mexico, and is sorely missed). There, they learned the craft of jewelry making, as well as a deep knowledge of the various gem stones out there, and began making their own pieces. They would sell these at trade shows and through word of mouth. After repeatedly being accosted by ladies' boyfriends to meet them in alleys to buy the things their girlfriends wanted without them knowing, the Pagadors decided it was time to have an actual store front where they could sell their wares without the covert ops.
Kiki wrote in her journal about exactly what she wanted in a space ... small, foot traffic, cool neighborhood ... and just like that, she found a sublet space on Abbot Kinney in the half of Urbanic that wasn't being used. That is where I became friends with the sisters, after nearly fainting over their insanely gorgeous jewels, right from the beginning. Jewels like big hot pink agate rings that cover three knuckles. Necklaces made from stones with great names like "Aventurine." Some pieces are so big you might need a weight belt to counter them, like the one Kiki was wearing on this day (Rudilated Quartz, for creative meditation) ...
Like Kenna said, it's "Organic Bling," which couldn't be more perfect for the Venice of now. "We love our stones," she explained, and told me about their semi-annual trips to a master cutter in Arizona, and New Mexico, to find new gems to work their magic on. People often stumble upon Kiki Design, coming from the Boardwalk or wherever, and ask, "Is this a magical shop?" It certainly feels that way, with the sparkling gold floor and the glistening stones hanging all over the shop (from the creative displays that are Kenna's domain). There is even a "Gratitude Tree," that customers adorn with leaves indicating what they are grateful for.
The Pagador sisters are nothing if not grateful, a trait we talked about as perhaps being one's most important in life. "We're already living the American Dream ... to create, to create our own store, as minority women, doing what we love ... You really can't ask for more," said Kiki.
They're also grateful that their Abbot Kinney customers have followed them to Pacific, a move that happened when Urbanic decided to expand and Kiki Design had to find a new home. At their current location, pretty much next door to Mao's Kitchen, "It's a whole different crowd," laughed Kiki, to which Kenna added, "And I love them ALL!" That love is evident here, even if there wasn't a sign reading, "Shower Me With Love." Interestingly, the ladies said that they have had no theft here on Pacific, while it was always a problem on Abbot Kinney. Sociology, man. (To that end, they have a sign in the window that reads, "Steal from WalMart" - ha!) The "Crazy diversity of the People," is what makes them love the community that they now call home.
In their new neighborhood, they frequent all the close-by spots like Mao's, Cafe Collage, Larry's, Danny's, Nikki's, Barlo, Seed, and PokePoke on what they call their "Sumo Sundays." I love them.
I love them because they are talented and fun, but also because they're always trying to improve the world, particularly in regards to women. To that end, they host Women's Empowerment classes in their upstairs room on the first Wednesday of each month, and also on Sundays (see their website or call for more info). They have jewelry making classes up there, and private parties where you can create your own pieces with their guidance - with wine! "On Friday nights, we drink," invited Kiki, and it's not unheard of that the shop turns into a dance party on those nights, after hours. Because that gold floor was meant to be danced on.
But it always comes back to the jewelry. Friends that know the sisters well can tell who made what pieces, as Kenna leans more organic, and Kiki leans more bling. "Our pieces are little pieces of ourselves, and they're meant for whomever is drawn to them. They call to people, maybe because they're drawn to something in their life that's missing ...," mused Kenna. Interesting, because on this particular day, I kept picking up things made from a stone called "Chrysocolla," which is meant to give you inner strength ... which I can certainly always use, but maybe particularly now, which is why I was drawn to it. Makes sense to me, anyway.
If you need something special for an occasion, or a ultra-unique gift for someone special to you, these dears can create something custom just for you. Specialty stores are hard to come by in these days of homogeneity and corporate take-overs. A friend's baby was being baptized recently and Kiki wanted to give them a rosary. Finding that nearly impossible to locate, she made one herself. She can do that for you too.
"We're just really grateful to be here. We love what we do, everything from painting the floor to creating the pieces, to working with our customers. Love everything with us!"
In this lovely little magical shop, that is very easy to do. Aloha!!!
100 Market Street (but you really enter on Pacific)
www.kikidesignsla.com (where they have an online shop if you're reading this from Minnesota or somewhere ...)