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Introducing: PONO by Joan Goodman

Surf Camp, Fashion and Luxury Italian Buttons 

written by our founder, EMILY RAFFIELD

Compelling! That's what designer Joanie Goodman is. 

(evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.)

At a recent buyers market in Atlanta, I stopped into an accessories showroom with intentions to visit a different vendor who was on my radar for better gold and such — when I was overcome by the beauty of Joanie's minimalistic, almost-retro repertoire of baubles. Filling mirrored shelving – I was captivated by necklaces, bracelets, earrings, bangles, and more. Each one is saturated in color and refinery but simple at the core. It caught my eye. As you know by now, I like luxurious simplicity. An acrylic sign with bold letters reads, PONO. 

PONO by Joan Goodman. 

Any savvy shopper knows that cold chills draw up on your arms when you encounter something of note. Any good merchandise buyer knows that when you discover something of note, cold chills draw up on your arms – energy stirs in your gut, hot sweats, and nerves go into overdrive with the thought of sharing this treasure you've found with "your people." Each of you is always on my mind in my work, and this encounter with PONO perfectly explains that. I was immediately drawn to the stacking bracelets (Twiggy Bangles, named after the iconic 70s model) on the counter-height table. When buying, I love a counter-height setup; it sets the mood for discovery, laboratory, and critical mass. I picked the bracelets up, trying on - mixing and matching to pair a few color palettes. I was drawn in. 

Still taken with all I was seeing, I'd yet to meet the designer of the line, and at that moment, I was curious if he or she was there for this show. The showroom was crowded, so I glanced around to guess who these gorgeous displays belonged to, and I spotted a striking woman with sharp hair, glasses, a cashmere black turtleneck sweater, and a pair of Chloe's Nama sneakers walking toward me. 

Meet Joan Goodman. She introduces herself as "Joanie." Right away with that additional -ie, on her name, she doesn't take herself too seriously. But, she drips in high-end, typically pretentious fashion talent, yet in a humble, brilliant visage; I liked her.

Joanie and her sister, Barbara, at The Beach

the Twiggy Hoop by PONO

Since this moment months ago, we've become good friends. I now know we were both drawn to one another by kismet, a universal pull, the great divine at work. I know cold chills activate, too, when kindred spirits collide. She gave me the VIP tour of her line, PONO, and I could see her eyes sparkle when she shared her design inspiration, entrepreneurial story, and, most of all, her passion for creating something that makes the world more beautiful. (A critical mass for a designer worth their salt!) After a bit, we realized we both live on the coast, although at different ends of the U.S. and that we love the water. Natural beauty has inspired both of our works. 

Cliche, but Joanie really does live her life out loud, and it inspires me.

After a short ten minutes, I knew I needed to know a lot more about Joanie. I placed a PONO order for the BECASA shops (such good things that you'll soon have!), and we said, "Let's keep in touch – I'll call you, I promise."

So, in a recent phone conversation about how to live where you wish, with creativity in your bones and other essential things, Joanie said poignantly, "You can find your dream and your work in a place that fills you. You can do things on your own terms. … We don't have control over much, so if we're doing what we love and it's something positive - then that's more than enough."

Growing up on Long Island, New York, Joanie says, "The ocean has always been my temple, and it has become more so as I get older." Joanie explains, "My most vital dream came about when I was 11 - when the movie Endless Summer was out. I went to see it every day at the theater for a week. Then, from that, I wanted to go to every beautiful surf spot in the world. And I wanted to see Oahu and the pipeline. 

"My grandfather always told me that if you feel you have a problem, take a walk on the beach," I've taken that to heart in my life," says Joanie. 

As a senior in high school, Joanie went to Rincon, Puerto Rico, to visit friends at a surf camp (spring break, perhaps). "I got off the public bus at midnight. Pitch black. I can't put it into words – but I knew in my heart that I was supposed to be there," Joanie says. After staying there for the week she had planned, Joanie walked into town to the pay phone daily, attempting to phone her mom. "I was trying to tell her that I wasn't coming home, and when she finally answered, she said … we'll then I'm coming to Puerto Rico." Her mom came and stayed at the Villa Cofresi Hotel. After three days, she told Joanie that she got it – she understood why she was there. "I stayed for two years. I slept in a surfboard box under a mosquito net, and we all lived simply."

Later, Joanie moved to Hawaii and lived at the Banzai Pipeline. She did what she wanted to do. When asked, "Do you believe in manifestation?" Joanie chuckles, "Sure, I believe in that - but I don't know that it always comes true. But I believe the universe is endless and can give you anything." 

After living in Hawaii for years, Joanie returned to New York to visit. "I was offered a job in the city and stayed." Joanie began working with her stepfather in his button business, Bobbi Trim Ltd. "At the time, 90% of clothing was made in the USA, and all was done with one of the button styles we produced. So, yes, we were busy." 

So Joanie was invited to visit factories in Italy - she arrived at 7AM in her "uniform" – jeans, cowboy boots, a white t-shirt, Ray Ban sunglasses, and a v-neck cashmere sweater." Immediately, Mauro said, "Oh, Joanie, you're so American. We need to get you some new sunglasses immediately." Mauro and his wife, Ester, took Joanie under their wing, and they've all become best friends for over 37 years. Joanie began to grasp what could be birthed with the resources at hand and with her keen eye for design and fashion. 

Bobbi Trim became one of the most fashion-forward button manufacturers in New York City. 

Their business grew into various Italian-made buttons for high-end designers, including Perry Ellis, Donna Karan, Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Proenza Schuler, Nicole Miller, Anna Sui, and Marc Jacobs. 

After many years, the button business began to move to China – and the venture capitalists were buying up all the fashion houses. "It was sad. Everything changed in American fashion. I didn't know what I wanted to do – it was a shift, and everyone was stuck. I remember when some of the huge accounts spending 1 million a year with us on buttons dwindled to nothing. I just cried out in those moments, "Please tell me what to do – and the universe responded to me."

"I knew the beautiful materials we used to make the buttons would not die – it could be something else." Joanie laughed, "My grandmother vacuumed in her Pucci dress; my whole family was into fashion; it was all somewhat genetic for me."

Joanie spoke with one of her good friends in the industry – Mauro, a great designer who worked heavily with Italian resin about creating something else with the materials she'd work with in button-making, and he said, "Come to Italy, come see what we're producing and get inspired by what could be." Joanie said, "I'll never forget it – Mauro said, "If that is what you want to do, then you must do it, and you must do it immediately." 

As Joanie explains, "PONO was born out of a practicality at first - it was intellectual for me, and through the years, I've been able to grow it into a passion, an emotional connection, and have a real appreciation for the work,' says Joanie.

"The first product I designed in Italy that week was our horn bangle. They were made from rescued horn, all shapes and colors, with lasered designs of seashells, and soaked in color," recalls Joanie. Then, she began to imagine designs of jewelry made of Italian resin. "Color was where I could see my design eye coming alive – it's my passion, and the colors we bring into PONO are specialty, one-of-a-kind colors. We create shades of color, we change the color, and everything is meticulous in the dying process."

The business went from a small beginning to a full-time effort. Joanie began to put more energy into the line, and her sister, Barbara, fully managed the business logistics side of things. Together, they've made PONO what it is today - although fluid and evolving daily. "You can't hold a tight grip on an art business because the nature of art is fluidity," says Joanie. They are an incredible duo rich in love and talent. 

"Our products are made of a "forever resin," and the pieces are of real value – they are increasingly made of plant-based resin," says Joanie. "They are meant to be worn with something as simple and every day as a white t-shirt if you want. It needs to be useful in your daily life." She goes on to share that she had no heirlooms from her mother or grandmother passed down. She reflects, "I want our clients to hand down PONO jewelry. This is not a single-use piece of jewelry. It's a gift to give – and pass on to whoever, whenever. It's all about the connection and the collector's spirit." 

PONO is the Hawaiian word for righteousness, quality, goodness, and virtuousness in perfect order. 

Joanie is PONO.