Art of Life: Roots Grow Deep / Jennifer Binney

7 years ago by


Natalie Holme

I met Jen one day in Montauk, we bonded over a bag she had created and then I didn’t see her for… Over five years, I think. Then I went to Hawaii and I remembered that beautiful happy girl I had met one day, who had made me promise to let her know the day I’d be in Hawaii. And I was going to Hawaii, so I did. We met…

And I fell in love with her, and with the beauty of her life.

In this series we’re creating, the Art Of Life, I want to talk to you about people who have chosen paths that are inspiring and that are different. People who make their own rules, their own way of life. People who can light our way.

Jennifer is an island girl like me, but, having seen the world, she chose to go back to where she grew up and to build her life there, in full connection with herself and with nature. Yes. You don’t need to live in New York City or Paris to have an awesome, successful life – and this is what we’re talking about today ;)

How did she do it? How does she stay connected? How does she work? A million questions come to my mind. Natalie interviewed her after my full, very professional brief (“No but she’s so cool, so she surfs and then, wait, did you know she’s a real athlete and a coach, and also has a store ?”) (they spent two hours on the phone, I love how Natalie gets fascinated by her subjects it’s very rewarding to see!) and Bailey Roberts, another woman we love and are inspired by, photographed her.

I hope you’re as inspired by Jen as all the people that have the chance to be around her are…

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

Can you tell us a little bit about where you’re from and where you are now?
I was born on Maui in Hawaii and I was raised part time there and part time on Oahu because my parents were divorced. And I presently live on the island of Oahu in a little beach town called Kailua in a neighborhood called Lanikai.

When you were a child, what did you envision your life would look like?
You know it’s funny, I always envisioned living here. I always loved travel but I always imagined living here. And I always wanted to have a flower shop, so I guess I always saw my life here being a small shop owner.

How has that vision changed or stayed the same throughout your life?
I think the general theme is still there I knew I always wanted to be my own boss, I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I wanted to live here, but I’ve traveled, I’ve lived in New York I lived in California and Hawaii always called me back.

What was the experience like growing up in Hawaii? What sort of influence did it have on the trajectory of your life?
It’s so funny because this theme keeps coming up. I think it’s a really unique place, on a really scientific level. Plants and animals that develop in Hawaii are really unique because of the extreme isolation, we’re the most isolated island in the world, the closest anything is 2000 miles away. So there are no plants here that have thorns, we don’t have any poisonous animals because they’ve all lost their defense because they haven’t had to use it. So I think in the same way, why wouldn’t people be that way? I think people here are super geniune, as a generalization, and we’re obviously shaped by the environment, by the plants and the ocean and the colors and the year round tropical thing going on. So I think people that are from here are usually very genuine, very connected to nature and tend to look at life a little differently.

But you left Hawaii for some time, right? Where did you go and why?
I left right after high school, I went to college in Santa Barbara just to try it out. I chose Santa Barbara because it still had a beach vibe and the things I was interested in studying were still kind of in that realm, like marine archeology and anthropology. I was there for a year and a half before I realized that what I was really wanting to study was right there at the University of Hawaii, so I went back. I was doing my undergraduate at UH and to make extra side money I started working in cosmetics [laughs]. MAC cosmetics was coming to Hawaii and I thought, “well I’ve never worn makeup but I think I’m a good artist so I could do this.” So I got the job and I moved up in the company pretty quickly, and then they moved me to New York to open their pro shop. At the same time when I got to New York I actually sort of fell into a crowd that was surfing and doing really cool things, so I eventually decided to leave MAC and I ended up doing something else and really enjoying my time in New York.

How did you end up meeting a crowd of surfers in New York?
I needed to make money, so I went into this restaurant I had heard about called Moomba, and at the time I was there it was like the hotspot, the velvet rope vibe, and I walked in and was like, “hey are you guys hiring?” and they said no. But then one of the guys looked up and asked where I was from, and I told him Hawaii and he was like, “oh do you know so-and-so?” and I was like “yeah I grew up with him,” and he asked if I surfed and I said yes, and he was like, “oh we surf too.”And then he started listing all these surfer guys from Oahu and they were all my really good friends, and he was like “Ok can you start [work] at 5:30?” And it ended up being this really amazing experience because it was the heyday of New York, it was the late 90s and it was a really fun time. Everyone that worked at the restaurant was like a big family and we would go out to eat and surf, so being from Hawaii has completely helped me in some of these situations. I worked there and stayed there for a few years.

How did your time living in these other places shape you – personally and professionally?
Well definitely personally it shaped me in the sense that I grew a thicker skin. In Hawaii I didn’t have very thick skin. I wasn’t used to being told how it was, even though that’s kind of my natural personality, at least with my friends. And there’s a lot of rejection in New York, it’s a hard city, but it’s also the most amazing and beautiful place and the people are very real and raw and it’s so cool. I think i really enjoyed it, and it helped me become more adaptable to situations that were a little uncomfortable to me. California was actually more challenging for me because I found that people were a little less real, and you didn’t really know what they were thinking.

Professionally, living in New York created a network which I am so utterly grateful that I still have today. I highly suggest anyone taking a little time and living there.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

Art of Life: Roots Grow Deep / Jennifer Binney

If you could do it all over again, would you chose to spend time living in these other places?
Yeah for sure. I don’t have any regrets. Ironically, a side note is that I left for this job in New York with 15 credits left in my undergraduate, and I was like “I’m going.” and my dean was like “holy crap what are you doing?” But I promised I was going to come back and he was like, “you’re never going to come back.” And sure enough I lived in New York for 3 years, I traveled around the world for 8 months, I got back to Honolulu on August 15th, I finished my semester, got my degree, and started my masters the next semester. That time in New York really gave me the strength to know what I wanted and to do it.

How did you know it was time to return to Hawaii?
Well I was ready. When I went to New York I left a lot of loose ends. So I wanted to finish my degree, I had goals – I was really into canoe paddling and long distance racing and at that time you had to be 18 to do it, and when I left for college I was too young. I always kept missing the opportunity to do this big race every year so I wanted to do that. So I literally got back and went straight into it. Hawaii was calling me back, but I was also determined to finish some things.

Can you describe your lifestyle in Hawaii a little bit? You’re a Hawaiian native, you surf – sort of a quintessential lifestyle.
My lifestyle – well, I’ve been blessed. I live right on the beach. My husband grew up right on the beach and we got to have that property and build our house there. And pretty much my whole life revolves around my family unit first, but also the ocean. I wake up, I want to see what the ocean’s doing, I want to see how windy it is, I’m looking at the trees. It kind of shapes my day because I wake up at 5:30 and I look out there and I’m like, should I bring my surfboard or should I bring my running shoes, am I going to bring my fins, what am I going to do? Because I get an hour and a half to myself after I drop the kids off. So basically, it’s the ocean, it shapes my whole world. All my sports are in the ocean, my happiness is there, we fish, we dive, we do everything. My life pretty much revolves around the ocean and nature. We’re ruled by the weather, everyone in hawaii is constantly making plans based on the weather. We all have so many apps for the weather. It’s a good life.

Do you think you could live anywhere else and be fulfilled in the same ways?
You know, my newest collection that I just made for my brand – I produced in Jaipur, India, which is like a desert town. I go there every year for work and I named this collection “Surf Jaipur.” Obviously you can’t surf in Jaipur, it’s the desert, but the whole point was – this question that you’re asking, can you be fulfilled somewhere else, without the things that give you the comfort and the joy – and I think you can! But my outcome was that it’s a different type of fulfillment and different types of things that you have to be adaptable to. Whether or not I would ever leave Hawaii? Probably not.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo


Despite living on an island, you have not one but two businesses – Samudra and Aloha Superette. How did these ventures come about?
Samudra is a lifestyle brand and that happened first. I was working for a large resort management company doing special projects and international buying, so traveling a lot but being based out of Hawaii, buying stuff for tropical resorts, I loved it. And then they wanted me to photograph everything that was happening during the process so I was taking lots of photos of and we were creating these beautiful travel books to go into their projects so people could see the buying process. And then when I was in India once someone was like, “wow your pictures are so beautiful you should print them on these bags. There’s a factory here that does that. And then I went to Paris straight from India and I was at a small store and I saw a bag with a digital printed image on it of Maui, which was so weird but I was like, “I think I could do that!” so I texted the guy that told me about the factory and we got a picture and it was from right in front of my house, and there was a bright blue bag, and I just made that one bag, that one style, 250 pieces, I’ll never forget.

At the same time, my friends owned the surf bazaar out in Montauk and told me I should come out and have a little launch party. She told me that no one would come but I could make a press release, so we did that. And Garance came! She was staying at Ruschmeyer’s the same weekend, and we were having breakfast and she said, “oh I’m from an island I love the beach!” and I was like “oh hey do you want one of these bags?” And on a very cheesy level, and I tell her this all the time, she wrote one blog post and pretty much my whole website crashed because everyone was buying the bag. I had those 250 pieces, and then I was sold out for a really long time.

It was kind of one of those quintessential moments where you kind of realize the power – because I had loved Garance’s blog from when she first started and so I thought it was really cool that we were eating breakfast at Ruschmeyer’s and I gave her a bag and it literally – now we’re having this interview – and it’s so ironic. It’s a crazy chain of events. But I do want to give her that shiny moment of changing my career because from there I obviously left the company I was working with because my business started getting bigger and I started producing more styles and getting into the whole question of, what is my vibe?

The word samudra is Sanskrit and also a Hindi word for ocean, but it also means “the gathering of waters” or “the gathering of good ideas.” So I chose the name to honor the place it came from, but also to honor the ocean. My first real collection was called Tropical Gangster, the second was called Lost in Paradise, and this year it’s Surf Jaipur. I just try to keep it fun, and I don’t have too much rhyme or reason. I just try to keep it really true to what I’m feeling and where I’m from, and not everyone gets it but hopefully the palm trees are here to stay.

That’s amazing how it all happened. And now you have Aloha Superette, which is a brick and mortar?
Yes, so I ended up being here, raising kids, and there was always this little shop that was in my town that I thought was so cute! It had a pop out window, it was just adorable and I always liked this location, so 10 years ago I told myself that if that space ever opened, I had to go and get it. So one day I was doing a drop off and I looked over and there was a for lease sign in the window. I screeched to the side of the road, ran up the stairs and found the leasing agent. She was like, “Yes it’s available, what are you going to do there? And I said, “Well, I don’t know but I sell bags, and I don’t know! I’m going to put a lifestyle store there.” She asked what kind of bags, and I was like, “that bag that you’re holding in your hand” – she had my bags! And she owned the building. So I got the lease and I modeled the shop, which is called Aloha Superette, after these little grocery stores that were all over Hawaii, there’s only a few left, but there was one in particular that I loved growing up. You could go and buy groceries, pantyhose, lipstick, all the essentials, I was always excited to go there because there’d be a big center kiosk with something on special that was super random. Like at Christmas there were pink Christmas trees, weird shit.

So I decided to name my shop Aloha Superette which – for whatever reason, 13 years prior I had bought that domain and paid the domain price every year for it. But I went and got a business license and opened the shop!

I wanted to put unexpected items – expected items would be Sumudra, which of course is the core of what’s there – but I wanted to focus on artists and people doing rad stuff, so I have a lot of ceramics from all over the world, I have custom made surfboards from this one guy in Santa Cruz who’s so talented, I have a really cool neon sign that I designed that says “aloha.” You could literally walk into the store and have no idea what you might find. People are always like “oh my god this is an explosion of neon, tropical, wow!” and I’m like, is that a compliment? Explosion, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing” [laughs]. But you know I’m trying to keep it fresh, trying to juggle both businesses and keep them different and exciting. So that’s what I do.

You make everything sound kind of effortless, like you have this ability to manifest things, like your surfer friends in New York, and your job, and your domain that you had for 13 years.
You know it’s weird, it’s like, honestly, I do feel lucky, I do have struggles – everybody has them, but I’m a big advocate of “say it out loud and it will happen,” and you just have to keep doing it. I get strayed away by fear and thinking it won’t work out, but you just have to go for it. I think it comes from the ocean. You cannot hesitate, there is no hesitation you just have to go, otherwise you for sure will eat it and it will be bad. So it’s just that whole idea of rush it, go, do it!

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

You seem to know a lot of people in a lot of different places, how did you build this community?
It’s a spider web, it always starts with a core. Being from Hawaii makes it really easy to make friends, and people from other places. I can literally trace my web back to my time in New York, and that web has grown and overlapped with a different web. I think the fashion / art / New York world that was happening when I happened to be there in the late 90s really loved that tropical lifestyle. Everyone wanted to surf. I just feel lucky that I got put there at that time, everyone was so likeminded.

At the same time being in Hawaii and being a competitive canoe paddler and getting to pretty high levels in that sport and getting to travel to Tahiti and Australia and getting to race all over the world created that web.

And then as soon as I turned 40, all of my webs started connecting, I was like “holy crap” my web is now one huge web. On a really weird level I think it’s just this lifetime is what it was meant to be for me, I just see it unfolding.

Within all of these different webs, how do you stay connected: to people, to business, to culture, inspiration, current events, etc.?
I rely heavily on social media. The positives that have come out of social media have been to stay connected. I’m so happy to see what my friends are doing in other countries, I think it’s so cool. When Instagram came out I loved the imagery and the instantaneousness of it. There’s always a negative to everything but the positives for me greatly outweighed them and I think social media really helps me stay connected to the industry to work, for friends, for family.

For culture, I stay really connected because it’s my duty having Native Hawaiian children, to teach them the language and the values and the food and the practices that are still existing here that are really important. And also as a Korean, my mom is from Korea, I try to infuse what values I have from that, but I don’t speak Korean so… My husband and I really try to go above and beyond to keep instilling those values but that comes from straight hands on work with kids. My culture gets enriched by the need to pass it on.

How big of a role does social media play in the success of your business?
Well, obviously, Garance writing that blog post, I could see the direct connection, so right there it set the precedent. But I think for me the social media – the success is that you can communicate with people what you’re thinking, you can draw people to your website, you can share ideas… I think the success of my business isn’t solely because of social media, but it’s definitely a huge attribute. People want to be transported. It’s really interesting. So I think social media is a powerful way to let people in if you want to. And I try to paint a pretty clear picture of what is going on in my life. I don’t really like to sugar coat it, even though sometimes it’s kind of easy to do that.

I think a lot of people have the idea that life is either work oriented or more alternative – you seem to do both. Was this always important to you? Do you have a piece of advice for someone who wants to achieve both?
Yes, it’s always a balance, constantly. It actually comes quite natural to me now. My advice is to know that by having a balance, things will fall to the wayside. You can’t have every opportunity and it’s really about an examination of, “do you need to have every opportunity? Does everything need to be addressed? Do you have to make that much money? Or is enough enough?” Put your life into priorities, manifest what you want to do, and you’ll find that you do have a lot more time to do the things that are important to you. I try to including my children in the process of everything. I travel with them if I can, we’re pretty much all intertwined, which helps keep it balanced.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

Art of Life: Roots Grow Deep / Jennifer Binney

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

Have there ever been moments in your life or career where you had doubts? How did you overcome that?
Yes, of course, doubts happen every day. I try to do those mantric, weird, self-help books. Things like, “don’t be led by fear”. And they don’t ever work so I just go swimming and usually I come with new perspective. But on a real level, when you have a doubt, you have to acknowledge if it’s fear or if it’s legitimate. If it’s led by fear, you have to forget the fear, and usually the correct answer is left behind.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Oh duh, have kids [laughs]. Yeah in one way, the bravest thing I’ve ever done is to have kids, for sure. Being a parent is intensely humbling and scary, and you just realize you’re shaping the future in other people’s lives. It’s really wild. Every choice you make shapes them, and ultimately, not to sound like a weird quote, they are our teachers. My husband and I are constantly like “wow we are getting schooled every day here.”

But I think the bravest thing like, in sports, I mean…oh god, are they brave or stupid?? I’ve done 45 mile canoe races in between islands, I’ve surfed really big waves, which I don’t do anymore because I’m a parent. I used to be a big jump-off-of-every rock person. I’d be like “yeah let’s go to this cliff and jump off!” And now, I’m totally becoming a wimp because i’m a parent! My daughter is doing it now and I’m like, “dont jump off that 30 foot rock!”

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

What’s the most important piece of advice someone has given you?
When I was deciding to move to New York, the advice was “Go. You just gotta go.” I still live by that. I’ll jump on a plane at any moment, I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything.

You mentioned earlier that your products for Samudra are produced in India. What was the reasoning behind this?
Jaipur is kind of a textile place, there’s block printing and screen printing and lot of artisans and people that really understood color – I felt like they got me. So I spent a year and a half doing it there, but when I got pregnant with my second kid it just seemed too far.

I got shut down by people in LA, New York, and China who wouldn’t print digital images on cotton, so I kind of let it go. And then I got a phone call from this guy named Shiv in India I had worked with at the factory – he had started his own company and we did a test print and they were better than the factory used to make them. Shiv has become my other half in India, he produces everything for me, he’s grown his business.

I think what I’m trying to say is, I tried to leave india, but I would not have this company without India. That’s why my look book that’s about to launch is all the imagery from Jaipur. It’s kind of like my thank you card to India.

Beyond India, it seems like you travel a lot with your family too. Do you have a philosophy when it comes to traveling? Why is it important to you?
It’s changed over the years, but it’s always based on the same thing. For my husband and I now, it’s about exposing our kids to different people and cultures and art and places, but I have to say we have yet to choose a place where we can’t surf [laughs]. We always go to Australia or Tahiti, and we went to France! But we spent 3 days in Paris and then spent 2 weeks on the coast.

The kids are learning French at school and at home so we took them there and they were expanding that world and for us it’s super exciting to see that happen. And it used to be like that for myself, like I wanted to learn languages, my husband is a linguaphile, so now it’s expanding to include things the kids will trip out on and love. We just keep going and making friends and expanding the web that I talked about and helping my kids build their own little webs.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

What is one thing you always do when you’re traveling?
Well pre-travel I google all the food places.

So is it safe to assume when you travel you eat all the best food?
Yes, I am a foodie. I can’t even travel with people that don’t even like food, I’ve done it, they are the worst trips of my life! When people don’t place value on good food it bums my whole travel out. Like when you get somewhere and they’re like “actuallyyyyy right before the trip I decided to go no alcohol, vegan, and I only eat green things,” and you’re just like, “We’re in Mexico! We’re in Mexico!!” [laughs].

After a long trip, what’s the first thing you do when you get home?

You’ve already spoken a little about the ocean and about all of the amazing things it holds for you, but specifically can you talk about the power of the ocean? I mean it has to hold some sort of magic, right?
Absolutely. Well the ocean, as you know scientifically is the largest body of anything that we have on the planet. More ocean than there is land, there is more depth to the ocean than there is anywhere mountain high, so I think the power of that, the mass of the ocean, is undeniable. You just imagine yourself swimming here in the pacific ocean but at the same time you’re connected to all of the other oceans at the exact same time. We don’t have that on land. You can’t stand in california and be like “I’m in the same land as Africa!” But when you’re in the ocean, you are.

Which is always what excites me about the moon, that the moon I see is the same moon someone else around the world is looking at.
Exactly. It’s the same thing. Why do we think we’re so driven by the full moon? And then look at the full moon and how it affects the swelling of the ocean. When we have a full moon the water surges up in front of my house. The water is not just there, it’s changing, it’s alive, it’s totally alive, you can’t deny it.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

You mentioned canoe paddling earlier, this is something you did professionally?
Yeah I did a lot of races, and I did well. My husband was world champion a few times.

Sorry, you just said world champion?? That’s incredible.
Yeah. I mean it’s a sport that’s not like…the NFL but it’s a pretty huge sport, people are doing it all over the world. We went to France and my husband raced there this summer, so it’s definitely still growing.

Now my kids are doing it, it’s very family oriented, it’s very community oriented. It’s the national sport for the state of Hawaii, but I started at a young age and it has given me so much. I got to travel all over the world at a very young age, and race places. I think in a weird way canoe paddling has given me the zest to travel.

Yeah absolutely. And maybe living in Hawaii gave you the opportunity and the time to invest in the sport versus if you had lived somewhere else.
Yeah. My husband and I say if we had taken the same amount of hours we did canoe paddling, we’d probably have two PhD’s each [laughs]. There’s a lot of things we could have been doing when we were younger like building real estate empires or doing something, but does it really matter? No.

You are obviously a local, but there’s a surf community that comes to the island every year. You totally embrace it and share your island and meet all of these people. Does this have any downside?
You know, the only downside is traffic. But for me, I really enjoy it. It’s how I grow my web – we keep going back to that. I love sharing my island. I think it’s great. People can get mad about it but as I get older, the best thing I can do when people come here is instead of being weird about sharing places and sharing your island, it’s better to educate so that people know this is a special place, and that you can’t do certain things there, there’s protocol that need to be followed. So I think instead of not sharing it and getting grumpy at home about it, I’ve decided to take on the role of loving it, accepting it, and accepting that it’s my responsibility to educate and to share it responsibly.

That’s such a positive way to look at it. I think I need to implement that mentality to every aspect of my life.
I think everyone should. It’s such a healthy way to live. It goes back to this idea of not taking yourself so seriously! Like who are we to be so mad about things and you know, especially in social media, people take themselves so seriously! It’s like, you’ve lost all the magic of what you’ve accomplished. It’s the same with nature and your life and the surf spots. Like I can get mad when there’s 50 people out surfing, or I can just be like “yeah I’m here I’m loving it!” so it’s like, what are you going to do?

But I do take very seriously educating and touring people responsibly around my home because it’s just important.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

You’ve said Hawaii is just this special place, and we talked about it being the farthest point away from places, but what is it about hawaii that makes it so special?
There’s something inexplicable. Whether it’s the latitude or longitude or the exact location of this place, the energy, it is special. There’s something going on for sure. Because it calls people back. Like i rarely meet anyone who’s come here and been like, “I don’t want to come back. I don’t need to visit again.” It usually eats at you, like you need to get back. And I don’t know, maybe it has a vibration. Maybe it’s the people, I don’t know what it is! But in a nutshell to me, the reason why I love Hawaii is the genuineness of the people, that nature takes priority, and the values that are based around family and food.

Is there a special type of spirituality on the island that you recognize yourself in? Sort of a way of seeing life?
Yes, there’s definitely a spirituality that’s here. The Hawaiian gods – the god of war and peace – I don’t really follow those, but the main precept of Hawaiian culture are humility and, I can’t even think of the word in English – it’s pono, which is to do right, to do the right thing, to make things right, to live in righteousness. It’s constantly about doing that. I would say that being here, you’re always humbled because you’re always looking to nature and nature is always more powerful. So I think growing up here, the spirituality is that you’re small and the world is big and you go about your way with humility and by doing the right thing.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

Being surrounded by nature all the time and being in the ocean everyday, are you concerned about the environment?
Oh my gosh, totally. I’m concerned about the ocean. There was a film that my friend Jack Johnson just funded called Smog of the Sea, and basically it’s debunking the myth of this giant mass of plastic that just floats around because that’s not really true. There’s a scientist who’s pretty much the focal point of the movie that explains the plastic in our ocean is like a smog, it’s everywhere. Very small particles, and we basically need to stop using single use plastic or it’s going to be really bad. If the ocean becomes polluted then we’re done. As a surfer, I think about it all the time. As someone that lives on the ocean and I see parts of the Japanese outfall wash up onto my wall all the time, like somebody’s shoes that floated all the way from Japan. We are connected. It’s on my mind, to say the least.

What is something you hope to instill in your children?
Oh gosh, one?! No you know, I just want them to be responsible humans. I want them to tread on this earth and know that it was a gift. To preserve it and be good people.

Why is raising your kids in Hawaii important to you? Did you ever consider raising them somewhere else?
No, we never considered it. We have ideas of doing six months abroad somewhere, but as a whole I 100% want their DNA to be this – I want this place to be their beacon, their lighthouse for the rest of their lives.

When you need a break from the craziness of life, where do you go?
The ocean.

I had a feeling that was going to be the answer. Do you feel that you have a sense of mission in your life?
I think it’s coming. I don’t think that aspect has come into full bloom for me yet but I feel it coming. Just coaching [canoe paddling] and taking myself away from the centre of attention a couple years ago and really giving was a huge transition for me, and I feel like I’m ready for that. I don’t know at what capacity yet or what I’m going to do but I feel it coming on.

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

art of life jennifer binney garance dore photo

What’s at the top of your “life to do list?”
To be quite honest, I took a long break after having kids from competitive canoe paddling, and I just told myself I was going to start this season again. I think I’m going to focus a little more on that. That’s one of them for sure. My to do list is never just one, but maybe 25 things. I don’t like saying no to things, I try to do it all.

That’s so funny because my next question is literally: is there anything you would never say yes to doing?
No! [laughs]. Gosh, New Years last year I had that big thing of “say yes to everything.” You know I have my boundaries, but my theme was to say yes to everything. I don’t know if that will be theme next year but I will say that I’m pretty much game for anything.


Rapid Fire!

What are the three things you’d save in a fire?
My children, our passports and birth certificates. I know this because we had to evacuate 9 hours after I gave birth to my son because of a tsunami and we had done the same thing a year and a half prior – this is not a 3 word answer i’m sorry – but I had my husband pack everything! Computer, jewelery, everything piled into the car.

The next one, I had just given birth at home and my husband was like tell me what to pack! And I was like, “diapers, wipes, and a change of t-shirt.” I didn’t care about the rest – it was such a different perspective. I got my two kids, I got diapers, let’s go.

Ok and maybe my laptop.

Favorite city in the World:
New York.

Best season:

Best place to get inspired? Let me guess, the ocean…
[laughs] Yes, way far out in the middle.

Spirit animal:
The iwa bird, which is what I named my son after.

Drink of choice:
My husband makes a great cocktail, so it’s like a margarita, we call it a freshie, it’s basically fresh lime juice with tequila and a little sugar.

Last meal would be:
Virtually impossible to answer – but mexican food.

Last words would be:
Aloha Oe

Never Have I Ever:
Gone to the beach and had a bad time.

Art of Life: Roots Grow Deep / Jennifer Binney

Thank you Jen! All clothing and accessories by Samudra | Aloha Superette | 438 Uluniu Street Kailua, HI 96734 | 808.261.1011


Add yours
  • What a wonderful new series! I loved reading this so much, such an interesting interview full of vibrancy and a life well lived.

  • She is such an inspiration!
    I love those loose clothes, too. And the vibrant colors everywhere.
    Another insightful interview.

  • Really love the new series and new directions – is there anything more beautiful than how people create their lives?

  • Teresa Mitchell October, 26 2016, 1:01 / Reply

    Oh, my goodness, this woman is my spirit animal. Rarely have I read an interview and felt both a great deal in common and a great deal I aspire to. I love her!!!

  • Konstantina Antoniadou October, 26 2016, 1:20 / Reply

    such beautiful photography.

  • Amandine October, 26 2016, 3:20 / Reply

    Quel plaisir de lire cet article, de sentir cette énergie de l’échange entre Nathalie et Jen! Merci beaucoup!

  • How inspiring !

    Design Sponge just came up with a new book that interviews women who are successful. And I was thinking about you guys making a series like this for all these years, free of charge. Thank you for this series.

  • Hi Archana,

    We actually just interviewed Grace from Design Sponge for our podcast, along with Anna Bond from Rifle who was featured in her book! Thanks for the comment and for reading the site! x Emily

  • I enjoyed this interview greatly! Garance you seem more and more interested in nature and being outdoors, it’s such a refreshing way to live. It’s grounding in a way the city cannot provide. Her world makes a lot of sense to me, I love it and work towards similar goals. Thanks for sharing.

  • Inspiring story on a beautiful life so well lived. Bravo!!!! … and she is gorgeous!

  • I love these women from Hawaii, with such strong bodies. It looks so much nicer and healthy than those anemic skinny models from Europe or the East Coast.
    Too bad the online shop of Aloha superette is empty, hope it will fill up soon.

  • SunnySide October, 27 2016, 2:16 / Reply

    Tout ceci tombe à pic ! Il vient un moment où vivre loin de la nature est trop frustrant. Le rythme biologique interne fait les quatre cent coups ! J’ai aussi une histoire forte avec une ile depuis mon enfance et je comprends tellement. Se ressourcer dans l’horizon infini de l’océan est vraiment vital ! L’histoire de Jen est belle, car tout en découvrant et parcourant le monde, elle a préservé ses racines et les transmet à ses enfants. Je me souviens du premier post, cela me semblait la vie parfaite ! J’ai une amie à Kauaï qui a trouvé son paradis. J’espère bientôt y aller ! Créer sa vie est une source infinie ! J’aime beaucoup comment elle analyse le doute, la peur, dans la nature on retrouve cet instinct pour faire sa route !

  • J’aime beaucoup ces portraits, ces photos, on voyage, on découvre, on apprend. Merci pour ces découvertes ;)

  • clarisse October, 27 2016, 3:46 / Reply

    fabuleux reportage et interview. ça fait rêver et permet de voir qu’effectivement le succès d’une vie ne se passe pas forcément à paris ou NY :) BRAVO!

  • superbe interview, merci et petit air de Laura Smet sur la première photo (garance saura de qui je parle, fille de johnny). Bonne journée le studio et merci pour vos articles

  • Génial, depuis le temps !! Je fais partie de celles qui ont acheté le sac après le post de Garance il y a quelques années ! :D
    Je l’adore. Merci pour la longue interview et les riches photos, j’adore !

  • Read absolutely every word, and felt her honest, grounded energy. A beautiful spirit xo

  • Gabrielle October, 28 2016, 8:01 / Reply

    Génial ! Merci pour ce super moment, ça donne encore plus envie de découvrir Hawaï, on s’y croyait pendant un petit moment !!

  • MERCEDES October, 28 2016, 9:12 / Reply

    That is what I call a real, whole, successful life! Loved it!

  • Thanks for this new article. I loved it… Very inspiring …

  • I still remember that fab blog post you did Garance on Jen’s bags. So great to hear about your journey Jen & find out more about yourself & your brand. Very inspiring, a fantastic interview. with love from bondi beach XX

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