I was on a weekend trip to the Big Island for my nephew Koa's first birthday luau. The luau was on my friend Niki's families' property overlooking the Hamakua coast: waterfalls, bamboo forests, vast green rolling hills, and a Buddhist temple. I was in my element, feeling very connected.
Big Island is an extremely sacred and spiritual place. It was my first time really having the total experience of authentic Hawaii since I'd lived there. Imu pig was in the ground. We shucked Opihi. Chicken long rice was on the stove. The men were happy, and the women were in control. The vibes were lovely. That day I was exposed to the art, tradition, and craft of the ti leaf lei and the beauty of the women making them. I was wearing a long floral kimono, vintage Levi cut-offs, a crocheted top, and my classic high top Chuck Taylor's when Koa's Mom, Niki, adorned me with my first ti leaf lei. When she placed it over my head, I naturally assessed everything about it. The color, the scale, the technique, and how it paired with my attire. I touched its texture and felt it around my neck and immediately removed the turquoise necklace I was wearing. Feeling really good about it, I looked over at Niki and said, “I want to wear this all the time. It's so tribal. I feel like a Goddess. Can we make this happen? Can we make these?” She just looked back over at me and said, “Hell, yeah.”
After the weekend, Niki stayed on the Big Island with Koa for a few days to get inspired and centered. While she was gone I was feeling super antsy. We both had been so busy, and our lives were just always a story and an adventure. I needed to get going. I needed to make this happen, so I was kind of on her about it. I saw her a couple of days later while we were working on windows together for Tiffany and Co. She told me at lunch that she had a lot of clarity while on the Big Island and needed to share it with me. We took a walk back to her Waikiki apartment for homemade chicken soup and chocolate chip cookies, and she just said it then. She said, “I had a vision on the Big Island of you, that you were a mermaid.” She said, “You are a new soul. I don't think you are from this world. Sometimes I feel like you're a little kid pulling on my shirt saying look! Look!” Then she told me, “It's like you crawled out of the sea, and you’re using your legs for the first time. Your eyes are huge, and you’re happy, curious, naive, sad, thirsty, and you want to know everything. You want to see it all.” I was digesting this as she was saying it. Tears started rolling down my face. It was very intense. Then she said, “You need to do this. You need to start this adventure. It's now or never. You've got it in you. You have the drive to become an entrepreneur and an artist and you need to do it alone.” I remember thinking, ‘holy shit, alone?’ And she said, “You need to birth this baby, this dream, this vision by yourself.” Hence the name sirena + the sea. A girl and the world.
Laurie DiBiagio, Designer + Artist + Maker.
Laurie DiBiagio is an East Coast raised, born, and bred girl from the salty coastal towns of the New Jersey. Owner, designer, and creator of sirena + the sea, Laurie moved to the North Shore of Oahu in the spring of 2012 from her tiny apartment on Waverly Place in the heart of New York City's West Village. She immediately fell madly in love with Hawaii, where she lived for 2.5 years before abruptly moving home. Growing up in surfing culture and life centered around the ocean, she felt right at home. The Savannah College of Art and Design Alumni, majoring in interior design, left her job at Ralph Lauren designing the apparel showrooms, to take over Pacific Region Visual Merchandising for Tiffany and Co. After almost 4 years of working in a corporate environment as a controlled artist, she felt like a wild animal in a cage. She didn't fall into the world of standardized testing. It wasn't who she was. She wasn't following her heart. She was suffocating. It was time to embark on her journey, vision, and dreams of creating the inner working of her soul purpose. Thus begins the story of sirena + the sea. Laurie is currently residing back on the beaches of the East Coast growing, traveling, and building her business , artistry, and love.