The Story - Aya Papaya

The Story

Aya Iwasaki is the living embodiment of her name, Aya meaning beautiful weaving, as she designs adornments to enhance the organic beauty of each individual.

Hello my name is Aya . . . Aya like Papaya . . .

bio photo in the jungle

Big Island, Hawai’i 2014

This is how AyaPapaya came to be– as a nickname because no one could pronounce my Japanese name. By the time I started my business, it had become a part of me, and seemed to be the perfect title for my creations.

I was born in Japan and moved to America at age 7, birthing my love for travel, people, and new cultures.  I’ve traveled all over the world: Costa Rica, Bali, Myanmar, and Iceland, just to name a few. After growing up between two continents, I always felt at home in every city, picking up languages easily and managing conversations with locals who didn’t share my tongue.

Growing up, I was not interested in fashion or clothes, being more tomboy throughout high school.  I’m not sure when that changed, but as I grew to know myself and explore all aspects of who I am, I started to make garments and jewelry that reflected my true form.

In college some friends ventured to make hand dyed wrap skirts from sheets that we got at the thrift store.  I was the only one who finished .  The day I wore it out, I made my first sale, initiating my first clothing line.  That was 10 years ago, a few stores carried my skirts, but the project went on hold so that I could travel. .

Hand dyed wrap skirt in meadow

In 2009 I was working as a waitress when I decided to make a pair of feather earrings to wear to a party.  Again, people wanted to purchase them, and AyaPapaya was conceived.  From that first pair of earrings I expanded to a collection, adding in feather extensions and hair clips.  A few years later, I started working with chain and crystals, and in 2013 a line women’s clothing.

I am so inspired working with the beauty in each element, carefully layering each feather, lovingly wrapping each stone to create a unique work of wearable art.  With each piece I create something that I would want to wear, keeping in mind comfort as well as style, designing for women who are in movement.  I want you to be able to dance, play, work in my creations. I see beauty in every being and I aim to embody that essence, strength, and grace in my designs.