Viewers of the "Late Show With David Letterman" likely focused on different aspects of the billboard-sized replica of the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue during its unveiling atop a building in Times Square in New York City.
As the white drape slowly slid off, some eyes were drawn to cover model Bar Refaeli showing lots of skin. Others zeroed in on the $575 bikini by Missoni.
Sixteen-year-old Talia Gangini of Haiku zoomed in on the cone shell necklace dangling from Refaeli's neck.
The cone shell necklace worn by model Bar Refaeli (magazine cover) and in the Pashey Designz inset was created by Talia Gangini, a 16-year-old jewelry/bikini maker from Haiku. Her necklace appeared on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
"I started freaking out," recalled Talia of the television unveiling Feb. 10. "I said, 'That's my necklace.' ''
Talia knew her jewelry was going to be in the annual swimsuit edition of the magazine, seen by 66 million readers, but did not know her work would grace the cover. Magazine officials had called her in advance of the event to gather information about her and where her jewelry could be purchased; the details were printed in the edition.
Talia's name did not appear in the magazine; she used Pashey Designz, the moniker for her line of necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
The teenage entrepreneur, who has made and sold jewelry for the last four years, inquired with Sports Illustrated about whether she was the youngest fashion designer to have her work on the cover. She has not received a response, but believes she's got to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, designer.
The necklace was sent to Sports Illustrated almost as an afterthought. In addition to making jewelry, she and her younger sister, Tehani, have been creating bikinis for the last year and a half under the Manini Gangini Bikini name.
Talia prepared a package of bikinis to send to Sports Illustrated when a friend suggested she throw in a piece of her jewelry, which uses found objects from the ocean as a centerpiece.
The SI piece likely was made about a year ago, though she doesn't remember specifically crafting the necklace. Talia uses shells she finds on Oahu and Maui; the SI necklace shell came from Maui, she believes.
"I might have been on a roll," Talia said trying to think back. "I just go with it. I look at the chain and see how long I want it to be and do it."
"It's really simple," Talia said. "It's just basically a shell on a chain."
Still, it's the shell that gives each piece its uniqueness.
"No one else will have the same thing because every shell is different," said Talia. "It's fun finding a shell and making it into jewelry."
The shell necklace she sent to Sports Illustrated was "one of my favorites," Talia said, adding it was available because no one wanted to buy it.
"I really liked it," she said. "I was thinking of keeping it. It wasn't selling."
Talia won't be selling that necklace now. She had put a $50 price tag on the piece before, but "now I think I could sell it for more, maybe in the hundreds."
Talia has received e-mailed orders for the necklace based on the coverage in Sports Illustrated, which offered exposure but no money.
"I have a couple shells that look the same, so it's easy to make" for her SI customers, said Talia, a lover of ocean activities.
Since her dad gave her a ride on his surfboard when she was 15 months old, Talia has spent much of her time at the beach and in the water. She has won surfing, paddleboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and one-person canoe contests.
Talia is the youngest paddler to be part of a paddleboard team that crossed the 32-mile Kaiwi Channel between Molokai and Oahu, said her father, John, a top paddleboarder in his own right.
It was her father who planted the entrepreneurial seed. He said he'd take Talia and her sister to the beach during normal working hours, and they'd ask, "How come you aren't working?"
The proprietor of Maui Professional Carpet and Stone Cleaning explained to them that he owned a business and made his own hours.
"They saw the freedom I had," he explained.
Dad set the example and then helped germinate the spirit of business in his daughters.
"Yeah, I definitely encouraged them (Talia and Tehani) to pay their way, to run a business," dad Gangini said. "When they get older and get some big bills, they will know what to do."
That entrepreneurial seed sprouted when Talia was 12 years old.
"When I was younger, I wasn't into crafts and stuff," said Talia. "I just wanted to be in the water and surfing all the time. My friend was making jewelry and my sister started making jewelry, and I said, 'I want to try,' and liked it and I haven't stopped."
A friend of her mother, Carla, taught Talia wire wrapping, a basic form of jewelry making. Encouraged by her dad, who suggested she try and sell her pieces, Talia made a catalog of her jewelry and took a display of four earrings to Biasa Rose Boutique in Paia.
She sold the four pairs of earrings for $40.
"I was really excited," she said, thinking, "Oh my gosh, this is cool."
It got even more exciting when she saw someone on the street wearing her earrings.
The young entrepreneur, who currently is enrolled online as a 10th-grader through Eagle Christian Academy, knew not to stand on her laurels and sought to improve the variety and quality of her product line.
Last June, Talia took a beginning jewelry-making class at Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center with the goal of taking her work "to a different level." The class, led by instructor Julie Matheis, taught her soldering - or, as she put it, "working with fire."
"I'm able to make more pieces," she said about taking the class. "It's a lot easier. It's just nicer. It doesn't fall apart as easy. The quality is definitely better."
And ever business aware, Talia said she can charge more - and include the cost of taking the class.
Talia believes anyone can make nice jewelry, but Matheis offered a different perspective.
Describing Talia as "a natural," the jewelry-making instructor at the Hui for the last three years said, "Great jewelry is part craft and part concept.
"It is true that anyone with patience can learn the craft, but it takes an individual with interesting design ideas, meticulous craftsmanship and perseverance to actually succeed at it."
Talia "creates interesting designs using found objects from the ocean and quality craftsmanship," continued Matheis, noting that Talia has hit a vein in the local jewelry market. "A lot of the jewelry sold on Maui are mementos for travelers, but both kamaaina and visitors like to wear natural (shells) things of beauty with a contemporary twist."
In lauding Talia's achievement, the Hui instructor who works with youths said, "It's very exciting to wonder where her ideas and talent will take her."
Talia currently works out of the jewelry studio at the Hui in Makawao. Her pieces are available for purchase at two Paia surf shops: Hana Hwy Surf and Simmer Hawaii. Her jewelry and bikinis and her sister's bikinis may be found at Web site mgbikini.com.
The business, Gangini LLC dba Manini Gangini and Pashey Designz, is held in John Gangini's name. Dad also takes care of the books and taxes.
He did not want to disclose sales and profit figures, but Talia said their annual sales are in the thousands. She also had enough money to buy herself a used Volkswagen Jetta.
"I like making money. I like getting money and being able to buy things," said Talia, adding that she also puts profits back into the business.
The real bottom line for Talia, though, is the fun of making jewelry.
"It's time for relaxing and settling down," she said.
Talia doesn't wear jewelry all the time, and necklaces, bracelets and earrings are not things she has to have.
"Yeah, I love jewelry," she said. "I go to the store and say, 'I love that,' but it's really expensive.
"Then I think, 'I can make it myself.' ''
On the Net:
* Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center - www.huinoeau.com
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.