Back in 2008 I was only into my third season of WEST INDIES WEAR, and I took what felt like a massive gamble at the time to attend Surf Expo as an exhibitor. At that show I met Milena and her teenage daughter Karina, who had a cute little beach shack boutique on the famous surf spot in PR, Rincon.
Every year thereafter I would see them at the show. Sometimes it was Milena & Karina, then her dad Casey started to come too.
Over the years I watched Karina grow up, and then she stopped coming to the show, as she had embarked on her own life, moving to St.Barths. Here is Karina in St.Barths, where she did a lot of modeling for local boutiques and designers.
Now Milena was also a beautiful model in the early 70's. She had the dream life of modeling in New York through the summer, and then jet setting down to the Caribbean with her friends for the winter. They would have fun and dance the night away at St.Barths first disco, "Autour Du Rocher" made famous by Jimmy Buffet. Here is a photo of a group of them with their friends private plane in St.Barths.
Looking through Milena's photos aside from being beautiful, she looks so young and free.
I love this one she had captioned "Girls just wanna have fun" ... ha ha she is the cheeky one on the right. Not too many Caribbean airport arrival buildings look like that anymore!
In 1975, after a couple of years of jet-setting between the runways of NYC and the party life of the Caribbean, Milena spent her modeling money on a piece of beachfront land in paradise.... Rincon, PR. She was only 21 years old. Not long after she met her husband Casey in Newport, Rhode Island, and together they moved back to Puerto Rico to surf and raise their babies.
Now Milena is an animal lover, and she soon became heavily involved in saving the island dogs & cats that would turn up in her village. I love this photo of Milena wearing one of my early beach tunics.
Now anyone who has visited the Caribbean knows about all the poor island animals that are either homeless strays or mistreated by their owners. Milena couldn't keep them all, but she sure could help a lot of them. Needing to raise money to help the animals, she decided to start a little beach boutique on the front of her land.... and so MANGO BEACH SHOP was born.
Here is a photo one of our island friends Betty, sent to me recently of her in our Starfish Tunic at the entrance to Mango Beach Shop.
Now back in 2017 when Irma tore through the island chain, Karina was living in St.Barths and had met her surfer boy Max. Here they are together in St.Barths.
As you know Hurricane Irma destroyed St.Barths and left these guys devastated. Karina sustained a bad cut on her leg after the storm and it was time to move back home to her parents. Not long after the 2 decided to use their savings to go to Australia on a working holiday.... a backpacker mission, not unlike the ones I used to have when I was in my 20's.
They bought and fitted out a tiny little van, and set out to explore this vast country of mine. Here is Karina and their tiny van in the outback.
I got an email from Karina's dad Casey, saying Karina and her boyfriend are in Australia, they are down in Melbourne though so not sure if you they will get a chance to visit. I replied with my phone number in case she needed anything and went about my normal life.
These 2 had the time of their lives in Australia, visiting some amazing places I have never even heard of.
I love this photo of Karina inside a giant Boabab Tree.
Then last Christmas the 2 were driving south after having done 4000 kms in that little van, when their van suddenly broke down.... A major breakdown on Christmas Eve, when the whole of Australia "downs tools" for at least a week. No one here in Australia works between 24th December and 2nd January... EVER!
As fate would have it, they broke down in a small country town only an hour away from my house. They spent Christmas camping in a paddock with one other camper (a crazy guy) and a whole herd of kangaroo's. Even though they were fairly much alone, they still dressed up for Christmas.
Now because it was Christmas and they assumed I would be busy with family, they felt they couldn't call me, so they waited until the next day.
Somehow they managed to crawl their van to my town and found a mechanic who was prepared to fix it between Christmas and New Years Eve. The only problem was that their van was also their home, so if the van was in the workshop... where would they sleep? My town was completely booked out over Christmas, so they had no where to go. They went to MacDonalds to use the free wifi and search for somewhere to stay. They found nothing. They tried to call me, but at the time I was visiting my elderly grandmother so said I would call them back.
HOURS later, when they were starting to contemplate sleeping in a park or on the beach, I called them back. Karina told me what had happened and I said "Where are you?" She explained that they were in the MacDonalds that was about 10 minutes from my house.... they had been there for 5 hours. I said "Pack up your stuff, I am coming to get you!".... within 20 minutes they had a cold beer in their hands and were sitting down by our pool. I set up beds on my office floor and they had found a home for a few days.
That first night we still had to go out for dinner with all of my family... so we left them at home alone. I remember telling my family we have a couple of backpackers at home in our house - they were saying "Are you crazy? You don't know anything about them.... they could be taking everything!".... I just laughed, I have known Karina since she was a teenager, and I know her family. All will be fine, and of course it was!
We all loved having Karina and Max stay with us, and we didn't want them to go. Justin & I loved having some fresh conversations about their adventures, the kids just LOVED them, and even our pets LOVED them. Max is French, and I had to laugh at his stories about being nicknamed "Maxie the Frenchie" by some outback farm boys. We were all so sad to see them go.
I just love that my 10 years in the Caribbean is still such a solid part of my life. After Australia these guys traveled through parts of Asia, this is a photo Max took of Karina wearing my Arawak Kimono in Vietnam. Yes I wouldn't let her leave without giving her something from the new collection.
I was SO thrilled recently to learn that these two gorgeous people are now back home in Rincon, and they got married on the beach with all of their family around!
Here they are with Milena.
Here they are with Karina's mum and dad (Milena & Casey) and her baby brother Michael on the right.
and would you believe it, Karina actually wore my Arawak Kimono in Aqua on her wedding day!
What a beautiful couple.... I wish them so much happiness !
One love x
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