Artists Design Tote Bag Line

By now, everyone knows that plastic bags are detrimental to the environment. Plastics release toxic chemicals and can cause marine animals, who mistake the bags for food, to choke or starve to death. One way to help reduce the presence of plastic bags — something we’ll have to do anyway come July 1 with the plastic bag ban — is to bring a reusable tote bag when grocery shopping.

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Dexter Doi and Carol D'Angelo

But not all tote bags are created equal, and some begin to break from a little grocery weight. And if we’re being honest, some of these bags are not very appealing to the eye.

Enter local company Ecolicious, which creates environmentally friendly tote bags with varied, hand-drawn designs, created by husband-wife team Dexter Doi and Carol D’Angelo. Both artists, they design these products just like they would create paintings to hang on a wall — only it’s going on a canvas bag.

“We wanted to do something to help the environment here,” Doi says. “I am one of those who gets really upset when I see litter around. I really think that we should do more to take care of our environment — and plastic bags are a big pet peeve.

“But if you can’t give people an alternative to plastic bags, then we can’t be grumbling about it,” he adds.

They knew they couldn’t force anybody to use a tote bag, but they thought if they could make the products attractive enough, people would want to use them anyway.

“In a way, as artists, we have the ability to do that,” Doi says.

After starting with just two totes in 2008, Ecolicious since has expanded its collection to include dozens of totes, along with clutches, scarves, dresses and T-shirts. In creating the hand-drawn designs on Ecolicious products, D’Angelo and Doi are inspired by life in Hawaii and by nature, which is reflected in their works: Doi has a particular affinity for koi fish (one popular T-shirt line is Flying Koi by Doi), and D’Angelo loves to paint jungle scenes. Their various products also depict beaches, gardens and mermaids.

The totes are made from biodegradable materials (and some also are organic) and lined with recycled fabric.

In addition to running the company, D’Angelo teaches fashion illustration at University of Hawaii at Manoa, while Doi works in the design department at a local clothing company. Through the years, both have exhibited their work at galleries and have sold canvas paintings. But they’re excited that Ecolicious gives them a different vehicle to present their artwork.

Ecolicious products can be found at Whole Foods Market, Global Village in Kailua and Hawaii State Art Museum. Eventually, they aim to open a storefront, which they envision could double as a gallery.

D’Angelo and Doi hope Ecolicious makes it easier for people to make sustainable choices.

“We want people to have nice-looking bags that they could go shopping with,” D’Angelo says. “We wanted (the bags) to be pleasing to the eye and eco-friendly.”

For more information, visit ecolicioushawaii.com.

coconnor@midweek.com