Salmon Sisters Meld East Coast Education With Commercial Fishing Roots

Flying Fish. (Image courtesy Salmon Sisters)
Flying Fish. (Image courtesy Salmon Sisters)

Today we meet a pair of Alaskans who run the business Salmon Sisters. Emma and Claire Laukitis were born and raised on the Aleutian Islands near False Pass. Emma says it was quiet and simple upbringing.

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“Growing up there was isolated,” she said. “It was really all we knew; we had an awesome childhood there.”

Emma Laukitis. (Courtesy Salmon Sisters)
Emma Laukitis. (Courtesy Salmon Sisters)

“We were homeschooled for the first eight or nine years of our life. We played outside a lot.”

And when the sisters got a little older their dad started taking them commercial fishing with him in the summers. Claire says they were too young to pull nets, but that didn’t matter.

“Going out on the boat was a big deal,” Claire said. “We were excited to spend time with my dad, and just spend time outside with one another.”

Once they were old enough to go to college Emma traveled to the East Coast and Claire went to Vermont. They studied there until eventually they were accepted into another program; this time in Italy. Claire studied business, while Emma studied art.

“I started designing some screen prints of the fish that we’d catch on the boat,” Emma said. “I always really liked the Japanese-style fish prints, so I started with a rockfish.”

“That was our first design, and I guess it just started grew from there and grew from our reverence for the ocean and what our family does.”

Claire Laukitis. (Courtesy Salmon Sisters)
Claire Laukitis. (Courtesy Salmon Sisters)

And that was the official beginning of Salmon Sisters. Today the pair sells a large catalog of t-shirts, hoodies, leggings and more. Emma says the Aleutians have always been a rich source of inspiration for her art.

“You know, the quirky people that you find in coastal towns,” Emma said. “And some of the creatures you pull up from the water; they’re pretty spectacular.”

Claire says Salmon Sisters has found success quickly, but it hasn’t been easy, and it’s not paying the bills just yet. On top of running the business, both Claire and Emma still commercial fish for half of the year.

“It’s been tricky,” Claire said. “It’s like standing on top of the crow’s nest holding your cell phone up getting a text to our friend who is running our business in the summer. It’s a challenge.”

Another challenge for the women is staying true to their values. They want Salmon Sisters to be 100 percent Alaska made, even if it means paying more to print their clothing in state.

(Courtesy Salmon Sisters)
(Courtesy Salmon Sisters)

Claire: “It’s produced in Alaska, designed in Alaska and sold in Alaska. It’s the perfect combination. It’s much more important for us to support the local screen printer in Anchorage.”

Emma: “And I think we’ve all learned that Alaska is just not cheap.”

At the end of the day, both Emma and Claire think Alaskans will also be willing to pay a little more for something close to their hearts. Emma says two sisters who grew up fishing isn’t unique to Alaska, but it’s genuine.

Emma: “I think people just love to be involved in a story. And if there is one that seems legitimate and real and is something they can wear and celebrate that’s a cool thing.”

Claire: “It’s so wonderful, just driving from our house to the radio station we saw three different people with our apparel on. It’s great.”

Dave Waldron began his radio career in 2000 as a volunteer DJ at UAA’s radio station KRUA 88.1, where he hosted a weekend music show. In 2004 he was hired as the station’s music director, and held the position until his graduation in 2007. He was hired by Alaska Public Media in 2008 and since then has worked as an audio engineer, editor, and producer. He currently runs his own small business AK Audio Pro, and is a host of Alaska Public Media’s Hometown, Alaska.

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