Highliner Apparel opened its doors three years ago, sparked by the creation of a local brand that would resonate with the Alaska commercial fishing community. These individuals' resilience and dedication to this industry are truly second to none. The brand's creator, Leonid Tuiasosopo, felt that commercial fishermen’s clothing didn’t adequately represent their unique rugged spirit and way of life.

Tuiasosopo shared that his time fishing in Alaska ignited the idea. He wanted to create high-quality, stylish apparel that also captured the essence of the Alaska fishing experience. Though the brand is still in its beginning phases, it has begun to establish itself, making strides on and off the water.

Highliner has taken its first step by collaborating with the local organization, CFBB, to show support for Bristol Bay, which is called the No Pebble Mine Collab. “This collaboration focuses on funding critical initiatives and raising awareness around the importance of protecting Bristol Bay’s ecosystem and making sure the salmon population will be here for years to come,” shared Tuiasosopo.

The brand’s shared passion for the sea and its bounty shows a deep connection to Alaska’s roots. They walk hand in hand to evolve and face industry challenges together. Tuiasosopo said, “This first collaborative journey isn’t just about selling clothes; it’s about collective growth and a deep commitment to a sustainable future.”

The designs are more than just patterns; Tuiasosopo has worked hours on them to share the journey of all commercial fishermen on deck and genuinely embody the language of a fisherman. For 20-plus years, he’s mainly fished in the Bering Sea. “I’ve worked with opilio, red king crab, and bairidi,” Tuiasosopo shared. He’s also fished for cod in the Bering Sea, salmon in Bristol Bay, longlined for black cod, and harvested scallops.

“I’ve fished on multiple boats, but my first fishing job ever was on the F/V Cornelia Marie with Phil Harris during the 1999 red king crab season,” he noted.

A photo from the 2008 red king crab season in Dutch Harbor. Photo courtesy of Tuiasosopo

Being a fisherman is no easy task; the days are long, the weather is rough, and sometimes the catch isn’t what you’d hoped it would be. But for some, this industry quickly becomes their way of life. As a native of the Pacific Islands, Tuiasosopo started his fishing career at the ripe age of 20 and has continued well into his mid-forties. “I love the rewards and the physicality of the job and how it consistently pushes me beyond my comfort zone,” he shared.

“Throughout my fishing career, I’ve learned so much in this industry and met some of the most amazing people. However, two of the most challenging aspects of the job for me are leaving my family- my wife and two daughters, and I really want to emphasize this- I still get seasick after 20 years of doing this. The newer technology, like Wi-Fi on the boats, has helped connect back home.” 

The grind never stops for Tuiasosopo, and his passion for creating apparel as a fisherman has just begun. In addition to Highliner, he is also a co-owner of the crab fishing vessel Silver Spray, where he continues to work on deck. He plans to continue honoring the individuals around him who make up such a unique industry.

Tuiasosopo and the rest of the F/V Silver Spray crew.

“Starting this journey is about the entire community. Everyone who commercial fishes knows what the job takes, regardless if we know each other or not,” he shared.

Everyone fisherman knows the meaning behind a highliner: “the best of the best.” Still, whether you’ve achieved this title or not, there is no denying the discipline and extreme conditions that commercial fishing brings. Tuiasosopo hopes to do it justice through his brand. ­­­­

Learn more about Highliner Apparel on their website or give them a follow on Instagram. ­­­

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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