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After the war my father stayed in Hawaii and started selling fabric to the growing community of clothing manufacturers. In 1953 my Mom and Dad bought a small garment factory, the same year I was born. We lived in a small cottage in Waikiki a few blocks from the beach. My Dad wore great bold-printed shirts everyday and he special ordered a batch of them for me every year once I was in school.
We would all go to work together as they started their company and I made forts with boxes in the shipping room. By the time I was a teenager, I’d be breaking down fabric cartons from Japan, carrying many thousands of yards of fabric in a day on my shoulders to our second story cutting room. When I was about to continue on to college in the early 1970’s, my Dad asked me to come and work for him, as he needed help with sales. He was selling ladies, missy resort wear with polyester, pongee and acrylic fabrications. It was difficult for me to relate to his customers. I was not convinced His customers, the predominately blue-ish haired resort ladies needed these garments
Asked him if we could make men’s shirts, Having worn Dave Rochlen’s, Surfline Hawaii shirts since the 8th grade, I really cherished those, and had more of a feel for that direction, so we started small and in 10 years we were a respectable Men’s brand under the HRH label.
We also became the Local Motion licensee to make their aloha shirts and board shorts in the late 1970’s.
We did this for about a year and then started our own brand, Hawaiian Style. Our emphasis was on locally relevant Lifestyle images, with Surfing, Locations and Fish themes. Nicky Black, a childhood surfing and paddling friend, was our main artist and he created a recognizable look that became very popular.
I lived in a shack in Kahala that was close to the beach. When I left for work in the morning in my VW Bus, I would see young kids on their stingray bikes off to Kahala School wearing our t-shirts. Passing through Kalihi, close to our warehouse, I’d see Grandpa’s pushing young children in strollers wearing our t-shirts, And on the way home, going around Diamond Head, I’d pass attractive Gals jogging, with their sleeves rolled up wearing the same shirts. We had created a very special Brand that had hit a nerve with a large audience.
In 1987 we acquired the name Kahala, and changed the name of our shirt company from HRH to Kahala by HRH. Many of our buyers did not want us to change our name, as HRH was one of their top vendors. That year we were awarded the first, Fashion Industry Governor’s Cup, The Hawaii Manufacturer of the Year award.
We also created a line called Canoes that was a vintage inspired line of original Hawaiian shirts. After getting it up and running, Canoe (pronounced Ka-noe) the perfume company shut us down claiming copyright infringement with the name.
In the early 1990’s we sold our company to Local Motion and I was asked to stay on as the art director for Kahala. On a sales and inspiration trip, in my new position visiting the Big Island, we saw some block prints in a Hilo art gallery, thought the art was amazing and ideal for shirts. Contacted the artist, Avi Kiriaty, originally from Israel, who lived in upper Puna, and asked if he would consider working on textile designs with us. We started working together and went on to sell over 150 Avi designs. Once while doing a promotion at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza we sold 140 of Avi's Kahala shirts during a instore event.
With our successful collaboration with Avi we branched out to other artists being able to offer even more diverse collections. After having his phone number for 6 years, I called John Severson, creator of Surfer Magazine, many early surf films, and a childhood hero, and asked if he would consider creating art for our shirts.
He said that 6 months earlier he had seen a special on the artist Avi, on TV, and had been preparing to hopefully meet us one day. We worked with John, his talented wife Louise and artistic daughter Anna. Together they outdid themselves, creating diverse patterns for us with genuine surf stoked themes.
A few years later, While at the McKinley Car Wash, I stood behind a tastefully dressed lady who was signing her gas receipt in front of me. It realized she was Yvonne Cheng, a local fine artist who’s work I had admired for years, while outside, waiting for our cars; I said hello and let Her know how much I appreciated her art. After quite a few meetings, Yvonne was hand-painting art for us, dressing many of Honolulu’s top CEO’s and Executives, who adored Her, and Her Art on shirts.
We worked with great textile converters here in Honolulu, G. Von Hamm and Ohana Fabrics who introduced us to the Textile world in Japan. There we worked with the finest textile companies in Japan, Marubeni, Kurabo and C. Ito, who enabled us to source the best quality fabrications, printing and additional sources for textile art.
My Dad once told me, “you really are in the business of selling art.” He was right, great art on shirts sold well.
To tell our story we worked with some great photographers over the years. For ads, brochures, lookbooks and tradeshow booths we worked with Darrell Wong, Jeff Hornbaker, Linny Morris Cunningham, Horst Stanzy, Dana Edmunds, John Russell, Mike Wagner and JOSS.
We were inspired by 2 companies of that era, Esprit and a non-fashion company, Patagonia. Still have one of Patagonia’s original quarter page ads, where the copy read, “Uncommon clothes For Spirited People.” These mainland companies definitely showed us what was being done creatively away from our shores.
Renaissance Man, Big Wave Canoe Surf Pioneer, Author of the definitive book on Outrigger Canoes, Tommy Holmes, asked me one day to help him define what should be included in a book on Aloha Shirts that he was ready to embark on. I gave him a long list of the who’s who in the industry, all the companies he would want to talk to. When he got my list he said, “this is will be a project we will do together – will be by Hope and Holmes.”
Very unfortunately he passed away and left me with this project. After fumbling for years with the concept of doing the book and working, I took a sabbatical from Kahala and spent a year and a half, full time on the book. Interviewed hundreds of old timer’s related to the industry. Flew to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Laguna to see extensive collections of incredible shirts and interviewed individual’s like legendary Alfred Shaheen. Spent days with these collections, looking for shirts that had never been published, that were unfamiliar to our reader’s. In 2000 the book was completed and published. It was been printed for the US, as well as England, Germany and has been printed in Japan twice.
Shortly after the book came out, We contacted the US postal Service and the Postmaster General and suggested the concept of Aloha Shirts on stamps. We encouraged over a thousand people to write letters to the USPS supporting this concept. After 15 years it finally happened in 2012, with the help of our Governor, Neil Abercrombie.
In 2002, I took a job with Patagonia to over see the Pataloha division that had been created by our Hawaiian Ambassador of Aloha, Rell Sunn. We worked on technical shirts for paddling with hints of prints and aloha shirts that had both Hawaii and Mountain and fly fish themes.
Life in Hawaii
Dale Hope lives in Honolulu Hawaii with his wife and daughter. He is involved in many garment related projects and appreciates time at the beach and sharing his love for the Ocean with his daughter.
TRIP TO MICRONESIA
In the summer of 2012, Dale and his daughter were hosted to a tremendous visit to the Caroline Islands, Micronesia. They spent their time looking for unique designs to build up his next collection of textile prints, and of course fishing and diving and enjoying the unique Island lifestyle.
Email: dale (AT) thealohashirt.com