When you hear the mere mention of Hawaii . . . you can’t help but envision beautiful sandy beaches, hula girls and Aloha shirts. More so, the 50th State of ours is rich in a culture so diverse yet unified by the embracing spirit found in it’s people. Lucky Brand set out to bring you a little piece of this paradise — and knew in order to do so, we would have to go straight to the source.
In collaboration with Dale Hope, renowned textile designer and author of The Aloha Shirt, the Summer 2012 collection is full of graphic prints, tropical hues and an ease only to be found while in the islands. We caught up with Dale to ‘talk story’ and learn more about his life and inspiration in Honolulu.
What do you hold most dear about being born and raised in the islands? To me it’s our casual lifestyle that is so special and so endearing. We went to school barefoot until 6th grade and then we had to wear shoes. It is such an interesting melting pot of cultures and sensibilities here. And of course our weather and climate. The ocean is a huge draw for me, it is such a special thing to be able to go to the ocean and swim, surf, paddle, fish, etc. It renews you and gives you a skip in your step that makes you feel so good. When I used to own my company, I felt as if anything they threw at me throughout the day, I was able to handle, because I had been out in the a.m. previously spending special time on the water. Growing up in the Hawaii garment industry – was it always a desire to go into the family business? No. It was just never that appealing to me. I really did grow up in my mom and dad’s factory and it didn’t excite me due to the constant familiarity. I played in boxes in lieu of nannies and went on all my dad’s deliveries from a young age. By the time I was a teenager, I was working in the factory. I didn’t really identify with the business because although my dad made shirts, they were more for ladies – misses. I didn’t want to sell to blue haired ladies who didn’t know if they needed this product or not. I was interested in men’s shirts and my dad was not. By the time he passed away at 60, I had to take a crash course in how to take over as a very young and fairly uneducated businessman. But, because of the few guys I knew that were making shirts and developing art, I was inspired to join in on the new design sense that was appealing to us. Had it not been for those guys, it probably never would have been interesting to me. They exemplified the fact that it could be done differently, and aided me in carving a path that allowed me to execute prints in a different fashion. Do you find it to be a welcome challenge when finding new ways to elevate a classic? Yes, you’re only as good as your last print. I’ve always wanted to be a really good shirt maker. So, I’ve spent my career seeking out interesting stories and extremely talented artists with the hope that our work will find it’s way into people’s hearts and touch them on an emotional level. The history of the Aloha shirt very much depicts the story of Hawaii during each era- how does it feel knowing you’ve made such an impact? It’s very rewarding to be driving around the island and see people of every generation wearing shirts that I steered the design of. (We actually drove by a young man riding his bicycle who was wearing one of Dale’s shirts during our tour.) In addition, when idols and heroes of mine have worn my shirts…that’s really special. I am so inspired by the stories that go into developing these prints, so I’m really delighted when another person connects to the concept as well. Looking back in time, what era of the Aloha shirt do you find most captivating? Probably the 50’s and late late 40’s were the most amazing. Some of the shirts from back then are now selling for $10K. The fabric was actually a cheap lingerie rayon, but it was very drapy and silky; soft to the touch and very luxurious to wear. The colorations were also insane with the lime greens and purples of the day that weren’t too hot. The artists back then weren’t watching TV for inspiration. They were drawing on the nature around us. Such authentic interpretations and the artists were memorializing everything that was special about the Island. They did it without a computer or over stimulation. They captured the innocence, charm and naiveté of the environment and the time as well. The ukulele, getting back rubs on a surfboard off the beach of Waikiki, Hawaiian music and luaus were all reflected within the art.That’s the heroic period for me – the Golden Era. Why Lucky Brand? What made it the perfect collaboration? I’ve always been a fan of Lucky Brand. My entire family is actually. My wife, daughter and I all love and wear Lucky denim. It’s such a great collaboration because Lucky can really elevate the essence and idea of the Hawaiian shirt. Prints are also so on-trend right now, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime in the near future. So, it’s such a great time to introduce these Hawaiian prints for men and especially for women in dresses, pants, shorts, tops, etc. in a way that they’ve never been done before. In one word, describe Hawaii? Aloha! In an extensive personal collection of Aloha Shirts, some of Dale’s favorites have been memorialized this year on the U.S. Postcard Stamps available nationwide. Send a little Aloha in the mail!