John "Keoni" Meigs
Meigs once described himself as “a familiar sight in Hawaii dressed in tropical whites and an ever-present aloha shirt, sporting a wide brim lauhala hat complete with feather lei.” Pictured here searching for design inspiration, Meigs’s outfit perfectly matches his description.
Western Aloha honors legendary textile designer John “Keoni” Meigs in this first edition of Western Aloha’s vintage Aloha shirt collection.
In collaboration with Dale Hope, author of “The Aloha Shirt.”
KEONI OF HAWAII: LEGENDARY ALOHA SHIRT DESIGNER
Journalist. Painter. Home designer. Textile artist. In just the first chapter of his amazing life, John “Keoni” Meigs was all of these things. He began his career designing aloha shirts while living in Honolulu prior to World War II. Between 1938 and 1951, Meigs created as many as three hundred different textile designs, many of which are now recognized as classics. In his prints Meigs tried to depict, in his words, “what’s really Hawaiian without being pedestrian,” including a series of designs based on Gauguin’s Tahitian wood block prints and tapa patterns kept at the Bishop Museum.
According to Meigs, “In a sense, Aloha shirts put Hawaii on the map. The first thing people did when they arrived was make a beeline for a department store to buy one. A lot of kooky things were designed, but I always tried to be a purist when it came to using motifs from Hawaiian sources.”
MEIGS IN NEW MEXICO: RENOWNED LANDSCAPE PAINTER
Having cemented his status as a legendary designer of aloha shirts, in the early 1950s Meigs moved from Hawaii to New Mexico, trading his lauhala hat and tropical whites for a Stetson hat and snap shirts. While living in New Mexico, he became a well-received landscape artist. But Meigs did not leave behind his wardrobe of aloha shirts when he made his move to the Southwest, where pictures depict him in a cowboy hat and aloha shirt. In New Mexico, John “Keoni” Meigs became the personification of the connection between western and Aloha.
MEIGS ON TOUR: ART OF THE ALOHA SHIRT
If you’re interested in learning more about Meigs’s life as Keoni of Hawaii, an exhibition of Meig’s Aloha shirts is currently touring the country. The exhibition, “Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51,” includes Meigs’s original textile artwork, production sketches and swatches, advertisements, and vintage shirts. Preserved through the efforts of Aloha shirt collector Dan Eskenazi, the collection offers viewers an opportunity to see an amazing collection of Aloha shirts, but also to gain insight into Meigs’s design process.
For more information, visit: http://eusa.org/exhibition/aloha-shirt/
DALE HOPE CURATES MEIGS
Dale Hope is the curator of Art of the Aloha Shirt: Keoni of Hawaii, 1938–51. Dale is a Hawaiian native and second generation veteran of the garment industry who authored the definitive book on the subject, The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands, published by Patagonia in 2016.
Dale is also the Art Director for Western Aloha.