Dale Hope is the authority on Aloha shirts, which is why we jumped at the opportunity to work with him as Western Aloha’s Art Director.
Dale is a tough critic with a “squid eye” for detail, but his knowledge of the history of the Aloha shirt and perspectives on how to continue the tradition are invaluable.
If you’re going to make something unusual like western shirts with Aloha prints, it’s probably a good idea to check with Dale first.
When it comes to the history of mid-century and vintage Aloha prints, Dale can talk story. He and his family were right there, living in Waikiki and making shirts. In his words:
“My father, Howard Hope, stayed in Hawaii after World War II ended. He started to make a living as a civilian by selling fabric to the growing garment manufacturing community. Representing Fuller Fabrics, a large textile house stateside, he knew Keoni and bought textile designs from him. My father was told, "you make more money selling made-up garments", so he bought a small garment company in Honolulu, still a territory of the United States. He started making aloha shirts and women's garments in a tiny second floor space in Kapahulu on the outskirts of Honolulu. In a few years, he moved to a larger space close to the center of town. This was in a complex of two cement warehouse buildings surrounded by seven or eight clothing manufacturers. They all competed with each other, with the unique spirit of aloha. When one needed to borrow something, a neighboring manufacturer could be counted on to lend him an electric cutter, sewing machine part or delivery van.
As a young child, I went to the "factory" every day with my parents who both worked at the company they named "Sun Fashions of Hawaii". My mom was born to German parents in Brooklyn and later would work in the styling and design department of a rayon fabric house in New York City.
While my parents designed garments, I played in imaginary forts built out of fabric boxes that had contained Japanese piece goods that were shipped across the Pacific Ocean. As a teenager, I broke those cases of imported piece goods down and carried many thousands of rolls of fabrics to our second floor cutting room where they were stored under our cutting tables. After a year of college, may father asked me to come work for him, as he felt he needed help with sales.
I remember the shirts my father made specifically for me while I was in the third grade at Punahou School. The print motifs of beach boys playing the ukulele to Aunties dancing the hula captured the beach boy spirit easily found on the beach in Waikiki in the late 50's and 60's. Aloha shirts had been my main choice for a shirt to wear through both my childhood and my teens. The passion for aloha print shirts has never ended and I still wear them happily today.”