Hawaii is always in fashion

The colors and comforts of the Hawaii islands are celebrated in a new designer collection and an iconic anniversary.

Stella McCartney drew inspiration from Hawaii for her Spring 2012 line recently previewed in New York City. She is quoted by the Associated Press as saying Hawaii “is such a rich, visual place to start.” Her clothing for women uses common motifs, such as hibiscus, palm trees and the surf, in new combinations often paired with stripes. My favorite is a simple black and white dress with a small palm tree as the only ornament. Others are much more colorful. The blue of the Hawaii ocean and sky predominates.

The AP article reviewed collections by several designers shown in New York over the past several weeks. These used to be called “resort collections” because they were for wealthy customers who were headed for vacations in warmer climates in December or early spring. However, now consumers are moving toward clothing they wear year-round rather than changing closets from summer to winter. The casual comfort of resort styles makes them popular. That approach certainly works in Hawaii, where only one wardrobe is ever needed!

Visitors at a recent conference asked what we meant by “aloha attire,“ which was specified for a dinner. I pointed to several attendees who were wearing aloha shirts and slacks. A group from Japan was especially happy to leave their suit coats behind. They said everyone wears suit coats for business meetings, even though it is very hot in the summer. They wished the custom of aloha shirts would spread to their island.

Hawaii is celebrating the birth of the aloha shirt on July 1, although the precise date of origin is unknown. The Hawaii Visitors and Contention Bureau is sponsoring the celebration. It describes several stories of how the colorful shirt came to be, noting “the origin of the aloha shirt has many parents.” At least by the late 1920s and early 1930s, the new style of colorful clothing was popularized as locals welcomed visitors arriving by ship for their Hawaii vacation.

In 1946, the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce backed a resolution to allow businessmen to wear sports shirts during the summer but it excluded aloha shirts as inappropriate. However, an exception was made during the annual Aloha Week celebration. The exception soon became the rule and now aloha shirts are seen in offices, court rooms and even the legislature. To be sure, some places still observe “Aloha Friday” (which began in 1966) with the more casual wear limited to one day a week. However, the aloha shirt “remains a symbol of the casual, carefree and graceful Hawaii lifestyle,“ to quote the HVCB press release. When you are here on a Hawaii vacation, be sure to add a touch of the islands to your wardrobe. It’s guaranteed to bring a smile and warm memories, no matter what the weather.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher