July 4th, 2011 / posted by paularath

Fashion designers and supporters joined Governor Abercrombie and the First Lady at Washington Place. Photos by Jerry Mayfield

On Friday morning Governor Abercrombie called a news conference to encourage public support for the local fashion industry and to declare 2011 as  “The 75th Anniversary of the Aloha Shirt.” It was an exciting time for those of us who have been involved in fashion for decades. It was held in one of my favorite locations on Oahu, Washington Place.

The event was coordinated by designer/stylist/consultant/teacher (you name it, he has done it) Amos Kotomori. Amos is calling his initiative Wear Aloha, the same name I have been using for my initiative. While our approaches are a little different, we both seek to support our local fashion industry.

Governor Abercrombie wore an aloha shirt given to him by former Governor George Ariyoshi, thus avoiding making any choices that might offend.

First up at the podium, the governor talked about the importance of the aloha shirt and encouraged everyone to observe aloha Friday as it was done in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. “The aloha shirt is an iconic symbol of Hawaii that is recognized around the world. When we support our local businesses, we all succeed in ensuring a healthy economy. We have become too dependent on imported resources and goods. We must invest in ourselves, and this includes supporting our local businesses,” he said. In a nod to history, he reminded us that the first Aloha Friday was promoted in 1964 by the Hawaiian Fashion Guild, which was  a predecessor of the Hawaii Fashion Industry Association, which has been replaced by Hifi (Hawaii Fashion Incubator). Toby Portner attended the event to show Hifi’s support for Wear Aloha.

Amos Kotomori wore a shirt of his own design, sold now at Neiman Marcus.

Amos expressed concern with how Aloha Friday has been eclipsed by Casual Friday, a Mainland concept.  “We need to bring back Aloha Friday to support our local fashion industry,” he said. “There is a spirit to wearing aloha.”

Dale Hope, a historian of the aloha shirt, now has his own line of shirts sold at Muumuu Heaven.

Next up at the podium was Dale Hope, author of “The Aloha Shirt: Spirit of the Islands.” He gave a brief history of the aloha shirt, including its beginnings. There has been a dispute for years over who made the first aloha shirt. Will we ever have a definitive answer? Probably not. Does it really matter? Decidedly not. The world needed a shirt that spoke to our Island lifestyle and we got it in the aloha shirt. The unique, colorful prints now send our message throughout the world.

“We as a population actually don’t wear (aloha shirts) as much as we all used to, and it’s interesting to see how people in places like Europe are now starting to be influenced by the colorful history as they interpret our vintage Hawaiian prints,” Dale said.

I wore an Umee shirt dress (umee-brand.com), Muse IX earrings (sold in Viewpoint at Macy's) and a Jennie B. bracelet (Riches Kahala).

Amos and the Governor invited me to speak about paularath.com’s Wear Aloha intiative, giving me an opportunity to invite everyone to wear at least one Hawaii-made item every day.

 Readers of this blog know how passionate I am about this cause. We have such a plethora of talented designers in Hawaii now. They are not just designing aloha attire. You can easily wear local designers’ clothes and accessories to a workout, the beach, a date, work, a dinner date or even a formal affair. Whether it’s a swim suit, yoga pants, dress, handbag, jewelry, hair accessory or sandals, you can find a local designer who is creating it with style.

In addition, many of the Islands’ oldest and most respected fashion firms, such as Tori Richard and Hilo Hattie, are going back into their archives to find vintage prints to bring back in an updated, cool new way. In fact, if you look at the top photo, in the front row you will see Terri Funakoshi of Hilo Hattie. She is wearing an orange and brown vintage style and print the store is bringing back next month. Everyone in the audience loved it.

Last week the uber-hip NYC retailer, Opening Ceremony, introduced a new line created for them by Reyn’s. You don’t get any cooler than that.

The gardens at Washington Place looked so lovely on Friday.

Watch this blog for future stories on Wear Aloha, as well as examples of how to Wear Aloha from designers and retailers. Catherine’s Closet has sent me photos of several great vintage outfits I will be blogging about this week. I would love to have you send me a photo of you in your Wear Aloha outfit, please! Or you can just send a photo of the outfit alone if you prefer.

Just remember to wear something by a local designer every time you step out the door. Mahalo!

– Paula Rath

What are they saying?
Leave a comment below.
July 5th, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hello Paula. Sorry I could not make it. Amanda shared what a great event it was. Everyone looked so awesome in the pic.

Jo Archibald
July 20th, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Aloha Paula,

Love your blog!!!!! Also, we added a small mention and link to your blog on our website, naturallyhi.com

I enjoy your tips and finding new places to shop. Also, great coverage on the Mamo event.


July 21st, 2011 at 12:58 am

Aloha Jo,

Great to have you on board. We’ll be having lots more special offers and events just for readers of paularath.com so please keep coming back often.

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