Hawaiian Clothing: Made in Hawaii vs Made in China

by Scott Murakami December 18, 2013

Hawaiian clothing made in HawaiiIn the old days of the 1930's and 1940's, people had to travel to Hawaii to buy a Hawaiian shirt. Once a symbol unique to Hawaii, the Hawaiian shirt is now a general symbol of a carefree attitude and is recognized around the world. The popularity of the Hawaiian shirt has invited strong competition, especially in recent years.

Although Hawaiian shirts (and their local term, Aloha shirts) were invented in Hawaii, many companies outside Hawaii have tried to profit from this popular product. Companies on the US Mainland started creating their own shirts and dresses. People who are familiar with Hawaiian apparel need only a quick glance to determine whether a garment was designed in Hawaii or China. While the gap is closing, the subtleties of a genuine Hawaiian apparel have yet to be completely captured by competing shirts. This is not to say that aloha wear made outside Hawaii are not as nice. Some of the nicest shirts come from outside Hawaii. But most Hawaiian shirt fans can still tell and certainly appreciate the difference

In the past decade, a surge of imported Hawaiian dresses and shirts from Indonesia and, most recently, China, have flooded Hawaii's market. At the turn of the century, 80% of the Hawaiian shirts sold in the shops in Waikiki and other tourist areas were made in Hawaii. The other 20% came from Indonesia, China, and other counties. Today, in some stores that number is nearly flipped with the majority of Hawaiian shirts coming from China. This means that Hawaii's local manufacturers are struggling to stay in business and fighting for a smaller piece of the market. Indeed, many companies have already been forced to shut down due to intense competition.

Hawaiian manufacturers cannot compete against China on price, so they are stepping up efforts to compete in other ways. Some manufacturers are doing more designs in smaller volumes to offer greater selection. They are concentrating on improving the precision of their matching pockets and matched seams. They are trying to be more responsive to the demands and tastes of consumers. Others are even putting greater emphasis on exports to the Mainland store to offset sharply reduced market share in Hawaii. But the relentless pressure by imported garments has made life difficult for most of Hawaii's Hawaiian clothing producers.

One of the results of these recent trends is that is increasingly difficult to find a good selection of quality made-in-Hawaii Hawaiian clothes. Because of the volumes typically required of Chinese manufacturers, there is a larger volume of fewer designs being brought in. This means there are fewer designs for shoppers to choose from. But recently, there have been signs of hope for Hawaii's manufacturers. Some retailers in major tourist areas around Hawaii have begun offering more Hawaii-made Hawaiian shirts and dresses in their stores because their customers reportedly want a made-in-Hawaii product. They have said that their customers feel that if they are spending all that money to fly to Hawaii to experience a Hawaiian vacation in paradise, they don't want to by a Hawaiian shirt that is made in China. Of course, not all consumers care where their Hawaiian garment come from, as long as the price and quality is good. But there are many shoppers who visit Hawaii who specifically want to buy their own Hawaiian shirt, dress or muumuu that is made in Hawaii. Knowing that their piece of Hawaiian apparel is actually made in Hawaii is part of the fun and joy of owning it.

Ultimately, the consumer will vote with his/her wallet in determining which products and companies will survive in the market. We also understand that many people do not care where their Hawaiian shirt is made. At Hawaiian Outpost, we are dedicated to offering the biggest and best selection of Hawaiian shirts and Hawaiian dresses that are made in Hawaii, guaranteed. We also hope that Hawaii's manufacturers continue to find ways to remain competitive so that everyone can experience the joy of owning a genuine, made in Hawaii, Hawaiian shirt or Hawaiian dress.




Scott Murakami
Scott Murakami

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