Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tropical Fabrics and Alfred Shaheen

Before there was Tommy Bahama there was Alfred Shaheen. Best known in Hawaii where he got his start Shaheen has been in the textile industry since post-WWII. After a stint in the Army Air Corps, Shaheen returned to his family in Oahu to begin working in the family business. With a dream to expand the family business into making men's aloha shirts and women's apparel, Alfred started his own company with four seamstresses trained by his mother. 

In the beginning like many Hawaiian manufacturers, Shaheen was receiving his textiles in from the mainland - a costly venture. Realizing just how much it was costing him he decided to start his own textile printing company - Surf 'n Sand Hand Prints. By 1950, Shaheen had engineered and built his own machinery to print, dye and finish fabrics. By 1952, he was printing more than 60,000 yards of fabric per month.

Despite Shaheen's worldwide distribution he still maintained the manufacturing facility in Oahu. He continued his business for over 40 years until the company closed its doors in 1988 when he retired. Today, his Hawaiian shirts, dresses and sarongs are some of the most prized and beloved vintage Hawaiian pieces one can get.

While the clothing is no longer being manufactured, Shaheen's fabric designs are, by company's such as Duralee/Suburban Home Fabrics. Partnering with Duralee to launch the Alfred Shaheen Surf 'n Sand Indoor/Outdoor collection in July 2010 they have since continued their partnership and released a line of indoor fabrics called Big Sur Designs, Copacabana Designs and Abbey Road Designs.

While you can no longer go into a store and by a freshly made dress, shirt or sarong by Shaheen at least you can by fabrics inspired by the man himself to bring a touch of Hawaii and Shaheen into your home.

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