Nadine Kam photos
Nat Norfleet was in town to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Kahala, the company his father Nat Norfleet Sr., founded. He’s with Michelle St. John of OluKai.
The 75th anniversary of the aloha shirt and Kahala Sportswear marked a homecoming for Nat Norfleet, who returned from California to celebrate the company his father, Nat Norfleet Sr., founded.
A celebration at the Kahala store at Ala Moana Center on Dec. 1 brought out watermen, industry pros and friends of Nat’s when he was more serious about the waves than shirtmaking.
Of course, he came around, having, post-Kahala, launched labels of his own—Cooke Street and Norfleet—before arriving at Ocean Pacific, where he continues to innovate.
At the event, he gave props to Kahala parent—it’s a long story—Tori Richard, saying he’s pleased at the way they’ve managed to capture the waterman feel and continue the company’s legacy.
Paul MacLaughlin, a childhood friend of Nat’s, at left, flew in from Maui for the event, chatting with Tori Richard CEO Josh Feldman, center, and Dale Hope, in a 1950′s vintage silk Kahala shirt created by Nat Norfleet Sr.
It was interesting how the company managed to survive in the hands of other local kamaaina dynasties, from having been purchased by Dale Hope in 1986 (son of Howard Hope, who launched Sun Fashions and the HRH-His Royal Highness label), to currently, Tori, founded by Mort Feldman, now run by his son CEO/president Josh Feldman.
When talking aloha shirt history, there are all kinds of island lore about who started this and who started that, and with the principals gone, there are few who could refute or make the case for particular claims. But during my interview with Nat on Nov. 28, just after he arrived from the airport, the one thing he was adamant about was that he was there in the early 1960s, when Kahala came up with the reverse-print shirt, territory that I believed had been claimed by the Reyn’s’ McCullough clan over the years.
Nat told a story that seemed plausible because of its accidental nature.
Clockwise from left, Krishna Chatterjee, Dale Hope, Joss and Jimmy McMahon. (more…)