When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Alfred Shaheen, The Master Printer

Alfred Shaheen. Just his name brings to mind exotic settings, richly colored fabrics, block prints, tapa, florals and ocean breezes.

During post-WW2, Shaheen began to build what would become the largest textile printing and garment company Hawaii had ever seen.  He started by working with his parents George and Mary in their garment manufacturing business.  Alfred wanted to expand into Hawaiian/aloha wear, so in 1948, he created Surf 'N Sand Hand Prints, his own textile company. Within two years he developed his own machinery to print, dye and cut his own fabrics. over the next several years, he built an $8,000,000 factory and office complex, and had 400 employees. He had multiple stores in Hawaii, and sold his fashions worldwide.  He continued his business until he retired in 1988.


Shaheen created over 100 metallic colors, including gold, silver, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.
These metallic dyes are lightfast, chlorine- and saltwater-resistant, and can withstand the rigors of the tropics. Sometimes the metallics would outline a print, and other times the metallics were used for the print itself.

Here are a few examples of metallic elements stamped on the fabrics. It is, however, difficult to see the shimmer in these photos. The age of these garments has softened the color over time.


Below are early Surf 'n Sand hand print advertisements, and a color photo of the dress in this pattern.   Shaheen and his staff visited Tahiti, Samoa, Hong Kong and Tokyo to study the designs of the Eastern Pacific Rim. Shaheen adapted these designs to textiles and produced the Pua Lani Pareau, Antique Tapa, and Joss Sticks hand prints. He established “East Meets West” boutiques in the mid-1960s in major department stores across the country.  


 One of the most glamorous fashions produced by Shaheen were the beautiful Sarongs.  Here are several photos from 1950s/early 60s collections.


There are beautiful sundresses galore!

For beach time: play/swim suits and rompers. Hand printed, and saltwater and chlorine resistant.


How did Alfred Shaheen get the title Master Printer?   Alfred's daughter Camille Shaheen-Tunsberg stated in an interview:  "My father produced five lines a year. In a matter of days after breaking a line, he would see copies of his prints being offered by other manufacturers for a less expensive price.  When my father discussed this problem with his staff, someone suggested it was important to tell customers that Shaheen clothing is more expensive because Shaheen is the original -- Shaheen is the Master Printer. My father felt comfortable with the phrase and the label "Alfred Shaheen, the Master Printer", was established. 

An example of one of these copied prints is the Tiare Tapa. Because Elvis Presley wore the Tiare Tapa in his movie poster for Blue Hawaii, the Tiare Tapa has been reproduced for decades by clothing manufacturers and those seeking to market Elvis. Some have even renamed the print "Blue Hawaii." But, as my father stated, the Tiare Tapa was a famous Shaheen print long before Elvis wore it." 

Camille Shaheen-Tunsberg also stated in the interview:  "My father drew his inspiration from authentic cultural art, museums, and rare books. He visited foreign countries with his design staff. They would immerse themselves in the local culture and design new prints and a line of clothing based on their experiences. This is why Shaheen fabrics and clothing are filled with imagery drawn from many different cultures. This is also why you find labels with names such as "Hong Kong by Alfred Shaheen," which is the line of clothing he created based on their experiences in Hong Kong". Source

Here are some images from the Hong Kong line.  


The following are a few of my favorites.


Love this fish print!

Chinese lanterns.                           Above, a bold, bright print.

Beautiful teal
Aloha shirt

Tiki Drums

Metallic Koi


For quite awhile, there was a traveling museum display of Shaheen fashions across the United States.

Bishop Museum Exhibit 2010   Full Display Link
I urge you to click on this link, and especially the sub-links once there,- labeled Hall 1 East and West and Hall 2 East and West-  to see a dazzling display of all things Shaheen!  A sample:

A switch to more casual attire


From 1969, pattern number 101 was created to go with a dozen different screen printed panels of fabric, so you could make your own Shaheen shift dress!   Pick the view you want to sew, and the fabric panel of your choice. The two shift patterns shown are the same, just different envelopes. 

Pattern 102 is a 1970s his and her fashion pattern.

Today, you can still buy that special Shaheen look.  The company Unique Vintage has recently acquired the licensing to reproduce certain patterns, and have some beautiful new retro fashions.  Here is their website:  https://www.unique-vintage.com/collections/alfred-shaheen-collection

"Cranes, a brilliant homage to the noble crane with pink feathered creatures flying between pink clouds and a lovely green backdrop".   "This blue print is an officially licensed Alfred Shaheen reproduction of Tapa Tapestry, a gorgeous homage to island fab with repeated motifs of pineapple, hibiscus, and geometric patterns throughout."

This romper pattern is originally from the Hong Kong collection.  "A stunning array of deep red Asian styled banners and scrolls line themselves throughout an ivory backdrop, highlighted with gleaming golden accents and cast on marvelous cotton",  and  Cherry Blossom. "A swirling collage of frothy waves with golden gleaming outlines boast stunning pink cherry blossoms and yellow camellias cascading throughout the cotton silhouette".                                                                  

Also being reproduced today are handbags by Lilinoe Handbags.  The ones shown below are all made from upholstery fabric by Duralee, licensed to produce Shaheen’s Surf ‘n Sand Collection You may find this seller on Etsy. 
  I am sure there are other "Modern" Shaheen reproductions out there.   Have fun discovering them!

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure my mom was wearing some of these when I was a kid. I remembered something like this that my dad brought back from Hawaii. Or maybe he brought her fabric, which he often did, and she made it.