Hawaiian Hats for New York.
A question which has long puzzled the friends of the Hawaiian people has been how to provide, for the ones who wish to work, suitable occupations. Critics of the Hawaiian race have been free in their statements to the effect that the Hawaii is lazy and unprogressive, in utter forgetfulness of the fact that it takes more than a generation or two to outlive the old customs more especially when the vitality of a once healthy people has been sapped by the vices and evil productions of socalled civilizasion.
This attitude on the part of many whites and the importation of foreign goods has very nearly doomed to extinction many industries distinctively Hawaiian, but a determined effort is being made to revive at least some of them before they are forgotten entirely.
Perhaps among the most interesting of these is that of making Hawaiian hats and in this a fine start towards establishing a truely native industry has already been made.
The prices commanded by Panama and Filipino hats is such as to encourage those who are looking after the present attempt as there is no doubt that as good hats can be made by the Hawaiian women as any that come from the places mentioned. For these expensive hats however there is of course a limited demand and it is towards the production of grades for ordinary wear that attention has been directed.
First attempts to enlist Hawaiian women in the work were discouraging but after some time Theodore Richards and the Atherton Estate, recognizing the importance of the work, took it up in order to assist the lady who had the matter in hand.
“When Mr. Richards heard of the work he became interested and at once offered a work room at the Kauluwela lodgings, on Vineyard street,” she said this morning, “with out that we could have done nothing. There the women work on the hats and on the braids. Some of the original Hawaiian patterns for braids had disappeared entirely. Others were recalled by native women who remembered them from the early days. Others we managed to get from the other islands and one or two I designed. We have now thirty patterns in all.”
A sample book was produced and the braids shown were certainly beautiful. They were woven by deft fingers into patterns of varied cleverness and even to an eye all untrained in the mysteries of millinery it was apparent that when made up into hats and trimmed they would be precious indeed to femininity.
“There are no dyes used at all,” the narrator went on, “but the variety of materials used gives the colors. There are the sugar cane leaf or ha ko, the sugar cane flower or pua ko, fern leaves such as the ama u and iwa, palms such as the lauhala and loulu and bamboo or ohe. After getting these samples together we sent one to the biggest New York firms. Here there was more hard luck for the samples were lost in the mail which wrecked when the Hawaiian packages were among those destroyed. We have sent on a duplicate lot of the braids, however, and are awaiting replies.”
The work of making woven hats, as in contradiction from the braids is also being encouraged, but the difficulty there lies in the fact that shapes change with the seasons and while a woven hat must remain in its original form, the braids are always in line for use as they can be sewn to any shape desired. It is asserted that for perfection of wearing none can excell the Hawaiian hats and braids.
Should the experiment be successful, and its promoters are sanguine of success, the whole output would be shipped to New York and placed with some firm whose business it would be to work up a demand for Hawaiian hats and weaves, and it is by no means beyond the probabilities that people here in Honolulu who would scorn to wear an Hawaiian hat nowadays will in a few seasons be buying head gear which has gone hence to New York and back again. Such are the vagaries of fashion.
All Hawaiians, both men and women, who are interested in this work, men with materials and the women with work, are requested to communicate with Mrs. Starr Kapu at Aloha Hale, Kauluwela lodging. It is the desire to make this as extensively benificial to the Hawaiians as possible, and by wide co-operation it is expected to produce a greater variety of material, a greater demand for the product, and enable a better market to be commanded.—Star.
(Maui News, 2/24/1906, p. 3)