Alfred Shaheen, the son of Hawaiian custom clothing makers George and Mary Shaheen, was born in 1922 in New Jersey. Alfred Shaheen is legendary for his fashionable creations of Hawaiian Garments and fabric textiles from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. Alfred Shaheen designed and manufactured fabrics and clothing for over 40 years and Shaheen’s pieces are among the most prized in vintage fashion collections. His earliest labels include Alfred Shaheen, Shaheen’s of Honolulu, Surf ‘n Sand and Kiilani. Shaheen is best known and recognized for sarong dresses, halter full skirt dresses, swimwear and Aloha Shirts.
In 1953 Shaheen built his own factory in Hawaii to produce the textiles and hand screen prints that would make up the majority of his aloha shirts, dresses and swimsuits. All screening was done by hand, and workers were told to force more ink into the shirt fabric to enrich the colors. Shaheen fabric usually had three- to five-color designs, which were part of a library of more than 1,000 dye colors. Shaheen’s textile designs and fabrics are legendary and were inspired by Hawaii, the South Pacific and Asia. Shaheen was the most creative and prolific of all of the Hawaiian manufacturers in the heyday of ‘50s and ‘60s fashion. Shaheen’s vision, inventiveness, engineering brilliance and unreserved commitment to authenticity and excellence earned him Hawaii’s Lifetime Achievement Award in July of 2001.
Because Shaheen was the only Hawaiian manufacturer to print his own fabric, he was able to create and distribute exclusive exotic clothing for many national top retailers. By the mid-1950s, Shaheen’s clothing was sold in such stores as Bergdorf Goodman and Marshall Field & Company and spotlighted in such national magazines as Vogue, Mademoiselle and Town & Country.
In the early-1960s, Shaheen opened his own chain of retail stores in Hawaii and established Alfred Shaheen departments in national department stores. The exotic beauty of Shaheen clothing held no cultural boundaries, and all cultures were celebrated in Shaheen’s “East Meets West” departments, which opened in such stores as Bullocks, Macy’s and Scruggs Vandervoort Barney. It is widely believed that Shaheen popularized the cultural influence in fashion that exists today.
Camille Shaheen, Alfreds daughter, has carried on the marketing and promotion of her fathers legendary collections. Sadly Alfred Shaheen passed on December 22nd, 2008 from complications from Diabetes. He was 86 years old.
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