Well respected retailer, Fitted Hawaii, has been making its mark globally in the headwear game since 2005. Through their clothing the brand focuses on teaching youth that their is a great importance and rich Hawaiian culture that must be embraced and protected. We’ve been fortunate enough to have been covering Fitted Hawaii’s releases since day one, and if you’ve been following us since day one then you’re already familiar with the Mua, Kamehameha and H Pride custom New Era exclusives. JJ Parkz takes the time out of his busy design schedule to go in depth on the brands history, designs and touches base on his three favorite releases. Make sure you hit the jump and check out the entire Fitted Hawaii interview!
How did Fitted Hawaii commence (Can you inform us of a brief company/brand history)?
In 2005, FITTED opened its doors as the first exclusive hat boutique, specializing in limited edition headwear and has grown into a full lifestyle brand that encompasses authentic Hawaii-centric values, traditions, and culture, through an urban-influenced style. We strive to break all design boundaries while attaching a cultural story or meaning to each of our products.
To me personally, FITTED represents the feeling of fond memories like going to get shave ice with grandpa for the first time at the old ‘Mom & Pops” corner store, catching my very first wave, strumming the most beautiful sounding ukulele, or running to catch the Manapua Man driving down the street…It is all of Hawaii’s tendencies and unique blessings of growing up in paradise, portrayed through tangible offerings. FITTED is Aloha Served Daily.
What’s your favorite thing about designing for the brand?
Hands down, seeing any FITTED product on people in the streets is the most rewarding. Besides that, I’d say getting to work on unique projects with prestigious names such as Hawaiian Sun, Tori Richard, Primo Beer, Red Bull, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Kamehameha Schools, and Hawaiian Airlines (just to name a few) is a pretty special thing.
I’ve been fortunate to meet very interesting individuals and experience many things throughout my time here at FITTED. I have a couple moments that come to mind… My first time seeing someone wearing something I designed was very surreal to me; an irreplaceable feeling for sure. I’m positive I remember every single instance where a random individual came up to me with kind words about my work. Earning my title as FITTEDs Senior Graphic Designer was pretty epic for me as well. I had entered our office at the time and a brand new leather chair sat in front of my workstation… Throughout my time here, FITTED has crept its way into becoming my first home. Both the shop and ‘FITTED WARHOUSE’ are my hale (house). There are way too many memories for me to pick just one. Very thankful Ola and Cuzzo have allowed me to share this opportunity.
2) A time where you’ve had to overcome a difficult challenge?
About a year ago, I’ve acquired the additional title of Production Manager. Self-teaching and learning the ins and outs of efficient production, has and still is a big challenge for me. I’d like to think I’m a very detailed individual and luckily I’ve been able to hold my head above water because of this. Every day is definitely a learning experience.
3) A funny and/or embarrassing moment?
Yikes… Well, jokes are cracked about this story pretty often around here so I’ve learned to accept that it’ll never elude me (lol)! I think it was back in 2006, one of my first times closing the store by myself. Ola and Rene were away on a business trip, possibly at some trade show or something. I remember so clearly going through my checklist of protocol to properly close the store… (1) Sweep and clean, (2) fix and straighten the tees and hats, (3) turn off the air condition and lights, etc. I was so confident I did a great job, as the reality of finally getting to work at a local shop was still fresh. The very next morning I woke to a million phone calls of how the shop alarm was going off and that there were police down there… Turns out I forgot to lock the door and someone set off the alarm while trying to enter! Needless to say, I had a very rough time redeeming that one and still occasionally catch jabs about it until this very day… Haha.
What do you think has been the biggest change in the company’s history?
I’m proud to be behind a company who has been true to its mission and values since day one. Not much has changed with our mentalities and goals as far as our business direction, however, adding our wholesale program, just a handful of seasons ago, has definitely added dimension to our always-growing brand. Wholesale has been such a different beast to tackle and we’re still working daily to tighten it up. Like the formulas for all of our other tiered programs, our wholesale program and release schedule is quite unique.
As the senior designer of a well-established brand, what is your greatest challenge in day-to-day operations? Do you feel a certain level of pressure and expectation for each design produced?
I also manage all the production for the company as well, so I’d say my time is fairly split between doing that and contributing to design work with the rest of the art department; production definitely being the majority of my stress… lol!Aside from that, I’d say a daily challenge on the design side of things would be fine-tuning each product to replicate our initial expected results. I’m sure we have quite a notorious reputation for being picky amongst our manufacturers… Haha! As far as pressure and expectation, that’s max level, always.
Does the community and fan-based feedback play a role in steering the direction of designs?
Yes, huge. We will always listen to our customers no matter the situation. It’s been a main consideration of ours to balance understanding our customers with trendsetting new ideas and concepts that have never been explored.
For those reading about Fitted Hawaii for the first time, can you tell us briefly about –
1) On average how many styles are released in a calendar year
In a Kukui nut shell, FITTED roughly produces 380-450 SKU’s annually; about 60 per wholesale season (25 hats, 30 garments, and 5 accessories/miscellaneous products), at least one new in-store hat and tee exclusive weekly (52 sets, 104 total), and lastly, about 60 SKU’s for collaborations, side projects, and tier zero collections.
2) Release frequency, day of week these typically occur and quantity per design
We typically release new product every Tuesday and Saturday with a few surprise exceptions throughout the year. Tuesdays are usually when we release “Fitstrikes,” and Saturday’s releases consist of scheduled wholesale drops, special “Tier Zero” mini-collections, and collaborative projects. Not sure if this has ever been mentioned before, but the reason for having Tuesday and Saturday releases is because back in the day, new albums and films (a huge part of FITTEDs influence) were released every Tuesday at our local Tower Records store, and new Air Jordans on Saturdays. These two days were selected for our weekly drops because they’re a silent nod to our personal nostalgia.
3) Terminology used such as ‘fitstrike’
Our current programs/tiers:
Fitstrike Program – These products are usually exclusive to our Kona Street flagship store and FITTED online shop. New Era “Fitstrike” caps consist of domestically constructed 59fifty fitteds or 9fifty snapbacks, typically limited to 50 pieces. We’ve also recently introduced Starter snapbacks into this program, so you can expect to see a few from time to time.
Wholesale Program – These products are designed around our seasonal theme and can be found in our retailers’stores upon scheduled release. Wholesale seasons are split into two deliveries, which allows us to explore two perspectives of our current seasonal concept.
SMU, At Once, and Collaborations Program – “SMU’s” are when we build an exclusive colorwayof a specific product for one of our retailers. “At Once” products are usually mini-collections or special products we offer our wholesale retailers mid-season. Collaborations are collections we develop with other entities and/or extended family.
Tier Zero – Our highest tiered program, these products generally consist of our most detailed and heavily story-driven concepts, usually exclusive to our Kona Street flagship store and FITTED online shop. Hats can be limited to as low as 72 pieces. Starter Black will also be introduced through this program soon as well.
What are Fitted Hawaii’s biggest influences?
As a very small and focused lifestyle brand coming out of one of the most unique places in the world, we definitely feel a deep responsibility to provide authentic and well-designed product. Hawaii is so rich with historical and cultural content that hasn’t quite been exposed yet. Surely the portrayal of “paradise” and Hawaii’s influences is very common worldwide, but it’s often misconstrued or abused. Our best and most interesting influences come from random things like stories that travel through a families generations by word of mouth, or information that’s been hiding deep in an unknown book of an old library…
From your ongoing blog we can see that your designs always include an element of Hawaiian history. How/why is it important to incorporate this history and culture into each piece of produced apparel?
It has always been of the utmost importance to us that we provide authentic reasoning for our design work. As natives of arguably the most unique and beautiful place in the world, it would be unjust for us to do otherwise. Hawaii is more than a special place; it’s heavily rich culture, cultivated by the mixture of people, creates depth and dimension that can’t be mimicked elsewhere. There’s so much history about this land and it’s a shame that many people, including locals, lack knowledge of it. Whether it’s something dealing with our Polynesian ancestors, or a more modern ideology, we love to learn and share anything and everything that will positively contribute towards cultural awareness. FITTED is a bridge between past and present; it is our vessel for sharing knowledge and building foundations.
What would you like to see people take away from your clothing?
We don’t ask for much… We simply do our best to share content that we learn and find interesting. In most cases, our concepts have such deep layers of meaning that we can barely explain our full ideas in depth through our blog and other forms of social media. With this being said, we release the info into the universe, hoping to spark curiositywithin any individual to dig a bit deeper about the subject and strive to learn something more. At the end of the day, if one single person is affected by this or learns something from any of our releases, our efforts were positive.Oh, and it’s a huge plus if all this can be done while wearing a fresh outfit too! Haha.
What sets Fitted Hawaii apart from other Hawaii-based brands?
Here at FITTED, we’ve never compared ourselves to any brands, whether in or out of Hawaii, so I can’t speak much about how we differ. We’ve been fortunate enough to strive without distractions and take pride in our originality. What I can say confidently is that FITTED was the first ever Hawaii brand to bridge a modern idea of streetwear culture with an authentic Hawaii-centric flare. Our attention to every aspect of our business is held to the highest standard, and we strive for our design, innovation, and concepts to bebar none.
How does the streetwear scene and fashion differ in Hawaii than other American cities?
I’ve always thought of Hawaii’s streetwear scene to be quite interesting… As a Hawaii born and raised, fashionably aware native, I’ve always dealt with feeling different from my peers. Starting as a 12 year-old sneaker lover interested in influences like hip-hop, skateboarding, and street culture, while being surrounded by Hawaiian culture, it was natural for me to grow into the person I am today. Back then I’d like to think Hawaii was ten years behind every other major city in the United States as far as fashion and American culture, even up until about a decade ago. Now days we have the internet, which has seemingly evened all that out a bit and rapidly pushed Hawaii with new influences. In my eyes, Hawaii now has some of the best shopping found in America. You can pretty much find everything you’d expect at any major mall across America. As far as style itself, living in Hawaii does tend to evoke a slightly different “look.” We are a melting pot of endless ethnicities and cultures that fuse to create unique results with anything and everything. This is why you’ll find some of the most interesting things here, such as fusion foods, evolving dialects, and unique tendencies. We are a proud people.
What do you feel contributed to the rapid growth of Hawaii’s streetwear culture?
I’ve always felt a personal responsibility of mine is to show everyone how amazing Hawaii truly is… It’s really the illest place alive!Once everyone figures that out, it’s a wrap! As stated before, streetwear is just our waʻa (canoe) for helping Hawaii get to its next destination. Hawaii’s slowly learning to move as one and we’re very lucky to have good friends beside us on this journey.
We’ve seen Fitted Hawaii move more towards 9FIFTY Snapbacks in recent years. Do you see the 59FIFTY fitted game coming back strong or are snapbacks here to stay?
Throughout my life I’ve noticed that everything revolves in full rotation… I’m sure fitteds will be hitting at all cylinders again some day.
As a company, how does it feel to have a loyal following from groups such as Fitted Hawaii Hunters?
Oh man… I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I guess I’ll start with a huge mahalo to all of our FITTED Ohana (family). You are all the reason why I get to wake up and go to a job I love. It humbles me greatly to try understanding why FITTED has the best and most loyal customers in the entire universe. So many lifelong friendships and memories birthed daily.
What are your top 3 favourite released Fitted Hawaii (New Era Cap) designs of all time?
This list is always changing, but for the moment being, I’d probably say:
ʻEkahi (one) – Tori Richard x FITTED “Marquesas” 5-Panel released in March of 2014. Recently, this has been in my rotation quite often… A tad more grown with timeless Tori artwork.
ʻElua (two) – “Pantanama” 5-Panel snapback released in January of 2009. We’d like to think the development of this hat somehow aided with the birthing the current 9fifty snapback. You may even notice a lot of our older “Aloha” snapbacks have a much different fit than the current 9fifty.
ʻEkolu (three) – “HanoHano” H Pride 59fifty fitted released in October of 2008. The feeling I got when I first saw this hat in person will forever be an unforgettable memory. I still feel it’s one of the most uniquely beautiful New Era hats ever created til this day…
Is there an importance to pairing your New Era Caps with matching tee shirts and other clothing at release?
We do our best to create fully developed collections to share our stories, and hats are just half of the equation. Properly merchandising full kits is a great tool and advantage to funnelling energy towards our different layers of intent. At the same time, we often provide un-merchandised matching product that may release at different times, which allows our customers to exercise their own unique individuality.
Coming off a strong 2014, is there anything you can share with us about what 2015 has in-store for global Fitted Hawaii fan base?
2014, what a year… Every year seems to get busier and busier with new and exciting things. I’m very proud to say that our company has been steadily growing since day one. 2015 marks our official 10 year anniversary… Can’t say much, but this ride is gonna definitely require holding on tightly!
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
With anything you do in life, just remember there’s always room for serving aloha daily!
NECTalk greatly appreciates your time and wishes you and the FH crew all the very best for the year ahead!