Several year ago we started sharing our Kauai experiences here on this website, back when the primary domain was whatsgoingonkauai.com. (Later we found a shorter domain with kauaitravel.net.) Over the years we have enjoyed sharing our knowledge of the island. Kauai is truly one of the world’s greatest and most unique places.
A couple of years ago we noticed a shortage of Kauai-related merchandise on the island, especially with t-shirts. It was easier to find a Maui, Oahu or generic Hawaii or surf t-shirt on the island than an actual Kauai-related t-shirt. We saw a niche that needed to be filled so we applied for the Kauai Surf Co. trademark and much to our surprise we received a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks with geographic names are notoriously hard to get approved, but we disputed our original rejection and were approved on the second try. We are very thankful for this wonderful trademark.
So we decided to sell some Kauai Surf Co. t-shirts! We came up with several designs at our place in Princeville.
For the actual t-shirts, we wanted the best, softest and highest-quality shirts. Delving into the world of t-shirts, we soon found many factors that vex t-shirt makers and sellers. Our initial plan was to make the shirts in Kauai, but that is next to impossible because there is no virtually no cotton grown on the island and the textile and apparel industry is very limited.
We briefly looked into printing our shirts overseas, but found that quality control is an issue and that prices aren’t much different than printing the shirts in the United States once shipping was included in the price.
Over the course of the last year we have sampled dozens and dozens of different t-shirts from various manufacturers. There are so many variations of t-shirts that have varying degrees of materials, cuts, weights and finishes. Finding a quality shirt was certainly a challenge.
Also during the last year we have done extensive research at stores around Kauai that sell Kauai-related t-shirts. What we found was mostly disappointing. Many “surf t-shirts” found on the island are generic with no mention of Kauai. Many are printed on cheap materials on wholesaler brands such as Gildan and Anvil. It was surprising to see that one of the island’s best-known local brands was printed on wholesale shirts that were not even rebranded. This local brand does have nice caps though.
We did find a few quality shirts. We found some quality Quiksilver shirts with Kauai lettering along with the Quiksilver logo at several stores. Another quality brand we found on Kauai is HiLife Clothing, though we didn’t find any HiLife shirts that were specific to Kauai.
Another factor we were somewhat naive about was costs and pricing. Many surf t-shirts found on the island, and even across the internet, were in the $25 and up range. Initially we thought that was a bit high. But quality t-shirts nowadays aren’t cheap after everything is procured, printed and shipped. Our prices are also in the same range, but we feel good about our prices based on the quality of our products. Shipping costs were also found to be a factor. In many cases the cost is double to ship to or from Kauai than from two points on the mainland. It is a factor that virtually every Kauai business must contend with. To mitigate these costs, and to keep costs as low as possible for our customers, we will be shipping many of our products from our mainland office.
After extensive research we finally found a U.S. factory that produces consistently high-quality shirts. Our first t-shirt offering is a medium-weight, super soft cotton/poly blend t-shirt with our Kauai Surf Co. logo on front and our vintage surf logo on the back. Soon we will be offering a similar shirt with a heavier weight that’s as “comfortable as an old pair of jeans.” Later we will be offering what we call the Ultimate Kauai Shirt made from a moisture-wicking, light-weight material that is perfect for the Kauai clime. In fact, we have already had samples made and these are the shirts we wear everyday in Kauai.
We are excited about our products because we know they are good products and we can’t wait for you to try them out. We are excited about representing the beautiful island of Kauai and the wonderful culture of her people. And once we start making a little money we will be giving back to the island community with an emphasis on preserving Kauai’s natural assets.
Also see: Become a Kauai Surf Co. Retail Partner