AllSaints Re-Releases 10 Vintage Hawaiian Shirts | a Q&A with Creative Director Wil Beedle
The Hawaiian shirt is an institution that has come to represent so much more than simply leisure in popular culture. Originally known as the “Aloha” shirt, it’s easy to write off our floral friend as simply a seasonal accessory, or of the ice cream-wielding tourist from Lilo & Stitch. In a post-Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, after-Elvis world, however, the Hawaiian shirt has come to represent an effortless rock star cool when utilized with the correct amount of style.
It’s this aesthetic that AllSaints has always celebrated as a part of its Rock 'n’ Roll fashion and they are returning to the staple as a crucial part of their summer wardrobe. Having been curated specifically via customer popular vote, creative director Wil Beedle is excited to relaunch a collection of 10 classics from the vault, repurposing the nostalgic. We talked to Beedle about why he brought the shirts back, uniformity and more.
What made you want to bring these shirts back?
The collections we design at AllSaints are very much about creating a timeless catalyst for people to express themselves, to use their personal style and creativity to interpret what we’re doing. I’ve never looked to force a total AllSaints look on our customers at any given time, or dictate how people should wear our clothes. In the past, I’ve used the phrase “a uniform without uniformity,” and even though it might come across as an overly convenient soundbite, I stand by the sentiment.
Over the past few years we’ve established the Hawaiian shirt as a foundation of the AllSaints summer wardrobe--a staple within that uniform without uniformity, if you like. They’re just a natural and reliable constant. And we’ve also traveled the world, documenting and celebrating our Hawaiian shirts in global locations such as Mexico City, Venice Beach, Tokyo, downtown LA, Ibiza, New York, and of course back in our own neighbourhood in East London. Being fortunate enough to travel so much, I’m constantly amazed at the incredibly diverse ways that people take an AllSaints’ Hawaiian, and--using their own personal style, identity, and environment-–manage to twist what we do into something new and unique. In turn, those stylistic expressions become the starting points for me to design future collections. So it works both ways. It always does. It’s never about "us" and "them."
The Hawaiian shirt, particularly, has had such an enduring popularity among our global community, and with customers constantly asking us to bring back specific designs, I kind of felt we’d be doing a lot of people a great disservice if we didn’t unearth some favorites that we’ve created over the years. But once again, you can’t dictate personal taste so we launched a social-media initiative where people could vote for the designs they most wanted back. Based on the overwhelming response, we’re now relaunching ten shirts.
Describe the experience of the street shoot you casted for this. What were you looking for in your models?
I was recently invited by an American department store to New York to present and discuss AllSaints menswear to an audience of its company’s buyers and other staff from across North America. Encouraged by them to style six of the department store’s own male models in our menswear collections, I instinctively knew I wanted to take a different approach, so I ended up asking some local friends of mine, as well as street-casting guys on the Bowery who were wearing AllSaints, to make up a gang of six who I knew were genuine fans of our collections and more believable as AllSaints guys.
Bringing those guys up on stage--a chef, a musician, a friend or two, and a couple of enthusiastic Lower East Side party kids--was such a revelation. It was so inspiring to see collections that I’d conceived while walking to my design studio in East London translated to this very different setting on the other side of the Atlantic [Ocean]. Familiar yet totally new. Careful planning replaced by immediacy. It was really eye opening.
And so, energized by the experience, I asked all the guys if they’d make themselves available the following day for a shoot. I had a bunch of Hawaiian shirts flown out to New York from London, hired a camera, and booked a studio I’d walked past earlier in the day. And I just set about shooting some pictures of guys in our Hawaiians, expressing the same spontaneous spirit that I felt the guys embodied.
Troye Sivan, Migos, Maluma and Jeff Bridges have been seen in them. How does it feel to know that people from so many different walks of life feel that AllSaints is perfect for them?
As I mentioned in my first answer, it’s that idea of diverse types of people wearing AllSaints collections in personal ways that I find most inspiring. To know that very different guys, from very different backgrounds, and in very different settings, all choose to wear our Hawaiian shirts is a trip. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s how you wear it.