Josh Feldman is on the museum’s board of trustees—as part of the search committee he was instrumental in hiring our new director—and is also the second-generation head of iconic Hawai‘i brand Tori Richard. The company has been defining island style since 1956, when Josh’s father, Mort, launched the company with exclusively house-designed prints. The result is a company library of 35,000 prints.
On Friday, Nov. 11, Josh will be the first museum trustee to speak at PechaKucha—a sort of Ted Talk for creatives crossed with speed dating. The theme? Style, of course. Josh stopped by the office last week, dressed in a slim-fit long-sleeve Tori Richard shirt made of the 1968 Hokusai-inspired print Ancient Sea, which the company revived this year, to talk about what he’ll be talking about. (It’s going to be a stellar event—the lineup also includes Los Angeles–based textile artist Karen Hampton, whose exhibition The Journey North is now on view.)
So how have you wound up being a PechaKucha presenter?
Vince [Hazen, Art School director] asked me. Actually, he’s asked me a few times, but it’s never worked out. And the more I’ve learned about it, I’ve come to realize I have a thesis I think might be of interest.
What is that thesis?
What is it that Tori Richard is selling? A product, a lifestyle, an ideal? Ultimately, it’s a piece of art printed on fabric. Our company is in the commercial art business—it’s the appeal of art that people vote on with their wallets. What does that mean? In 400 seconds, I’ll discuss how the aloha shirt is not a Hawaiian garment—it’s not a monocultural garment, it’s the first multicultural garment, I feel. Look at the origins of it. The “melting pot” that is Hawai‘i is essentially the reflection of the aloha shirt. I’ll talk about what we do, how we do it, and why we think people buy the artwork we put on what we do.
I look at the exhibition Hawai‘i in Design, and I view it as a single perspective, a monocultural thesis, but that’s not what Hawai‘i is.
Here I am wearing a Hokusai print—there are no palm trees, but everyone would say it’s an aloha shirt. And why do we think that is? It’s a mirror being held up—everyone recognizes there are so many different cultures here.
What kind of images will you show?
I’ll draw from our library of 35,000 prints to to show diversity of artwork. At our office, we have a huge number of flat files organized by categories such “paisley” “ikat” “palm trees” “ocean”—that says it all.
PechaKucha #28: Style, Nov. 11, 7-9pm, Honolulu Museum of Art School