After a day of running around in your rubbah slippahs, chances are you’ve thought, “Shoot. There’s got to be something better for my feet!” Locals Only footwear may be synonymous with the islands, but it’s not always synonymous with style. Fortunately, there’s a new player in the ocean footwear industry: OluKai (whose shoes are featured in the following pages). OluKai’s spring and summer 2010 line of fancy yet practical slippers and shoes caters a little heavily to men, but has some serious style and technology backing its designs.
When Bill Worthington and his partner founded the company four years ago, he says his idea was to satisfy the more complex slipper consumer. “We saw a good opportunity. I felt coming up with a competing brand that catered to sophisticated tastes was a niche not yet exploited,” he says. “Being a shoe guy, I know footwear.” His shoe background started straight out of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena when he was hired by Nike. After eight years with the shoe giant, he freelanced and worked with smaller footwear companies. Then a gig with a premium sneaker company planted a seed: Worthington wanted to create a legacy for his family and make an impression on the shoe industry.
Although the company isn’t from Hawaii, Worthington was born and raised on Oahu. He drew on those memories to cater to his ocean-loving clientele, with shoes bio-mechanically engineered for the mechanics of the foot. He also wanted to give back to the islands, and donates part of the procceds from specific shoes to various organizations, including the Hawaii Lifeguard Association’s Junior Guard Program, which gets funds from sales of both the Kia’i and Kia’i Trainer. The former slipper was nominated as product of the year by the Surf Industry Manufacturing Association, a notable feat for such a young company.
‘Ohana is both a company line—featuring five men’s and one women’s design—and a reciprocity concept, realized by the ‘Ohana Giveback Program. The program has raised funds for Maui Cultural Lands, an effort backed by the Lindsey family to restore native flora the Honokowai Valley. Every Saturday, Maui Cultural Lands works with volunteers planting, pulling weeds and restoring the area. OluKai employees are among the volunteers.
Last May, OluKai hosted its first Ho’olaulea, featuring several ocean sporting events, Hawaiian games, a luau and hula dancing, awards ceremonies and entertainment by Paula Fuga. Events were held at Maliko gulch and the Ho’olaulea was held at Kanaha beach park.
“The culture of our brand is to honor the islands,” says Marketing Director Kerry Konrady. “It has been a more fulfilling journey being able to learn from the people of Hawaii. It is teaching our…employees the culture of giving.”