“There should be a deep connection between who you are and where you’re from,” says John Carpenter, owner of Island Slipper, the oldest manufacturer of made-in-Hawai‛i footwear. “For more than 60 years Island Slipper has made sandals for all of Hawai‛i, be it the fisherman along the coast, young guys out sailing, or island women who dress with flair. We’ve always tried to remain true to the lifestyle and people of this place.”
Following a line from ancient Hawaiian ti leaf sandals, Japanese zoris, and the ubiquitous rubber “slippah,” Island Slipper continues a tradition of authenticity and innovation. Today Island Slipper produces more than 80 styles for men and women, all featuring comfort and durability in looks that range from flip-flops to fashion.
Island Slipper got its start in the early 1940s when Takizo and Misao Motonaga opened their factory in the Kaka‛ako district of Honolulu. Takizo had arrived in Hawai‛i from Japan in 1911 as a 14-year-old. He married Misao Nishimura of Ewa, Oahu and the Motonagas initially partnered with the Baba family to start their slipper business. During World War II there weren’t many supplies around so they used old tires for shoe soles. One of the early innovations by Takizo was to design left and right slippers, a change from the symmetrical rectangular shape of traditional Japanese zoris. For people used to left and right shoes it made perfect sense.
After a few years, the Babas left to found Y B Slipper, Inc., remaining friendly competitors. The Motonagas continued Island Slipper, producing a premium high-end product that stood out in a growing sea of cheaper rubber slippers.