“I felt like I was giving up on my employees, Hawaii and, ultimately, my ability to carry on the Island Slipper tradition,” says John Carpenter, owner of Island Slipper, referring to a decision that could’ve changed his business entirely. To move to Asia or not to move to Asia, it was a matter of money, and in the end, he made the uncommon choice to stay.
“Every year we put well over one million dollars into the local community through our cost of doing business here just so we can stay true to tradition. The local people, the ones who have lived here, raised families here, who know what it takes to make a home here, they know what’s real, what’s authentic, and what’s truly a part of Hawaii.”
Island Slipper was founded in 1946 by Takizo and Misao Motonaga, who opened the factory in the Kakaako district. Within 10 years, their sandals found their way to the US mainland markets and success continued with their daughter, Dorothy Kobashi, who later took over the company before selling to Carpenter. Today, the factory is located in Pearl City, where they make, manufacture and supply specialty retailers around the world, including the first company-owned sandal shop in Hawaii featuring–exclusively–the company’s brand.
“There should be a deep connection between who you are and where you’re from,” says John Carpenter, owner of Island Slipper. “Several companies use Hawaii as part of their branding or image, but Island Slipper is the only sandal brand actually made in Hawaii.”
Their slippers include styles reminiscent of ancient Hawaiian ti leaf sandals, Japanese zoris and the ubiquitous rubber “slippah.” Their shoes are known for comfort and durability, but perhaps more important, wearing their sandals says something about who we are and what we believe in.