Tropical Asia

KAPAA — When Parker Price and his sister Lorre Bethke first started painting T-shirts in her garage 30 years ago, aspirations of expanding to China and Taiwan were far from their minds.

“We never really pivoted to Asia, but certainly marrying my wife from Taiwan and having that influence, our family business coming together, and looking at everyone in the family, and looking at their strengths, help to propel the business,” said Price, Tropical Tantrum vice president.

Now with locations in Hanalei, Kapaa and Lihue, Price and his family are combining their skills to bring their brand of vibrantly colorful and handcrafted clothing to the Asia market.

Their relationship with Chinese and Taiwan started in February when Bonnie Price, Parker’s wife, who handles international marketing and branding for the company, was complimented on her dress by representatives of the Minsheng Banking Corp, one of China’s largest private banks.

“The Minsheng Bank brought a VIP tour in Hawaii, so I met the ladies and they said, ‘Bonnie, we like the dress you’re wearing. Why can’t we find it?’ And I said, ‘You really like it? My company happens to sell them.’”

She called her husband, who flew from Kauai to Oahu with several dresses, and the ladies fell in love with the apparel.

“They bought almost all of the dresses Parker brought,” she said. “Then they invited us to put on a fashion show in May.”

The Tropical Tantrum fashion show was held in Beijing on May 20, sponsored by Minsheng Bank.

“All of our guests who came really loved it, and it was an easy transition. It turned out really fabulous,” Parker Price said. “We’re very well received. We sold almost everything we took, so we understand that the market is very ripe for us over there.”

After the success of the show, multiple interviews with Asian media outlets, and a little research into the Chinese market, the fashion-savvy family knew they were on to something big.

“We know we have a strong market there and we can grow as big as we want to,” he said.

But since the apparel is handcrafted and highly specialized by a group of skilled artisans in Indonesia, Price said the company wants to tread carefully with this expansion.

“We’ll have to grow slowly. We think our first step is to launch our Chinese-language website and slowly work into some retail stores,” he said. “What we have to do is increase our production ability rather slowly.”

Assisting with the company’s transition into Asia is Bonnie and Parker Price’s daughter, China Li (a 2008 Kapaa High School graduate) and her boyfriend, Enrico Iaria, who are promoting the Tropical Tantrum brand in China.

“We’ve been honing our skills on Kauai for three generations and we’re ready to branch out to move forward,” Parker Price said. “This is how family business should operate. We feel like we’re on the right track and steady the course.”

Tropical Tantrum uses traditional batik to color its apparel, a method of wax-resist dyeing originating in Indonesia. A designed copper stamp is dipped in wax and applied to the textile. Since the dye cannot penetrate unwaxed portions of the fabric, intricate designs may be created using this method.

“We evolved over the last 25 years with artisans in Indonesia. Many of my staff has been working for me for over 20 years,” Price said. “Their work ethic and dedication is something everybody can learn from.”

The company hopes to build up and train more artisans as business expands from Kauai to Beijing.

“We want to concentrate on creativity on color and we were blown away on how well we were received in China,” Price said.

Like the apparel, the future looks bright for the Tropical Tantrum family.

“We just couldn’t be in a better place or a better time,” Price said. “We’re excited about what the future will hold for us.”

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