French Actor George Brangier met Duke Kahanamoku in Los Angeles while both were acting. Brangier asked Kahanamoku to teach him how to surf. Kahanamoku agreed. Brangier moved to Hawai‘i in 1928. Brangier and a California surfer, Nat Norfleet Sr, started Branfleet in January 1936 at 1704 King Street. “We began like nearly everybody else in the business – not with a pair of shoestrings but with on shoestring between the two of us.”
“Red McQueen had brought back from the 1932 Olympics in Japan some shirts made out of silk kimono cloth. We copied them to produce our first aloha shirts.” The company was one of the first to switch from making strictly tailor-made shirts to making them through a manufacturing process. (On July 23, 1939, they moved into a factory on Kapiʻolani Boulevard.) In 1937 Branfleet signed Duke Kahanamoku to a five-year contract allowing them to use the noted champion’s name on their sportswear. They also had the ‘Kahala’ brand – what the company was eventually called.