In the late nineteenth century, Tahiti (Papeete) became a commercial hub in the Southern Pacific.
In exchange for coffee, vanilla, copra or sugar, Europeans were trading all sorts of goods
and a massive quantity of cotton cloth so much that other islands could be supplied with pāreu.
Special prints were created for the South Seas Islands according to Constance Cumming*’ s
description (*Scottish traveler and writer who visited Tahiti in 1878):
« …The men all wear pareos of Manchester cotton stuff, prepared expressly for these islands,
and of the most wonderful patterns. Those most in favor are bright crimson with a large white,
arranged on a scarlet ground, or else rows of white crowns, alternating with groups of stars.
A dark-blue ground with circles and crosses in bright yellow, or scarlet with yellow anchors
and circles, also find a great favour; and though they certainly sound ‘loud’
when thus described, they are singularly effective. It is wonderful what a variety of patterns cane
produced, not one which has ever been seen in Europe. » (Cumming 1901:288)
Until today these contrasting combinations of colors of : Red and white, Blue and white, Red and yellow,
Blue and yellow has persisted through Tahitian Culture. Floral patterns became dominant especially hibiscus blossom.
Hawaiians reinforced the cultural radiance when they launched their ‘Aloha shirts’ using the
‘Pāreu’ fabric in the late 1930’s. We can consider the two-tone floral print as a true Polynesian signature print.