Salvage Public’s Hand-dyed Tees Highlight the Beauty of the Pacific

Salvage Public designer Joseph Serrao incorporates the Hawaiian surf culture and the surrounding Pacific waters into his garment designs. Plus, the Serrao shares his favorite O‘ahu spots.
Salvage Public Chest high T-shirt.
Photo: Courtesy Salvage Public


No one knows better than Joseph Serrao that the comfort of a soft, luscious, perfectly worn-down tee is highly addictive. After all, his brand, Salvage Public, has swelled following the success of his first two men’s T-shirt collections, inspired by the Hawaiian surf community and culture. This time around, the local designer has planted a series of tees that highlight the beauty of the Pacific via Hawai‘i-grown indigo. We caught up with the wunderkind and his ocean-blue-stained hands to talk fabric, the importance of being based in the Islands and his favorite post-sesh eats.


What does Salvage Public represent?

A respect for Hawai‘i’s people, culture and everyday life, all stitched up in a crisp, modern aesthetic.


Why build your brand in Hawai‘i?

My goal was always to return to Hawai‘i after living in Los Angeles for a few years. It just didn’t make sense to do it anywhere else other than the actual place that the brand would be representing and supporting.  


Where do you derive inspiration?

Past experiences, particularly cultural ones usually give us our themes. We’re also heavily inspired by the architecture of our surrounding environment.


Your T-shirt fabrics have such a silky, buttery hand. What gives them that feel?

Fabric weight is a big part of that—we use a lightweight organic cotton fabric, which is optimal for hotter climates. The washes that we put on the shirts after construction also play a part.


Your previous tees featured local surf lingo, legendary watermen and vintage boards. What can we expect from your latest lineup?

Our new Hawai‘i Indigo Soak Series is themed around the surrounding Pacific waters and the use of Hawai‘i-grown indigo to create designs that mimic them.


From the look of it, the shirts really soaked in the indigo. What’s the method for getting such intense color?  

It’s a very lengthy, hands on process. The indigo is derived from the Indigo plant, which thrives in the wild on O‘ahu and is made via a living fermentation process, which converts the leaves into dye. We then hand-dye each garment to achieve rich, watery hues.


Water + Light T-Shirt, $68 each. Designer Joseph Serrao.
Photo: Courtesy Salvage Public. Pule for surf and faves photos: David croxford


Joe’s HNL Faves:

The Write Stuff: I could geek out at Mōno all day—its assortment of notebooks and planners is refreshing. Top to bottom: Live Work planner, $14, Paper Ways journal, $29, Live Work diary, $23, 2013 S. King St., 808-955-1595.




Men’s Shop: I’m a big fan of the surf shop Clips Hawai‘i. Its shop tee, with its bright neon colors and ’80s twist, is perfect for adding a pop to your wardrobe. Logo T-shirt, $29, 822 Kāheka St., 808-941-6777.




Post-Surfing Meal: I spend a lot of my time in the small community around Monsarrat Avenue. You’ll catch me at Diamond Head Grill quite a bit—I love its sandwiches and fresh salads. 3158 Monsarrat Ave., 808-732-0077.



Select Salvage Public pieces are available at Clips Hawai‘i, 822 Kāheka St., 808-941-6777, Rebecca Beach, The Royal Hawaiian: A Luxury Resort, 808-931-7722, Oliver Men’s Shop, 49 Kihapa‘i St., 808-261-6587.


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