Ethan Lipsitz founded the Apliiq shop to satisfy his obsessive fabric hunting habit and to encourage creativity in the average shopper by allowing them to apply appliqués to garments. Inspired by popular shoe brands like Nike who offer a personalized experience by letting you customize their shoes, he decided to apply the concept to apparel and invites his customers to adorn their tees, hoodies and accessories with unique, carefully curated prints. Every single Apliiq item is one-of-a-kind and handmade in downtown LA, and each patch is cut and sewn specifically for the user-generated design. We visited their workshop in LA's Arts District and talked to Lipsitz about fabric hunting, trends, philanthropy and his home city.
Tell us about some of your favorite prints trends for Spring/Summer.
To me, spring and summer are all about bright fabrics and bold prints. Apliiq clothing with African prints stand out as excellent Spring/Summer looks with their big geometric repeats. We also have some big pattern floral fabrics that are constant favorites.
How did you develop such a passion for fabrics?
For me, fabric is a medium for self-expression. Fabrics have their own history, story and uniqueness which speak volumes, in my view simple geometric compositions and patterns trump logos or branded graphics. Fabric embellishment and patchwork has always interested me since it offers a level of self-expression beyond choosing what to wear and it's embodied in just about every scene from punk rockers to hippies to the military. Our diverse collection of over 600 fabrics is an interactive palate for self-expression, we hope there's something in there that anyone can get passionate about!
What makes Apliiq special?
The Apliiq process gives attention to fabrics in a subtle yet eye catching way. Think about your dad's classic Hawaiian shirt which is made entirely of some wild print... the detailed beauty of the pattern can get lost in the abyss of repeating hibiscus. Apliiq on the other hand, applies a small patch of fabric to a garment, making it stand out and creating the chance to really appreciate the details. The fabric becomes a piece of art that's framed by the shirt or hoody. Instantly, your clothing becomes a conversation starter, the pattern speaks for itself and the "brand" becomes secondary.
It's rewarding to see our customers expressing themselves with fabric and appreciating its value in our process, so far they've designed over 30,000 unique custom fabric garments.
Where do you shop for fabrics?
All of our fabrics are curated by the Apliiq fabric hunting team who are on a never ending quest for the most rare, beautiful, rich textiles the world has to offer. Apliiq is based in downtown LA, which puts us in close proximity to the biggest and best fabric district in the country. On any given day the team can be found digging through piles of deadstock, vintage and limited edition prints looking for the best hidden gems. We travel to the depths of basements and speakeasy-style back rooms looking for the ultimate fabric finds.
Where do you pull inspiration for your appliques?
The Apliiq aesthetic is inspired by architecture, modern art and cultural history. We look for patterns, colors and textures that people can relate to whether it's Rasta style fabric in honor of Bob Marley or an abstract print that looks like a Jackson Pollock or Kandinsky painting.
How often do new appliqués get added to the site?
Just about every week we add new fabrics to the collection. As for new appliqué patches available for customization, they normally go live when we launch a new garment. Our basic tee shirt now has 15 different patch options ranging from the smallest square "sleeve hit" to the "mega pocket" which could easily fit an iPad and/or other large valuables... and we even offer a "faux" upside down pocket that is stitched shut on all sides. Most recently, we launched three new appliques with the release of our custom five panel camper hats.
Apliiq declared 2012 March as "animal print month" and April as "floral"—what's up with February?
2013 January was solid fabric month which was sweet. The first half of the February has been all about love fabrics for Valentine's Day, #fabriclove to be specific. The second half will be a bit more patriotic and we are soon to feature this You're Money fabric as an homage to Presidents Day. Everyone should be able to rock that Presidential steeze and we've just picked up some great additions to our regal Americana collection.
What does it mean for you to be made in LA?
Apliiq is not just made in LA, it's created with love in LA especially for our customers! We're a unique blend of two major LA industries: fashion and tech. We see ourselves as part of the new media fashion revolution that is changing the way people shop and experience clothing online while supporting the centuries old garment and textiles industry.
Have you collaborated with American Apparel since the beginning?
We've had a long standing relationship with American Apparel and they have been very supportive of Apliiq as we've grown.
How would you describe the creative vibe in downtown LA right now?
Downtown LA is the place to be, especially for what we do. The Arts District, where the Apliiq workshop is located, has become an incubator for small businesses and entrepreneurs. We're surrounded by creative people doing incredible things in the arts, fashion, marketing, film, furniture, architecture and food and every day brings new inspiration and opportunities for collaboration. I wouldn't want Apliiq to be anywhere else.
Is there any current philanthropic project you'd like to talk about? Can you describe how you work with non profits?
We've established partnerships with non-profits all over the globe who source fabrics on the ground in areas they support: from rural fabric workshops in Africa, to tight, cramped, overflowing Indian bazaars, and even custom hand block-printing shops in Cambodia.
Operation USA is a local group that we've partnered with since the early Apliiq days. They provide long term relief to disaster stricken areas and we've focused on their work following the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti. They recently added some vibrant African prints sourced from Rwanda to their collection. When people shop the Operation USA Apliiq store, we donate 20% of the proceeds back to the organization in support of their important relief work. Many of our non-profit relationships are structured similarly—where we'll partner to source fabrics in a region where they work, supporting the local communities as well as the organization.