Ethan Lipsitz’s unique Los Angeles-based clothing brand is based on a concept he calls “fabric expression.” Every article of clothing sent out of the Apliiq warehouse district workshop is custom tailored and made in Southern California. Lipsitz and his small design team take common pants, T’s, and hoodies from local brands like American Apparel and add their signature rare fabric flare by modifying collars, pockets, sleeves, and more. Collaboration is a key part of the Apliiq experience, with local artists and musicians frequently contributing their personal touches to limited edition product lines. With orders piling up around the globe, Apliiq has evolved from its humble beginnings as a small studio with a single sewing machine to an international indie brand.
How did Apliiq get started? Was there an original inspiration for your concept of “fabric expression”?
I had been sewing small patches on my own clothes for a long time and always liked the idea of putting my own touches on clothing that someone else had made. I then started to discover that Philadelphia, where I was studying at the time, had an incredible fabric market. Philly used to be a big garment town and even though the industry is all but gone today, really cool old fabric shops remain. I started collecting fabrics and thinking of ways I could customize clothing beyond putting fabric on hoodies.
Starting in my junior and senior years of college, my friends would come to my room in the house I was renting to check out my fabric collection, which I would spread out on my bed. They would choose their favorite fabric and a hoodie color and I would make them a custom hoodie. It was very much a custom, hands-on process from the get go. It was important to me that my friends had their say in the process, so they too could play an active role in creating their clothing.
It’s fair to say Apliiq has a very ‘LA’ aesthetic. As someone who didn’t grow up in Southern California, how would you describe the creative atmosphere in LA and how it has influenced your brand?
I think Los Angeles is a great place for entrepreneurship. It’s an easy place to live and especially easy for what we are doing. All of the manufacturing is here, so we can be vertically integrated. The fabric district here is the best in the country, with fabrics imported here from all over the world – so we are constantly digging for the great new fabric, whether it be vintage, deadstock stuff or other newer things that are being printed.
Los Angeles is totally supportive of creativity and there is a huge youth movement here built around music, art and sports that is closely tied to our product. Our demographic is young – high school and college age — with lots of our customers coming from the LA area. I think the product speaks to them with its casual California simplicity. At the same time, our stuff is modern and not over-the-top. It’s tasteful.
It seems like your online store is really taking off. Where are you shipping to the most these days?
California is definitely our biggest market, along with Chicago, New York and other major cities across America. We now ship quite a bit to Australia, Northern Europe, Canada and the UK. It’s been really great to interact with our international customers more to learn about what they are interested in and how we can incorporate their style into the Apliiq brand.
At the same time, there is definitely a very strong local contingent. We get local customers visiting the workshop all the time, as we have become part of the greater creative community here in L.A.
It seems like your fabric selection has taken on a life of its own. Do you have an all-time personal favorite fabric?
We actually hold on to little scraps of our favorite fabrics and look back at them and remember them longingly. We have a fabric we call “Best Find,” that is a sort of Navajo Southwestern-looking print that is incredibly popular. We unexpectedly found it in a shop where we usually only buy solid-color fabrics. It was probably last printed in the 90’s or sometime before that. That is a pretty cool one.
We just bought some great nautical prints for our new June theme we call “Summer Sail.” There’s this one that is white with bold navy blue zigzags. It kind of looks like waves but with a more edgy zigzag theme we’ve seen a lot of lately. It’s very bold and simple. I love that.
Your fabrics are sourced from local markets and non-profits around the globe. How did working with charities find its place in your creative process?
We often partner with non-profits to source fabrics from where they might be working. We have groups that we work with all over Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and Central America. Often times it is a situation where at two in the morning I will get an email with a photograph from someone in a fabric market somewhere and I’ll tell them, “yeah those are cool!” We love the story that comes with sourcing these fabrics from different places and we like including that story in the process of buying and wearing something.
I think it’s important that we do work that speaks to something a bit beyond the individual experience of simply buying a product. It’s valuable for us and for non-profits when we offer our customers something cool that they would want to wear that also happens to support an organization they may or may not already be involved with. It’s always been important for us to support organizations that nurture creativity and do good things around the globe.
What’s the Apliiq team up to in the near future? Are there exciting collaborations coming up this summer?
We’re looking to do a collaboration this summer with Saint Motel, which is a band we have been working with in the past. They’re an awesome local L.A. group. We’re going to put together some really cool new products with them. There’s also a hip-hop artist called Def Sound who is really incredible. He’s working with us now and we’re putting together a product line with him using some really cool African prints he helped us find. So yeah, we’re always looking for ways to try new things and have some exciting plans for the summer.
You can check out the whole Apliiq collection and learn how to order your own piece of L.A. right here: