California Love

Local designer unveils new line at 705
by Andrea Ruse
Published September 17, 2009

It all started with basketball.

Playing and watching the sport was a natural part of life for Bobby Chapman growing up in the inner city of Washington D.C. The role models he and his friends looked up to most were basketball players, both professionals and local guys on the neighborhood courts.

While most boys his age were concerned mainly with scores, standings and stats, little Bobby was interested in something else too.

He paid attention to the shoes.

The stylish athletic wear of pro ballers like Michael Jordan caught Chapman’s attention from an early age, igniting a desire to create his own unique line of basketball-inspired gear. “If you can’t be an NBA player, then what’s the next best thing? Dressing like one,” Chapman said.
Sneakers. Sweatsuits. Hats. The possibilities were endless. By the time he was seven years old, he had decided to become a fashion designer.

Thirty-two years, several designing jobs, and nearly 3,000 miles later, his vision evolved from fashion-conscious athletic gear into trend-savvy every-day wear. The desire to create something unique and innovative, however, remained the same.

Chapman premiered his first independent clothing line, Idenek, at a fashion show held at Club 705 in Hermosa Beach earlier this month. “This show is a preview to let the world see what we are going to do,” he said prior to the event. “It’s also to see what’s working and what’s not. We want to make sure that we are heading in the right directions before fully launching it.”

The 1960s-inspired clothing line, “California Love,” featured men’s and women’s collections “reminiscent of Vietnam, hippies, and having fun in the California sun.” The line had urban street appeal and was stocked with camouflages and stark whites, high-end blazers and casual tees, women’s shorts and men’s vests, upscale sweatshirts and funky hats.

Chapman strove to create versatile pieces, which he neither expects nor wants to be worn the same way by everyone “You piece it together the way you want to piece it,” Chapman said. “It’s all about pushing your own personal style.”

Models wore a white dress four different ways and it turned out to be one of the most popular pieces among attendees, according to Chapman.

An environmentally conscious design led to a safari-looking green women’s top and skirt combo recycled from a camouflaged long-sleeved thermal T-shirt.

Pieces that stood out in the men’s line included a brown microfiber schearling-lined vest and Chapman’s personal favorite, a Marine-inspired, navy blue coat with red piping.

Chapman modeled one of his creations the whole evening — a white mock-neck blazer with a peace symbol over the breast and leather logo on the side, paired with a black cap, hiply turned to the side. Mid-show, he addressed a room full of guests, thanking them and his mother for helping reach this point.

Prior to Idenek, Chapman held designing positions with Marc Ecko, Steve Madden, Champion, and Target private label. Shortly after moving to the west coast in 2000, he enrolled at the Art Institute of California Los Angeles, where he made connections that led him to Manhattan Beach-based Skechers.

Within a year of taking an entry-level position with the shoe company, he became head designer of a newly-acquired shoe line in its infant stage, 310. He essentially built 310 from scratch, establishing it as a respectable fashion line in less than a year. The shoes drew on automotive design for inspiration.

“At Skechers, I was able to establish an innovative, creative line that pushed the trend instead of following it,” Chapman said.

In February 2008, he launched Idenek, which comes from his daughter’s name, Kenedi, spelled backwards. Chapman’s team includes chief operating officer Nick Litano and VP of Marketing Monica Stanik, without whom Chapman said California Love would never have been made into a reality.

“Clothing is a whole different ball game than shoes,” Chapman said. “There is much more competition so you really have to be different. In footwear, you can more easily follow the trend, if you like. With clothing, you have to set yourself apart in mentality, philosophy, or price-point.”
He expects California Love, ranging low to high end, to be carried in stores after its official launch in 2010.

For Chapman the preview of his first clothing line was a slam dunk, even though a far cry from the basketball warmups he once longed to create. Also weaved into the show was a charity fundraiser for Common Threadz, an organization that provides clothing for children in underdeveloped countries.

“From the feedback we got, we found that people thought our clothing was different and unique, catering to more than just one group,” Chapman said. “One woman even told me there were things in the line both she and her daughter could wear. There’s something in the line for everyone, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying for.” B