Ethan Lipsitz / Apliiq
This installment of Know Your Craft is all about individuality and investing in prolific expression. Ethan Lipsitz recognized the importance of personal branding years before we were carefully crafting our Instagram bios and obsessively curating our Twitter feeds. By creating Apliiq he shifted the power of apparel customization from the ‘brand’ by designating it to the online customer. Apliiq is, essentially, a creative take on traditional ecommerce. It offers people the ability to customize their own ‘blank’ version of a basic, i.e. t-shirt, hoodie or hat, then add elements, layered to their liking. Ethan so clearly recognized the impact and necessity of the consumer’s voice and he’s been fully committed to his mission ever since. Revolutionize consumption. Stand out in a crowd.
What made you decide to get into ecommerce, and more specifically, customizable clothing?
Honestly I started making hoodies for myself. It was about expressing myself and wearing things that I’d had a hand in creating. As friends wanted their own I focused on making them personal, working to translate that feeling of designing it yourself to them. I quickly realized that ecommerce was the gateway to providing a creative design experience for as many customers as possible. Nike started offering custom shoes and it felt like a new paradigm was coming into the space where customers could control the factory to get pieces that were one of a kind. I read the writing on the wall and started building custom platforms for people to design Apliiq in 2006.
Did you have a mentor or prior work experience in fashion that guided you in that direction? How did you come to learn about cut/sew, appliqué process?
I don’t have one specific mentor in the fashion space. I worked in architecture and urban design before Apliiq so I came from a more large scale design background. I definitely grew up around some streetwear heads though. My high school lacrosse coach started Pimp Gear, an early streetwear brand in Boston and I connected with Greg Selkoe, former Karmaloop CEO very early on after starting Apliiq. Lots of my experience with cut and sew has been self taught and even today we have our own process that is unique to us.
Did you ever encounter any obstacles or risks to get your company to where it is today?
Every day we encounter obstacles! Certainly building a technology platform has been difficult and finding a great team takes time and a lot of effort. We were fortunate to find amazing people to work with us and many have been part of Apliiq for a long time. We ran a Kickstarter campaign last year to fund the purchase of a laser cutter and that was a huge risk. We weren’t sure how the technology or the campaign would play out, but it’s turned out well and has shifted our focus for the entire business and the way our customers can create art on our platform.
How do you see Apliiq growing in the future? What are you most excited about?
We’ve noticed that the majority of our customers are high school and college students who have a dream of building their own brands. To support them we’ve built a series of programs that help students create their own startup fashion lines and get entrepreneurial sales, design and marketing experience. Apliiq Brands starts young entrepreneurs with their custom labels and applies their branding to the orders they place. Apliiq Campus is about engaging college students to grow Apliiq at their school through events and groups and team gear. In the end it’s all about providing a more creative alternative to the traditional printed tee shirts everyone starts with. So many people want a bit more quality and style and are excited to find us and use our tools to create!
I’m really excited about providing tools for startup brands to succeed. We know the dream many young people have of starting their own fashion lines and we have a unique platform that supports their dream and gives them to tools to build amazing products you can’t find elsewhere. Our brand community is growing and it’s really exciting to see how we can revolutionize the way people design and sell clothing.
What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about working downtown?
I love downtown LA. It’s full of characters and constantly changing, there’s amazing food and places to hang out and explore. I’m not loving how expensive this area is becoming. It used to be like a lot of LA where you had expensive areas and affordable areas often next to each other. Now everything is inflating and it’s creating a very different energy with less space for startup creatives who don’t have big money behind them. So while I love being here, I’m bummed to see how quickly it’s changing and the people I came into downtown with are no longer here.
You’ve been in downtown LA for quite a few years now. What’s your take on the recent and rapid gentrification?
The city is constantly changing and it’s wonderful to see old spaces transformed into new sanctuaries for play and experience. The pace of growth downtown is a bit jarring though. I am concerned about how fast real estate values are going up and what it means for some of the residents and businesses that got downtown to where it is. So I’m both excited and nervous about the changes. It’s been a great experience participating in the last 6 years of downtown’s evolution!
What’s your favorite deadstock fabric you’ve offered at Apliiq?
Ahh that’s an impossible question. We have so many! I love a bunch of the early ones, the paisleys and linens and the nautical prints. We had an amazing sailboat fabric that I miss terribly. But I’d say this wild Kandinsky inspired fabric is probably my favorite of the moment. Check it: