Babble sat down with the thirty-eight-year-old designer and his stuffed ape in Appaman’s tiny Lower East Side office. The plush Appaman has seen better days, but the eponymous brand is going strong. – Nicole Feliciano
We’re a little concerned about Appaman (the monkey). How’s his health?
I got him when I was two. From then on, he was always with me. As an adult, he kept surfacing after all my moves. Now, Appaman is very old and retired and just hangs out in the office. He doesn’t travel much any more. But his image will be all over our logo-inspired lines.
Other than your ape pal, where do you get your ideas?
This was the first clothing I ever designed. I decided on T-shirts because it was the only thing I could do – it didn’t take a lot of technical knowledge. We still stick to simple graphics. I want a graphic that both a kid and parent can understand. When it comes to specific prints, I work with my passions. My father ran a car dealership. This turned me into a car guy. I’m very much into muscle cars and now vintage Italian sports cars. Plus the Sopranos – we’ve done a vintage tracksuit inspired by that show in four colors.
Despite being a kids’ brand, Appaman is marketed on its “street cred.”
Street cred was meant to be funny. The quote was given to me by a friend and it’s been hanging with us. All of this was made to excite parents – especially parents of boys.
Lots of kiddie gear brands are launched by rich parents looking for something to do. Does someone in the family have deep pockets?
No. The brand was started with a $5,000 withdrawal from our savings account. We were lucky to avoid the major mistakes new businesses make. Lynn attended a class at FIT called “How to Launch Your Own Baby Clothing Line” and she learned so much.
Any disasters along the way?
The first batch of T-shirts was made in our 600-square foot Brooklyn apartment. We bought a batch of Rite Aid orange dye and destroyed our washing machine. It was a really bad dye job. Everything had to drip-dry in out tiny apartment. After the drip-dry episode and a month of orange clothing coming out of our washer, we moved to a broken-down studio.
So the budget was tight?
Yes. We bought our blanks [white tees]The young tween whore-like wear is awful. from a very angry Bulgarian man. He couldn’t match colors at all. The results were grey, black, all over the place. Luckily the accounts we landed liked the newness of what we were doing and didn’t freak that the colors didn’t match.
You’ve got young daughters (Kaya, three, and Elie, one). What do you think about the fashions available for your girls?
The young tween whore-like wear is awful. Having two daughters is very scary. I don’t know why it’s necessary. I don’t know why you need to push it on them when they are eight. The catwalk shows for kids are very surreal. I’m excited to expand our girls’ line. At Appaman everything we do in clothing is about age-appropriateness. No catwalks. Our photo shoots are all done with friends.
What does Kaya think of your clothes?
If it was up to my three-year-old, it would be all unicorns and princesses.