DIY Fashion Week with Apliiq! Seven Questions for Fabric-Loving Founder Ethan Lipsitz

New York Fashion Week is once again upon us, and with it, the haute Halloween of Fashion’s Night Out (look for us at Bergdorf Goodman, contemplatively fondling the Chado Ralph Rucci garments). No matter where you stand on the sartorial continuum of Carhartt to Carolina Herrera, you can spice up your wardrobe with Apliiq. The Los Angeles-based company collects rare, deadstock, and recognizable textiles and applies them to everyday garments (think crying-out-for-customization American Apparel tees). With an ever-changing assortment of limited-edition products and a vast fabric library, the Apliiq website offers a dizzying array of possible color and texture combinations for the DIY-minded. “The name derives from the French word ‘appliqué,’ which means ‘apply,’ and we literally apply fabric, cut into different geometric shapes, onto clothing,” explains founder Ethan Lipsitz. “It’s all online and made to order within a week in downtown LA.” Lipsitz, who graduated from the University Pennsylvania with a degree in urban studies and did a post-grad stint with design studio Dickson Rothschild, paused in his fabric scouting to answer our seven questions.

What led you to start Apliiq?
I have always enjoyed being creative with what I wear. In high school I started hand-stitching my mother’s fabrics onto my hoodies to add a little personal flavor. In college I stitched a Karate Kid headband onto the hood of a hoody and it became a coveted item amongst my friends. Needless to say, I started making Karate Kid hoodies for all my classmates. I quickly discovered the local fabric district in Philly and began playing more with lining hoods and stitching the fabrics onto hoodies in creative ways. By my senior year I had learned how to use a sewing machine and was customizing hoodies with my fabric collection for friends and shops around Philly. From the get go it was always about letting them customize and relaying that feeling of wearing something that’s uniquely theirs. With help from friends I built a website and kept the company going as a hobby business while living in Sydney and working in architecture and urban design. In 2008 I decided I wanted to be my own boss and see if this hobby could be something more, I moved back to the States, set up shop in Los Angeles, and gave myself a year to get Apliiq off the ground. We’ve been running ever since.

What makes a good/successful Apliiq fabric?
Sometimes we can tell when a fabric is going to be a hit, and other times it’s a mystery what takes off. We try to vary the library, but I definitely skew towards bold, simple prints that clearly convey a story or message. Right now animal prints, native, southwestern, and African fabrics are seeing a surge in popularity. It’s often a combination of pattern and motif as well as a particular model and example garment we show that contributes to a fabric’s success.

What are some of your favorite recent additions to the Apliiq fabric library?
I’ve got a bunch of new faves. We have this beautiful vintage soft striped woven fabric that has a linen texture called right stripe that we have only a few yards of. We also just picked up some amazing African fabrics of which Oduele may be my favorite. I spotted it across the shop, and we took it down from the window display—got the last four yards! I’m freaking out on ikats. A friend from Indonesia sent us one a few months ago, and we’ve recently come across an amazing stockpile of Indian ikats that are really fresh. I love how the weave of these fabrics are so engrained in the aesthetic. Lastly, we recently discovered a crazy vintage abstract print online that totally reminds me of Kandinsky, thus named after the man himself.

What’s the most odd or unconventional order Apliiq has received?
Great question. We’ve gotten plenty of wild orders. A couple dance teams have had some wild requests as have our customers en route to Burning Man. We get to know our returning customers pretty well and often can tell what fabrics and pieces they’ll like based on previous orders. One specific customer in Denmark will go on our site and customize a hoody or tee with almost every patch we offer. He’ll do wild pairings with animal prints and our most outlandish colors and accents. Gotta give the guy props—he’s definitely taking our customization to the limit and we’re always psyched to see his orders come in.

Any exciting Apliiq collaborations/projects in the works for fall or winter that you can tell us about?
Yes! We just launched our Culture Shock September collection celebrating our ethnic prints sourced from across the globe. We have some insane new ikats from India and wild wax prints from Africa as well as plenty from across Asia and Central America. We’re also getting ready to introduce some dog prints and products in support of the mid-September launch of a mobile application called “Where My Dogs At.” Finally we have some things brewing with our fam at Falling Whistles, a non-profit that advocates for peace in Congo. They just got back to LA with some incredible Congolese prints, and we’re looking forward to working with them.

What’s the best creative, business, or life advice you’ve received?
A good friend and fellow entrepreneur once told me to never stop producing. I truly relate to that message. If we consistently put our creations out to the world, something will hit. In the case of Apliiq, the brand is literally based around a product that is constantly reinvented by our customers on our website, we’re always producing and working to expand on the ways for our community of fabric lovers to create and produce their own unique designs. It’s all about letting go and enabling the world to interact with what we do.

Finally, what are you wearing right now?
I’m rocking the plaidacious pocket tee with a classic blue oxford, some Thvm Atelier denim, and a pair of Vans—Cali casual.