I had the amazing and (very) chance opportunity to interview the team behind Yoki's Garden for Atomica Magazine's fourth issue, SLATE. I was first introduced to Yoki's Garden by Jeff Yokoyama himself, whom I was able to meet through a mentoring program. Here is his latest and undoubtedly coolest project:

1.)  What is Yoki's Garden, and what does GARDEN stand for?
GARDEN Stands for

Here is a video that explains GARDEN a little better.
2.) Where did the idea behind this project come from? What was the greatest source of inspiration in this endeavor?
 The idea /inspiration for Yoki's GARDEN started about 5 years ago when Jeff and his daughter Coco started a clothing line called Generic Youth. 
Generic Youth is a clothing line made in Costa Mesa, CA from end rolls of fabric, repurposed clothes, beach towels and anything else we can get our hands on.

In 2007 Coco graduated from high school and moved up to the University of Oregon where she spent her freshman and sophomore years playing volleyball. While playing volleyball she would receive new uniforms, bags, shoes etc. each year. We began to wonder what happens to all of that athletic gear once the school does not need it anymore. We did some research and found that most schools either throw it away or they have a "yard sale" and sell their old uniforms and practice gear.

We realized there is an opportunity to partner with colleges and universities across the country to salvage used athletic uniforms and leftover garments that are no longer useful to their teams. By working together to Gather the Abundance of athletic uniforms and gear and Repurpose them into new items that the students, visitors, alumni and fans can purchase and wear. We add value to what was once worthless, create jobs, and help the environment in the process. We Further Demonstrate Ethos Now by giving a portion of our profits back to the Universities Athletic department.

How long have we been listening to music? A long time. We need to listen to music in a new way, hence the ipod. How long have we been driving cars?... A long time. We need to drive cars in a new way, hence the Prius, Volt, Honda Civic GX etc. How long have we been designing clothes? A long time. We need to design clothes in a new way, hence Yoki's GARDEN.

3.) Elaborate on the concept of "Design different, make different, sell different."

Design different, Make different and Sell different has been the motto for all the businesses we start. 

Design Different - we design from things that are already existing. For example, USC football uniforms, warm-ups, coach's uniforms, end rolls of fabrics etc.

Make Different - we make in the USA. Provide jobs and create a smaller carbon footprint

Sell Different - we sell to the end user, out of our own retail stores and we sell where the market is, at the university during games and events.

4.) What work goes into designing the different pieces you produce?

 A whole lotta love :) 

Most designers, design the fabric for a specific design. We take the existing fabric and think of different ways we can apply it into different designs. 

We call this "tension," creating designs out of fabrics and items you would not normally see. For example, turning a USC Football T-shirt into a Tie (http://bit.ly/kjqdLc) or USC coach's nylon jackets and polo shirts into board shorts (http://bit.ly/mOiG6Z)

5.) How did you come upon an agreement with USC to introduce this gear?

The agreement came after years of talks. I think alot of the agreement had to do with timing, our definition of "luck" is when persistence and opportunity meet and we got "lucky" at USC. Also, Jeff Yokoyama's track record of creating successful brands helps too.

6.) As of now, Yoki's Garden is only catering to the USC crowd, do you plan on branching out to other colleges throughout the state/nation?

Yes, right now we are just working with USC. We plan on focusing our attention at USC especially this fall for back to school and football season. We are in communication with other Universities right now and are working on developing our relationships with them. Our immediate goal is to have USC be the template for other Universities.

7.) How has USC/ its student body received this merchandise? What reaction does the merchandise usually get from its buyers?

O my! The students freak out when we tell them the story about Yoki's GARDEN. A great deal of the reactions we get are like...
"O it's about time somebody did something like this" or "Wow this is so creative" or "How can we get involved". All of these responses put a smile on our face and are friendly reminders that we are on the right track and people are ready for something different. 

8.) What is the most popular piece you've sold?

 It is definitely a toss up between our Fight On Fingers T-shirt (http://bit.ly/iz5hCe) and our Tail Gate Apron (http://bit.ly/khFsEC)

9.) Any hints on what direction Yoki's Garden will be going towards in the future?

Thinking about the future of this project gets us pretty excited.
I know for a fact that student involvement is the future of Yoki's GARDEN.
Speaking up at USC in the Business and Fashion classes and clubs, we learned that the students want to get involved. Participating with the Business, Entrepreneurial, Marketing, Advertising, Finance, Design, Fashion students and creating an on campus Business/course the students can participate and learn from. 

We say if it works at USC, it will work at any university and if USC has been around for over a 100 years we are confident it will be around for 100 more and Yoki's GARDEN will be too.

check out GY/YG @ http://genericyouth.com


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