“Imagine an era where individuality is celebrated. Where fashion is written with a loose and casual fare. Where convention is revamped to reveal its more eclectic, fierce alter ego.” Well according to the ladies of Aquaponi, that era is here and the moment is now. The Aquaponi clothing line was founded in 2006 by Los Angeles natives Kelli Marie and Theresa Michelle, who sought to provide something new and exciting for those who were tired of adhering to the norm and dressing like all the rest. The line is a fresh blend of rare vintage and repurposed clothing, ethnic-inspired jewelry, and boho-chic accessories. Each handcrafted piece is a fusion of bright colors and unlikely fabrics – undeniably unique. The brand has been able to attract a loyal clientele in the Los Angeles and Atlanta regions, and has even gained the attention of celebrities such as Common, Project Runway’s Michael Knight, Janelle Monae, and Keri Hilson – just to name a few. We recently caught up with co-owner Kelli White, who gave us the inside scoop.
Clutch: Tell us about Aquaponi. How did the line come about?
Kelli: AquaPoni is an exclusive original label that was coined Theresa and myself. We came up with the concept by thinking “outside the box” and creating brightly colored, ready-to-wear pieces. Initially, we sold jewelry that was from Peru, but ended up being invited to showcase our talents in a fashion show. But we had NO clothes at the time! With only two weeks to pull it all together, we were able to design 20 pieces. The line was very well received and there was a snowball effect from there that brought in orders left and right!
Clutch: How did you and Theresa meet, and end up developing a fashion company together?
Kelli: We’ve known each other since high school, but didn’t actually reconnect and create the line until after college. Originally, I wanted to start my own boutique in the Atlanta area, since I’d noticed that a lot of the things I was wearing from California were new and unfamiliar to the people here. And Theresa already had a degree in fashion design from school; she wanted to sell her clothes in my store! So we decided to fuse our career goals by making and selling pieces independently, which eliminated the start-up costs and overhead of an actual retail space. We planted AquaPoni’s first seeds with mostly friends and close acquaintances as customers, but eventually branched out into boutiques in the Atlanta and Los Angeles area.
Clutch: The name of the brand is very unique and distinctive. What does it mean?
Kelli: AquaPoni has no distinctive definition. It is merely something that was brainstormed and sounded great to us. We pulled some of our favorite words out of a hat and put them together. The word “AquaPoni” is meant to have its own meaning, based on each individual’s interpretation. AquaPoni is constantly being defined through our pieces.
Clutch: Describe the AquaPoni style. Who is the ideal client?
Kelli: The style is vibrantly colored, combining fabrics that the average person may not think to piece together. We have a great deal of vintage cultural inspiration from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but with a modern twist. The ideal client, male or female, is someone who is not afraid to be different. Someone who’s comfortable in their own skin, and not afraid of getting attention – definitely not shy. We create fashion for all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. Believe it or not – Theresa’s grandma rocks Aquaponi!
Clutch: What types of merchandise does the line include, and what are the average price points?
Kelli: AquaPoni label consists of our signature one-of-a- kind hoodies, letterman sweaters, jersey jumpers, vintage-inspired dresses, tees, boy scout shirts, earrings and handbags. Our price points range from $10.00 for a small pair of earrings to $150.00 for hoodies and sweaters.
Clutch: Aquaponi has already established a firm fan-base in the Atlanta and LA areas. What do you think attracted so many people to line?
Kelli: Fan base? Wow! That is so awesome… We originally lured customers in with our custom hoodies, but we’ve always had much more to offer. People appreciate the idea of wearing garments that others can’t find anywhere else. Our clothes really speak for themselves, and we are constantly selling our pieces off our bodies. Once you get one hoodie, you end up wanting more! Then you become addicted. ; )
Clutch: What, if any, major obstacles have you and Theresa faced as up-and-coming designers?
Kelli: When you are “up and coming,” quite often people don’t take you serious and try to take advantage of you. We have definitely run into some bumps in the road… Finding the right investors has been the major obstacle for us as well, but we will soon overcome that! We also hear of other labels developing similar items, which can be very frustrating since everyone wants to have the newest, most innovative ideas.
Clutch: That being said, what advice would you offer to individuals who are looking to start up their own clothing lines as well?
Kelli: The four P’s: Passion, Persistence, Perseverance, and Patience. Definitely make sure your label is something that you are passionate about. Stick to what is a true reflection of you and don’t be afraid to try new things! Be Persistent: set goals, reach them, and work your mouthpiece. Be open and able to take constructive criticism, treat everyone with respect (even the “little people”) and work hard to create your brand. It won’t be easy, but if you stay focused and stay patient, you will definitely persevere. Many designers are much older, because they have been working at it for so long…. Patience is key!
Clutch: What’s up next for AquaPoni, and where can our readers find your items?
Kelli: AquaPoni is going to continue to design new and innovative pieces! We are constantly changing our flare to surprise our “fans,” so look out for our Fall/Winter collection soon. Our items can be found of course on our website www.aquaponi.com, as well as local Atlanta boutiques; Envy and Pieces of Adrene, and hopefully in a boutique near you soon! But the bulk of our designs are through custom orders, so feel free to reach out to us via the website or our Myspace page if there’s something you would like to have made. Muah! AquaPoni loves you.