Amanda and Andrew Kovanis are young entrepreneurs in Bishop making—yes, actually making—clothing.
Entrepreneurs Amanda and Andrew Kovanis look like they’d fit in more at Coachella than in downtown Bishop—They’re both 23 and hip, adorned with turquoise rings and impossibly good hair. They both talk over each other in the way newlyweds do, but their conversation revolves around the role of young artisans in an economy that’s arguably moving back, albeit at a glacial pace, from box stores to booths.
The couple are the co-owners of Nakid Imagination, a clothing company they started in their tiny apartment in Arcata, California. They now live in Bishop, and they’re part of a grassroots effort working to provide a space for creative types to showcase their goods locally.
Amanda met The Sheet at Black Sheep Coffee on Tuesday, declining to give a tour of her home/factory until it was a little more under control (Nakid Imagination is doing a pop-up booth at the Holiday Bazaar at Bishop’s Tri-County fair on Saturday, December 2). Her husband, Andrew, strolled in after getting off work from his job as a GIS Specialist for Caltrans (and presumably snagging a coffee break before his second shift as t-shirt manufacturer).
Amanda showed up wearing a Yosemite t-shirt of her own design with a distressed neckline and a stylized image of the famous Valley View, holding a woven bag full of stickers, t-shirts and hats emblazoned with the company’s logo—“Nakid,” spelled with a tipi in place of the “a” and a pine symbolizing the “i.”
“We just want the clothes to embody the kind of lifestyle we live,” says Amanda. Their clothes are “for the restless souls who believe in taking road trips with no destination…” states their website.
The Kovanises moved to Bishop about a year ago after Andrew was offered his job with Caltrans (he graduated from Humboldt state in 2016 and this was the first offer he got. After a visit to Bishop where the couple slept in their car, he took it).
They met as kids at summer camp, but, as Amanda tells it, “I was this really loud kid and he was this really serious guy,” says Amanda. They reconnected via social media when they were both living in Southern California, where Amanda was attending school and Andrew was on summer break, living with his grandmother and surfing. They actually started out as a surfboard company called “Naked.” Amanda made schwag and Andrew made the boards, but said he only made about eight until they changed the company’s course. “We realized people were a lot more likely to buy a t-shirt than a surfboard,” Amanda said. “It’s less of a commitment.”
She started putting her design skills to work on clothing made by American Apparel while living in Arcata while Andrew was finishing college. The two launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to get a boost for their company, took off for a backpacking trip to Europe, and realized halfway through that their campaign had exceeded their (modest) goals. Fulfilling their Kickstarter rewards (the couple offered clothing in exchange for financial support) was their first t-shirt blitz, but now the Kovanises are used to getting wholesale orders—and Amanda has upped the ante. She learned how to sew the shirts herself from bolts of American-grown cotton.
“When I tell people I make the shirts, they don’t believe me. But, yeah, I make the actual shirts!” Amanda says.
“It’s one of those things where you think, ‘I can’t do that, that’d be ridiculous,’” says Andrew. “Then, you just do it.”
“We didn’t like that there’s so much waste in the fashion industry,” said Amanda (who has been sewing since she was young and made her own wedding dress). “If we were to go through a manufacturer we’d have minimums” and more limitations. “We don’t have any inventory right now unless we have a reason to,” which allows Nakid Imagination to come up with collections for the seasons. Check out their website and you’ll see the couple modeling their newest designs. “We aren’t the models because we want to be, we’re the models because we don’t have any other options,” said Amanda. “A lot of times [Andrew] will get off work and I’ll have been sewing all day, but we have to go catch sunset for pictures.”
Being so close to a picturesque background for photo shoots has been a boon, says Andrew, who, like Amanda, grew up skiing. “Except when your surger [a type of sewing machine] breaks and nobody around here does repairs!”
They also really like the idea of being a part of a revitalization of Bishop. They belong to a young entrepreneurs’ group that meets at Black Sheep. They spoke at the Bishop Town Council meeting on Monday, November 27 to express their idea that one of the vacant buildings in town could become something like a coworking space or market for makers to sell their wares.
“I really didn’t think I was going to talk when we went” to the meeting, said Amanda. “They were talking about potential start-ups and nobody was representing that segment,” so she got up to share her ideas.
She says she thinks there’s room for what they do in the market. “There’s a trend of people trying to be more ethical consumers and I think people…feel good when they know they’ve bought something homemade or made by a smaller company.”
Andrew said he was excited by the idea that Bishop could “follow other mountain towns and bill itself as an art-centric community…I feel like there’s so much potential.”
He said that Nakid Imagination’s products (which also include some hats, mugs and stickers) are found at boutique shops across the state and even in Australia, and that having a place to sell their wares in Bishop would be huge for them. “It’s kind of weird we have more exposure outside of here,” says Andrew, who added that social media (Instagram, mostly) has been responsible for most of their wholesale orders.
“We need to revitalize” downtown Bishop, says Andrew. “If we could be a part of that in some way, that would be awesome.”
Nakid Imagination will be opening a pop-up booth at the Holiday Craft Bazaar at the Bishop Tri-County Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 2 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Check out their website at www.nakidimagination.com.