W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.
Issue link: http://wetoday.epubxp.com/i/156105
PHOTOS COURTESY KIPPYS back to teaching and worked in education 'till she was 91. My father retired early, happy to let go." In Bob's early years, Kippys was an importer of goods from a number of well-known European fashion houses such as Roberto Cavalli, Henry Lehr and Lison Bonfls. Tey also carried classic American lines for women and men, such as Manning Silver and Teodore. "Those early suppliers taught me everything I know today about style," Bob says. "I especially loved attending fashion shows in Milan and London, as well as Prêt-à-Porter for women and SEMM for men in Paris. I traveled abroad at least four times per year, loving the lessons and benefts of the fashion world." Today, the very same store founded by Bob's parents in Coronado still exists as a popular destination for fashion-forward customers, but now features mostly Kippys' creations. It serves both the local and tourist markets that adore the sumptuous goods seen online and on the premises, from crystal-studded signature belts, bags and jackets to the hottest iPad and iPhone covers. Under the Coronado Bridge, in the heart of what is known as "Barrio Logan" stands Kippys' "Bodega" (the warehouse and production facility), a 6000-square-foot building adorned in hand-painted grafti created by the best of the local taggers. Hired for this particular job, they completed a richly detailed and colorful mural portraying Carina, Bob's wife, on one side; Erik, their son, on the other, and the Grand Kipperman in the middle, with crossed "cananas" (shot glasses) around his neck, a la Pancho Villa, grinning his million-dollar smile. "I kept the business strictly retail, manufacturing only for ourselves until the 1980s," explains Bob. "Once I got into manufacturing, it was clear that all my Kippylabeled goods were inspired by Europe, the ft especially. Te fashion world has to credit fashion designer Ralph Lauren for that emphasis; he took American classics and made them ft. In the same way, I took Western clothing and made it more European, or at least, how a European would view Western wear." Clearly a product of his time and of a specifc fashion culture, Bob incorporates the evolution of couture and style. "Early on, I was exposed to well-dressed and sophisticated people, both in the industry and socially," he says. "I learned the way a man looks really counts. A woman I dated when I was much younger told me once 'people notice you by your shoes and your watch.' I never forgot that." Anyone who has met Kippy can attest to his rugged personal sense of style and his inimitable personality. He's ofen seen wearing dark silk shirts and alligator skin jackets, straddling a continental look that's way beyond Western. He's still the imagination, the fre and the force behind Kippys and is just as enthusiastic today as the day he started. During market, his permanent Denver showroom is one of the consistently busier spots on the fourth foor of the main Mart Building FALL 2013 where customers wait in line to place orders for next season's collection. But things weren't always easy for the Kippermans. "In 1984, on the Fourth of July, I was hit by a car," explains Bob. "It was traumatic. I sustained a concussion: a head injury so severe that I was nonfunctional for almost 18 months. It was like having a stroke. My role in the company ceased to exist. At the time, we had expanded to six retail locations in Southern California, including Los Angeles. You can imagine — the company sufered. We had to cut back. Fortunately, over time, I healed and almost all functions came back, although I still have some trouble with my short-term memory." When the accident happened, Bob was at the peak of his career, an established buyer and spotter of marketable trends. Among other things, he had been carrying belts by Lily Farouche. Tey were unique and covered with studs. "I fgured I could probably make those belts myself," Bob says. "I needed to do something. I decided to teach myself how, one belt at a time. My stores weren't doing very well and afer 20 years of buying goods in Europe, it felt like the time had come to become more independent." Bob sought counsel with friend and mentor, Herb Fink, who also owned a clothing boutique in California. "I owed him some money at the time and made a deal to pay him of in belts," Bob says. "He gave me an order for $12,000. I delivered. He was so thrilled and the sales were so successful, the next week I got a reorder for $8,000. We were in the belt business! I started to show the line to more retailers with nothing more than a sample order and a got a 98-percent sell-through. On top of that, the belts were actually priced higher than the market average, but the product was unique — and all about perceived value." When pop superstar Madonna wore her Kippys' Swarovski-studded cowboy belt for her MTV and video appearances in the '90s, the company rocketed to the forefront. Suddenly, Kippys was on the cover of Rolling Stone and Vogue. High-end, crystal-studded, Westerninspired belts had become a status symbol overnight. Demand went national with a frenzy, while back in Coronado, a steady and successful connection to the Western market continued to grow. "I wanted to establish my product with the stores who weren't afraid to maintain a higher price point and not discount to make the sale," Bob says. "Discounting heavily only ruins the marketplace." Bob explains that Kippys was making items for horse show people, as well, and for several dancers who wanted outfts that stood out. "Rodeo queens learned about us too, and asked for product. Tat was 20 years ago, and we've continued to serve horse-related customers nonstop. Frankly, I never thought of what we did as Western," Kippy chuckles. "But today we feel like we're part of the family." What makes a Kippys' product worth buying and Utilizing fne Italiantanned leather and Swarovski crystals, Kipperman has raised the bar on glamourous jackets, belts, skirts, handbags and accessories. Western & English Today 17