By  on January 14, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Can a Japanese art-infused T-shirt line succeed if it’s designed by an Italian and run by an American and Iranian-American?

The formula may work and then some, considering the line is the brainchild of Hard Candy Cosmetics co-founder Pooneh Mohajer Arnold and her husband, Ivan Arnold.

Ten years after she and her sister, Dineh, launched the cosmetics line in Beverly Hills, Mohajer Arnold is again putting her brand-building IQ to the test with the launch of Tokidoki. (The sisters sold the Hard Candy company to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 1999 for a reported $14 million. In 2003, LVMH sold the brand to Miami-based Falic Group.)

Her husband, who runs damnBRAND, a Los Angeles-based Web design and online management company whose customers include Trina Turk and A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz, stumbled upon the Tokidoki Web site in his search for a graphic designer. After an e-mail and a couple of phone calls, he had sent the site’s artist, Simone Legno, an airline ticket to Los Angeles for a meeting. What was supposed to be a three-day visit lasted a month and ended in a 50-50 partnership between the Arnolds and Legno.

“I saw his artwork and was practically doing cartwheels, it was so good,” Mohajer Arnold said. 

She and her husband said the line crosses gender and age boundaries, much the way Hello Kitty and Paul Frank do.

Legno, 27, said he didn’t think it was that odd to fly more than 6,000 miles to meet two strangers on a whim, especially when he was plying his craft for clients such as John Galliano and Toyota.

“I love to travel, and they seemed to have the right business attitude,” he said. “And, they trusted my instinct.”

Their venture is a cut-and-sew T-shirt line silk-screened with quirky, vibrant, animated images, both sweet and sassy, from a wide-eyed bunny to a slurping “ramen girl.” Wholesale priced at $15, the line’s moderate price point has an opportunity to reach both ends of the target age group of 14 to 35.

Arnold said the line’s strength also lies in its retail versatility. “We can sell it to skate stores, contemporary stores and gift stores,” he said.Already at Rafael in the high-end Ala Moano Shopping Center in Waikiki, Hawaii, and Studio 11 in Wilmington, Del., the line will exhibit at the street-inspired Agenda trade show in San Diego beginning today, then stage its major launch at MAGIC International in Las Vegas in February.

The company plans to sell the wares on its Web site, which attracts 10,000 unique visitors daily.

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