LOS ANGELES — Chris Park-Gonzalez and her husband, Mike Gonzalez, had two special arrivals five months apart.
She gave birth to the couple’s son, Mateo, in November, and the Mike & Chris clothing line made its debut in New York in April. It ships to stores Sept. 30.
Mike & Chris focuses on a single element — the hoodie — and strives to elevate the typically plebian look into a fashion garment. Where others have trod before, creating slim-fitting, French terry jackets, the couple pictures a hoodie made from high-end fabrics at lofty price points.
About 15 stores have picked up the line, including Ron Herman/Fred Segal on Melrose and Scout in Los Angeles, Big Drop in New York and Louis Boston. There will be a launch in Los Angeles at the June market.
The six-piece line is crafted from lightweight fleece custom-milled to Mike Gonzalez’s specifications. The fleece, looped three times on the back of the fabric, creates a consistent soft finish that withstands the rigors of the washing machine.
Slouchy in fit, the zip-up hoodie still hugs the body with its wide, ribbed waistband; extended cuffs, and two front-angled pockets highlighted by oversized buttons. Rust, stone, curry, army green, black and old rose make up the subdued color palette of the fleece looks. There are also trenchcoats cinched with a seamed sash and accented with oversized buttons, wide lapels and military-styled epaulets. The inclusion of a hood gives it statement-making appeal apart from the trenchcoats selling this spring.
Thin lambskin leather — in colors such as espresso and dark ivy — adds a dressier element to the hoodies, hand-treated and crushed for a distressed patina and lined in men’s shirting.
Wholesale price points range from $68 to $82 for the fleece and $360 to $450 for the leather.
The couple got the idea after realizing they spent much of their waking hours dressed in hoodies. “We wore hoodies from the Gap and hoodies from J. Crew, but they didn’t feel dressy enough,” said Chris Park-Gonzalez.
By spring 2006, they plan to add a men’s collection of hoodies, along with new styles and possible fabrications for women that bridge their current price points.
“No one has done what they’ve done with the hoodie,” said Emily Chen, buyer for Big Drop in New York, which also carries Development, Ya-Ya and Rachel Roy.
For the founders, who don’t have design degrees, the positive response was a surprise. They plan to move to a downtown office next month from their home headquarters.
“It’s a shock to us,” said Gonzalez, a former fashion photographer who is co-designer of the line and manages the production. His wife, who is wrapping up maternity leave, expects to return to her full-time job next month as an investigator for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.