"A lot of time when we go into a streetwear store, we feel really intimidated. It's like you have to be a certain level of coolness or cold or distance to be in the store,” Ophelia Chen tells me, before going on to describe her and Abi Lierheimer’s brand: “While here, with BOBBLEHAUS, everyone is welcome. Accessibility and inclusivity is one of our biggest things.” Throughout my conversation with the brand’s two co-founders, they often refer to this as a central tenet of the brand. With their kaleidoscopic designs and bombastic LES storefront, BOBBLEHAUS is all about creating a space for those that have felt left out of the sterility of a lot of contemporary streetwear.
BOBBLEHAUS is a Genderless, Sustainable and Wonderful Brand to Watch
Ophelia and Abi planned to launch the brand in February of 2020, “thinking that 2, 20 20. Oh, it's such a lucky number… Jokes on us.” They ended up having to push the launch back a bit before launching in mid 2020. Abi is the designer and CCO, and Ophelia is the CEO, handling most of the business side. Throughout our conversation, both of their ambitions for the brand are often mirrored in each other’s answers. “I think one of the main goals for me personally is creating an inclusive, colorful space and a community that I felt like I didn't have or didn't have a voice in expressing,” Abi tells me, referring to the often exclusionary nature of contemporary streetwear.
“When I was younger, I was born and raised in Shanghai, and grew up in Missouri for high school and college. So I think that contrast made me always feel like an outlier. But I think being an outlier is beautiful,” Ophelia tells me, explaining how part of the goal of the brand is to create a space for those who have felt like outliers. “Maybe we didn't have necessarily an Asian American community growing up in the West and Midwest. So we're trying to create a community for everyone now,” Abi explains.
The brand is also genderless, and Abi points out how that can often be an empty buzzword for brands. But BOBBLEHAUS approaches that facet with intention. “We wanted to create something that is truly genderless and explore what that means. It feels very trendy these days, a lot of people will take it to mean that we're not putting the thought to either category. It's actually is the opposite. It's putting more thought into both sides of it,” Abi explains, remarking how previous brands she’s worked at kept the two gendered departments entirely secluded, but at BOBBLEHAUS they get to take inspiration from all forms of clothing.
“So it was trying to find a place where all of those things can live and then, people like us who are maybe not traditionally in the hype streetwear realm, can create a real community,” Abi summarizes the genesis of the brand.
In the past few years, they’d conducted a few shorter term popups while launching the brand DTC. But physical spaces have always been important to the brand, and the success of the pop-ups foreshadowed the recently opened store in lower Manhattan. As soon as the store opened, people who remembered the pop-ups excitedly started returning to see the new space. “A mirror artist next door came to the store like, ‘Oh my God, what is this playground?’ That word ‘playground.’ I didn't put anything into her brain, but she felt that.”
And when I went on a little visit of the store, this ethos was coursing through the entirety of the space. During my hour there, we saw kids from the neighborhood coming by to simply play with Ophelia’s massive LEGO collection strewn about the spacious and vibrant store.
The best thing is to see people's faces when they walk in. It's like a little kid going to a candy store.
- Ophelia Chen
A lot of the products have specific qualities that you can only really experience in person. “Seeing people interact with the product and then the mission itself. It's like, okay, you like the product for what it is, and it's really good product. And then once they find out about all the layers behind it and they're able to meet us, and we're very accessible and we're very much day to day a part of every single thing that happens.”
One of the standout aspects of BOBBLEHAUS as a brand is their One Tree Planted initiative. Essentially, for every single item they sell, they’ve partnered with OTP to plant ten trees. They also incorporate a material called Tencel into a ton of their collections. The company that produces Tencel “makes all their fabric yards in a closed loop cycle from wood pulps, wood chips. And the fabric itself is a soft as silk and it's a hundred percent compostable in eight weeks.” In addition to their consistent use of Tencel, “we source deadstock fabric and recycled cotton as well. We give what we take. If this fabric is made from trees, then we should give it back to the environment,” Ophelia summarizes their commitment to sustainability.
The day before they opened the store, Abi and Ophelia also put on the very first BOBBLEHAUS fashion show for New York Fashion Week. Ophelia tells me of the show, smiling: “People liked it. people felt it. They enjoyed it. I ask for nothing else.”
Last Friday, they releasing the brand’s holiday collection, a nod to nostalgic games, toys, and comic books intended to "bring out the child within us all." The collection features a recycled cotton jacquard knit short sleeve polo shirt with matching shorts and pants in three cheery holiday hues (candy blue, dragonfruit pink, and tangerine) along with the brand’s first range of accessories.