Vibrant sets and quirky prints are just part of the story behind streetwear brand-to-watch, Bobblehaus.
New York-based Bobblehaus is the brainchild of CEO Ophelia Chen, a former Bloomingdale’s assistant buyer and planner, and chief creative officer Abi Lierheimer, a former designer for streetwear heavyweights like Kith and Champion. Following their corporate stints, the longtime friends set out to embark on an accessible brand that could adapt to industry shifts in an agile and solution-oriented way, and more importantly, bring a new perspective to the male-dominated world of streetwear.
The brand is making its physical trade show debut this week at Liberty Fairs in Miami (July 10-12), showcasing a range of immediates ranging from colorful casual suits to ramen-printed sets.
Broadly speaking, Lierheimer said the streetwear aesthetic tends to follow a safe formula. “A lot of brands aren’t trying to be the most out-there, the most colorful, the most absurd or the most inclusive,” she said. “We’re both Chinese-American women, and we want this brand to be owned by women and people of color, and we want to be fully ourselves in the streetwear world where it isn’t always welcome.”
Bobblehaus launched last May with seasonless, unisex essentials like jersey T-shirts, crewnecks, hoodies, sweatpants and sweatshorts for sizes XS-XL made entirely from recycled and deadstock fabrics. It has since expanded its line with soft suiting, socks, jewelry and tote bags, with knits and outerwear on the way.
Though the brand arrived at the height of the pandemic, when many designers and consumers were purportedly re-evaluating their values to be more sustainable and inclusive, Lierheimer asserts that it was never their intention to cash in on the buzz with Bobblehaus, nor was it the reason they chose to focus on comfort-driven styles.
Rather, qualities like genderless design and sustainable fabrics are part of the “baseline standard” that Chen and Lierheimer have set for themselves and they’re qualities that they wish to have in their own closets.
Both women, for example, don’t like to wear “super-sexy, tight-fitting clothes” all the time, but a line between women’s streetwear and men’s streetwear exists, perhaps because it’s often designed through a male point-of-view. “If you want something that’s loose-fitting or straight-fitting, you often have to buy the men’s and it doesn’t always come in your size,” Lierheimer said.
A recent report by retail analytics firm Edited echoed this sentiment. Though women’s streetwear is becoming more accessible—with more products dropping (24 percent compared to last year) and selling out than ever before—Edited said the category is still dominated by men’s wear. Data shows that retailers stocking iconic streetwear brands and luxury designers are dedicating 59 percent and 50 percent more of their assortments to men.
Sustainability isn’t the brand’s “main selling point” either. They want consumers to be drawn to Bobblehaus’ designs and bright colors first.
Sustainability, however, does weigh heavily on the development of collections. Coming from a background where she had access to any color or custom mold imaginable, Lierheimer said there was an adjustment period to working with recycled and deadstock fabrics. But the challenges with only working with what’s available can spark new creative opportunities.
“Sometimes we must get super creative, all the way up to a few weeks before production. Everything is constantly changing,” she said. “And we’re constantly adapting, and that’s exciting.”
Working with renewable ingredient brands like Lenzing’s Tencel has opened up new opportunities as well.
The brand’s Tencel sets, a line of button-down shirts and tapered pants made with 100 percent Tencel fabrics, have evolved into an education series and a talking point at Bobblehaus’ popup store in New York City. “A lot of people don’t know what Tencel is, but we love to teach them what it is and have them try-on the garments to understand what these fabrics feel like because we find them so special,” Lierheimer said. “It’s part of our responsibility to our customer and to our community to educate them.”
Community is part of Bobblehaus’ core.
Though it was built on Chen’s and Lierheimer’s professional and personal experiences, their venture began as an online community called Bobbleblogs in 2019 with the purpose to “make space” for global perspectives on fashion, music, art, entertainment and culture. The blog, written by Gen Z-ers of Asian descent from 10 different countries, continues to chronicle everything from a day in the life of a 20-something living in Amsterdam and the perils of unpaid internships, to mental health, body positivity and cultural identity.
The company aims to maintain this level of community as it moves into wholesale. While Bobblehaus aspires to be in high fashion or designer retailers, Lierheimer points out that its contemporary price points are “quite reasonable” and may appeal to smaller retailers that can share the brand’s story with consumers on a more intimate level.
“I think the response to Bobblehaus is that this is not just a fashion brand for fashion’s sake,” Lierheimer said. “It’s two people who really have a heritage and a deep cultural knowledge of what we want to do differently… Our community is there for us, and the right people will grow the brand to where it needs to be.”