BY KAREN M. GUZELIAN
Special to Asbarez
A few years after its establishment, ARKA Clothing launched its collection in Nordstrom’s online store. Last month a variety of ARKA production began retailing at the Nordstrom stores.
Since 2009, ARKA has been distributing its collection of t-shirts and accessories to several retailers across the U.S. and more than 11 countries worldwide, with Nordstrom being its most valuable contract to date.
“It still hasn’t kicked in yet because it’s still very fresh,” said ARKA co-founder Sevan Aliksanian, regarding the company’s biggest partnership. “I say in about a couple of months, it’ll start sinking in.”
Co-founders of ARKA, Shant Der Ashodian, Burag Celikian, and Aliksanian have been working on expanding the company by networking and working with major retailers.
According to Der Ashodian, the Jan. ENK NYC and Feb. ENK Vegas fashion trade shows brought ARKA success and nearly 75 additional accounts. Through the ENK trade shows, the company was also able to land some of the most prestigious accounts nationwide: Nordstrom, Fred Segal (Santa Monica), Akira (Chicago), MGM Resorts (Las Vegas), Boogie’s (Aspen), Bloomingdale’s (Dubai), Simon’s (Canada), and Karmaloop.com.
Each co-founder made lifestyle changes to focus on their new enterprise. Aliksanian has a background in computer engineering, while both Celikian and Der Ashodian were working in real state prior to ARKA. They each had a stable career, but then gave that all up to pursue their passion and focus on the expansion of ARKA.
“We pretty much dropped everything for this,” said Der Ashodian. “Everything was going for us, but this is our passion.”
According to Celikian, the concept of starting ARKA was motivated from Aliksanian’s dislike of the Ed Hardy craze. “[Sevan] was like, ‘We need to make a T-shirt line,’” he explained. “We started this as a need for society. He thinks we’re doing a public service.”
ARKA’s T-shirt designs are based on the founders’ view of the city of L.A. “If you look at us, you’ll just think we’re really random,” said Celikian. “If you look at what [L.A. is] right now, we’re like a melting pot… Our line kind of reflects that.”
The company’s target demographic is the 22 to 30-year old men who still want to wear graphic T-shirts. On a few occasions, they have attracted buyers who do not fit in the target demographic, yet enjoy ARKA’s designs. “[We] have the 16 to 18-year old loving our stuff, too. We have 50-year-old moms buying our stuff for themselves,” said Der Ashodian.
ARKA got its breakthrough deal from its first participation in the ENK Las Vegas trade show in Feb. 2011, which landed it a deal to send its products to Bloomingdales in Dubai.
“It’s cool seeing the reaction of people now that we’re being distributed… It’s nice to see the appreciation,” said Celikian.
Family has also played a big role in the founders’ lives, as they’ve received a great deal of support from all family members. “They saw the potential and ‘believed’ in us more than anyone else. One of the key success factors for ARKA has become the support we have received from our parents,” explained Der Ashodian.
Determination, family support, and the bond between three best friends helped ARKA succeed the way it has. The founders put all their effort in the company and were willing to do the “dirty work” to market ARKA’s one-of-a-kind T-shirts, and not allowing money to get in the way of their friendship.
“[People] usually tell you not to get in the business with your friends, but in our case, it works,” said Aliksanian. “If money gets between us, the business is done. I’ll keep the friendship.”
In July, ARKA will be part of the Nataline Sarkisyan Foundation Fashion Show held on the roof-top of the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Calabasas. To view ARKA Clothing’s latest designs, visit ARKAClothing.com.