Tucked behind a drab, gray real estate office in Newport Beach sits Yokishop. Once you spot the fluorescent yellow sign indicating that a clothing store is just around the corner, you are greeted by a quaint door adorning an orange sign with a groovy font and a pigeon on it.
Upon entering the cozy shop, a light ringing noise fills the air, letting the three men inside know that a customer has arrived. This causes them to stop whatever they are doing (usually sewing) to greet the newcomer. The customer will then have the opportunity to meet “Yoki,” Sergio or “Buzzy,” the three men who run Yokishop and curate all of its clothing.
Yokishop’s walls are covered in art reminiscent of 1960s and ’80s pop culture as well as all of the repurposed clothing created by Jeff “Yoki” Yokoyama and his team. The atmosphere is like nothing you have ever experienced. It’s obvious that the art and the clothing were made with a lot of thought and care.
Yokoyama, the founder of Maui & Sons, Modern Amusement and now Yokishop, has designed clothing for as long as he can remember. Growing up, his family didn’t have much so he relied on second-hand stores and hand-me-downs when it was time for back to school shopping.
“We used to shop at Pillars thrift store in Eagle Rock quite a lot,” Yokoyama says. “Whenever I would go with my mother, I would slouch in my seat so I wouldn’t be noticed at a second-hand store. I didn’t think there was value there but my mother did.”
To keep up the façade that he could afford high-end fashion, Yokoyama would ask his mom to find Levis and stitch the label onto his generic jeans from JC Penny’s. He didn’t know it at the time but that was his first time repurposing clothing and designing.
Yokoyama didn’t always want to be a designer, but many events in his life led him to that career path. After graduating from high school, he moved to Hawaii to surf in warm water. At first, warm water referred to the temperature of the surf but after living out on his own and exploring the islands, he realized that warm water was an experience. He wanted to show people that things in life could feel like you were swimming in warm water. While working odd jobs in local restaurants, Yokoyama would offer to be a compass and guide to other young folks like himself who were visiting the islands.
“In Hawaii in 1974, I worked in a restaurant where I learned to cook and wash dishes,” he recalls. “But I also learned how to talk to people. I kind of became a local and I would show girls around. I would ask their parents if I can take them out and their parents would invite me to dinner. I was about 18 or 19 years old, and I would guide them around because I wanted to give them an experience they have never had. I wanted to give them warm water.”
After spending a few years in Hawaii, Yokoyama moved back to Los Angeles and went to beauty school. While there, he worked at multiple salons and had his own chair. He utilized Vogue magazines as samples of hairstyles he could cut. He was passionate about which trends were popular at the time and wanted to inform his customers of these new styles. He wanted to create fun hairstyles and give his customers the feeling of warm water once again.
“When I was cutting hair,” he explains, “I was constantly asking myself: How do I apply these tools to future generations and how do I capture this market? Then I thought, why don’t I make some clothing?”
Yokoyama left the salon and created the surf brand Maui & Sons. He received immediate success for his surf wear, especially for his elastic waistband board shorts. On top of creating and designing for Maui & Sons, he was also designing pieces for Quicksilver and Stussy. Through these separate ventures, he met his right hand man, Sergio Xec.
Xec moved from Guatemala and attended fashion school for three years. He worked for such brands as Paul Frank, Billabong and Stussy. He met Yokoyama when he was brought on as a designer for Maui & Sons, Stussy and Quicksilver. The two worked well together and have continued to do so ever since.
About 14 years ago, Yokoyama sold Maui & Sons because he lost the feeling of “warm water.” With the rise in popularity of action-sports wear, Yokoyama saw an opportunity in the market to start his new brand he coined Modern Amusement. The timing in regards to the apparel market and his personal life was a perfect fit. However, he had an epiphany where he realized that material goods meant nothing to him.
“I’m not going to drive the 405 ever again, I am not going to be dictated by the 405 ever again,” he said of that time in his life. “I decided I wanted to get to the same point but in a different way. I wanted to design and sell clothes to the un-user.”
Un-user is the term Yokoyama coined to describe an environmentally conscious consumer who doesn’t seek fast fashion or consume what is common.
While helping his daughter CoCo move into a new apartment while she was attending the University of Oregon, the pair quickly realized that she had boxes full of volleyball uniforms that she never planned to wear again. She told her father about her friends who played football and all of the uniforms they have packed away. Yokoyama realized that this was the new warm water he was searching for.
From this newfound realization that Division 1 schools buy new uniforms every season, Yokoyama created Yoki’s GARDEN, a Newport Beach shop where he refurbishes athletic wear from UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC. He and his team are working together to provide a solution for the uniforms.
“A million alumni are bleeding for cardinal and gold,” Yokoyama shares. “We are just producing the content in a different way. The thousands of students at USC are realizing that they have a chance to participate in a real business. They recognize that there is a need for Yoki’s GARDEN with all of the products being thrown away. … My son’s generation is the future. I’m the past and it’s about time to pass the baton.”
Yoki’s son, Buzzy, has a similar aesthetic to his father and continues the trend of recycling and repurposing. Buzzy Yokoyama brings a younger perspective to the business and mostly does the daily operational tasks, such as posting on Instagram and handling online orders.
“My dad is very knowledgeable,” says the younger Yokoyama. “I got into clothing from osmosis. When I was younger, I would just hang out at the shop, run around the warehouse or just draw stuff. One time, I drew a bunch of scribbles and left the paper on the floor but then my dad just picked it up and created a shirt out of it. That was really our first collaboration together.”
To stay on trend, the Yokoyamas and Xec have partnered with Goodwill of Orange County to create an exclusive capsule collection of repurposed clothing. More and more consumers are realizing that fast fashion is one of the largest pollutants in the world. There has been a rise in sustainable fashion and thrift shopping, especially among the younger populace.
“What you see is what you get. … We put a spin on what we think is going to be the future and that’s why we partnered with Goodwill of OC,” Yokoyama explains. “It is inspiring to work with like-minded people and having a common demographic we are all trying to reach.”
He recognizes that “priorities have changed, especially for people my age. Inflation has brought us to different perspectives of needs and desires. Thrifting isn’t even in their minds anymore. It is really your generation [millennials] who want to stay on trend and find affordable, environmentally conscious clothing. We are the trend and we are down with a whole bunch of shit.”
The collection will consist of 75 one-of-a-kind pieces that range in price from $25 to $75 and feature a special collaboration logo. The collection launches on Saturday, both online at yokishop.com and at a special two-day pop-up shop at the RARE by Goodwill store in Anaheim. Goodwill officials anticipate the pieces will sell out quickly so arrive early.
Yokishop, 2429 West Coast Hwy., Ste. 102, Newport Beach, (949) 891-2187; yokishop.com.
RARE by Goodwill, 411 W. Broadway, Anaheim, (714) 786-6642; facebook.com/pages/RARE-by-Goodwill/.