Designs began to sell out two hours into the grand opening of local artist Juan Muniz’s first apparel collection on Thursday at Zappos’ Z’Boutique on 400 E. Stewart Ave.
The store is stocked with t-shirts, hats, decals, kids clothes, coffee mugs and prints all decorated with locally known character Felipe, an expressionless cartoon wearing a bunny costume. Muniz created the character for a 2008 show, “A Collection of Self-Portraits.” Whatever scenario Felipe is in is inspired by Muniz’s personal life. He wears a rabbit costume because Muniz was a fan of Bugs Bunny as a kid. His work has been featured on sides of buildings, in local galleries, in the Secret Walls live art competition and at Holsteins restaurant in the Cosmopolitan.
Zappos art curator Paco Alvarez approached Muniz about the concept eight months ago. Muniz, who had little experience with apparel other than a few small runs with t-shirts, worked with local fashion studio and brand house Stitch Factory to create the line.
“I wasn’t very fashion-oriented,” Muniz says. “If it were up to me, my artwork would be in the center of a black t-shirt and I’d call it a day.”
Partnering with Stitch Factory allowed for more conscious designs keeping in mind material, comfort, cut and style such as Muniz’s favorite, a soft cotton tee with black sleeves and an oversized image of Felipe on a skateboard.
“Trends repeat themselves. Luckily for me, the ‘90s are coming back and I’m a ‘90s kid,” he says.
The experience with Z’Boutique brings Muniz one step closer to his dream of creating a lifestyle brand around his character like his inspirations Tokidoki and Sanrio, the creator of Hello Kitty. The process of developing a line also prepared Muniz to design apparel for national chain Hot Topic where he will soon be selling t-shirts and a vinyl sculpture of Filipe holding hand grenade balloons. Muniz sold out of a similar sculpture at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
He believes people connect to the candor of the character and that may be why Felipe is catching on and products are selling out. Muniz says a lot of times people attach different emotions to his work even though the expression of the character remains the same in each piece. Because of this, he says he creates work for others and then moves on from them once he’s finished.
“It’s kind of like a sad journal,” he says. “You don’t want to go back and keep rereading it.”
Z’Boutique is open from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. Mon.- Fri.