Cavi Designs: Pulling Rank

AllHipHop Staff

Attention! Be prepared for a draft by the fashion brigade this fall. Phil Gapud, creator and head designer of Cavi Designs, has established a unique niche with his military inspired line of clothing, giving urban fashion another bragging right. Established in 2004, Cavi designs has since earned its stripes, with artists like Jay-Z, T.I. Omarion, Fabolous, and Timbaland branding the military image for fashion conscious civilians. 

The Cavi line has grown from industry secret to the must-have fashion item. With a men's line infusing the streets among model citizens, Cavi Designs is expected to release a ladies line in Spring 2008. We sat down with Phil Gapud to discuss the path of his hard work in developing the Cavi lifestyle. How was Cavi established?

Phil Gapud: It started back in 2004. I began wearing the shirts around the labels, and people began to take notice to the point where I was told to get in touch with this person, and that person, and somehow, one ended up on Jay-Z. Soon after that, I linked up with my partners Danny and Nate to come on board and help me out. I couldn’t do it by myself - the label got so much attention. You say it so casually… the shirt just ended up on Jay-Z?

Phil: Yeah, but not literally - within four months of me doing it. I come from a music background. I didn’t go to no [Fashion Institute], this wasn’t my dream. I have no background in fashion - it wasn’t my goal to be in fashion. I just kind of fell into it. I started with five shirts, and four months in, I got one on Jay-Z. Now is it just you, or do you have a design team?

Phil: Well, now I have a design team - before it was just me. I would come up with all the design schemes, all the colors, pins to jazz things up. With my design team I’m currently working on the ladies line. Right now, we’re pretty much finished with the designs, now we’re working on the samples. We’re doing a little but of tweaking right now, but basically, we’re looking at Spring 2008. What is about military gear that compelled you to brand military style clothing?

Phil: I never use to wear military stuff, until like the whole throwback jerseys came into effect, and I saw how many colors I could flip, and match it with a fitted, and that what’s I began to do. Military shirts never go out of style, and I just added all the medals and ribbons and embellishments to make it look real tough. When you see those shiny medals, you feel like a boss - a drill sergeant or something - and people look like, “Wow- that’s a nice shirt.” On average, what is the cost of a Cavi shirt ?

Phil: Well the t-shirt is about $40 - the military shirts are $250, to me that’s a lot, but the military shirts sell out in the stores! If people can buy Jordans for $200, and they used to buy throwbacks for $300, they can buy a military shirt that you won’t find many people wearing, with exclusive pins and medals that won’t tarnish. We also have jackets. They sell for $500, which also sold very well. We want to maintain the integrity of the brand, and plus Jay-Z wore it. So once he wore it, it was like, “Aiight, we gotta turn it up a notch.”

Phil: Are your designs limited to shirts and jackets, or do you have a line of jeans as well?

Phil: For the Fall holiday line of 2007 we’ve decided to do a complete line, so now we have knits, sweaters, and outerwear. We designed a denim line, but the samples didn’t come out the way we expected it to, so we going to go back in and work on that. But we’re going to do some collaborations with some other brands for our upcoming lines. I know countless celebrities have embraced Cavi Desgins. Have your designs been featured in fashion shows?

Phil: We haven’t been featured in any fashion shows, only because we never really had a complete line, and I don’t want to be coming out with just military shirts and t-shirts, and people be like, “That’s it?” You can’t go into a war with two guns - you need an entire fleet of artillery, and that’s how I look at it. But we will though, now that we’re launching a full holiday line. Aside from your website where can consumers purchase your designs?

Phil: We have over 50 accounts nationwide. In New York, our best account that shows us mad love is in Brooklyn, Vinny’s Style in the heart of Brooklyn, Beanine’s in Soho. We have a good account over in Bal Harbor, Florida, and on the West Coast, Up Against the Wall is our best account. We’re kind of spread out - we have 30 accounts in Japan. What is some advice you can give to up and coming designers, and some of the hardest lessons you’ve learned while pushing your line?

Phil: It’s like music, you got to keep pushing. Be persistent and believe in your brand - let it be known. Don’t let anyone dictate your style, or deter you away from your goals. Financially it’s hard. Like I started out doing little pieces here and there, some days I didn’t feel the line was going to make it, and that’s why you need a team behind you. You can’t do it by yourself.

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