One athlete’s old jersey is a student’s new hoodie

One of the easiest ways to get involved in the movement toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle is shopping. There’s been an increasing tendency among designers to manufacture recycled or organic clothing to appeal to buyers looking to live greener.  Yoki’s Garden, a clothing company that recently partnered with USC, is one such manufacturer.

Photo courtesy of Scott Andrews

Yoki’s Garden is a division within the clothing company Generic Youth, started by the father-daughter team of Jeff and Coco Yokoyama.

While enrolled at the University of Oregon, Coco Yokoyama noticed an abundance of old athletic wear and specialty uniforms that were worn briefly before being thrown away.

“They wondered what happened to all the old uniforms once the teams were finished with them,” said Scott Andrews, the Yokoyamas’ business partner in Generic Youth clothing.  “They found that they either went to a garage sale or were gotten rid of and that this was a little market they could capture.”

This inquiry sparked the idea of a new business venture. Realizing that the market in used college athletic wear was virtually untapped, the Yokoyamas decided to try and create a business that used these materials.

Two years ago, the owners of Generic Youth began meeting with USC to discuss the idea of reusing old athletic apparel. Connected through Paul McDonald, the radio commentator of Trojan football games, the owners of Yoki’s Garden solidified the partnership about a month ago.

Yoki’s Garden now receives discarded USC athletic wear — everything from old football uniforms to equipment bags — and turns these old items into T-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts sporting USC colors and logos to sell back to students, visitors, alumni and fans.

The clothing line is both a business venture and a step toward sustainability — Garden stands for “gather, abundance, repurpose, demonstrate, ethos, now.”

By reusing USC athletic gear, Yoki’s Garden saves materials that would otherwise be destined for a landfill, reduces waste and conserves energy used to produce materials being made into clothing.

Although some pieces require new fabric, Yoki’s Garden tries to incorporate as much of the old materials as possible in its products, demonstrating the company’s desire to perpetuate an environmental “ethos.”

“The company deconstructs everything and turns it into something new,” Andrews said.  “Every piece has a unique and different feel to it.”

Yoki’s Garden not only helps the environment, but gives back to USC as well. Ten percent of all profits go to USC, making this partnership economically beneficial for the university as well.

The company has an innovative approach to manufacturing clothing. Although it makes the standard T-shirts and sweatshirts, Yoki’s Garden also makes products that can’t be found in the typical university bookstore.

Think of items like board shorts made out of coaches’ polos and water bottles personalized by pieces of uniforms, or what the company calls  “Fight On fingers:” cardinal and gold finger sleeves made out of old T-shirts and shorts to decorate a student’s hands on game day.

Because of the unique products and company background, Yoki’s Garden decided not to sell its items in the USC Pertusati Bookstore.

“We don’t want to get lost in all the different brands and items,” Andrews said. “It’s important that everyone who buys our products gets the whole story behind Yoki’s Garden.”

Although its apparel is currently only found online, Yoki’s Garden wants to expand its client base. This week, the company will be on campus, where employees will sell the apparel and as advertise their products on The Row.

Yoki’s Garden hopes to become a leading vendor in unique, personalized USC apparel and wants to expand the concept to other colleges. For now, Yoki’s Garden is available to students looking for a piece that has a little bit of USC history to it.

“There’s something exciting to know that the shirt you’re sporting could have a piece of Reggie Bush’s jersey in it,” Andrews said.