29 Mar
Part Two in the lost history of a pop-fashion machine

This is Volume II of Lo Pan’s History of tokidoki (read vol I from Friday), the story behind one of the most prolific pop fashion lines of the decade. You’ve seen their coveted hyper-stylized Karl Lagerfeld vinyl figures, ubiquitous LeSportsac handbag collection, and Cactus Friends plush toys — not to mention all their wide-ranging Sanrio collaborations — now read how they all came to be. Included in Volume II of History of tokidoki are interviews with founders Ivan Arnold and Pooneh Mohajer, and of course more product galleries to get your fiend on — just hit the Jump…

“In this way Ivan’s similar to Rodney Dangerfeld’s character in Back To School: a seemingly colloquial and rough-around-the-edges guy who wins over the business world via real-world rhetoric, perseverance and a little charm.”

Ivan Arnold is the CEO of tokidoki, a guy who wears that title proud. He is boisterous, inviting, dismissive, charming and mildly abrasive — the “sometimes” and “constantly” which is the duality of tokidoki. He can be Yin or Yang, depending on circumstance and stimuli; all traits needed for an energetic CEO type. Ivan’s shirt threads bleed: he proudly portrays the part of White-Collar Company-Man-General-Elect and boastful Roads to Riches success via T-shirts and Cold Calls auteur — however, it is his Blue-Collared true self which is the heavy lifting, battery packed, hit-the-pavement-running, leave-no-stone-unturned cog in the tokidoki machine. He exudes the “Do It Yourself” attitude with fortitude. A guy that will knock down walls with Bobcats and put up shelves with Philip Head Screw Drivers, usually leaving his hired hands standing around slack-jawed in awe. A personality in stark contrast when juxtaposed to the much more sedate Simone Legno (interviewed in Volume I). It makes perfect sense. When looking at the pairing, the artist who is in love with his creation needs the man who will stand at the hilltop screaming of its excellence. They found each other!

Ivan Arnold enjoying his breakfast OJ

Looking back into a word play photo album of Ivan Arnold’s life, his current destination seems about accurate. As most children are, they are a product of their environment. They emulate what they see, absorb what their parents do; from speech patterns, posture, habits and so on. Ivan seems to have had many influences pulling him. His biological father was an upstart entrepreneur, gregarious, with great business instincts and forging a path to success. Unfortunately when Ivan was a very young boy, his father’s goals were cut short when he passed from an extremely rare form of Leukemia. His mother then re-married nearly a year later to a preacher who was the brother of a woman who resided across the street from the family. Essentially, a blind date resulted in love at first sight. As Ivan explains it his mother is an idea person as well, yet like many is hampered with an inability to actualize her epiphanies. It’s a fair shake to suppose that Ivan has been and is emulating that missing self-motivating spirit which sprung from his father. However, he’s doing it without a map and how he knows best — using his charismatic personality, his faith in himself, his love of risk and his DIY blue-collar sensibilities.

Growing up in Redondo Beach, California, Ivan Arnold submerged himself in water polo and played well enough to attract interest from the University of Hawai’i, which was a welcoming prospect for Ivan. Partly to leave the Conservative and Religious environment that was his home, and partly to escape the burn-outs, beach bums and hokey Redondo population. Ironically, Ivan chose the beach bums on the much more tropical locale known as the South Shore of Oahu. He immersed himself in the island paradise, eventually abandoning his water polo dreams and cutting his academic career short due to “Island Fever”. Electing to return to the mainland, Ivan was pressed to earn a living. In this way he’s similar to Rodney Dangerfeld’s character in Back To School: a seemingly colloquial and rough-around-the-edges guy who wins over the business world via real-world rhetoric, perseverance and a little charm — not entirely impressed by text books or acronyms disguised as degrees, however smart enough not to dismiss them entirely either.

tokidoki’s flourishing Cactus Friends line

So what does Ivan do? He takes a sales job in the unknown, yet-to-bubble world of technology. Essentially cold-calling corporations pitching them the idea of the “World Wide Web” multiverse and all its varied possibilities, Ivan honed his calling skills from early employment experience. This was before “www dot” became part of our universal lexicon, however, leaving corporations disengaged by this so called “magic world” which Ivan was pitching them. The combination of selling strangers products, the ability to stomach rejection from solicitations and an eagerness to communicate a message were consolidated into the pulpit necessary to conduct his own business. From his early sales experience, it came to Ivan’s attention that a “boss” was an added step to the equation which could easily be canceled out. Why? He realized the service could be provided by anyone as long as a client was willing to pay — so why not start the service himself?

Ivan partnered with an acquaintance, started a web development company catering to web build-outs from A-Z with a particular emphasis on e-commerce. Ivan’s new company built the Black Eye Peas website, incorporating a social networking platform and a cohesive online store. Ivan was very much into “trend spotting” which landed his eye on a fairly fluid company named Hard Candy, a cosmetics company founded by two sisters. After landing a meeting with the two sisters (Dinah and Pooneh Mohajer), Ivan set his eyes on Hard Candy’s sales proliferation…as well as one of the sisters, Pooneh. A date led to a relationship which eventually blossomed to marriage, putting Ivan and Pooneh on the march for a new brand acquisition. Not only had Pooneh’s Hard Candy line been acquired by Louis Vuitton by this time, but Ivan Arnold’s business partnership had gone south as well.

The time was ripe.

tokidoki’s collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger

Pooneh Mohajer is an interesting cog in the tokidoki machine. As Simone is creative, and Ivan blue-collared, tenacious and charmingly un-refined, Pooneh is certainly refined. Fitting from her Hard Candy background, she is the polish and lacquer of the tokidoki machine. A Michigan native by way of Iran, Pooneh’s physician father migrated the family from Iran when Pooneh was just a few years old. Her parents, although fluent in their native Farsi, raised their children speaking English. When meeting Pooneh, she exudes qualities she attributes to her parents: highly educated, engaging, interested, challenging, sparring, eloquent, thoughtful, introspective and no nonsense. Her personality is a culmination of her experience, background and intellectual diversity.

A model student, athlete and peer, Pooneh moved to Tennessee and enrolled at Vanderbilt University, following her undergrad studies with a law degree. Once she graduated law school, Pooneh took the plunge into the Los Angeles landscape — a city ripe for someone post-college. Instead of focusing on law and trying to pass that almighty BAR Exam, she pursued acting. It had been a dream and she thought she’d give it a shot. A few cold read, scene study and exuberant acting classes later, Pooneh redirected her focus. With a pile of headshots in the garbage can, she turned her focus to the glamour industry. Fresh from law school, Pooneh was primed to sift through agreements, licensees and contracts. Eventually she worked her way up, handling the licensing for a couple major entertainment properties — crucial groundwork for establishing a company heavily based on licensing, trademarks, intellectual property and rights.

Pooneh Mohajer, tokidoki’s co-founder and COO

At the time Pooneh’s sister Dinah was attending UCLA pursuing her pre-med degree, and one night’s party accessorizing changed their lives forever. While trying to match her toe polish with a pair of baby blue shoes, Dinah took it upon herself to mix a dark blue hue with a stark white hue. Since the market for “outside the box” colors aimed at a youth and trend consumer base had yet to develop, this simple act was surprisingly innovative. She went to the party and was taken aback by all the comments she received for her baby blue extremities, and Pooneh took interest as well. The two sat down, hatched a plan and started a somewhat experimental, trial and error “Yellow and Blue Makes Green” mixing party. Pooneh had the idea to call the company Hard Candy — a perfect name suiting the product and its playful and candy-like pastel hues. The sisters then debuted their new brainchild at the famous Fred Segal boutique, originally selling only as a consignment product. After the sugary nail polish flew off the shelves in just a few days, the buyer at Fred Segal put in a legitimate purchase order with a real check attached. The business grew rapidly and after growing pains, internal differences, a few CEO’s, a few million dollars and an opportunity to sell the business to Louis Vuitton, Pooneh was done with Hard Candy.

Cut to Pooneh and Ivan, a new company and sifting through web entertainment content.

Ivan stumbled onto Simone’s creations and in an explosion of expression and enthusiasm —in true Ivan Arnold fashion — he cold-contacted Simone. And the rest, as they say, is history. In this meeting of the minds, and melding of the talents, lies the seeds of tokidoki. Forged by three people who are equally passionate, equally dedicated, equally tested by former business experience, equally entrpreneurial in nature, and who spring from very different backgrounds and who are experienced in very complimentary ways. The brand is forged in the lives, the paths and the willingness to risk everything — a quality which all three share and exemplify. A quality which is an extension of their product, their tastes, their drive and openess to the imagineering of Simone Legno. If you get a chance, go by the new tokidoki boutique on Melrose Avenue and see what lies in the tokidoki war chest.

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