Photos by Brian Addison.
The Academy—Long Beach’s premiere top-down clothing boutique—saw a unique opportunity this past World Peace Day on September 21: create a lighthearted way to express the idea of world peace (even against its most adamant of dissenters) through fashion.
Brother team Bonal and Vizal “Sam” Samreth joined forces with graphic designer and CSULB alumna Ivana Monson and Long Beach City College (LBCC) professor and horticulture expert Jorge Ochoa to make a version of their floral print Hawaiian shirt that fit the mold of World Peace Day. After all, nothing screams Long Beach more than a local, independent shop working with a CSULB graduate and a LBCC prof to create a World Peace Day Shirt.
Having already contemporized the kimono-meets-button-up American classic (originally created by a Japanese immigrant who made a home in Hawaii) with their Long Beach native flowers shirt last year, The Academy team sought the national flower of the world’s 200 countries to create a dazzlingly complex, detailed textile print. Even for countries that didn’t have a nationalized flower, such as Azerbaijan, the trio sifted through research about the regions and their indigenous flowers to select one so as not to exclude any country.
Other unique qualities arise, specifically in regard to St. Lucia, the only country on the shirt with two national flowers. The small sovereign island country in the Caribbean has a torn history over whether its national flower should be a rose or a marguerite.
“Beyond just flowers,” Bonal explained, “the rose and marguerite represent separate cultural and ethnic groups. To help resolve this conflict, the country holds yearly singing competitions as a way to celebrate the heritage of each ethnic group while at the same time highlighting the unity of its diverse people. There are wisdom and lessons from each flowers, from every country.”
The Academy first sent the shirt to New York, where all the prints were bought, with each purchaser signing their name on a World Peace Shirt that hangs in The Academy’s brick-and-mortar on 1st St. The astounding response to the playful take on world peace has prompted the designers to launch a Kickstarter to help everyone access the shirt meant to represent everyone.
They named the campaign the World Peace Conspiracy Company, a nod to the fact that everyone—and they’ve noticed everyone—has an opinion about what world peace is. The brothers are open to acknowledge that true world peace may very well be impossible but that doesn’t negate, in their opinion, the duty you have to behave with dignity toward other humans.
“There needs to be a constant act of awareness toward one’s social, economic, and ecological impact,” Bonal said. “That awareness acts as a real pathway toward peace, travel, and progress. We can all conspire to a reality of global understanding and peace.”
Even beyond simply finding the most representative image of the flowers was identifying them. Thanks to a working relationship with Ochoa, flowers that were either unidentifiable or not connected to a country nationally were carefully curated. For example, beyond just being native, Ochoa helped choose flowers that are easier to grow and maintain.
”As tailors we’re fortunate to receive the best and most cherished article of clothing,” Bonal said, “a constant flow of discovering new apparel designs, construction, fit, and taste. These pieces will go through a transformation process through alteration, repair, or restoration and are ultimately worn and loved all over again. We witness people’s connection with their garments and also understand the fundamental, practical needs of clothing… This constant engagement and discovery is a core part of who we are. This momentum helps explain the genesis and growth behind The World Peace Shirt and The Long Beach Shirt.”
The World Peace Shirt comes in three styles: a light blue, a deep indigo, and most profoundly, in camouflage. The latter of the three is what Sam called the most profound since it turns the most iconic design imagery of military and war upside down.
For those who prefer a more subtle statement—a floral shirt, as this writer well knows, is a loud apparel declaration—The Academy offers gift cards featuring select countries and their flowers and, for the mover, a penny-size wooden skateboard. The board—hand finished with unique hand markings on the underside—is a nod toward their belief that travel acts as a constant reminder of the places you’ve yet to go (not to mention, in the words of Bonal, the realization that culture, heritage, and ecology should be preserved collectively).
”We love Long Beach,” Sam said. “This little shop continues to give us real, meaningful connections with people, insights to what the city is, what it can be, and how it connects with the rest of the world. We get visitors from all over the world and are so proud of our shop and to represent Long Beach.”
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