We met up with Robin Yang, the 27-year-old co-founder of ARK Apparel in Brighton, to talk about entrepreneurship and the internationalization of business in Boston. Yang hails from Taiwan and is the co-founder and Art Director for ARK Apparel along with his partners Alfred Lam and Kent Tsai, whom he met as a student at Northeastern University.
Together they make amazing clothes, primarily leather jackets and snapback hats inspired by American culture. Robin cites the style of Marlon Brando in The Wild Bunch, Punk-Rock music and the Ramones as a few of the sources of inspiration, in addition to the city of Boston itself. They have also worked with students from the Berklee college of Music to be models and design collaborators. Blending the styles of the old and modern has been the aesthetic they started with to create something new and fresh with the best materials available.
The three friends with a passion for fashion came together two years ago from different majors and backgrounds. While they had a rough learning curve at the start, Robin feels they are in a much more solid position now and have come a long way with some hard earned lessons. Being away from home and family is still a struggle when times are hard and that is a fact that remains part of the reality of running an international business.
The spirit of American innovation and freedom to pursue your dream is an aspect of the story that means a lot to Robin. In Asia, the landscape of one’s life path is laid out very clearly from Robins’ perspective. In America, there is more down time to pursue one’s values and interests, even while in college. “The vibe of the city is not as intense as other places, so people have the time to reflect on what they want to accomplish and do on their own,” Robin said. This was essential in pursuing their unique dream because it offered an opportunity they literally might not have seen, let alone been able to pursue elsewhere.
“People have the time (in Boston) to reflect on what they want to accomplish and do on their own.”
Being in America, and Boston in particular, has not been an insignificant part of the journey for Robin. While they have come across some better retail distribution deals in Taiwan that allow their apparel to be in stores, the company still has a strong online presence in America that has been generating some direct sales. His other two partners are running their ends of the business back in Hong Kong and Taiwan so they are able to promote the company and continue to go after more retail and distribution avenues in their respective countries.
There is something special going on here. This is a business based in Asia as much as Boston with online sales and international distribution, with three co-founders that are coordinating operations from three different countries. “The best thing about this modern era is that there are always new tools popping out that could help us and we could not have done this in too many places,” Robin said.
Robin says he sees no limits for what ARK apparel can do, foreseeing shirts, shoes, jeans and anything else that would look fresh and right in the future being part of their ongoing catalog. We believe him.
To find out more about ARK apparel, check out prettyvacant.us.