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Fresh Starts

What are you waiting for? It's 2013. Time to wake up and dream.

 

hotos by Amanda Driver

Kodenko Jeans: Built for Speed

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes it's a story idea that strikes in the wee hours of the morning, or a brilliant business idea that appears during a late-afternoon run. And then there are times when inspiration arrives in human form. Take Nick Kodenko, a 28-year-old Santa Paula resident and the owner of Kodenko Jeans, an up-and-coming line of premium denim jeans born right here in Ventura County.

Though this approachable, seemingly normal guy couldn't be further from your stereotypical fashion snob, Kodenko is someone on the cusp of greatness, inspiration personified.

Nick Kodenko has been racing cars since he was kid. He has a night job test-driving BMWs. But fashion...now, that's a dangerous business.

Though the official launch of Kodenko Jeans began with its fall 2012 line, the business has been in the works for more than five years, since Nick, a college student at the time, designed his first pair of jeans. While it might seem risky to launch a premium denim line in these rough and tumble economic times, the wheels have been in motion for several years. "I just knew blue denim wasn't going anywhere," he says. "It's been around for a hundred years; it's not going out of style."

All of Kodenko's jeans are handcrafted in California. He selects his own fabrics, most of which are imported from Italy. You won't see any laser-cut denim in his line; instead he cuts all of it by hand, often spending quiet afternoons bent over the cutting table at a friend's ranch in Ojai's Wheeler Canyon. Each pair is sewn, laundered, and hand-finished in Los Angeles (delivered there in small batches by Kodenko himself).

Though he started this fall with men's jeans, women's jeans will appear in the spring 2013 line. His wares are currently available in nine international and domestic retail locations, with more on the horizon.

So, what is it about his jeans? Kodenko struggles to put his finger on it, explaining that he simply designs pants that fit his look, his lifestyle. "I make my pants because this is who I am. I can only do me."

No laser-cut denim in Nick's line of premium jeans. He cuts it all by hand at a friend's ranch in Wheeler Canyon, between Ojai and his hometown of Santa Paula.

Fans of his jeans like them for their comfort, softness, and fit. Samantha Ranaraja of Spindle & Canister explains that customers at her Malibu store are drawn to "the great washes and simple clean cuts, and a quality that will last." Kodenko loves them for the craftsmanship. "There's something nostalgic about cutting it by hand," he says.

Though Kodenko contracts certain aspects of his business out, when it comes down to it, he is flying solo behind the scenes. Posting updates on Facebook? That's his job. Designing his pants, handling all the logistics, coordinating timing with busy sewers, and working with the fabric manufacturers overseas? Those are his responsibility as well.

He does admit that being the boss has its ups and downs. "When a store calls and tells you nothing's selling, that hurts." But on the flip side: "It's your company. It's whatever you want. That's the beauty of it."

One of the upsides of owning his own business means the freedom to tie it to one of his greatest passions: auto racing. Kodenko grew up in a racing family, started go-cart racing at the age of ten, and then moved into the open wheel Junior Formula ranks at the age of 17, something he still does to this day. Currently, Kodenko Jeans sponsors racecar driver Dane Cameron, with hopes of sponsoring others in the coming year.

In addition to racing, entrepreneurship runs in Kodenko's blood. Much of his inspiration comes from his parents. His father runs the family business, Kodenko Auto Parts and Machine Shop in Santa Paula, where he has been building engines for racecars and hot rods for more than 30 years. His mother uses the shop for buying and selling antiques. He feels blessed to have grown up surrounded by people doing what they love and learned early on that "nothing comes from being lazy."

While getting his business off the ground, sacrifice is the norm for Kodenko. Not surprisingly, he doesn't get much sleep. In order to pay the bills, he also holds down a night job: test-driving cars for BMW, which brings his workweek to around 80 hours. And in the spirit of pouring every penny into his business venture, Kodenko is currently living at home with his parents. Sacrifice also means sometimes missing out on Sunday afternoons of beer and football with friends; but he doesn't sweat it: "I'll do whatever it takes so I can do what I love to do."

-- Allison Costa

Keep up with Kodenko Jeans online at kodenko.com. The new women's line will be available locally at Tiki Girl Boutique, 451 E. Main St. #4 in downtown Ventura, beginning in February 2013.



B.Y.O.B

And fill those bottles again and again, thanks to Michelle Stevens' eco-friendly idea.

Walk inside the long, narrow Refill Shoppe in the heart of downtown Ventura and enter a galaxy strewn with white paper lanterns descending from high ceilings. Welcome to the universe of proprietress Michelle Stevens, an idealistic 29-year-old who's out to save Mother Earth--one bottle at a time.

If you are anything like me, when you find a product you really like you tend to stick with it, whether it's shampoo, dish soap, or window cleaner. Although I buy "green" products, I still feel bad about throwing all those plastic bottles into my recycling bin (after I have squeezed out the last drop). You might just take a liking, as I have, to this fresh idea: buying in bulk, from a local retailer, and using refillable bottles.

The Refill Shoppe is an eco-conscious store that is "challenging the standards of consumerism" by offering quality bath, body, home, and cleaning liquids sold by the ounce. You can B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bottle) or choose from a selection of attractive containers (glass, plastic, and aluminum in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors) for sale.

What's on hand? Shampoo, conditioner, lotions, bath gel, bubble bath, dish soap, laundry detergent, window cleaner, massage oil, and castile soap. There's even a baby line, called California Baby, as well as an array of bath salts. If desired, you can add a fragrance or essential oil (I love vetiver and verbena, but there is also absinthe, blood orange, and plumeria, as well as blends) to most of the products. An added bonus: all of the liquid products are made in the U.S.A.

The Refill Shoppe's face care line and cleaners are 100 percent natural and organic. The other products state the percentage of organic content. Many are more than 80 percent organic, and ingredient tabs reveal specific product information. The only product tested on animals, by the way, is the dog shampoo. There are eco and local products for sale as well, including miniature lunch bags and reusable sandwich bags, glass baby bottles, seed bombs (throw them in your garden and watch them grow!), recycled plastic bag wallets, and screen-printed tea towels.

Stevens, who grew up on a sailboat and keeps her trusty dog, Sophie, at her side, was awarded the Bravo "Innovator of the Year" award from the Ventura branch of NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners. The idea, which she hopes to expand to online sales and then into a chain, was "sparked in the kitchen, formulated in the shower, and conceptualized in the car," she says, adding that it was "decision/grow-up time" for her.

A good decision, and one that will hopefully go a long, long way.

-- Leslie A. Westbrook

The Refill Shoppe, 363 E. Main St., downtown Ventura, 805.765.9135, therefillshoppe.com



Hush Little Baby

Moms and dads, don't you cry either. A local family offers a fresh, new approach to an age-old reality.

Hannah Attwood at Adore HQ, Ventura.

Hannah Attwood is a mom on a mission. Her goal: to help families "find the beauty in cloth diapering." Sounds pretty lofty from an American perspective, but it's a goal that comes easily to the woman whose company, Adore Diaper Service, has forward-thinking parents from Goleta to the Camarillo Grade smiling, not to mention a lot of happy rash-free babies.

Hannah, her husband, John, and their children, Hunter, Sadie, and Eloise, moved back to our area after living abroad for many years. She learned about modern cloth diapering while in Australia, and cloth diapered both of her older children, washing their diapers at home.

Softer, cleaner, greener. Modern, no-pins cotton diapers are better for baby and Mother Earth, not to mention the family budget.

"Interesting fact," noted the 34-year-old who opened the business three years ago, "Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada offer subsidies for families using cloth diapers! When we moved back to California, I was surprised by how few families were using them." She started Adore Diaper Service in the hopes that the appeal of having someone else do the dirty work might encourage more families to use cloth. "Our main goal," she explained, "is to increase awareness about cloth diapers--and to educate, regardless of whether you are washing at home or using a diaper service."

Why, other than the fact that it is sweetly old-fashioned, would a modern parent opt for cloth diapers? To begin with, it's convenient. Freshly washed cotton diapers that close with Velcro (diaper pins are old news) are delivered--clean--and cheerfully picked up--soiled--weekly. Perhaps more important, considering the current economic climate, is that they are ultimately less expensive than disposable diapers. And using cloth is better for the health of our children, and their Mother Earth.

Here are some facts, according to Hannah:

One child in disposable diapers will require 20 trees and 420 gallons of petroleum. He or she will generate one ton of garbage.

Single-use diapers--more than 18,000,000,000 of them--represent between two and four percent of the solid waste in our nation's landfills.

Savings estimates range from $1,000 to $2,000 over a three-year period, depending on whether the diapers are laundered at home or with a service, and at what age a child is potty-trained.

Need more convincing? Consider this factoid: It is generally thought that it takes up to 500 years for a single-use diaper to decompose. That means every disposable diaper ever made is still sitting there trying to decompose, all the while emitting carbon dioxide and methane gas from a landfill somewhere.

There is an origami-like folding chart on the company website that shows new moms and nervous dads how to properly diaper their little one. The company even offers gift certificates, a great baby shower gift for those of us who like to stay as far away from dirty diapers as possible.

"We love diapers, but we especially love the little people who wear them," trumpets the website.

And so do we. Especially when they are clean.

-- Leslie A. Westbrook

For more information about Adore Diaper Service, log on to adorediapers.com or call 805.641.0845.

On every first and third Sunday of the month, the Attwoods demonstrate and educate at their store, located in Ventura at 263 S. Laurel Street.

01-01-2013

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