Bobby Bonaparte (LiFT Clothing) interview

Another Music Miner first; an interview with a fashion designer. CEO Bobby Bonaparte designs, promotes, markets, and manages his clothing label LiFT. LiFT is about a lot more than clothing, as you’ll learn from Bobby in this interview. I had a newfound appreciation for the company after talking to Bobby; it is apparent that he is passionate about his creative expression, but also about being a force of positive change. Below is the company’s mission statement, which will help put this article into context.

Lift is locally rooted and globally conscious.

We challenge conventions and strive for constructive change.

Lightness and fun inspire us to the fullest.

We carry the physical balance that originates in our activities into a healthy lifestyle.  To live holistically and sustainably is a journey, and balance is key.

We seek to foster acts of positive creativity in the community and spread good vibes.

We incorporate the positive and eco-friendly practices of diverse cultures into our business and lives.

We are transparent in how we create our products, how we conduct business, and in how we live.

We are a part of a culture that supports a holistic way of living, is in tune with the earth and encourages pure individualism.

Stay Lifted!

When did you decide to start up LiFT? What sort of vision did you have in mind for the company?

I started drawing “LiFT” with an upwards arrow for the “i” on my skateboards when I was in the 8th grade. I hoped writing “LiFT” would give me more height or ‘lift’ when I was ollieing. Always seeking to progress, I found an ancient silkscreen that belonged to my aunt in my basement and taught myself how to silkscreen LiFT concepts.

I loved the creative freedom silk-screening gave me. I could put anything I wanted onto a shirt. I soon found that shirts and clothing in general were an incredible means of self-expression. I began getting my message out and it seemed to resonate with people.

I made shirts on and off during high school and college (Occidental ’10) for fun. After interning at Weiden + Kennedy in Tokyo, I was inspired to start a skate team in Los Angeles. After graduation I headed home to Portland and took a job in marketing causing my creativity to lag.

I met up with old friend and LiFT supporter since high school Anthony Villella in the spring of 2011. While we hung out he asked me about what had happened to LiFT. He inspired and helped me revitalize LiFT and come out with a line of silk-screened tank tops for summer. We were on the same page about being involved with the community in a positive way, our commitment to the environment, philanthropy, pushing the envelope of design/manufacturing in the Northwest and maintaining an overall positive perspective.

That summer the line of tank tops sold out and it became clear that I could make a living doing what I love. I left my salaried job to follow my passion for LiFT.

What was the hardest part of putting the company together?

Putting together the company wasn’t the challenge; it’s getting it out there and keeping it going.

Where does the inspiration for LiFT’s apparel come from?

 Inspiration comes from all sources. From creative culture — architecture, graphic design, music & film.  From art — Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein & John Baldessari.  From place — Portland, Tokyo, France, NYC & California. From the apparel industry — Warriors of Radness, COMME des GARÇONS & A.P.C. From people — friends, family, randoms & lovers.

Eye of Presence Crewneck (purchase here)

It seems as though LiFT is about a lot more than just the clothing itself. Has this always been the case?

Yes. Apparel is only one aspect of life, therefore, it is only one aspect of the company. We strive to help those in need via donations of time, money, supplies and whatever else we can.

I’ve also made sure to give back to community by donating time, money & supplies to some amazing non-profits like Ecotrust, Salmon Nation, p:ear, The Listening Archive & Focus the Nation. LiFT is a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization founded by Yvon Chouinard, and we donate at least 1% of our total sales to an non-profit of our choice (Ecotrust).

Nude Dye Tee (purchase here)

Did you think that LiFT would make it to where it is today when you founded it?

Yes. It’s always been my goal to make LiFT happen. I believe that if you passionate about a cause and put genuine effort in, you can achieve your goals.

STAY LiFTED Surf Beanie (purchase here)

What had been the single greatest success of LiFT in your eyes?

I try not get caught up in “success.”  I try love each moment equally. But, getting into (and then selling out of stores) all along the west coast boosted/bolstered the idea that buyers/shop owners were hyped on LiFT and wanted to carry it in their stores. I also just patterned out my first pair of pants. The evolution from screen-printing to designing and creating garments is exciting.

Information on LiFT can be found below (click links to be redirected):


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