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Meet Isaiah Bond of OCD Cleaners in Inglewood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Isaiah Bond.

Isaiah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I always wanted to start a brand dating back to the early 2000’s. I had a passion for art at an early age and struggled with the pursuit of it as a career. My first daughter was born when I was 19 years old; this changed my career direction and motivated me to move away from my home town Lafayette, Louisiana to take advantage of opportunities in larger cities. I decided to pursue my education hoping it would lead to a high paying job allowing me to support my family. I went with finance over art, which at times I still regret today, but my path was creating the lane to eventually start a brand. As cliche as it sounds, sometimes you have to “trust the process.” My passion for footwear at an early age led to a career in retail at a few big chains, but a mom and pop shop taught me the inner working of how the footwear industry functioned. The exposure to the industry at an early age led to me landing a footwear buyer position for a popular e-commerce retailer, Karmaloop.

This gave me a front row seat in the industry and allowed me to learn the fundamentals of how brands operate. Some of the top brands would ask our team to preline their upcoming collections taking our industry knowledge and using the information to adjust according to the market. During these years, I was a sponge. I was able to meet some key players, senior designers and brand owners in the industry. This was the inspiration behind the idea of starting a brand. Everyone I met who worked or owned a brand possessed this freedom that I was drawn to. This energy was different from most of the footwear brands that I bought from, majority were mostly larger corporate chains but was also exposed to a wave of independent footwear that was ahead of its time. (Gourmet, Study, Keep, Jeffrey Campbell, Everybody Shoes, Zuriick, J-Shoes, Oliberte, Android Homme’ to name a few) some made it through the dark times in the industry and others closed. One of the brands that inspired me the most in the footwear space was Gourmet. If you were a sneakerhead in the 2000’s, you remember the noise that the Cease and Desisto made, my favorite model was the Quadici. It was a new take on footwear in more of an artisanal approach. The owners of the brand sold the brand. You saw them at the tradeshows. Whether it was graphic tees, cut and sew, or independent footwear; streetwear was the platform that allowed everyone to coexist.

There was a shift in the industry. Larger brands were starting to draw inspiration from streetwear. The once powerhouse Karmaloop was starting to struggle. No need to dive into this story, if you know you know… I was let go of the company, which forced me to do some soul searching. This was all happening while finding out that I was expecting my second daughter. Being jobless with the anticipation of being responsible for two young humans was the push I needed to get started.

While I was still at Karmaloop, a good friend of mine, Dohnn Ball, had a brand called Buried Alive Vintage. I was a collector and avid picker of vintage clothes. I often spent my weekends in thrift stores hunting for 90s sportswear, graphic t-shirts, rare treasures that were often overlooked by your traditional thrift store customer. This was around 2010. You saw the vintage market on the horizon. It was wide open and nowhere near the beast it evolved into today in 2020. Dohnn and I combined forces and started selling vintage clothes on Kazbah, Karmaloop’s independent site. We took advantage of the visibility and traffic on the site. We had a platform to move products while having jobs in the industry. This taught me the art of the side hustle. You always need to have a passion project or goal that exists outside of your 9-5. This is often the spark that leads to something bigger. Dohnn and I eventually lost interest in reselling vintage. The space was getting crowded and items that were high profit were losing its value and becoming scarce as others caught on to the rising trend. We went our separate ways but are still good friends and have a passion for vintage.

After Karmaloop, I packed everything I owned and moved from Boston to Orange County, CA in 2014. My wife, Dani Concepcion, works in the industry and was living in Santa Ana, CA at the time. I was excited as So-Cal was known as a mecca for vintage enthusiasts. This was right when the Rose Bowl flea market was starting to blow up. I hit the ground running picking products in every thrift store I could find. The clothes you find in thrift stores are often reflections of the local culture. I would find some of my favorite surf, skate brands, mixed with some punk and hip hop influeneces based off the lifestyle of OC, which was different from the east coast where you would find prep and collegiate with an abundance of outerwear.

My goal was to sell enough vintage and eventually try to start a lifestyle space similar to Round Two or For All To Envy, but my dreams were met with adult responsibilities. Once my second daughter was born, I transitioned to full-time stay at home Dad. To make ends meet, I sold anything of value, personal and thrifted finds. This allowed me to keep the lights on but wasn’t fulfilling. I wanted to do more than flip products online. I hit a wall. I wanted to get back to my art and find a creative outlet. I always had ideas of wanting to up-cycle and repurpose vintage clothes to make them 1 of 1 but had no means of doing it outside of hand stitching patches on jackets. I knew I need to get a sewing machine to save time, but didn’t know where to start. This in theory was a good idea but lingered like many with no plan and steps to execute. My wife was in tune with how this affected my sense of self. I went from being a player in the industry to sitting on the sidelines with no direction. My wife knew I needed something to motivate me and provide a creative outlet. Dani gifted me with a sewing machine Christmas of 2015. It sat in the box for a few months until she called me out. This pushed me off the ledge. I dove into YouTube videos and started hacking clothes and attempted to sew old tees onto garments. It was a painful process, literally, but I eventually found my rhythm. I created a signature style for the brand using the zig-zag stitch pattern, making multiple passes to create that embroidered feel. I still have the first piece that I made to remind me of the journey to get where I am today.

I’ve always been a fan of garments with applique, so I drew inspiration from some brands that used this style. Ice Berg, Mecca, Phat Farm, No Fear, Tommy H and Nautica were some of my favorites. I was on to something and knew that this could evolve into a brand. I named it OCD Cleaners. OCD stands for Organic Creative Department. We wanted to connect the brand back to clothes. This was something that flowed better than the previous name Organic Chemistry. The Cleaners part is inspired by your local mom and pop dry cleaners. A staple in communities that drew patrons from all walks of life. This was a common ground for people who had clothes that needed special care. Whether you were a teacher, pastor, waiter, or just someone who had a garment that needed an expert to revive the garment. Clothes often become a part of who we are and tell a story about the individual that wears them. All of these values were important to me and as a kid, frequented cleaners with my father who was a professor and ordained minister. He always needed pressed shirts, pants and ties between the classroom and church. The community spirit that existed in these spaces was powerful. I remember shop owners letting me push the button that controlled the conveyor carousel with all of the hanging clothes. I was fascinated by the engineering of the machinery, but more impressed by the idea that each garment belonged to an individual and the connection was the dry cleaners. The conversations went beyond the few minutes that it took to pay and pick your order. My goal was to adopt these values and create a space where I could create garments that would attract people to the lifestyle and build community through this platform.

I was on to something but needed a place to sell my product. I had a conversation a few years prior with some friends that owned Bodega about the idea of working together after hearing the rumor that they were opening up in LA. This conversation eventually led to me landing a job with Bodega in 2018. The opportunity allowed me to get back to the industry that I loved as the brand is rooted in streetwear with a focus on rare hard to find Japanese brands. I thought it would be an automatic alley for me to get OCD Cleaners in the shop, but wasn’t ready to roll out. The timing was off. I still needed to refine my presentation and product. I didn’t let this deter my efforts, gifting a full collection to the staff at Bodega. They wore the brand and promoted it in LA. This created some buzz and allowed me to start selling pieces directly to locals. It also gave me the platform to connect with industry stylists. I met Taisha through a friend who worked with singer Dani Leigh. This led to me gifting Dani Leigh a jacket which she later wore in a performance. She later wore some of our products in her “Baby” video that was shot in Bodega. Taisha was able to incorporate pieces on dancers and at the last minute, I was able to make a cameo in the video wearing OCD.

This was the momentum that I needed that set me up to eventually showcase my brand at Complexcon. A friend that does marketing for Champion had a booth that she was curating with a mix of local designers. While setting up my booth the days prior, I ran into some friends that own the brand Pleasures. They extended an opportunity for me to come out to Hong Kong for Art Basel in 2019 to be a part of a pop-up shop curated by some local players in the streetwear scene. This exposed me to a new demographic and brought me back to that sense of freedom that this space provided. Everyone I met on the trip moved differently. They possessed an energy that I wanted. This reinforced the idea that I could too exist in this space. This buzz led to the opportunity to do a pop-up shop on my home turf Bodega LA. The launch was a success. The support from the community was tremendous. I premiered a short film that I produced with the help of some friends. The philosophy was reinforced – I realized that the clothes were the catalyst that created the community. This was the vehicle that continues to drive me closer to the freedom that originally influenced me to start a brand. The brand is now carried at Bodega LA and is available on their web store. We’re still evolving as a brand, but finally feel like we have arrived.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The idea of having a brand is easy in theory, but once you take a swing you realize it is not as easy as it seems. The road has had some smooth points, but the struggles are what define you and teach you how to keep pushing. The greatest struggles that I experienced and still deal with is the balance between having a family and a brand, especially during the early stages of getting the brand off the ground. It requires sleepless nights, which is not conducive with parenting but comes with the territory that made it easier to accept. My fiance is always reminding me that.

Another ongoing challenge is finding the balance between my day job and owning/operating a brand. With respect to my employer, the day to day at Bodega is a priority forcing me to be decisive with my time outside of work.

It was a long road to get to where I am today. It’s difficult when you see younger designers in the space experiencing rapid success, but I am only inspired by it. It took me a little longer to arrive, but value everything leading up to that moment. Everyone has a different timeline and finds it to be counterproductive towards progress when you start to compare yourself to others. We all have something unique to offer the world and believe that the ones that get the opportunities have an undeniable belief in self. Not giving up has been the most significant struggle that I have overcome. There is a mental toughness that you need to develop. Self-doubt, worry, the unknown were all emotions I had to learn how to suppress and apply action-oriented tasks to focus on the things we could affect.

Please tell us about OCD Cleaners.
After moving out of Santa Ana, my family and I landed in Long Beach, CA. Long Beach was a middle ground between LA and OC. The city had the beach culture similar to OC but was more diverse and progressive. I immediately felt like home compared to the OC. Our daughter was 11 months and like any other toddler needed to burn off energy. My wife purchased a wagon, as we felt a stroller wasn’t really my style. We discovered 4th Street known as “Retro Row” to locals and tourists. I became known as the guy with the kid and the wagon. We roamed the streets exploring what the city had to offer. Being a health junky, I discovered a place called Salud. This was the local cold-pressed, organic juice bar. The small exposed brick space was filled with plants and good people. Salud was a place where I could introduce healthy foods to and build community. On our walk home, we discovered some of the local thrift shops, not realizing that the area was known for their vintage scene. This provided me with a resource in my backyard to pick clothes and discover the local treasures.

I would start my day early at Salud, spend the next couple hours picking, get some lunch then head home to meet up with my wife. I would hand off the kid and go into my garage. This was my studio where I created some of the earliest pieces. It gave me a creative space to refine my craft. My wife and I both were commuting to LA for work, which eventually led to the decision to move to LA. We explored all the areas that people tell you to visit like West Hollywood and Silver Lake but found a house for rent in Inglewood that was a perfect place for our family. It has a backyard and a separate garage all of the features we were looking for.

Inglewood has become our home. I found out that I had relatives that lived in Inglewood and often meet older individuals who moved here or still have family in Louisiana. The city offers the southern and Caribbean flavors that I grew up on. My wife being from the Bronx grew up in a multi-cultural environment and has a love for the same cuisines. Although we’re outsiders, the more we explore the city and interact with the community, we’ve started to feel like locals. The city is a timestamp. It’s one of the last cities in LA that has remained authentic, but you see the friction that is being caused from the development of the LA Rams stadium and the LA Clippers taking over the Forum. The economy is changing and big businesses are moving in. You see a grassroots movement to preserve and rebuild the city from the local community. Independent restaurants, coffee shops and community spaces are popping up everywhere. Most are black and minority-owned.

I’m most influenced by the storefronts and hand-painted signs that create an aesthetic that is hard to find. You see bigger corporate companies trying to mirror this aesthetic but fail as it isn’t authentic to the community. Our goal as a family is to remain the area and

I converted the garage into my workspace for OCD Cleaners and converted the backyard from a dirt lot to an area where our kids can play and Dani and I can host gatherings promoting the OCD lifestyle. I recently planted an organic garden that we eventually plan on using the produce to have dinners that promote fellowship and meeting strangers. Our circle of friends are mostly transplants and from all different walks of life. It is a beautiful moment when strangers let down their guard and allow themselves to be vulnerable. This breaks down walls and forges new friendships.

OCD Cleaners specializes in up-cycling vintage and used garments. Our focus is applique, embroidery, and tie-dye but not limited to these mediums. I recently dropped my first collection of graphic tees, sweatshirts and hoodies. The graphics were all inspired by elements that inspire me and the brand. Taking an idea and turning it into a t-shirt the final product is the ultimate high. Beyond t-shirts were working on some functional accessories made out of reclaimed materials.

The brand has become known for taking obscure t-shirts and telling stories through our garments. I made a collection that featured local tees from Lafayette, LA my home town sewn on camo, oilfield workwear shirts, and some Hockey Jersey’s from the Ice Gators the local team. I sold them in Los Angeles but connected with a couple of people from Louisiana through the capsule. The clothes created dialogue between two strangers. This is the connectivity that inspires us to keep creating. This approach in designing garments is what sets us apart from other brands. I try to avoid just slapping band tees on denim jackets, knowing there is a market and often sell well. Instead, we try to match the tee with a garment that wouldn’t be traditionally used in that manner. One of my favorite techniques that I continue to use is taking a button down shirt and sewing the graphic on the front of the garment splitting it in half. It comes together as one image when you button the piece but can also wear open.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My mother is from Lafayette, Louisiana. This is where my parents met. As much as I spent majority of my early childhood moving from city to city. Lafayette is the place that I call home. I lived in the state in my younger years from 5-8, then returned at 13 to start and complete highschool.

My fondest memories from childhood took place in the rich cajun and creole culture rooted in family and living off the land. Louisiana isn’t called the sportsman paradise for just any reason. You can hunt, fish, camp year-round. My Grandmother from my mom’s side, “granny” was notorious for “running away.” Not in the literal sense, but running away was our term from grabbing the fishing poles, packing up the car and going on an adventure. I still remember the excitement of hearing my Granny say, ” go get the fishing poles ready.” I would go to the “little house” our outdoor space dedicated to cooking, storage of various tools and family heirlooms. I’d string the poles, tie the tackle prepping the rods to be ready once we got the fishing spot. My granny didn’t want to waste time prepping our gear at the spot. She wanted to cast her line as soon as we arrived while simultaneously cracking a cold beer from the cooler, patiently waiting for that small flick of the rod when you get a bite. We would spend the whole day in the sun, driving from various banks, bayous, and levies until we found the hot spot.

There were days that we filled coolers to the brim and others where we would barely catch a bite. No matter what, the saying I rather have a bad day of fishing than a good day in the office couldn’t be more true. On those days where the bounty was plentiful, we would call it a day and head home to get ready for the fun part. The people who weren’t on the trip were at home prepping the tools to clean and dress the fish for cooking. Depending on the catch we would fry, stew, and cook dishes to compliment the catch.

Upon arrival everyone would do there part in scaling, gutting, seasoning, battering and frying the catch. We would invite friends and family to come over and take part in breaking bread and sharing space. These memories will remain forever and helped emphasize the value of family and community. The love, mixed with eating good food was beyond anything that I experienced anywhere else. This is the culture that has influenced me the most and have contributed to the values that have molded me into the man I am.

My granny is the strongest woman I know. She curses like a sailor, cooked like a Michelen star chef and loved like no other. She still is the pillar of our family at 93 years old and proudly named my second born after her, Eloise. Regardless to where I’ve lived this has been the most influential culture to me and has helped me evolve into the man I am today. Her ability to be resourceful and provide so much love and care for her family was brilliant. In her words, “I’m going to live, until I die” is something that motivates me daily. She’s a survivor and has used this philosophy to continue to live life no matter what it throws at you.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who have supported me along the way. The person that deserves the most credit and is my biggest fan is Dani Concepcion. She’s my best friend and the mother of my children. She motivates me when I need a push, is that voice of reason when I’m overthinking situations, and is the love of my life. Beyond the personal support, she has been behind the scenes working with me on building OCD Cleaners. She helps me bring my ideas to life.

Another player that has helped keep the dream alive is Luca Vecca. He is a young design student at California State University Long Beach and is the son of American Artist Marc Dean Veca and Doula Laura Veca. He helps sew and conceptualize ideas. Beyond that, he is connected to youth culture on the ground level. He’s going to do big things so keep an eye out for him.

Kelsy Isla and Sol’le have been foot soldiers from day one helping in all areas of the business. Mostly in the creative and marketing space, but not limited to. Sol’le was the star in our Short Film “The Lost Ones.” Kelsy was the mastermind behind getting the website built out. Big Nick for building out Pop Up and Natois Baker for all the hand-painted signs. All extremely talented individuals in their own fields.

Special thanks to Bodega for providing me with a platform to expose my brand to the world. The whole Boston Team…ya’ll are legends. Bodega LA squadrant Mykhayla, Josh, Nick, Detavius, Emily, Miles, Joe F., Joe Vitello, Oscar, Jenny Kwown, Tessa, Solo, Tori, Kayla, Taariq, etc. for challenging me to be better human and professional. My hometown Lafayette, Louisiana. New Haven, CT. and all the other cities that I’ve lived in that have molded me.

Aye James, Vlad, and Austin, Fishel and Alex of Pleasures.

Everyone who has invested in me on a personal or business level. This has inspired me to keep creating and telling our story.

Pricing:

  • Graphic Tees: $45-60
  • Sweatshirts: $90-125
  • Hoodies: $110-145
  • S/S Tops: $90-120
  • L/S Tops: $160
  • Light Jackets: $200
  • Heavy Jackets: $250-300
  • Tie-Dye: $50-200

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Cody Marquez, Shafik El Kadi

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