Homegrown designs from another era

Nothing smells lovelier than the scent of orange blossoms.

Just ask Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the many fans of 88 Orange, the Costa Mesa-based maker of clothing, body and home products infused with an orange blossom scent.

"She loves our clothes and is addicted to our fabric softener," said Andy Drakeford, sales and marketing director for 88 Orange.

Actress and model Molly Sims is another fan, according to Drakeford.

Business has been good, she said, noting that the label has had mentions in big-name magazines like Allure and Every Day With Rachael Ray, with more press coming in the spring and summer in Travel & Leisure and Real Simple.

Now 88 Orange has moved its operations to South Coast Collection, known as SOCO. The front of the space is the label's first namesake boutique, with the warehouse and operations behind it. The shop sells all of 88 Orange's products as well as other labels' accessories, such as handbags, jewelry and scarves, or "complementary lifestyle accessories for 88 Orange," according to Drakeford.

She and business partner Heather Artukovich — the woman behind the company's chic designs — started 88 Orange in March 2008, after expressing frustration with what they felt was lacking in the retail landscape.

"We felt there was a void in the marketplace for more refined knits," Drakeford said. "... and we were frustrated about it. Heather has a design background in knits, and we started talking about doing something on our own to fill that void."

The two met while working at what was then A'Maree's in Newport Beach. They also have a silent partner invested in the business. About 10 people work for them.

The knit products are made domestically — something that was important to Drakeford and Artukovich, both Newport natives who now live in Costa Mesa. Drakeford attended Newport Harbor High School and Artukovich went to Corona del Mar High.

"The cotton we chose is supima cotton, and it's grown in Central California," Drakeford said. "It's 100% fine cotton, and it's milled in Los Angeles. Then we use it to make garments in Orange County."

All of the knits are made in Garden Grove. The body and home products are made in Los Angeles. Clothes sell for about $59 for a cotton-knit tank to $280 for a more sophisticated design.

88 Orange also uses an old photo circa 1928 for its home and body products packaging. The photo is of Artukovich's grandfather and great aunt standing in front of their orange grove in Orange Park Acres.

The photo reflects a different Orange County and a simpler time, not"The Real Housewives of Orange County"vibe that exists today, Drakeford noted.

All clothes are pre-washed in the 88 Orange blossom fabric softener — reminiscent of the orange groves once here — which gives each piece its distinctive scent.

The brand's racer-back tanks are popular, she said.

Drakeford expects a voile and knit skirt coming out this spring to sell well.

The voile and knit skirt is one of the latest designs to come out of 88 Orange, which started with core knit basics — tanks, tees and some other products — as well as the orange-scented fabric softener, body butter, candle and perfume.

The products are sold locally at The Red Balloon in Newport, Rakish Fashions in Tustin and, of course, its own store at SOCO.

While the economy has been a challenge — the cost of supima cotton went up and a line 88 Orange planned to launch last fall was shuttered due to high costs — Drakeford said the company has exciting things coming this year.

It's added cotton voile to its mix; it's a soft sheer fabric that will be used for dresses, skirts, tops and cardigans. In some designs, it will be mixed with its supima cotton fabric as well.

In February, the company will show off a beautiful washed fleece (not a hoodie) that will appeal to sophisticated tastes and modern casual-luxury lifestyle dressers, Drakeford said. That will debut at the fashion trade shows in New York City and will be sold for fall 2012.

"We're constantly growing," Drakeford said.


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