By Sherilyn Connelly
If you want to add some furriness to your wardrobe, whether it's for a night at Frolic or just another workday, there's no shortage of options in the Bay Area. The usual gateway garment is the animal hat with ears, which you can often find in places like stores on Valencia or the street vendors at Justin Herman Plaza. But what if you're looking to step it up? Say, shark hoodies and ninja bunny hats, or jammies in bear, fox, or raccoon varieties? And what if, being a San Franciscan, you want the clothes to be high quality and locally produced, using well-treated, fairly compensated labor?
That's where Oakland-based Bunnywarez comes in. We spoke to co-founder Jovino Bunny about how it's done.
What inspired you to get into the furry accessory biz?
We had been attending Further Confusion, a large furry convention held annually in San Jose. We had an idea that we might be able to offset convention expenses by selling handmade ears and tails. Much to our surprise, we managed to cover all of our expenses while having a great time. We loved it so much that we kept on doing it.
What are your most popular items?
Paws down, it's Bat Jammies. We're rarely able to keep them in stock for very long, no matter how many we make. The Bat Hoodie and the Ninja Bunny Hat are pretty popular too, and the SHARK! Jammies are no. 3 with a tooth! Other than that, it's pretty much a tie between our huskies, bears, and raccoons. Different people tend to gravitate toward different critters, and it's really fun seeing someone begin to embody the personality of a particular animal.
How did you decide to do everything locally? That's not cheap.
We believe that if we focus on doing business in America, then we are working toward rebuilding the economy. The more of us who do this, the better it will work and the stronger we will be. Our cutting contractor is located only a few blocks from our design studio, and the sewing house is right across the street. We have developed relationships with these businesses, and we can see for ourselves that their employees are treated well. It wouldn't be worth it if we had to resort to sweatshop labor to produce our designs. Where is the fun in that?
Your San Francisco storefront is dearly missed. Are there any plans for a new retail shop?
In all honesty, it's pretty unlikely. Our shop in San Francisco was an amazing experience, and we were totally blessed to be part of the Castro community. Unfortunately, running a retail store on top of our design business turned out to be more work than we could sustain. If you're local, you can always arrange to visit our Oakland studio to pick something up.
In addition to your website, where can people buy your wares? Are you going to be at any upcoming events?
Our site is pretty much it! We've decided to get off of the hamster wheel and get back to designing more. But you can bet your ears and whiskers that we'll be back at Further Confusion 2013.