Brokedown Clothing Finds Success With Quirky Phrases

When Jodi Benavidez started her clothing company, Brokedown Clothing, her collection of T-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts was known for its buttery fabrics and clever graphics that had a beach vibe or a Western feel.

Having grown up in Los Lunas, N.M., near Albuquerque, she’s seen her share of cactus and desert landscapes, which sometimes get translated into her designs. Some of her bestselling T-shirts over the past few years are ones with a single cactus motif or rows of cacti punctuating the garment.

Because she wanted to control the quality of her goods, she decided to manufacture everything in Orange County or Los Angeles County from the knit fabric made in Los Angeles to the cutting and sewing in Santa Ana, Calif., to the garment washing done in Los Angeles. “When we say we are made in the U.S.A., people love hearing that,” Benavidez said.


Jodi Benavidez

It also means that retailers only need to wait two to three months to get their merchandise once it has been ordered instead of six months if it were coming from overseas. “Most of my customers are ordering closer to delivery,” she said.

Benavidez started her company in 2006, a few years after graduating from American Intercontinental University in Los Angeles, with a year spent in London studying fashion design. She graduated with a dual degree in marketing and fashion design.

For a little more than a year, she worked for Trends West, a trend-forecasting company in Los Angeles and then moved to Orange County, where she started her company out of her garage in Costa Mesa, Calif.

At first she was designing military caps with different logos, metal motifs and embroidery that quickly became a hot item worn by celebrities including Paris Hilton, Jessica Alba and Vanessa Hudgens. She sold them to celebrity-frequented stores including Kitson, Madison and Fred Segal, and the hats were featured in celebrity magazines.

About six months later, she expanded the line into casual tops made of quality fabric, which ranges from organic cotton and rayon spandex to brushed hacci.

Then, three years ago, after having her first child, she added children’s tops to the mix as well as “Mommy and me” matching outfits.

One of her favorite Mommy-and-me outfits is the Thelma and Louise duo, referring to the movie “Thelma and Louise.” Mom wears the Thelma T-shirt and the daughter wears the Louise T-shirt, or vice versa. The set is also available in women’s sizes for best friends or sisters to wear.

She started out doing lots of word graphics on her contemporary T-shirts, with statements such as “Sunshine State of Mind,” “Happiness Is Free” and “Yachts, Bikinis, Martinis.” “Our graphics are fun, quirky lifestyle graphics,” Benavidez said.

As time went by, she added more prints to the collection, which is sold to about 200 stores across the country with women’s T-shirts selling for $54 to $58 and sweatshirts going for $86 to $92.

As her collection expanded, Benavidez moved from her garage several years ago to a 2,500-square-foot warehouse in Costa Mesa. The Siblings Showroom at the Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles represents her women’s line, and the Nicky Rose Kids showroom in the California Market Center represents the childrenswear line.

The name for the company came from the fact that her father always bought her cars that broke down. “My first car was a VW bug that didn’t have a starter, so I would have to park it on hills and pop the clutch to start it,” she recalled. “When I was looking for a name, this is what fit my upbringing. Back then, I thought I would eventually want to add denim. So I thought Brokedown denim sounded perfect. I never ended up adding denim, but Brokedown stuck.”