Coco Yokoyama: Second Generation

Role Model // Kimmy McAtee // February/March 2010
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By Anna Elledge

Coco Yokoyama

Most teens welcome summer vacation as an opportunity to sleep late, chill with friends, and yeah, maybe get a part-time job. But Coco Yokoyama took her father’s encouragement to be a do-good entrepreneur and turned it into a full-fledged business enterprise. During the summer of 2004, the then 15-year-old founded Generic Youth, a SoCal-based clothing line offering limited-run items manufactured from recycled and repurposed fabrics.

As the daughter of Jeff Yokoyama, the creative force behind brands Modern Amusement and Maui and Sons, it’s only natural that Yokoyama would have adopted some of her father’s energetic verve for entrepreneurship. “He said, ‘Coco, this summer we’re doing to do a summer project,’” she recalls him telling her. “‘We’re going to plant something, cultivate it, and reap the rewards—whatever it is.’” With the reins in her hands, Yokoyama opted to start a clothing line focused on designing, creating, and breathing new life into old textiles. “Recycling old shirts to make new ones or sweatshirts for the first time was such a thrill. You can essentially make anything you want from old clothing,” she explains.

To generate ideas and hone in one her creativity, her dad encouraged her to follow his own initiative and keep a book of clippings and inspirations. Five years later, even while attending college in Oregon, Yokoyama still maintains hers. “Right now most of my clippings are black and white photos from photographers that inspire me, such as Annie Leibovitz, Peggy Sirota, Sally Mann, and Cindy Sherman. I also love looking at blogs and other websites.”

As Generic Youth approaches its five-year anniversary, the brand now boasts a retail store in Costa Mesa, CA, as well as a wholesale line. As if the casual threads—and their cool backstory—weren’t enough to encourage others to by into the mantra of “green, recycle and give back,” the Generic Youth crew currently hosts Wednesday barbecues. Friends come to the store to hang out and enjoy a free burger in exchange for the donation of a used beach towel, which is cut and sewn into one-of-a-kind sweatshirts there on-site.

Though she admits it’s hard at times to be as hands-on with Generic Youth while she’s away at school, Yokoyama says that living in Oregon has offered a tremendous amount of confidence and pride in her project. “From living in Oregon for the past couple years I have seen more recycle bins than I’ve ever seen before.” Wise beyond her years, the 19-year-old is hopeful that the world at present is finally learning from the past and looking towards the future instead of reveling in the “now.”

As for the future of Coco? “Well I hope to graduate college soon, so I can go back to Cali and start working with my dad. I would also love to travel the world and get inspired by the different cultures and lifestyles of other people. I’m just looking for a bright future!”

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Originally published in February/March 2010

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