ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An acronym aimed to inspire and influence New Mexicans to chase their dreams is the name of a fashion line created by two men from Hobbs.
Each letter in the Gapelii fashion brand name is significant.
“G stands for growth, A stands for ambition, P stands for prosperity, the E stands for elevate, the L is lifestyle, the first I is innovation, and lastly, Influence, because that is one of our main goals, is to influence people,” said Toja Hodge, founder and CEO of Gapelii Brand. “No matter what you have going on in life, whatever your visions are, whatever your dreams are, once you influence people (to believe) whatever they put their minds to, they can make it happen.”
Hodge and co-founder, business partner Andrew Akufo dream big. They plan to take the Gapelii Brand to a global level and compete with the likes of luxury brands Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton but at a more affordable price.
“I’ve always been into fashion even though I couldn’t always afford it,” Hodge said. “I like Gucci, I like Louis Vuitton, I like Givenchy and all those brands, but at the same time I wanted to create a brand that wasn’t $500 for a shirt and everybody can afford it around the $50 range and still feel good wearing it and it feels like they’re wearing Gucci but it’s Gapelii.
“Really feel good, really feel inspired, really feel confident wearing one of our high-end T-shirts.”
Hodge and Akufo may just be starting out in the world of fashion, but they have plans to expand their clothing line, as well as offer cologne, watches, sunglasses and more. The brand currently offers T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, sweatpants, hoodies, denim jackets and more for men, women and children. Not all of its merchandise is featured on the website, gapeliibrand.com, but customers can message the company for special orders, including different fabric colors.
Gapelli’s shoe line is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The shoes are actually handcrafted and made in Italy, so it ships from Italy to any destination in the world,” Akufo said. “We currently have that on hold, based upon what is going on in Italy and throughout the entire world. So we put a temporary hold on that, but once everything clears up we will make that available for everybody to purchase again. We also take direct messages, and anybody who is interested, we will go ahead and hold the order.”
There are plans to launch a footwear line for women, and some prototypes have been drawn up.
“We don’t want to forget about the ladies,” Akufo said. “We know y’all like to rock y’all’s heels and you want to be cute. You want to be fly. You want to go somewhere nice, and y’all got to have your footwear, so we definitely want to do that as well.”
Staying connected with the community is something Hodge and Akufo plan to sustain, no matter how large their fashion line grows.
“We really want to give back and help in any way,” Hodge said. “We just have to do our research. We’re not sure which foundations need it the most, but depending on if we get the sales and get the results that we need, this will be something that we can participate in as far as genuinely helping with the people that are on the front lines, helping provide masks or help people who get sick and can’t afford to get groceries, just help meet their basic needs.”
The business partners also plan to help customers outside New Mexico.
“We will definitely research the potential charities and social service organizations that contribute to those specific needs,” Akufo said. “Ultimately, donating 10% back to the community which we serve. So say we have a customer who ordered something out of San Diego; we’ll definitely look into that community and see what the most dire needs are within that area, and then we would donate the proceeds to the organization that we feel would best serve that need.”
Gapelii has ambassadors in other areas of the country but are hoping for New Mexicans’ blessing to succeed.
“We really need the support of all our New Mexicans,” Hodge said. “This is something we want people to be proud of and support, because that is the way it is going to be successful. This is not a New York company. This isn’t a Los Angeles company. This is a New Mexico company that’s determined to be worldwide.”