An optimistic entrepreneur earns his (Akiva) Stripes
While some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, Georgia native Cameron Alpert prefers the front of a T-shirt or a hoodie. That’s what led him to start Akiva Stripe, a Los Angeles-based and Jewish-inspired urban clothing line, with the hope that others will proudly do the same.
“I always thought about ways I could express my Jewish identity in a fashionable way, and I had not found anything in the marketplace that would allow me to do that,” Alpert recalled. “I began to create the shirts and hoodies as an outlet where I could express myself. However, when I started wearing them out in public, I found my friends liked the idea and rallied behind it. From there, I decided to extend my idea into a fully functioning brand.”
The designs for the men’s and women’s tops, developed by hand at a studio in Los Angeles and launched earlier this year, are inspired by various aspects of Jewish and Israeli history, from geographic locales to key events in Jewish history to Jewish iconography.
“For the initial run, I looked for symbols and images I had been exposed to during the course of my lifetime that really spoke to me as touchstones the Jewish wearer could relate to,” said Alpert, 26. “One of my favorite designs, and one of the most popular in sales, is the shirt with the Kohen hands. When I traced my family tree, I had discovered there were Kohen priests in my bloodlines, and the image of the hands themselves were emblematic as a Jewish reference.”
Other designs make use of the Star of David, the hamsa, a kabbalah-inspired Tree of Life, and an image of southern Israel paired with the words “Eretz Yisrael.” Another shirt, called “LAX>TLV,” features abstract artwork of the two cities.
In his journey to embrace his Jewish identity during college, Alpert was a member of Jewish fraternity AEPi, participated in Hillel and Chabad, and staffed a Birthright trip for USC Hillel. However, the experiences that led him to create Akiva Stripe also had a lot to do with growing up in Georgia in a single-parent home and having mostly non-Jewish friends. He said developing the brand is an outgrowth of his continued desire to celebrate pride in his identity, especially after his move to Los Angeles and his activities during college.
As for the company name, it carries personal and biblical meaning.
“Akiva has always been my favorite Hebrew name, and it’s also a cognate of Jacob, my middle name,” said Alpert, who also works full time as an advertising consultant.
Akiva means “protector” in Hebrew, and the phrase Akiva Stripe, he said, is intended to hark back to the Exodus, when the Hebrews marked the frames of their doors as protection from the plagues.