RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Above, Bruce Chin, left, holding a match lamp, and Erica Apana, holding a Gloomy Spider-Man Bear by OCOBO, have opened a concept store in Koko Marina Shopping Center called Split Obsession, devoted to their passion for art and clothing. CLICK FOR LARGE
A new shop has the toys that he loves and the clothes she adores
CONNOISSEURS of wine, cognac, watches and chocolate have much in common with keepers of sports stats, who can rattle off team rosters, specific plays and game averages. They all seem to possess a computer-like memory for minutiae that is amazing to see in action. Then there is Bruce Chin, who applies the same brain power to toys.
Ask him about any of the 1,000-plus vinyl figures in his collection and he can rattle off its name, its maker, its country of origin and its back story.
Chin's girlfriend, Erica Apana, a speech therapist in her other life, doesn't pretend to understand his obsession, but she can't complain too much. While his home is filled wall-to-wall toys, hers is overrun with clothing.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Collectible toys, from left, include a one-eyed marmit from Japan, RealXHead toxic monster, an astronaut named Gargamel, a mad barbarian by Secret Base, and Hotboy devil by Eric So, one of Hong Kong's best-known toymakers. CLICK FOR LARGE
The two are now trying to make their combined passions pay off, having opened a boutique in Koko Marina Shopping Center dubbed Split Obsession.
The split is obvious to friends of the couple.
Apana said, "All my friends, when they walk in, say 'This is so Erica.' And Bruce's friends say, 'This is so Bruce.' "
Strangers walk in and, depending on their interest, quickly wander over to the girly side on the left, or the men's clothing and toys on the right.
"It's like a sociological experiment," Chin said. "You can tell who the visually oriented people are. They just stand there and stare at everything."
The space cannot simply be defined as a traditional men's and women's clothing boutique.
"It's more of a concept," said Chin, a graphic artist who grew up in the Bay Area, immersed in the world of underground, graffiti and street art. He started collecting artist-made toys, posters and clothing as an alternative to costly original work, which he also purchased when he could afford it.
"We still travel to California about three or four times a year," he said. "Both of us are big shoppers and it's so much fun for us because there's so much variety. We just wanted to bring some of that variety to Hawaii with non-corporate products that are different from what you'd find in the typical boutique."
"Our style is very eclectic," Apana said. "We find things that are very different, like vintage and one-of-a-kind lines."
COURTESY OF SPLIT OBSESSION
Split Obsession brought in Amsterdam-based The London Police Saturday for a free-hand demonstration and community art-making project that resulted in a wall-sized painting that will be donated to a children's hospital. CLICK FOR LARGE
Among them are Random Nicole, whose garments feature a mix of silk-screened designs and patchwork appliqué using vintage fabric, and SuperLuckyCat, offering new designs stitched from recycled fabric.
ONE OF THE couple's aims is to bring big-city cultural dynamism and collaborative energy to the shop. Last Saturday, he brought Amsterdam-based The London Police in for a demonstration and community art-making project, resulting in a wall-size work that will be donated to a children's hospital.
"It brought out a lot of artists and young people who had never seen anything like it," Chin said. "The kids had read about it in magazines and books, but they'd never experienced this kind of drawing. They thought he would be busting out stencils, but it's all freehand."
The plan is to present similar events quarterly, as well as involve local artists and designers in collaborative, limited-edition clothing lines. Following up on Saturday's event, Split Obsession is offering The London Police men's T-shirts and women's wife beaters, at $20.
THERE IS truly something for everyone at the shop, where Kidrobot's Munny zipper pulls are as little as $3, though you can't simply buy the one you want. Exploiting the collector mentality, the items are sold it in a box, sight unseen, and if you don't get the one out of 18 you want, you may feel compelled to try again. There's no guarantee that even if you buy an entire set, it will contain the figure you want, though you might be able to find trading partners among toy addicts online.
Chin has been known to open other boxes and put all the individual figures on display, "because I like looking at them."
One of Chin's favorite figures is a 3-foot-tall green monster, Ponkiki Gachapin, that sprung from a Japanese animated TV series.
"As soon as he opened it he was like, 'Take my picture, take my picture,' and he started posing with his hand over his mouth just like the Gachapin," Apana said.
Chin confesses he doesn't understand his attraction to the Gachapin. "I don't know why," he said. "It's just so bizarre-looking. It's so strange."
Never mind that other creatures inspired by the Franken Berry monster of General Mills cereal fame, or Damien Hirst dissection sculptures, and Stalin, might be considered equally bizarre-looking and strange. The toys in the shop run the gamut from cute yet perverse, to downright gross.
"Sometimes, the reaction is, 'What is this?' Some people don't understand it, but we're getting a great response," Chin said. "We thought our audience would be 18- to 35-year-olds, but we're seeing a lot of 60-year-olds who are coming in and buying toys."
Unlike most retailers, Chin often has trouble parting with many of the collectible toys and feels relieved when individuals walk away after he gives them a price quote.
"I'm like, whew! Then they come back. They just went to get money at the bank."
Split Obsession is at Koko Marina Shopping Center. Call 395-3380.