The 3 Designers Making the Most Wanted Streetwear in America | #iRockParties

If you don’t know the names Amiri, Fear of God, and Heron Preston, you’re missing out on a whole new definition of luxury—one that includes dope sneakers, graphic hoodies, and painstakingly mutilated jeans.

Jacket, $885 / T-shirt, $239 All by Heron Preston, at heronpreston.com.

Heron Preston

Heron Preston has the best résumé in streetwear: He started out designing $50 Tupac T-shirts as a teenager, then went to design school, graduated to Nike, and made tour merch for Kanye before starting his own line. These days his aggressively populist graphic tees sell at N.Y.C. menswear temples like Barneys and Bergdorf. “Kids recognize they don’t have to be pigeonholed,” Preston says. “They wear Louis Vuitton or Gucci with Heron Preston. They mix and match highs and lows and create a whole new space.”

GQ: I wonder about your logo, which is in Russian letters. To what extent does it even matter what it says? Are those letters just shapes when you use them in that context?

Heron Preston: Yeah, for someone who can’t read Russian or understand the Cyrillic alphabet, it just becomes a graphic and artwork: a logo and a shape. And then obviously for people who can read it, it means style. But the kids who wear Gosha, they can’t read any of the Russian he puts on his clothes. It’s more about the lifestyle. It’s all about the marketing and the branding behind the clothing.

GQ: I was thinking about Demna, too, with his DHL tee. My interpretation of that was: Any logo is just as valuable, or not valuable, as any other logo. It could be Nike, it could be DHL, it could be Louis Vuitton.

HP: For sure. It kind of reminds me of how the IKEA logo is really taking off right now: Kids are cutting up the bags and turning them into hats, or they’re taking the straps and they’re sewing them down the side of their denim and turning that into trim for their pants. Where is that coming from? Is it because Balenciaga did the IKEA shape with one of their bags, and now kids are obsessed with IKEA? Is their reference point not IKEA but Balenciaga?

GQ: I’m fascinated with the way you use safety orange, that particular shade of orange. Where does your fascination with that color come from?

HP: It came from me purchasing a pair of orange sweatpants one day: I just really fell in love with the color, and all my references to construction sites and Department of Sanitation New York, those were my reference points. Then I started to wear the color, and I was like, “This is my color.” It became kind of like my signature color. You’ll see all my labels are orange now throughout my whole entire collection. And you’ll see a lot of orange garments as well, season after season after season.

GQ: For some guys that color might be scary to wear. How do you wear that color?

HP: Well, it’s not exactly a neon orange. It’s a wearable orange. [laughs]

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GQ: What is your point of view as a fashion designer? What do you make?

HP: I make luxury streetwear. I describe it as sportswear just for the streets, for the youth. A lot of my DNA is injected into what I’m designing, so it’s a lot of my history as well from a kid in San Francisco making T-shirts—then a kid who moved to New York and started doing more one-off art projects with bootleg T-shirts, and reinterpreting high fashion for the streets through my lens.

GQ: What was that first T-shirt you made in San Francisco as a kid? Do you remember it?

HP: It may have been a Tupac “Thug Life” T-shirt. I did white, I did olive green, and I did purple.

GQ: How old were you when you were making those?

HP: I was probably 18 or 19. I just redrew the tattoos by hand on a piece of paper, scanned those tattoos, turned those into screens. And then I screenprinted them by hand myself at this screenprinter at Hunters Point in San Francisco.

GQ: Did you sell them?

HP: I sold them.

GQ: How much did the Tupac “Thug Life” shirt retail for?

HP: Those were 50 bucks. They weren’t that expensive. T-shirts weren’t that expensive back then.

GQ: They are now.

HP: They are now.

GQ: I always wonder that with streetwear. If streetwear is aimed at kids, how are kids affording the $200 Supreme piece or any piece that costs that much?

HP: I think there’s a lot of trading going on. There’s a lot of buying and then reselling for higher margins. So they’ll buy the piece and then they’ll Instagram the picture of them wearing it. They’ll buy it just for the hashtag. They’ll buy it just for the likes. And then once they get that gram up, they’ll either go and resell that piece so they can buy the newer piece or they’ll use that extra money to buy something more expensive—so it’s a lot of moving of these garments. Reselling and trading and borrowing of clothes.

GQ: And are you good with that?

HP: Yeah, totally, as long as kids can get involved and be a part of the story. I think it’s what’s meaningful to them. I don’t think owning stuff is really that important. I think what’s important is for them to be included and a part of this culture.

GQ: Why are the kids so important to you?

HP: They’re what’s driving the conversation in the streets. They’re the ones who are the most active online, and they’re like a mini network. If you combine all these kids together and their reach, it’s millions and millions and tens of millions of people, and they’re just the ones who are most excited about what we’re doing. I’m a kid at heart as well.

GQ: How old are you now?

HP: I’m 34. But I feel like I’m 18. One of my friends who’s super engaged online, super stylish—he’s like 14. And it just hit me in London during my retail tour when he was out at the club with us: He’s walking out of a super hotbox of an event, and we’re all flooding onto the streets, we’re talking, we’re saying what’s up, he’s wearing one of my pieces, and I’m talking to his friends, and then it all just hit me. As I’m talking to him, I’m thinking to myself, This kid is 14 years old. I’m 20 years older than him. But it didn’t seem weird until I started thinking about it.

GQ: Where do you think streetwear is headed?

HP: I think it’s making its way into a much more premium space, a luxury space. We’re showing in Paris now. We’re doing runways and presentations now. And the luxury brands are collaborating with us. Gosha collaborated with Burberry, Supreme did Louis Vuitton. You’ll see North Face collaborations.

So I think it’s moving more in that direction, where now super, super, super rich people want to wear Supreme. And I hear real stories, like Saudi princes asking their friends, “Hey, where can I get some of that Supreme?” for the first time ever.

GQ: How does it stay streetwear when that happens?

HP: What do you mean?

GQ: Well, luxury traditionally has not been streetwear. It’s been refined and elevated. And streetwear was for the streets, for kids who were skating or whatever, that didn’t have aspirations to be luxury—that was for the bourgeoisie. They were punks and skaters and graffiti artists and troublemakers, and that’s what street culture was.

HP: For sure.

GQ: So how do those two things coexist?

HP: There’s a whole new generation of kids who are watching us, looking up to us, and kind of taking on those codes. Because they’re seeing: Wait a minute. The Bergdorfs and the Barneys are buying street? They are recognizing this as a luxury proposition? I think it’s now propelling a whole bunch of new ideas in the space.

Fear of God

When he’s trawling flea markets for inspiration, Fear of God designer Jerry Lorenzo looks for one thing: silhouette. Color and pattern don’t matter, only the shape—a kind of punk athletic wear, channeling Allen Iverson’s defiant slouch. “A lot of times,” Lorenzo says, “ ‘elegant’ just looks uncomfortable.” The son of ex–White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, Lorenzo makes clothes that feel like plush warm-up uniforms: sporty, but too nice to actually play in.

GQ: Where is Fear of God on its journey right now?

Jerry Lorenzo: The goal of this fifth collection was to create something—well, the goal is always to create something that’s timeless and effortless—but to create something that really helps to solidify who we are. We wanted to tell a clear story of who we are and what we represent so that anyone, even if they’re seeing it in GQ for the first time, could see the collection and see through the history of it and understand it.

GQ: When you say “what we represent,” what is that? What do you think Fear of God represents?

JL: I’m really trying to define a way that young men dress today. If I had a dream about what we represent, it’d be that you could look to Fear of God and go, “Okay, that’s where style is going. That’s where proportion is going. That’s where layering is going.” That’s where I would like to be: on the forefront of that. Remove all logos, remove details, and just look at the shape and say, “Oh, that’s the kid of today.”

GQ: How do you describe the Fear of God shape? What is the proportion?

JL: I think it’s comfortable. I think it’s effortless. I think it’s luxury. I think it’s chic. I’m trying to provide a comfortable, relaxed-fitting look that still speaks to the tailoredness of traditional men’s fashion.

GQ: What is the difference between an oversize piece that actually fits and has some tailoring to it, and a piece that’s just too big?

JL: Man, that’s the million-dollar question. I guess the simple answer is: The difference is proportion. Each piece has to be looked at independently on its own, and the correct spots have to be exaggerated. You can’t exaggerate the entire garment. That’s not how you proportionally oversize something. If clothes are just bigger-fitting, then you’re looking like the ’90s, head to toe, just swimming in fabric. And that’s not the answer.

GQ: What does “luxury” mean to you guys?

JL: I think luxury is freedom. Luxury is being free to dress the way that you want to dress. Free to make the choices that you want to make and spend time where you want to spend time. I tell people all the time, I’m living my dream because I wake up and I wear cut-off sweat shorts and inside-out rock tees every day. That’s luxury that I can do that. That I can go wherever I want to go, sit wherever I need to sit, in whatever meeting, and present myself in the way that I’m comfortable. That’s luxury.

GQ: There’s an amazing power in that, in being able to show up to the Met ball wearing ripped jeans or wear the same thing to the gym that you might wear—

JL: Yeah, that you might wear to a lunch meeting. That’s a lot of what Fear of God was founded on, this effortless Los Angeles style, where you get up in the morning and you don’t know where the day is going to take you, but you put on something so that you can be prepared to do whatever—and make sure those clothes fit and are appropriate in all those circumstances and situations. Being able to do that, that’s luxury.

And I think that there were a lot of designers before me that paved the way for what I’m doing to be considered as luxury. Rick Owens took an Allen Iverson silhouette and baggy sweats and do-rags and put it on a runway and now, in people’s minds, that’s perceived as luxury. Hedi Slimane took grunge and ripped up flannels, which was my style in the ’90s in high school, and said, “Hey, now this is luxury.”

So now that it’s being redefined by some of these established houses, they’re giving freedom to younger creatives and younger designers to create and design collections that are more consistent with who they are. And the challenge for us is to now tell that story in an elegant way, which means having to nail that proportion down perfectly, which means having to fight with your production manager to get the best satins from Japan and fight to get the best finishings and trims to tell the story properly.

GQ: Can I tell you my theory about your line, and you can tell me if it’s wrong?

JL: Okay.

GQ: The soul of the line, in my eyes, is that it suggests culture doesn’t have to be only one thing. That it can be skate and sports, that it can be grunge and hip-hop, that it can be black culture and white culture, that it can be luxury and streetwear.

JL: Yeah, I’m pulling from all these different places and trying to tell you the story of the juxtaposition of all these things. And I guess as I’m sitting here with you now, I’m realizing: Just as important as grunge culture was to me, just as important as hip-hop culture is important to me—as the world begins to blend, there is a juxtaposition, and there is beauty in that juxtaposition, and there is singularity in that juxtaposition.

 

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