As co-owner of LA boutique 424 on Fairfax and designer of their in-house jewelry line of the same name, Guillermo Andrade has only seen his influence grow since the shop first opened its doors in 2010. Now, he can count himself among a group of progressive American designers who are influencing the menswear landscape from the outside in, creating new rules for an industry that’s been guided by tradition for so long. Steve Dool caught up with Guillermo in advance of Capsule’s inaugural Le Nouveau showcase – New Americans, launching at Capsule Paris and New York this summer – to talk inspiration, social media, and what the kids are up to these days.
Capsule: We look at 424 as an arbiter of what’s new and what’s next. But I’m curious to know what inspires you?
Guillermo: It’s always been about using my resources as a bridge to introduce new products to a whole different world, who otherwise wouldn’t come to Fairfax, but now feel a little bit more comfortable to check it out, since there’s something there for them. Packaging things up in a way that tells a story properly. I think that’s been my inspiration as far as creating a different type of retail experience, where you come in and some things you know, some things you’ve seen. Some things may even feel familiar, and you don’t understand why. And if you look a little deeper, you find that these are the kids setting the trends.
That’s really important. A lot of the time, things become very popular and no one knows where they came from. I use my platform to remind people, “This is what’s going on. This is where it’s coming from and this is the real version.”
I’ve always been that way, even as a kid. I would go after everything, man. Journeys. Fourteen hour bus trips, back and forth, just to go get that one pair of Girbaud jeans that I knew was it. And I would only have that pair. I wouldn’t have a hundred of them. I’d just have the one pair. In the same spirit, I do that with my store. My boutique isn’t really a boutique; it’s more of a community. The way that I do my buying, I need to make sure that whoever is on the racks in my store loves what they do. That’s the first prerequisite for anything that comes into 424. If I don’t feel the love in it, it’s very hard for me to sell it. I have no interest in that.
Authenticity goes a long way. It’s something that you can tell immediately looking at a brand.
Totally. I’m at the point now, where on a personal level, I find shopping to be very boring. I’ve only recently been able to travel. Over the last year, I’ve gone to a few different cities that I’ve always hoped to go to, and I kind of wish I’d have been there ten years ago, fifteen years ago, when I could have still experienced fashion in a different way. Now, you get the same floor in every nice store across the world. I don’t think it was always that way.
If you go to a store here, and you go to whatever the version of that store is in Germany or England – at the end of the day, it’s almost like a carbon copy of everything that’s cool all over the world in the same set up, the same display. They tell the same stories. There’s a big disconnect that’s happening between [that] and brands like Fear of God, brands like 424, even Virgil [Abloh]. The story isn’t being properly told. That’s the most important part of everything we do. We’re not trained designers. We’re just kids who, to be honest, got fed up and started making our own stuff.
You don’t really see as much radically different personal style in different major cities either. A lot of personal style has been homogenized because everyone gets everything at the same time.
Yeah. Totally. That’s another thing that I think will, in fact, change. For the bigger brands that follow their production calendar and follow the fashion calendar, it works. It’s amazing. It works for them. But for a brand like 424, it’s not an option. I have very little interest in following that calendar, because it doesn’t suit my brand. It’s not honest to where I am and where the growth of my business is. I can’t do that. In order to deliver to a hundred accounts, and have them all be top tier accounts, and to make sure everyone gets something special, and everyone knows what the brand is – and every employee on that floor is going to be able to tell you about that brand – it’s an unbelievable amount of work. So many things are moving at the same time, that for that to be able to happen, you need like 50 years before people across the board understand your brand. The ethos, what you’re trying to bring to the table. Just because you’re in the stores, the work isn’t done.
I walked into a store here in LA – in LA, mind you, where we launched Fear of God in my shop maybe a year and a half ago, before it was ever in any stores. I walked into another store here that’s had Fear of God for a couple seasons, and I asked the guy, “Hey, this is a cool brand. What is it? Can you tell me about it?” And it was all just a very bogus sales pitch that you get from any bogus salesperson. It’s such a big disconnect between what is actually happening and “hey, just buy this and get the fuck out.”
Do you think there’s a solution to that, or is that just how it is?
I think boutiques like mine are a solution to that. Or at least, that’s what I want it to be. [At 424], I’m coming from a place of, “This is what we’re doing. If you have any questions about the brand, we’re going to talk your ear off.” We care about it as much as the designers do – sometimes more.
The inspiration is really just to tell the story of what’s happening in our world, in our scene, in the proper way. In an honest way. There’s a lot of different things we’re trying to do right now, and I’m trying to bring it all together so that when you come into the shop, or go through our brand list online, it’s a complete story. It has a beginning, it has a story, and it has an ending. I like things like that.
What are you excited about right now – even outside of fashion?
I love Berlin, as a city. I really enjoyed myself there. I thought it was a really cool place to be. People left you alone, but it has a creative energy to it. Almost everybody is working on an art project, and it’s not done yet. It’ll be done soon. I really felt at home there, because I’m constantly on that wave, all the time.
But, in direct relationship to fashion, I really like all the kids. I really do. I was in their shoes at one point, and it’s really nice to see someone like Ian [Connor], for example. He was in Atlanta before he moved to New York, and all he had was the Internet. And he spun that into an actual career. Whether he has a degree or not, he’s earned a seat at the table and people have to respect it. The rebel in me really likes a middle finger to everybody whenever the option is there. I think he’s earned it. Regardless of what his talent may or may not be, people like that excite me. It’s a wrench in the system. The algorithm goes off a little bit and you just try to figure out what the fuck just happened. I relate to that, in a way. It’s nice for me to see that in the physical realm, how something goes from being popular on the Internet and how it translates the digital world into the reality of how we live our day to day life. He doesn’t have any tangible successes – it’s not like he can go to his house that he paid for with millions of dollars because he’s so rich – but he’s got a new kind of currency. And that I appreciate.
Sure. I guess it’s the flip side to what we were talking about before, where in some instances the Internet and the immediacy of how information is disseminated can create a flattening effect, but it can also allow someone like Ian to come up in a way that wasn’t previously possible.
In reference to that, the Internet – and especially social media – has leveled the playing field. There has been, across every industry, for all time, people who didn’t have resources who were doing amazing things and nobody could find out about it. And only a select few people could see it. It was so much easier to get ripped off, because no one would ever know. That’s essentially gone now. Not like people don’t get ripped off, but now people have a voice. Everyone gets a voice. And for the ones who know how to use it, particularly the younger people who grew up with it, it is really super interesting to see how they incorporate that into their daily lives.
We have a 14 year-old kid DJing a Fear of God event, and he’s a killer DJ. He’s been DJing for four years. He’s had CDJ’s – not turntables – he’s had CDJ’s since he’s ten years old.
That makes me feel like I’m not doing anything.
He’s a little rockstar DJ. The kids are as advanced as the technology is. Every six months, new technology comes out that’s quicker, faster, smaller, slimmer and more efficient and has more energy. The kids are the same way. Ian is 22 now. This kid is 14. It’s stunning. He models. He DJ’s. He’s cool as fuck. He’s educated. He takes the time to learn about the stuff he’s talking about. It’s, for me, so new to see kids so young speaking so eloquently, being interested in things that are just a little different. It’s not so much about “look how fly I am, look at me stuntin’ on it.” It’s more conscious, in a way. They’re more interested in the “why” of everything, which is really cool. That, I’m excited about. I’m excited about an energy in the market where people are more interested in the real reasons people are doing things. Not just flipping a buck.
What’s the 14 year-old DJ’s name? I need to get up on the youth.
His name is Xuly.
This kid will be on his fifth career by the time he’s 20.
It’s really nuts. It’s really cool. I’m also excited about the right people getting the right jobs. I think for a long time now, the wrong people have been getting the right jobs, and I’m over that. It’s an exciting time for all of us. Every time I see Virgil doing an insane installation somewhere in Korea or in Belgium or wherever the fuck he’s at, I get really happy. It’s really awesome for all of us that these things are happening, because for a long time, it was reserved only for the elite. And that’s done. It’s awesome.