Denim is universal, and so is 69. No, not the position but the brand, the symbol, and the name behind the designer who is creating full denim collections made for everyone. This anonymous designer has been creating non-demographic denim since the brand launched in 2011. People have been going apeshit since the first 69 collection sold at Assembly New York, and in an industry where image is everything, forgoing fame is a true testament of character. 69 can't be anonymous forever but can at least keep his or her unnamed integrity for now.
Not focusing on any particular collection at the moment, 69 is still on the grind pumping out denim designs daily. The brand is renovating the studio located in downtown Los Angeles to create the ultimate chill zone for both showroom visits and shoppers. Visitors can rest on big denim basketballs, play with a white model house, and, of course, browse through endless denim. The showroom will be open Saturday, June 21.
I had no idea what to expect upon meeting this nameless character in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood a few weeks back. Is it a he, is it a she? Well, I got to find out, but you'll have to wait—at least for now. After promising not to spill the identity beans, we sat down and spoke about revolutionizing this fucked-up fashion industry, the California sunshine, and our mutual love for the goddess Sade.
VICE: Someone mentioned you'd like to stay anonymous. Is this true?
69: Yeah, and I hope you're able to contain yourself! I don't care or believe in notoriety. It's all in our subconscious when we as humans put a name, gender, or race to something. I don't like how we manifest certain characteristics about strangers. For example, if I didn't know anything about a band that I was in love with, I wouldn't give a shit. They make music I like, so what else matters?
I really respect that. You are the only designer I know who does that.
I think one of those things we have to learn in life is release our ego. It's something we acquire over time through peer pressure, acceptance, and meeting new people. As long as you are doing something to the best of your ability and you're happy with it, then whatever; it's all that matters. Obviously, it's even better if other people like it too.
It's a great concept to think about, especially in this industry.
This industry is the worst. It's so competitive and full of ego maniacs. I know that everyone is sick of it. Anyone who has any sort of a brain is sick of it. It's all just really fucked up. It's so dictated by a specific type of person who chooses what people want to look like. I hope that I'm at least a part of the movement for change. I'd really like to modify the whole image surrounding this industry as a whole. That's really what I'm interested in—representing everyone.
I think this idea of representing everyone is really important, and it takes a small few of us to make some different things happen in order to start the change we want to see in this industry. Our generation is the evolving point in a lot of ways. I can see it changing slowly.
It just takes a movement to do it. You feel it, I feel it; we just have to do it. The movement could be very rapid since we have the internet; it could spread like wildfire. We're very lucky to live in this time. It's also very scary too.
Is that why you create garments that are unisex?
I like to think they are non-demographic; that's what I call it now. It's why I don't consider myself a "fashion designer" at all. Its because I just design clothes, you know? I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel, either. I'm just trying to make comfortable shit for everyone.
Comfortable, unisex clothing seem to be the direction more designers are taking lately.
I feel like thats where everything is now and where it's headed. Obviously, there are always going to be very masculine and very feminine people. But this next generation is all going to be so blurred, it's not even going to matter.
When you create a new collection do you have a specific idea in mind or inspiration? What was the inspiration for the fall collection?
These past few collections definitely. For FW14, I honestly just went back home and binged on Game of Thrones. The whole time while watching the show I thought to myself, What if they had denim in the Middle Ages? I should make a whole Game of Thrones collection in denim!
I love that hat you made in your spring collection. Where did the idea behind it come from?
I was really proud of that hat, and I'm going to make so many fucking hats now. It's my hiking hat. I like to go hiking, but I don't like to wear sunscreen, so I created garments that cover the skin for my spring collection.
As a young tycoon, what do you think is important when developing a name for yourself?
What's most important is how brands choose to market their stuff. I just feel like there is such a strong barrier of who and what is represented. People sometimes compare my marketing to United Colors of Benetton, and I can see why. Benetton is great, as they use all races, but at the same time all the models they use in their campaigns are pretty and thin. I really want to fuck that all up.
In what way?
To me, everyone is beautiful, whether they are flawed or not. For example, Bennett Perez and I did a shoot recently where we played with the idea of using models with skin conditions or burn scars. Once again, they are still all young and beautiful people, because it's really hard to cast otherwise. I wish I knew how to approach/cast real people for my shoot campaigns. I don't want anyone to think I'm exploiting certain types of people, either; I just want to be able to represent everyone. I really, really do. Hopefully, this shoot Bennett and I just finished might open up a door to that.
Is it difficult to cast the types of people you are looking for in LA?
There isn't an agency for the type of people I'm looking for. NYC would be so much easier to cast in, which is why I've been inspired to come here and have a casting call. I've noticed a lot of brands using a lot of older people lately, but they are still really beautiful and look like older models. I'm really inspired by this photographer Pinar Yolacan. She always casts the best women in her portrait series. She's fucking amazing; I would love for her to do my look book. I want to know how she finds the women she shoots.
Do you think 69 would be as successful today if you didn't have a NYC-based background first before moving west?
I do owe a lot of credit to NYC. It spit me out , then embraced me back in. It was because of NYC that 69 has been so successful. The first store that sold 69 was Assembly, and people went apeshit over it. I was really social, networking and out all the time. That's why the start of my business took off.
The NYC Garment District seems to be a dying economy, but LA seems to be booming.
New York City–made clothing has to be more expensive, plainly because the cost of living is so much more expensive. Designers' lives are that much more stressful because they live here. I wish there could be a movement to Los Angeles. LA has all the same resources and is so much more pleasant, not to mention cheaper to make garments. There's plenty of work, places, and people to make clothing in LA because there is a person who specializes in everything.
Is everything made in LA? Do you create all your samples?
Ha! I wouldn't have a life if it was only me. I was limited for a long time because I was the only person doing everything. Once I got help, the design and production process became easier for me. There are endless possibilities now that I'm focusing solely on design. I never stop designing now. I realize this is how it should be.
If there was anyone in the world you would want to see wearing your clothing, who would it be?
Sade. She is the goddess of the universe. If I could have a spokesmodel, it would be her.
What is your ultimate goal with 69?
Everything still needs to be streamlined and smoothed out within the company. Once that happens, I would love to do more collaborations with other brands and be able to travel for work more. I'd like to be a part of a movement for change in the fashion industry. I don't really care about being a big name; as long as people continue to like my stuff, that's all that really matters to me. I just want to have a chill life and not have to stress out about anything. Once I have no stress in life, I know I've made it.
Do you think that's possible?
Yeah, it is. Its a very good goal to try and attain. No ego and no stress is all that matters.