Exclusive First Look: Fear Of God’s Third Collection
"I don’t consider myself a designer. I have too much respect for it," says Jerry Lorenzo, the founder of one of the hottest emerging brands of the moment, Fear Of God. Even if Jerry doesn’t want to, he certainly could call himself the D word, especially in a day and age where taking Instagram photos of your daily outfits makes you both a "stylist" and "creative director." Jerry’s clothes are, after all, in a lot of very important and influential places in the world of fashion—from the back of Kanye West to, perhaps even more impressively, the floor of Barneys. His rise to undeniable legitimacy is indicative of the times we live in, specifically, the democratic power of the Internet. When it comes to Instagram and Tumblr, no marketing budget can replace good old fashioned word-of-mouth, which Lorenzo has in abundance. Kanye of course gives him a massive head start, but it’s his modern take on layering and silhouette, combined with classic fashion references like religion and Rock ‘N Roll, that resonate most with his often young customers. Jerry refers to them as "The Fear Generation"—a youthful demographic that is fearful of the establishment, but skeptical of its narrow-minded traditions. After all, the powers that be would have you believe that skinheads are inherently racist and that big fashion houses are the only ones capable of good design.
What was it like growing up with a major league baseball player [Jerry Manuel] as a dad? What were some of the unique experiences you had because of his profession?
Well that’s a question I wasn’t expecting at all. Most people in fashion are so far removed from sports that they usually don’t care [laughs]. But where I am in terms of making clothes, I think there’s been a lot of influences on me just from traveling the way we did as kids. Now that I’m making clothes, I’m kind of seeing the juxtaposition of all of the different cultures that have influenced me. Even, like, the different swag from the different ball players, whether they were Dominican guys, African-American guys, it was cool to see the different flare and swag they brought to the game. It was usually in line with their own culture.
Which player that you saw as a kid had the best style?
Aw, man, Delino DeShields. He was the the first dude to wear hi-top cleats, the first dude to wear high socks, and was one of the first to start wearing baggy pants. But he always had his own flavor, the way he wore his uniform and the way he played the game.
And you began your career working with the Dodgers?
Yeah, I grew up thinking I was going to be a basketball player and realized I couldn’t do that, so I did my best to play college baseball. But growing up in baseball sort of allowed me to see the end of the tunnel, where I’d be an 8-year minor league vet and end up coaching in the minor leagues. So I decided to go to grad school because I wanted to be on the business side of sports, and I ended up leaving Loyola Marymount to go work for the Dodgers. I did sponsorships, and ended up doing business with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, so I started my own practice. I kind of built the Matt Kemp brand as it is today, or at least as it was until last year.
How did you make the transition to fashion and design?
Well I use the term design pretty loosely. My fiancé was a stylist and she worked on the styling on Matt [Kemp], and at the time I had a little extra dough in my pocket, and I like to shop, whether it’s for myself or for her clients. Up until that point, all through grad school, I was a retail kid. I worked at Gap, Diesel, and Dolce & Gabbana. Helping people shop constantly and identifying what people need are skills that I didn’t think that I would need, but are ones I now lean on as I’m creating pieces.
Fear Of God started first and foremost because I have a lot of friends in streetwear, like Nick Diamond [founder of Diamond Supply Co.], Mega that runs Black Scale, the Crooks & Castles guys, and it was so cool to see these guys take their personal vision and shape culture. And these were my peers, guys I was hanging out with on the weekends, so it was really inspring to see that guys my age were able to do that. I liked streetwear, but my taste was a little bit beyond that, and I thought about starting my own line because they were doing it, but I didn’t really have a purpose at that time.
It wasn’t until I was in Northern California with my mom and dad, and we were doing a daily devotion, and one of the things we talked about were clouds and darkness around the Kingdom of God. For the first time, these ideas of darkness and God coming together felt really cool. Up until that point, Christianity was always kind of cheesy or light-hearted to me. It was never cool. There was always something about it that was a little corny to me. So I just had this vision of the depths of God and the depths of his kingdom, and how cool that was. So I thought it would be cool to do these religious T-shirts, but do them in a really different way. You had Givenchy, which had a lot of religious themes, and Black Scale was doing it in a way that, if you don’t know Mega, you would probably think is a lot darker than it actually is. I wanted to create something that was obviously Christian, and borrow from the framework that Givenchy and Black Scale laid out. I began to do that and develop products, but my taste level was beyond T-shirts. It isn’t how I dress or how I express myself. Instead, I began developing pieces and a mood and vibe of the brand with a Tumblr. I think it’s not until this last collection that I feel like the communication is consistent with where I want it to be.
Aside from Chrisitanity and religious themes, you’ve said before that your reference points with Fear Of God will always be ’80s and ’90s skinhead and grunge culture. In what ways did you explore these themes in the new collection?
Those will always be my inspirations, but what I’m putting out now needs to be modern and appropriate. For me, living in Los Angeles, I miss wearing my overcoats in Chicago and I miss being able to layer the way I did. So in the First Collection, we did hoodies but with short-sleeves, or short-sleeved, Axel Foley-inspired crewnecks. Now, we’ve taken it a step further. I love how women wear these short-sleeved overcoats, very Céline-type overcoats that almost look like robes. I love how you can have the short arm and then a layering piece underneath it. I thought it would be dope to flip that in a really masculine way.
So you sort of feel like you’re combining these relaxed, high-fashion Céline looks with these sharper lines that people associate with grunge and skinhead culture.
Exactly. I mean, look at John Bender from The Breakfast Club. No matter what year you watch that movie, he doesn’t look out of date, he doesn’t look not cool. He could wear that at any time, and I think there’s some magic to that. I love the way he had the thermal against the plaid shirt and the plaid shirt was cut. On top of that, you see him with a very Céline-like overcoat at the beginning and end of the movie. For me, I was like, “Wow! That’s exactly what I want to say. That’s exactly how I feel.” Growing up, whether it was Kurt Cobain, or Axel Foley, or John Bender, these characters were super dope to me. And they still are today. It’s like being a black kid in an all-white high school. You don’t fit in anywhere, so you’re forced to create your own language and own space. I think that’s kind of what Fear Of God is.
Was that the case for you growing up? Were you the only African-American kid in a mostly white school?
Yeah, for the most part. I’m not going to say I was a loner and didn’t have friends, but I never really felt comfortable with all the black kids who grew up around only black kids, and then I never quite fit, but I felt like I fit more in with the white kids. My style borrows from both of those cultures, and maybe even leans more towards that white grungy kid.
In this collection, it was surprising to see nautical stripes. Those seem like more traditional menswear than anything you’ve released before. What inspired them?
Those are just, like, Kurt Cobain-inspired. As I dig deeper into reference pieces of that era, stripes are definitely super heavy. If you asked me a year or so ago if I would have used stripes I would highly doubt it, but I’m super excited that I decided to add that to the collection. I love the way the long striped pieces peek out from underneath a hoodie or another T-shirt. I like the pop that it gives without it being a pop of color or print. Those things wouldn’t be consistent with what I’m trying to communicate.
Where did the elongated silhouettes and layering come from? Every piece in the collection seems like it demands another layer to make the whole look come together.
When I leave the house, I want to be comfortable and chic, but appropriate. Maybe I’m going to the gym, or maybe I have a lunch meeting, but I want to be appropriate for either one of those things. Layering kind of helps to give a silhouette that makes what you’re wearing more than just shorts and a T-shirt. It says to people, “Yeah, he obviously cares how he looks, but doesn’t actually care.” This is California, where people have mastered the art of looking like they don’t care. But all of my biggest style inspirations like John Bender and Kurt Cobain looked like they didn’t really care. And so much about fashion isn’t even about the clothes, it’s about the person. The models I used for this lookbook, the same models I’ve used for all three seasons, I feel like I could have shot the photos just of their eyes and faces and I would have been able to get the same message across. A lot of what makes something cool is about the person, and something that looks good on someone really dope isn’t going to look good on everyone.
The hard part is translating that to clothing in a way that won’t make people do exactly what you’re not trying to do.
You manufacture everything in Los Angeles. Did it just work out that way or does it speak to some larger point of pride?
I think it’s definitely become a point of pride. But it’s more a point of pride for the people who I work with. I’m really proud of Courtney, who handles my production, for her attention to detail when it comes to things like construction, because it’s an area that is very new to me. I’m not a sketch artist, I don’t sketch ideas. I come to her and I basically just say, “I want a sweatshirt but it should be short sleeved and it should have side vents and the zippers should only go halfway up. Help me communicate that.” And she’s able to do that. I’m happy that I have the resources here in L.A., to the point that I’m to go downtown and learn this process on my own. If the business grows and I have to take some things out of Los Angeles, then I have to do that, but at the same time I don’t think that says anything less about the greatness of being able to live in a country and a city where you’re able to get this far just by making quality product in your own backyard.
How do you feel Instagram and Twitter have assisted your success and popularity?
I’m beyond grateful. I’m grateful to be able to put products out at a time where I’m not confined to a fashion calendar, where I’m not forced to take out an ad in a magazine. I don’t need those things to communicate my product. This is Fear Of God’s “Third Collection,” this isn’t “Fall-Winter 2014-15”. This is Fear Of God, and it’s ready when it’s ready.
Which is something super unique to the times we live in. It’s pretty astonishing that you have a brand that has been shared organically on social media, and yet you’re in perhaps the most established store in the fashion world, Barneys.
Yeah, I mean, I’m just super blessed. Im really blessed to be in a position now where I have the relationships with people who have a million eyes on them at all times, and they wear the pieces because they like me, but more importantly, because they like the pieces. But when Kanye wears your bomber in GQ it comes with responsibility. Responsibility to him, responsibility to his team, to GQ and to everyone that sees that image. There’s also responsibility to put out the best product possible. It’s an honor and very humbling to be in this position, but most importantly reminds me to get to work. If the product is good, it’s up to the masses to decide whether or not it’s worth it. I feel like the way I’ve released product is very democratic. It’s online and if you want it, buy it. If you want to see it, come to the Instagram page. I have no desire to do a fashion show and meet buyers. I’ve met a lot of great people in the fashion world, but that’s not where my desire is. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing a show and then having to ask a bunch of PR people and buyers or celebrities come. I love just being able to put something online and share it virally.
What’s it like to have some of your closest colleagues, like Virgil Abloh, also have their collection in Barneys, and even merchandised together with your own products?
I think it’s really crazy for me. Virgil, on the other hand, has really been at the forefront of opening those doors. I’ve been blessed to come in behind Virgil with a product that can stand on its own, but only because Virgil was able to knock down all these doors. He’s shown the world that he’s not the only one and that there are people in his wake who also want to stand up and say, “Hey! Our ideas are just good as everything else in Barneys. And our ideas are probably more relevant to the people they’re selling to.” That’s powerful. Virgil and I are the ones that are shopping around, trying to find the dopest pieces to put together. And now we’re in a place where our ideas are the coolest things out, because we are at the forefront of the culture that’s making those shopping decisions. Instead of buying the pieces we sit next to at Barneys, we buy our own stuff. I went to Barneys in New York, and bought an Off-White piece. ‘Cause I know he might not have extras, and I really wanted it. And I paid full price for it, because I really thought it was the best thing in Barneys.
And to go back to responsibility, there’s mostly a responsibility to myself to be true to what I like. There’s no such thing as trend forecasting in my or Virgil’s position. We think we’re the ones that are going to be pushing aesthetics in new directions. That’s not from a place of cockiness, but we fully believe it.
Well it’s interesting that you reject the fashion establishment, and yet for your lookbook, you shot it like a runway show. Are you saying that you don’t need the fashion world to do a runway show that looks exactly the same to people as it would if it were in Paris and posted to Style.com?
Yeah, it was a fashion show for about 8 people. We set it up in that way mostly just because the jackets just look better in motion. But the photos are saying, “Hey, we can do it this way.” But yeah, the pieces just look better moving [laughs]. We actually started the shoot with everyone standing still, and once they started walking, everything just came to life. It just felt so real. Previously we did, like, the skinhead aesthetic for the lookbook with the whole mood, but this time I just wanted the clothes to speak for themselves. We do have a campaign video coming out, but I just really wanted the clothes to do more of the speaking this time around.
But when you do use skinheads in your campaigns, aren’t you speaking to a larger idea of prejudice, using the misinterpretation and stigma surrounding the word “skinhead” as a vessel for that message?
Yeah, it’s all that. They could have been modern day monks for all people know. If you look deeper into skinhead culture, the aesthetic was actually inspired by West Indies culture that was transported to England. That’s where they got that clean, sharp style from. So using skinhead-looking models opened up the floor for a lot of discussion, good or bad, but just gave people a way to talk about it. Nothing we do is trying to be too in your face or too obvious. We’re trying to open up the way people think. And I’ve faced criticism from people on Instagram who, like, ask me why I don’t use black models. That’s so short-sighted. Why would I hire a model for a cheap day-rate when I can inspire some kid to create a collection of their own, maybe create a legacy for their family, that goes beyond an image?
People look at the world, and think, “Wow. God must be a dark God and a mean, just God.” But for me, the darkness represents his depth. I’m always trying to communicate that people shouldn’t lean on their own, often shallow understanding of things. Like, you see a skinhead and that makes you think of Neo-Nazis, but look deeper.
Is that what you’re trying to get across with the hashtag you always use on Instagram, #TheFearGeneration?
Well it can be open, but this is a generation that is not going to look at a skinhead campaign and think it’s racist. This is a generation of kids that have open minds. It also comes from the Raf Simons campaign where he used the line, “Don’t spit at the fear generation. We’ll blow it back.” I thought that was super dope. This generation has autonomy and choice. They’re saying they’re not going to spend $800 on a tee from a big company. They’re going to spend half on a tee they really, really like, not because someone told them to, but because it’s true for them. This fear of God is not one that cripples you, it’s simply a fear of not knowing, and thus going out to find the answers. God is all knowing, but he is greater than any obstacle in your way, and he is on your side. Even in times that are beyond your understanding, there’s a peace in knowing there is a God that is bigger and more all-knowing than not only you, but anyone. That’s the Fear Generation.
Source : GQ