Things are changing quickly within men’s wear. When WWD visited Guillermo Andrade a few months ago at 424 on Fairfax, the Los Angeles store he founded in 2010, Dior Homme was setting up a pop-up and Kris Van Assche was the creative lead. Now Van Assche is at Berluti, Kim Jones is at Dior Homme and Virgil Abloh is the creative director at Louis Vuitton men’s, signaling an arrival of sorts for the streetwear category.
Things have also changed with Andrade, who has his own label, named 424, that is carried at retailers including Barneys New York and Selfridges. Andrade has developed a design identity with his 424 armbands, hoodies and T-shirts with subtle social messages, and for spring is inching into new territory with a few tailored pieces.
Tailored clothing isn’t completely foreign to streetwear. Supreme created a seersucker suit with Brooks Brothers in 2014 and Off-White’s fall 2018 men’s wear collection was based on workplace uniforms. Andrade’s expansion could indicate how streetwear might evolve as it aims to stake out more floor space in department stores and grow up with its customers.
WWD spoke to Andrade about growing his L.A.-made streetwear brand, the viability of the category and the possibility of him taking a position at a luxury label.
WWD: Why did you decide to make more tailored pieces for the spring collection?
Guillermo Andrade: The reality is that as much as I love a good hoodie, T-shirt and a pair of jeans, it can get quite stale. And I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t like a great coat, tie or a blazer. It’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to do formalwear because streetwear is too popular.” But streetwear isn’t the only thing I’ve been curious about. It’s natural to grow. I’m 33 now and I want to feel more adult even if I still have a hoodie on. And when I think about a high and a low mix, I didn’t only think about using nice fabrics to make hoodies. I’m learning all of this new stuff and I’ve always loved all types of fashion and now I can execute different ideas that I’ve always had.
WWD: How are retailers responding?
G.A.: Surprisingly well. I’ve tried suiting before, but it was made in L.A. and for buyers who know suiting, it wasn’t very impressive. But they were happy that I did it and appreciated the guts. Most of them were supportive of the pieces from this collection, which I made in Europe. About half of the retailers, including Barneys New York and Ssense, ordered it. There’s definitely interest and I’m glad that they don’t just want hoodies and armbands. It feels like this is a void that people aren’t focused on and I’m trying to aim at specific price points and make pieces that are less intimidating.
WWD: You spend a lot of time with the customer. How much does their feedback impact what you design?
G.A.: Zero percent. It’s not like I don’t pay attention to what does and doesn’t do well in my collection. But ultimately, I don’t base my ideas and the things that I’m passionate about on what other people do and don’t like. It’s part of the fun for me to be able to learn something and show them something new that they maybe didn’t even know they had interest in. If they don’t like it now, I know they are going to like it in five years.
WWD: How are you teaching them to consider these other pieces outside of a T-shirt? How are you taking them along that journey?
G.A.: Having a variance of price is one of those things. They can work their way up to certain pieces. Also, our staff talks to the customer just like I’m talking to you. You ask me a question about any of this stuff in the store and I can tell you Jerry [Lorenzo] makes his stuff in Los Angeles and it’s this price because it reflects this process.
WWD: What’s your approach to collaborations?
G.A.: The strategy is the heart really. Does it feel good? Is it something you feel represents your store well? As a store it’s always nice to be able to give your clients something they can’t get and it doesn’t really make sense to turn down an opportunity to collaborate with another brand because you have too many. Unless you are doing 40 collaborations every five minutes, you aren’t doing too much.
WWD: Are you interested in investment?
G.A.: We talked about this the last time we spoke and that got me some e-mails and DMs. My answer is still the same. Yes. I would be open to it. I think those opportunities are great if they make sense for your brand and what you want to do.
WWD: What do you think about luxury department stores relationship with streetwear? Do you feel like you need them in order to survive?
G.A.: The intention was to get into that world. If you do something, you want to do it at the highest level. Working with these sort of establishments signifies that you are doing the best in your field. So I understand the appeal and I relate. When it comes to that specific question, it’s great to be embraced. I’ve always wanted to be the bridge. To show the established church of fashion that we have ideas that matter and we execute them at a relatively high level and they are valid because people buy our stuff. You have a new wave of consumers who are all young and they are at the earlier stages of their buying years. That’s a consumer base that everybody wants whether you are Supreme, us or Jon and Vinny’s.
In my experience, Barneys has been a great partner. They get your brand. They believe in it and they want to help you grow. Having a presence at Barneys sets a certain standard. It’s a stamp. It is important for a brand. I think if it goes well at Barneys, you will see growth in your business very quickly. Fear of God is a great example. Jerry [Lorenzo] got into Barneys and it sped things up tremendously. Now Barneys has the hardest job — they have the responsibility to uphold that spirit and continue that legacy. If they go in that direction I don’t see a problem. I think they are going to be fine. But the hip-hop section at Macy’s? That s–t is gone.
WWD: Do you think these department stores are going to retain that customer?
G.A.: I think it’s just like anything else. The reality is this: If you are doing it from a genuine place, you should be fine. But if you are doing it because it’s a cash grab, that customer won’t come back because they are just coming to get the one item you are offering and you aren’t giving them a real reason to come back.
WWD: Do you shop in department stores?
G.A.: You wouldn’t catch me in a department store. I just don’t go to them. Even if they sell my stuff, I don’t go to them. If I’m going to spend $1,000 on something, I’m going to go to Margiela and buy it there. It’ s not to put down department stores, but how are they going to continue to engage on a more personalized level with the people who are coming into that store? Look at Selfridges. They have one million people who go in there a day. It’s very hard to connect with anything there and I think that people want to connect.
WWD: More people are showing an interest in streetwear. Do you care about who is buying your product?
G.A.: Of course. How do you control that? You can’t. I think it’s great to sell product. If people want to buy your product, let them. If you don’t sell your product to them, Zara will. You need to control your product. You need to make sure the product represents you and then it really doesn’t matter who is buying it. That’s what matters. If you don’t have that in order, the wrong people will buy it. Relatively speaking, our market is still very small. It’s the same people buying more and more of all of our things because they like the energy that it’s putting out. It took me a year and a half to get this collection on the racks because we had to get the fabrics right. The customer will appreciate it. That’s what it is. The customer will appreciate Jerry’s product. He goes to Italy to develop a sneaker that looks like a Jordan and gives you something new. I don’t discriminate. I want every one to buy my s–t.
WWD: Do you have any more store openings planned?
G.A. I want to get this one right first. It’s not out of the question; it just has to make sense.
WWD: You’ve built such a community with 424 and mixed streetwear with luxury early. And now there are a lot of retailers doing that. What do you think differentiates 424 from competing stores?
G.A.: Respectfully, I don’t care about any of these stores. I have love for everybody, but I’m not worried about what other people are doing. I had an idea of what I wanted this place to be and the more I learn it keeps evolving and changing, but the spirit is the same and I would like to develop that more. Bringing Dior here is along the lines of what I had in mind and I’m more focused on contributing to the L.A. retail scene than I am competing with it. Like I said, I have love for everyone, but I’m trying to compete with other things. Not the homies.
WWD: Could you see yourself working for a luxury brand?
G.A.: Yeah. For sure. Why not? People do that all the time. I haven’t thought about which one, but it’s just like anything else. You have a brand and you want it to be in the best shops. You have ideas and you want them to reach the highest level they can.
WWD: What do you think about Virgil Abloh’s new position at Louis Vuitton?
G.A.: It’s fantastic. It’s the certification of streetwear as the genre of the moment. Does it solidify our ideas on a massive stage? Can anyone say we aren’t in the game now? Can anyone say that it’s not real? People used to say, “Oh, it’s a cute T-shirt and hoodie brand.” And by the way, I think at this point everyone makes T-shirts and hoodies.
WWD: What do you think about the viability of streetwear?
G.A.: Streetwear is not new. It’s been around for a long time. I don’t think because it’s going to become extremely popular that it’s going to become any less cool. I don’t plan on going anywhere. So you can start there. This is a reality for me. This is my real life. This is my business. This is how I’ve been able to change my life and my efforts aren’t going to stop because we are having a wave right now. You stick around by continuing to further your own conversation. There is a reason people started paying attention in the first place, so let’s develop that. I think doing that is enough.
This is a perfect example: I used to make T-shirts and hoodies downtown, and now I make shoes in the same factory that Prada uses. We aren’t stopping. And it’s not just growing in numbers, it’s growing in depth. It’s becoming luxury. It’s becoming more diverse. They are selling more and more categories, which makes it hard to say it’s not here to stay.
This isn’t the same thing as The Hundreds 10 years ago. The conversation has definitely changed and it’s a great thing because we can now have our own form of luxury. It’s a more modern luxury that’s not so exclusive. Virgil is doing museum exhibits and pop-ups someplace else. How is that stopping? It’s transcending. Supreme is worth $1 billion. You think Carlyle is going to invest in something that’s a wave? These people have bottom lines and investments to protect.
WWD: What do you think is the biggest challenge now?
G.A.: Ideas are shared, so it doesn’t matter how protected you are, you are still going to be imitated and knocked off. So having the right structure and making sure you are growing every season in the right way, a sustainable way, and keeping your product at a high level is the only solution to that. Cool, you bought the Zara one. Come back in a month because it’s going to rip or the fabric won’t be right. The only way to protect yourself is to focus on your product and make sure that it’s developing and the details get better. Then it gets to a point where it’s not even worth imitating because it’s just too hard.