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Jerry Lorenzo used to spend his weekdays at an all white school and his weekends at an all black church. His parents didn’t like their son listening to unwholesome music, so Lorenzo quietly collected rock band t-shirts and tuned into Metallica with the other kids in the neighbourhood. He began collecting shirts in the early 1990s and reportedly owns over 400 of them. When Lorenzo launched his LA-based label Fear of God in 2013, he was determined that his brand reflect the “stylish and dope” antiheroes of his childhood, including John Bender, from The Breakfast Club (1985), a rough kid with a misbegotten view of what the world owes him.

Fear of God’s cardinal rule is that the simplest solution will often be the best one. The brand is known for selling high quality streetwear staples—plaids, abraded denims, oversized hoodies—to a luxury clientele, but its appeal can be difficult to define in exact terms. “I’m not conceptual or art driven,” Lorenzo told the German fashion editor Joerg Koch, “I’m solution oriented”. He enjoys a flannel shirt with a raw cut-off and a cap sleeve, but doesn’t like the overall image to be too faithful to grunge. In order to make the shirt “more hip hop,” Lorenzo will style it with a grey undershirt or add a streak of zipper hardware. To distinguish his ripped jeans, he will add a flattering seam to the back of the leg. In Lorenzo’s debut footwear collection released in November 2015, he employed an interior zip, stripe detail and Achilles padding—all borrowed from the military boot. He described the signature shape to Hypebeast as “A runner with a pointed toe,” adding that “as you go up it gets more basketball”.

Lorenzo knew what a loyal customer looked like long before he had one of his own. While earning his business degree, Lorenzo worked as a retail kid at Gap, Diesel and Dolce & Gabbana. At each level of the market, he was able to intuit what customers were looking to buy, which was most often something that hadn’t yet been conceived by the brand. Fear of God filled the gap and Lorenzo has since garnered a significant celebrity following as a result. Kayne West, for example, wears Fear of God on and off the stage, which Lorenzo acknowledges elevates Fear of God’s image in front of enthusiastic audiences. “I feel the way I’ve released product is very democratic. It’s online and if you want it, buy it,” Lorenzo told GQ, surmising that he has “no desire to do a fashion show and meet buyers”. Like West, Lorenzo holds tremendous faith in the power of the fervid young, in particular, their ability to organise and mobilise—even if it’s just confined to Instagram, where Fear of God is able to connect directly to its customers.

When an interviewer from Milk Studios asked Lorenzo about Fear of God’s status as a “street” label, he replied that it was only so in the spirit of its formation. “I didn’t go to fashion school, I don’t belong to a fashion house, I have no design background,” Lorenzo explained. “It’s like a kid hustling mix tapes. You go downtown [and] you figure out the process.” It’s perhaps no wonder that Lorenzo shares aesthetic and sometimes ideological kinship with the subcultures propelled by teenage discontent. The movement’s unofficial poster boy could be Justin Bieber, who wore Lorenzo’s designs on tour to promote his album Purpose (2015). Bieber’s stylist, Karla Welch, was among the first to introduce the Canadian singer to Fear of God. Welch approached Lorenzo with the idea for modernised grunge, and together they conceived a brazen wardrobe of acid-washed jeans and flannel shirts with drooping hems, as well as rock-inspired logos that were subsequently printed onto Bieber’s official tour merchandise.

Lorenzo shares aesthetic and sometimes ideological kinship with the subcultures propelled by teenage discontent.

Nostalgia and aspiration have both been elemental to Fear of God’s success. Lorenzo considers each collection an incremental step in perfecting the Californian wardrobe—the kind that his teenage self might have seen on television shows. Lorenzo’s languid shapes and drippy silhouettes offer him flashes of self discovery. Indeed, creativity tends to work retroactively and fashion designers know all too well the comforts and caveats of revisiting the past. High school is a rich site for creative exhumation because it embodies louche LA style. “There’s this thing in LA fashion where we pretend like we don’t care,” Lorenzo told Koch. “So how do you look like you don’t care?” The “perfect version” of that comes from distilling and elevating the adolescent struggle for self actualisation.

Most people will naturally assume that Fear of God is not just a logo but a slogan for holy guilt. The name comes, as Lorenzo told Milk Studios, from a devotional session he had shared with his parents, when he began to see God as “this really cool and dark figure … in the layers and depths of his kingdom”. Lorenzo has started to use the Fear of God moniker in his own line of vintage inspired t-shirts, love worn and discoloured, for followers who aspire to the life he preaches. A life not entirely without sin, but certainly without shame.

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Neue Fashion • Issue 3 • Fashion • Feature • BY Hung Tran SHARE

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