Conversations: Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God
We sat down with Jerry Lorenzo, the founder and designer of Fear of God, in our continued check-in with designer friends also under social isolation. We spoke about Jerry’s distinct approach to design; a process rooted in his strong instinct for timelessness that escapes the constraints of seasonal calendars. He went into greater depth about the family-centered passion that drives his process, a professional and personal balance that has cemented the label’s ability to deliver impactful wardrobe solutions, season after season.
RG: What’s good Jerry, how are you?
JL: I’m good, how’s it going?
RG: Well man! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
JL: That’s all I got on my hands man, no problem!
RG: We’re going to start with a question for you, from Matthew Williams of ALYX. He asks, “What are you grateful for?”
JL: I think Matt and I are very similar in the respect that family is most important to us. I’m really grateful to be able to spend this much time with my kids. Being home with my family has been amazing and clarity around the importance of that has become much more apparent lately.
We wait till we have something to say........We don’t take the luxury of being able to put ideas out into the world lightly. We honour that opportunity.
RG: I think that’s the whole intention of this series. I don’t think fashion was the first thing on our minds when this pandemic happened. It’s more about the people around us. Are our family members and friends doing well? It’s important to check in with each other. How are you holding up with what’s been going on personally, or even in terms of the brand?
JL: I’m holding up man, I mean I think. Everyone’s getting hit. There’s something about being in this together with the rest of the world. Although it’s tough, it gives you a little bit of peace. I also have peace knowing that Fear of God has always put product into the marketplace, despite not being a very capitalistic brand. We’ve never stuffed 4 or 5 collections into a year. We wait till we have something to say. We wait till product reaches a level that showcases the best of our current production ability. We don’t take the luxury of being able to put ideas out into the world lightly. We honour that opportunity. How does this next collection speak to the environment or the atmosphere of our times? Are we making sure we’re creating pieces that inspire and don’t depress; especially in an environment where that might not be tasteful or necessary? What’s necessary is how use our creativity to uplift, encourage, and provide solutions for people. I feel like we’ve always approached our product in that way, so now’s the opportunity to go deeper into that expression. Really just trying to find the deeper purpose in what we’re proposing to the world.
RG: Right. We know you were getting the 7th Collection launched. From working with y'all, we know that you don’t really adhere to a fashion calendar, you take your time and let ideas simmer until they’re ready to go. Do you think this crisis has disrupted your creative process? Are you considering unexpected changes that might happen with your seventh collection?
JL: 1000% percent. We had a pretty robust story to tell. I think it would be tone deaf and irresponsible to tell the story we had planned, the way we wanted to tell it, in these times. I think it’s more of editing down that story... having a more focused message and making sure that we acknowledge the times through our campaign and physical pieces. Another luxury for us is that our finances have never been dependent on the calendar. When we choose certain things, we have the option to adjust what we say and how we plan to say it. We’ll adjust accordingly. We’re not exactly sure what that’ll look like. Every day is a new day during this pandemic. We’re slowly digesting these times and making sure that what we say uplifts and inspires the world.
I’m hoping that we can move towards less capitalistic and materialistic approaches when it comes to shopping. When we buy things, we could try to hang on to them longer, versus flipping, selling or collecting a bunch of unnecessary things. I’m hoping that the mindset and appreciation towards purchases change.
RG: Exactly. What is said right now holds so much more weight than before. Do you see this affecting the way people approach fashion and consumption?
JL: I’d like to think we could move to a more responsible place. But at the same time, we’re living in the age of mass information consumption. Even though this is hitting in a deeper way, I don’t know if the world’s in a position to take in what needs to be learned and operate differently. I’m hoping that we can move towards less capitalistic and materialistic approaches when it comes to shopping. When we buy things, we could try to hang on to them longer, versus flipping, selling or collecting a bunch of unnecessary things. I’m hoping that the mindset and appreciation towards purchases change. But I just don’t know. I can only use myself to research and develop for what we should do. I still want to shop and feel good about buying something that I’ve been looking for. Or find something that I didn’t know I was looking for. It puts a smile on my face and warms my heart. I still want to make products that do that for people, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. The amount of purchases made may change. I don’t think there will be a drastic change where people suddenly stop buying. There’s something about buying a piece that’s made beautifully; it makes you feel good.
RG: Yeah, absolutely.
JL: For us it’s understanding this market and where people are going. How do we better refine what it is we’re offering, while still making sure pieces provide solutions or wardrobe inspirations? One of these two boxes need to be checked.
I think crisis is the birthplace of creativity. I think crisis is where creatives thrive. I’m trying to find my truth in that.
RG: Has your inspiration or creativity changed at all? Now that you’ve mentioned refining collections to meet particular needs. Art versus commerce, right? Or is commerce even the subject here?
JL: No, I think crisis is the birthplace of creativity. I think crisis is where creatives thrive. I’m trying to find my truth in that. I feel like I was most creative as a kid when I didn’t have any money. When I had to put outfits together and change the laces on my shoes to make them feel new. But that comes from the crisis of not having money. Now the crisis of not being able to interact and having human connection is our current situation. What are the physical solutions that come from this? Like everyone, I’m looking for them. I think this is the push that the world needed to come up with better solutions.
The blessing of this pause is to look at all the things we have in our immediate grasp that we typically look beyond.
RG: Earlier, you spoke about limitations, in how we contact and spend time with others. Do you think spatial limitations have affected the way you approach design?
JL: The reality is, I am generally inside. But because I’m a CEO and a creative, I’m bombarded with a lot of issues that aren’t necessarily creative. Now it’s given me a little bit more time to focus more on the creative responsibilities of my job. I’m blessed to be able to dig deeper when I’m not always free do to; especially when I’m in my studio or when I’m confined. Something as small as going through all these vintage magazines I’ve collected from the late 80’s and mid 90’s. Just finding ideas that spark solutions for the collection that weren’t present before. The blessing of this pause is to look at all the things we have in our immediate grasp that we typically look beyond.
RG: What 80’s magazines were you taking a look at?
JL: All the Vogue… Italian, French Vogue. Old GQ’s, Esquires. A bunch of old men’s fashion magazines.
RG: Right most of them fashion. No sports?
JL: Not right now. I’m looking for solutions for the collection. Sort of looking with my creative hat on versus the time-fulfilling or self-fulfilling hat. To be honest, I let go of a lot of my old sports magazines.
RG: Dang, really?
JL: Probably shouldn’t have done that, now that I think about it [laughs].
I don’t want to say that only the strong survive, because as a new brand you don’t necessarily lack strength. I think it’s more about who wants it more. It always comes down to that.
RG: Our next question explores the idea of this time being a needed industry reset. It seems like anyone can put a brand out nowadays and find legitimacy; we’ve seen many brands pop up this way. Do you feel like this is a time where only the strongest labels survive?
JL: I don’t want to say that only the strong survive, because as a new brand you don’t necessarily lack strength. I think it’s more about who wants it more. It always comes down to that. In order for retail to survive, it has to buy. Now, I have to make what I know will sell through. The stakes are just higher for what’s being proposed. No one can afford to risk on something that only looks cool. Is it cool because it’s hype but when time flies by, I’ll be stuck with it? Or is it something that transcends time, something that I can stand behind and know will move now, or even months from now. Creatives need to make sure they really believe in what they’re putting out in the marketplace. If it doesn’t move, at least you put your belief into it, versus– I think what’s going to die, at least within fashion, are business built on a capitalistic model. That type of stuff is going to smelled out from a far.
RG: Like a burst bubble.
JL: Yeah. I think it’s a real thing that people are going to be looking for. So… I don’t know if it’s only the strongest survive… but I think creativity will continue to rise to the top as it always has. No matter what your resources are. If you actually want it, you’ll find a way to make that piece, find a way to make that hoodie, find a way to get those ideas out. It’s going to be a lot tougher than the way it was in the past. But you know, it’s never been easy. It’s never been an easy industry.
RG: Is there a silver lining to all this uncertainty?
JL: I think the silver lining is the clarity that we get from all this. It’s invaluable. Whether you choose to use that clarity or not is up to you. I think new brands– yeah there’s a creative responsibility, but there’s also a business responsibility that needs just as much mental bandwidth and understanding as creative work. Now creatives are forced to understand an aspect of their business that is so often overlooked. I know for myself… I kind of let my production manager deal with a lot of headaches that I have to make sure I’m now involved in, at every step. There’s always a silver lining.
RG: Definitely. I mean just jumping to production, has this affected your factories; the people that you work with?
RG: The footwear you do is obviously in Italy, while other parts of production happen between Italy and LA. Are things on hold for you guys right now?
JL: Everywhere is on hold. Locally, Italy. Again, a lot of our 7th collection was a trim or detail away from being finished. Now we can’t even put the trim on it. You can either tap out and wait to do that or you can rethink; what it is you want to propose to the world. I’m really just resetting and rethinking all those small details, because I can’t execute on anything right now.
RG: You mentioned digging through your vintage magazine archive. How else have you been killing time while not working?
JL: We have 3 kids. I’m always working. We’re on spring break so this week we were homeschool teachers in addition to running a company. Just really trying to stay engaged with them and keeping their minds active. Not just being glued to a TV, iPad, Nintendo or PS4. I’m having no issues with staying busy. Sometimes, when I have some idle time, I’ll close the door to my office and just sit there.
JL: To get a breather. They’re keeping us busy man.
RG: It’s definitely a blessing to have more time to spend with our families, even if we’re forced to stay inside. Is there a piece of advice you’d give to anyone struggling or trying to break into the industry during this time?
JL: I would say this isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you. Dig deep to find what that is. It’s only going to make you better. Just believe that it’s something that’ll help better you as a person, maybe better your craft; whatever that is. Again, the crisis creates creativity.
RG: Lastly, what would you like to ask our next interviewee?
JL: How have you adjusted your work to adapt to this pandemic?
RG: Great question, we'll pass that on. Thank you so much Jerry for taking the time. Stay healthy, stay safe.