On the eve of his first pop-up store opening at J. Lorenzo – a chic West Hollywood establishment coincidentally sharing the same surname – self-taught Los Angeles designer Jerry Lorenzo is clearly humbled, yet undoubtedly delighted at the success shared by himself and his rising creation: Fear of God – a sophomore clothing label forged as an ode to Lorenzo’s spirituality and diverse past.
Built with an intentionally minimalist decor, this temporary shop marks the natural progression of a fruitful endeavor that’s hit its stride with quality apparel – designed, produced, and distributed in the City of Angels. With a heavy emphasis on the small details, the featured collection is edgy, yet versatile, designed with the intention to comfortably fit just about anyone’s wardrobe. Jerry states that it “caters to the kid that’s settling for a hoodie that doesn’t really fit the way I know he wants it to fit.”
As he adds the finishing touches to the artfully constructed J. Lorenzo retail space, Jerry and I enjoyed a lengthy conversation about his unexpected rise to prominence, and how his nightlife past has helped bridge, and ultimately connect, the dots to a rewarding career in fashion. We also discuss the entrepreneur’s competitive nature and dig deeper into Jerry’s thought process – providing an intimate portrayal of the man behind Fear of God.
“I’ve always been the kid that made the basketball team, made the baseball team, made whatever team and was a really good player but never dominated any [particular] sport, however I’m such a competitor that I’ll always be in the game.”
Would you say you’re a competitive person?
That’s probably the best question I’ve [ever] been asked. I’m a competitive person. I’ve never dominated anything in my whole life. I’ve always been the kid that made the basketball team, made the baseball team, made whatever team and was a really good player but never dominated any [particular] sport, however I’m such a competitor that I’ll always be in the game.
For me, whether I’m being a creative or whether I’m – no matter what it is – I’m competing at the highest level. It’s like being [stocked] in Barney’s and all these [other] different places, I realize the opportunity and I’m so humbled by it. Even if I didn’t sell anything I’d be grateful to have the opportunity, but now that I’m there, I’m there to sell out, I’m there to win. I’m sitting next to friends, like Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE and everyone else that came up at the same time, but I want the kid that looks up to a Margiela or Balmain piece to be more drawn to mine.
I’m aware of the industry that I’m in. By no means do I think that my skills or designs are better than Margiela or Balmain, but I feel what I have that’s more powerful [than them] is that I understand the kid that’s coming into that place probably better than they do. I’m making this for him and I know him better than you and I’m going to show you exactly this.
Is the perception of you, Jerry Lorenzo, important in the grand scheme of things?
I think perception is extremely important, but I also understand that we’re in a time and place that is so fleeting. I say this with all honesty, I’m very blessed and happy to be where I’m at. We’re at H. Lorenzo, doing a pop-up shop where I used to shop at there years ago and couldn’t name two brands in here. I’m very aware of the level of where I’m at right now, but because of the way social media moves, I feel like anybody can get this hot with a little bit of communication and a little bit of light. Anyone has the ability to get this far, but what’s going to separate you is how long you can stay [relevant].
I don’t want to be the brand that’s hot. I don’t want to be the brand for the Hypebeast, I want to be the brand that the Hypebeast can always come back to. “I can always go back and get a long tee and be cool, I can always go back and get a bomber. I know I can get a flannel.” So I’m trying to be that.
How difficult is it for you to not to get caught up in what’s trending?
Its not too difficult for me because that’s never anything I’m trying to do. I did try that initially when I first started. I had a devotion with my parents and I’ve said this story a few times, where we just talked about clouds of darkness around the kingdom of God and for the first time. God, to me, was this really cool symbol. The clouds and darkness represented not dark in a demonic way, but dark in the depths of Christ; depths of God and all the different layers of him. I saw God as this figure in my head and it was from that point that I wanted to use clothing as an outlet to show a cool side of Christianity.
Initially, I was doing these corny screen printed tees that looked like other stuff that was out at the time. Those things never made it out, but they weren’t even representative of how I dress or how I view clothing or fashion. So once I stopped trying to do that, I started doing what was honest with myself and that’s when Fear of God came to fruition.
It’s easy for me to not play trends because I don’t really do that, I feel like I’m doing what I think is honest. My number one muse is John Bender from The Breakfast Club. That kid, in any time period, from when that movie came out until now, looks cool. He never looks out of date and that was always cool to me as a kid.
So I go back to those types of figures in my mind that have that timeless cool factor and that’s what I’m drawn to, more so than whatever’s hot right now.
How much does religion factor into everything you do as a professional?
It’s always been the one thing that’s been consistent in my life. That growing up, outside of family, was the only thing that caused me to dig deeper [and not just scratch] the surface. I can’t imagine doing a clothing line to just make money and be cool if I’m not trying to inspire people.
I try to do it in a subtle way, sometimes through scriptures that we put up on our Instagram, like instead of Matthew 16:24 it would be the 40th book 40 16-24 – so you’re not really sure, unless you know the Bible, where that passage is coming from. So it’s just giving people bits and pieces. The Fear generation to me is this new generation of cool kids that believe in God and that are really the coolest kids at school or the coolest kids [period].
I don’t know if you did youth groups when you were a kid, but the Christian kids were always not as cool as the real cool kids at school. So now [I want to show] that, “No, we are the cool kids. We look cool and there’s some depth about us that is cooler than whatever is fleeting at this moment.”
“I don’t need all the attention and all that is cool and I appreciate it and I’m humbled by it, but don’t for a second think that I’m not here to play and play at the highest level.”
What’s your greatest attribute?
My greatest attribute is my upbringing, it’s my parents. It’s my mom and dad. They taught me integrity. My dad’s [involved] in Major League Baseball and just the stories about him and the type of guy that he was – he didn’t swear around other ball players and he carried his life in such a way that was so respected. He did it in such a humble way.
In 2000, my dad was managing the Chicago White Sox. The team was doing better than everyone thought [they would], they went in to play the Yankees, and Joe Torre came up to my dad and was like, “Man, I just wanted to say you guys are doing way better than anyone ever thought and you’re doing such a good job.” And my dad was just like, “I appreciate it,” very humbly, happy to meet Joe Torre and be in Yankees Stadium, but then they proceeded to sweep the Yankees in 4 games.
So it’s like, “Yeah, I’m happy to be here, I’m humbled, but I’m here to play, I’m here to compete.” I don’t need all the attention and all that is cool and I appreciate it and I’m humbled by it, but don’t for a second think that I’m not here to play and play at the highest level.
My mom always had an elegance about her. We were around Major League players growing up our whole lives, my dad was a coach so we didn’t have the money they had, but my mom always had something that they wanted. Those are the kinds of things that come out when I’m making pieces. I want you to get dressed and I want your clothes to be humbly chic. “Yeah, I’m just wearing a flannel and some shorts and a layered tank, it doesn’t look like much, but I’m killing your swag.”
How was that for you? Traveling the country and being around all these players kids look up to. I’m assuming you were a big sports fan growing up?
Yeah, I was a sports fan. I thought that all I wanted to do was work in sports. Like I said, I was competitive, I was able to play a lot of sports, I didn’t dominate anything, but as a kid you’re just kind of living life. So now I can look at my life and look at the things that I do now and see how many of the different cities that we lived in, different cities that we visited, or different cultures that we’ve been exposed to have had an impact on me.
You don’t realize it until later.
Yeah, you don’t realize it until later. Being in a position of some type of influence in this space, that I’ve never really had a desire to be, is a blessing. My only responsibility is to stay honest to myself and never try to be anything outside of that.
How’d you make that transition from the corporate sports world to fashion?
I’ve always worked retail, I went to grad school and from there went and worked a corporate job in sports. I was in sports eight years doing deals, but all through grad school retail was my gig. Whether it was GAP or Diesel – I got to a place where I had a little bit of extra money and I was doing a lot of shopping and because of my retail experience I instantly knew what was missing from these department stores, I knew what was missing from the boutiques, I knew what was missing online. So I started to make those pieces [myself].
I went downtown and met with different people and tried to figure out, “How do I make this cut off hoody with zippers on the side?” From pattern maker to pattern maker, to losing fifteen to twenty thousand dollars and people stealing and lying; I went through all that. I taught myself all through mistakes, but I never lost the knowledge of knowing what I know – that kid and what the market really wants. The kid that’s settling for a hoodie that doesn’t really fit the way I know he wants it to fit, but because it’s the best one on the market he’s going to get that. That kid is always in the back of my mind.
Would you say that was your greatest take away from working retail? Is there something you that you didn’t realize until later on?
Sometimes you’re on for 12 hours of the day, depending on what kind of retail [environment] you’re at. There’s different people coming in and you have to adapt to these various personalities, finding the common denominator among them and seeing what’s going to fit with each person’s style. You have to be able to sell them on that – not sell [monetarily] but make them comfortable and confident in their decision about what they’re buying.
It’s those skills that I lean on now; there’s zero from the corporate world. Maybe my emails are really good? Maybe my language in those emails is awesome, but as far as dealing with people and knowing what people want, it all comes from retail.
I encourage people to learn from mistakes. I went to college, got my BA and I don’t use it. No one cares about that. Like I said, my skills come from working retail, the one thing that I do wish I had more of was street smarts. I’m such a people person that I never assume that someone’s trying to get the best of me or someone is lying – I’m always assuming the best.
There’s so much life experience that far outweighs what you can learn in college. In any industry – that’s going to help you with decision making. It’s going to help you with prioritizing, it’s going to help you with time management. These are the things that on the business end run our lives. I’m not going to say I’m against education, but I feel like I have a high level of it and I don’t use it.
“From pattern maker to pattern maker, to losing fifteen to twenty thousand dollars and people stealing and lying; I went through all that.”
What’s something people wouldn’t assume about you?
I like to think I’m an open person and you know what you’re getting when you’re around me. Even if you look at social media it’s open and honest. Sometimes I feel like a Johnny Cash character because I worked the night life for a really long time trying to supplement my corporate career or whatever it was I was trying to do. So there’s this dark, night life Jerry Lorenzo that likes to party, that clashes against this guy that really wants to be sleeping at 8:30 with my kids.
Is that still in you, the night life?
I’m still involved from a place of influence – I think it’s super important. You need to be in it and be about the culture versus the lights and the partying and all that stuff that comes with it. It’s a very integral part of street culture, of hip-hop culture. The night life drives a lot of that, it’s the one place – looking at it from an urban point of view – where you have your number one actor, your number one director, number one hip-hop music artist, the flyest street kid [in one place]. Now that all these cultures are meshing you’ve got the baddest drug dealer sitting next to the hipster kid.
I have a lot of respect and I honor that for that, but there’s also a lot of things that come with being a part of that that aren’t good for the average person or family man.
It changes your perspective, doesn’t it?
Having a family and having kids is an automatic perspective shift. You don’t have to have the perspective of, “Man, I’m going to go hard tonight. I’m going to stay up an extra four hours.” It’s “I’m going hard because that’s what I have to do.” It’s not “I’m not putting up with extra BS because I don’t have the mental bandwidth to do it.”
So what I’m saying is things automatically fall off, things are automatically prioritized. I have twin girls and a son, when my girls were on the way I can be honest and say I wasn’t the most excited. But it’s just funny how now that they’re here God knows what we need better than we do. And what we want better than we do. I don’t want to belittle my family and say it’s like having an advantage. It’s everything.
You have an eclectic sense of interests and inspirations. How much have the lines, in terms of cultures, blurred in recent years?
I think the lines have blurred just because cultures have blurred. I look at my son – and I’ll never forget this comment because I’m African-American and my fiancé is Mexican – I told my son, “You’re Mexican,” just kind of talking to him. And he said, “No, I’m not.” And I said, “You’re black.” He said, “No, I’m not” and I said, “Well, what are you?” And he said, “I’m Jerry Lorenzo Manuel the third.”
That was my proudest moment as a father because he wasn’t defined by either one of those ethnicities, he was defined by who he was and that’s just an honest answer. Now, where we are as these cultures begin to blend, 100 years from now everyone’s going to be our color: light brown. So of course as cultures blend or, as ethnicities and races blend, cultures are going to blend. You can hear that in the music, you can see it in the way people dress – Fear of God is a culmination of all the different cultures I’ve been exposed to and the things that have resonated with me at the highest level of my life.
You see that through the pieces and through the designs. It’s super traditional stuff, but it’s spoken with its own language.
Keep up with Jerry on Instagram and be sure to visit the Fear of God pop-up shop if in the Los Angeles area:
8646 W. Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
P: +1 310 652 7039
- Luis Ruano