Punk is dead: a sentiment which has followed the subculture since its very beginnings. Despite what the purists claim, the philosophy of punk has thrived, progressing far beyond the safety pins and DIY garb associated with it. The anti-everything attitude has seeped into all crevices of modern society, constantly adapting to rehash new perversions of whatever is regarded as pop culture. Punk is widely admired by outsiders for its core sensibilities and the way it stands for a sense of individuality.
For Shane Gonzales, punk culture is and always will be “for the youth, by the youth.” And he is currently bearing the torch. If leather jackets and tartan plaid served as the foundations of punk fashion, Gonzales is working to modernize the genre, delivering contemporary garments that speak to the current youth. He aims to earn the trust of would-be consumers, to prove that, even at his age, his garments can sit next to other labels operated by “adults.”
“It could be very easy in this industry to give in and follow trends and make money quick and rise to the top, but that’s not what I am about.”
For Gonzales, it all began with punk rock. His admiration for the culture was a mere hobby. But in only five years, Midnight Studios matured from a visual identity to a full-fledged fashion label. Although the high price points may “seem ‘un-punk’” to young consumers, Gonzales is very transparent with his rationale that “to stay in business, we do what we have to do.” And that is what makes the punk attitude special.
While he continues to operate in a way that doesn’t compromise the integrity of his beliefs or his brand, he has realized that “at the end of the day, you are your own person and can only think for yourself.” Trusting that gut feeling is a must, but eventually you need to let go and trust the opinions of others. In such a short time, Midnight Studios has accumulated an impressive list of collaborators. He has worked alongside the likes of A$AP Rocky, Virgil Abloh, Sex Pistols and even Converse—impressive indeed, considering that these individuals and entities were once muses for his creations.
Within the current age of the internet, punk culture must continue to adapt. While its forebears stood against consumerism and establishment, the new generation of punks must carry the counter-culture ethos through the latest cultural revolution. We live in a time when anything can be propelled into popular culture, and that is why the punk philosophy will continue to flourish. Individuals have more room now, more than ever, to choose where they want to fit in. They have the freedom to develop their own identities. This is why free-thinkers like Shane Gonzales are essential to cultural progress. This is why punk can never truly die. Punk is constant.
HYPEBEAST: Working closely with Virgil, AWGE and other creatives, have you picked up any habits that have made an impact on you?
Shane Gonzales: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from anyone I’ve worked with, it’s to let go sometimes and trust other opinions. When I first started my brand, I didn’t really want help or input from anyone. I was very to myself about my work and didn’t care or ask what anyone else had to say. Seeing how my peers work and surround themselves with people they trust and believe in allowed me to bring in a team of my own and bounce ideas off each other day to day. At the end of the day, you are your own person and can only think for yourself. Having creative people around me lets me see how the other end of the stick reacts.
“When I first started Midnight Studios, my goal for this brand was to collaborate with the Sex Pistols and Converse. Never did I think both of these would happen in the first five years, but it did.”
With longevity in mind for the label, how do you make sure you aren’t moving too fast in the current speed of media?
Lately, I’ve just been focused on taking my time and making sure I don’t get ahead of myself. I think it’s important as a small, upcoming brand to worry more so about getting everything right and organized than trying to become some huge fashion house overnight. It doesn’t work like that for everyone, despite what the Internet may lead you to believe. I have been working on Midnight Studios for three to four years now, and I am very comfortable with the growth we’ve had and the speed we are traveling at as a brand. Ideally, I’d like to see Midnight Studios in twice as many stores, and doing twice as many sales, with twice as much press, but that will all come with time. Patience is key.
Has it been important operating on the fashion schedule to be taken seriously in the fashion industry?
The fashion schedule is slowly, day by day, becoming more and more irrelevant. Of course, there is still a set time and place where buyers from all over the world will come and see your collection, and it may or may not be important to try and be there for that, but it’s not necessary. I personally feel like the attention span of consumers nowadays doesn’t allow much of a window to show a collection six months prior to its release. A hundred percent of the time I see something from another designer that I want, I think to myself, well, if I could buy this right now I would. But six months go by and I see it on the shelves and end up passing on it because I’m no longer interested, or I’ve found something better. I would like to see a shift in the industry where designers focus more on “see now, buy now.”
You’ve spoken about being trapped in a “youth” category. How would you want the label to be regarded if you could control its perception?
I think due to my age of 24 and due to the natural history of this industry, it is unorthodox to have an “all-ages luxury label.” It puts me in a place where I haven’t earned the respect of the elderly community, or the big-time press, or the big-time labels, because to them, I’m just a kid. I think when certain people see Midnight Studios on the shelves next to a brand with a similar price range that is designed by a 40-plus year old, they think to themselves, “Well, maybe I should trust this brand because it’s been around longer and is run by an adult.” I’d like to be considered equal to these companies because I really do focus on design and longevity and a product for everyone. But that could only exist in a perfect world, and hopefully one day that will happen while I’m still young.
There would be no Midnight Studios without punk music, but what parts of punk culture are important to the ethos of the label and which parts can be left behind?
Punk music is, of course, the majority of my inspiration for Midnight Studios. But that inspiration to someone like me who is a designer, and not a musician, is simply all expression of oneself. While I do love listening to these bands which I’ve been listening to for over a decade, it wasn’t the music that made me want to pursue fashion. It was the energy and attitude that came along with the whole punk movement of the late ʼ70s and early ʼ80s: the DIY, the creativity, the anti-everything, the “I don’t care if you like it, because I do, so piss off.”
It could be very easy in this industry to give in and follow trends and make money quick and rise to the top, but that’s not what I am about. I want to do things my way, and if anyone else likes it, then great. As far as what could be left behind, it’s the high price range, which I sincerely apologize for to young consumers of the brand, but most people don’t understand that the cost of production is high, and in order to stay in business we do what we have to do. It may seem “un-punk” of us, but that’s the reality. Xoxo.
The Sex Pistols project was huge for you. Are there any other collaborations that could match your level of excitement?
When I first started Midnight Studios, my goal for this brand was to collaborate with the Sex Pistols and Converse. Never did I think both of these would happen in the first five years, but it did. And now I sit back and realize there are so many other collaborations I can do if I really focus on them. I always go back to my childhood and think, “Okay, who would I cry to work with as a 13-year-old kid?” The list goes on of people who I dream to work with one day: Daft Punk, Three 6 Mafia, Jun Takahashi from UNDERCOVER, TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist., Baker Skateboards, etc.
As a young designer with a quickly growing reputation, what do you feel are your biggest obstacles?
Right now, I’d say my biggest obstacles are all internal. It isn’t easy doing production with such a small team, and delivering on time, and consistently having product available to keep the consumers’ interest. Most people think, “Oh, I forgot about Midnight, because they haven’t dropped anything in like a month,” but they don’t understand that isn’t easy. Things take time, and while these new out-of-nowhere brands are selling thousands of units overnight, there is nothing tangible behind them. I’m focused on becoming something bigger than that. Something that is around forever. Not some T-shirt, hoodie or tracksuit brand cosigned by a supermodel or hip-hop artist that’s cool and profitable for one or two years, then disappears because there is nothing else for them to build on.
Have your inspirations changed from the early days of Midnight Studios?
Not really. I still get inspired by the same things for the most part. Music, movies, Japanese fashion and design, skateboarding and everyday life here in Los Angeles. I’ve discovered so much more about all of these things since I’ve started the brand, so the range of what inspires me is now much broader and clearer. I am constantly finding new music, movies, people, etc., all of which give me ideas for the next collection. I’ve also realized that I have a bit more power now to do what I want, so I set my sights high, and don’t stop until I’ve reached it.
Do you think counter-culture can still exist in today’s digital age?
Yes, and no. I think it’s still possible, of course, to be your own person and kind of go against everything else, but at the end of the day everyone wants to fit in and be accepted. With the Internet as impactful as it is, you can fit in wherever you want to. You can literally decide who you want to be and completely start your whole life over just by deleting your pictures online, changing your look, and going for it.