The rotation of so-called "hype" labels in the streetwear community has been steady for several years now. Supreme, Palace, BAPE, YEEZY, Gosha Rubchinskiy, OFF-WHITE. When it comes to igniting consumerist hysteria among stylish youngsters, these guys stand unconquered – at least within the mainstream.
But there exists a brand just a few thousand miles south of the American border which holds just as much clout over local streetwear folk as any of the aforementioned names. Facetiously dubbed CRACKXCOCAINE, the label has been causing considerable commotion on the streets of Mexico City thanks to its DIY direct-to-consumer business method, audacious branding and drug-fueled history (as the namesake suggests).
During a recent trip to the Mexican capital, I caught up with CRACKXCOCAINE's founder, a young guy by the name of Alan, to find out more about his controversial past and discover how a brand that's currently peddled at subway stations is putting Mexico City on the streetwear map.
When did you first start the brand?
Why did you start it?
I would like to say that it was because of the passion and interest I have for the fashion industry and streetwear. I mean, I’m not saying that I wasn’t into fashion already, but you can’t bring food to the table with only having a passion, you know?
The reality is that I needed to do this project because I wasn’t doing things right, and this was my only way out. Nothing good was coming out of it; I mean, I was selling drugs and taking drugs. I’m actually not sure if saying this is a good idea or not.
I don’t have any university education and I only finished high school, but I’ve been a digital illustrator for a while. I’ve been drawing since I was 17 and I’m the mind behind all my brand's designs.
I used to own a few streetwear shops that didn’t work out, but that experience helped me understand the market a little bit and understand what people were looking for.
When it comes to clothing, I realized that some people are interested in concepts or design history, some like to buy expensive random stuff to prove that they have money, and others just buy into hype or whatever's popular.
Since I started CRACKXCOCAINE, I’m doing the best I can to fulfill the necessities and personal likes of all kinds of people. The majority of people that buy our brand are from the ghetto, and I’m really happy for that because I come from the ghetto too, but I’m not trying to be selective or only sell to that particular sector. At the end of the day, I just want people to understand what I’m doing and to wear my brand.
CRACKXCOCAINE was my last attempt at making things right, to do what truly makes me happy, and thank God we’re still here. I started the brand with 3,000 pesos ($157 USD), which was a lot of money for me at the time.
How did you decide on the name, "CRACKXCOCAINE?"
That’s a hard question. Apologies to my family that will probably read this, but I have to be honest, so here it goes…
I was getting high in my room listening to Goldie Loc with a person who at the time was like a brother to me – I was sniffing coke and he was smoking crack. I already had a few designs for the brand but didn’t have a name, and I was just spinning around the room and began to think about how much power and control drugs have on addicts...the way people lose their integrity just to have these substances and how it’s never enough.
I wanted my brand to have the exact same impact as these drugs, so it was obvious to start with CRACKXCOCAINE, "Made For The Hood."
Describe your business model in terms of how you sell the brand and why you think this model has been successful.
I've always sold the brand through social networks and delivered the product in-person, where I meet people at halfway points across the city (mainly in subway stations where we can gather up more than 40 people). In the early days, I was the one who delivered the clothes, but now I have a friend that does that and another friend who is the community manager of the brand who helps us with the social media and social network.
We still make personal deliveries at the moment, but now we have a set location – a space called SUPA FRESH STORE on Queretaro Street in La Roma Norte district – where customers can come see the designs for themselves, along with other local brands. We’re opening a space soon called “R.A.W.” which will house the basic collection exclusively. I also have a Japanese intermediary here in Mexico, who sends our products to Japan and sells them in two stores there.
What type of people did you want to reach out to when you started the brand?
I’ve always wanted my brand to be worn by people from the ghetto, people who understand the references and who have lived the streets. But nowadays, people from all classes wear the brand!
What were you doing before you started the brand?
10 years ago, my friend and I had a streetwear store called Los Trece where we sold international brands. I also had this brand called La Lokera, inspired by Chicano culture, but neither of these projects worked out and we had to close the store because we did not make enough money – only a few people were interested in streetwear culture at the time and social media wasn’t as popular.
Right after we closed the store, I was going through a divorce and didn’t have a penny, so I had to go back to my hood and start selling Japanese food in the mornings and drugs in the evenings. I was barely making ends meet.
After a year of living like that, I got fed up and decided to go back to what makes me happy and return to the streetwear business, which then led to CRACKXCOCAINE.
What are your biggest influences when it comes to your style and the designs featured on your clothes?
Unfortunately the people in Mexico that are interested in fashion are always waiting for proposals and ideas from designers based in other countries, so it is extremely hard to propose something new and make an impact.
I just basically take what’s hot or whatever’s hype and repurpose it, so in this case, making a sort of parody by using something that relates to drug use. I don’t know if you can call this an inspiration (I don’t follow any fashion blogs or anything), but for me the outcome is always a risk; you can either find the inspiration you need or get stuck by trying to do the exact same as everyone else and essentially lose the essence of your brand.
Have you gotten in trouble with the brands whose logos you've repurposed (Thrasher, Champion)? Were you trying to make some kind of statement?
Not yet and I hope it continues that way. I’m not a big brand and my intention is not to annoy them by any means. My production is 100 pieces per model and that’s only for Mexico alone; in Japan it would be impossible to sell all those models, so I have others for that market that make references to other brands.
At the end of the day my intention was never to make fun or be disrespectful to those brands (I actually wear a lot of them), I’m just trying to make some noise.
Do you think fashion takes itself too seriously?
I never take it seriously. I think people are getting bored of the concepts from some brands, because no one is doing anything new anymore. I think that “hype” is killing creativity for people in the fashion industry, and that’s why many brands are taking the hype route in order to survive.
The humor behind my brand is my way to say “Look, I’m not taking the fashion business that seriously.” It’s like a kind of protest that shows my nonconformity towards fashion heading backwards instead of forward. It’s not a protest against the brands, it’s a protest against ignorant consumers. I just like to cause outrage.
Fashion these days is based on influencers that many times don’t really even care about fashion, the same goes for their followers, who have no idea what they are buying. With all due respect, I think that the fashion industry now is losing credibility.
Where do you see the brand going in the next few years?
I see a brand that will make it across the ocean with stores nationwide and globally. I see a serious and mature brand that will be dressing streetwear lovers all around the world.