“I didn't think the brand would get to this point. I was just making clothes for the homies,” Noon Goons founder Kurt Narmore tells me, when speaking over Zoom.
The beginning of Noon Goons sounds a lot like How to Make It in America, the cult HBO show that followed two aspiring designers trying to make it big. Narmore had worked in fashion for a while — in fact, his first foray was when he was a young teen making bootleg T-shirts for his local skatepark, Brickyard. "I redid their logo and the owner got all pissed off, so that my first experience," he remembers.
From there, he bounced around working for LA-based brands. First, assembling boxes for Stüssy at its LA warehouse, and then working at American Apparel during the brand's mid-2000s peak. “I was on the factory floor and that's where I got to learn all the different machines, and the process from knitting the fabric to cutting and sewing, dying, to finishing the trims and all that.” Having watched how a factory operated, Narmore then expanded into production, using his factory connections to fill orders for various indie LA brands.
Then, in 2016, Narmore started Noon Goons, named after a diss his mother used to call tourists who would flood the beach as soon as it started getting hot. "Me and my friends would just wear the logo ourselves, jokingly, like we're the noon goons." The designer wasn't taking the brand too seriously, just having fun playing around with different T-shirt washes and experimenting with technical details. Or as he puts it: “I was doing cool shit that not a lot of people knew how to do.”
Then, while doing production for Ron Herman, the LA-made brand that has achieved Ralph Lauren levels of cult status in Japan, Noon Goons got noticed. “'They're like, 'Oh my god, we love it. Can we sell that?' Then SSENSE and Dover Street Market asked for collections, and it just snowballed." Suddenly, what started out as a goofy side project became a lot more real.
It’s not hard to see why the brand took off. Noon Goons makes objectively great clothes; think early days Supreme, if it was made on the West Coast (though Narmore himself would definitely refute that description). The brand excels at making wear-everywhere clothes in laid-back silhouettes, finished with little details that make them stand out, whether thats a cut, a fabric, or a pattern.
But the popularity of Noon Goons goes beyond the fits. When asked why he thinks the brand resonates, Narmore says it's because people “can see the realness” behind it. Scrolling through the brand's Instagram, the inspiration behind his collections are clear. Interspersed between campaign looks and product shots are archival photos and videos featuring everything from an old Red Hot Chili Peppers deep cut, a video of the iconic punk band P.M.A. performing, images of the skater Sal Barbier or an old news clip describing how the surfer Montgomery “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani was "radical" on the waves.
Noon Goons, like every brand should be, is clearly an amalgamation of its founders' interests. Narmore isn't making '70s- and '80s-inspired clothes because it's trendy; he's doing it because he's obsessed with the era. Take a recent release: a green check Harrington jacket named “masque” after the iconic ’70s punk club in Hollywood — everything Noon Goons does has a specific reference, Narmore doesn’t do things by accident. This attention to detail extends to the technical aspect of the clothes: “If I'm making a pant, I want it to have room or some stretch so it's not going to rip when skating."
Even the brand's models are connected to the scene; everyone you see in a Noon Goons campaign is street-cast personally by Narmore: “All the kids that we use are homies, every single person that we feature. Everyone is someone that I know, or that I met surfing, at the skate park, or at a punk show."
In 2017, Narmore was joined by Sam Jarou, who became Noon Goons' creative director. Since then, the duo have quietly been working away, producing some of the best under-the-radar pieces out there. “We're two homies, me and Sam; we don't have any financial backing, no distribution, no anything," Narmore says. "This is all just straight hustle, and I feel like we're going up against these brands that are well-established with big backing, but people are starting to see our pieces and appreciating what we're putting out there."
“I'm here 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, so I have my routine. I don't ever leave this fucking place,” he laughs. Despite never setting out to build a legit brand, Narmore has found himself at the beginning of his own success story — and he's into the challenge of it. “I like seeing us getting the attention of the big boys, making them sweat a little bit, you know what I'm saying?"