Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an emerging brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
Worstok is a Los Angeles-based brand that creates garments with handmade prints to provoke a dialog about the world. Using fabrics such as horsehair and maximalist style quirks such as patches on shirts and jackets, Worstok's pieces are imbued with meaning, and designed for longevity. Its FW18 collection has been picked up by top Los Angeles retailer 424 on Fairfax, marking the brand out as a definite one to watch.
When co-founders David Friend and Rudy Grazziani met, they bonded over a mutual love of Japanese fashion and an affection for hand-woven details. Grazziani comes from a family of seamstresses, with a background in painting and drawing, having studied product design at Pasadena's ArtCenter College of Design. Friend cut his teeth modeling for Saint Laurent, where he eventually worked as a styling assistant, gaining experience in vintage sourcing, fitting, and pinning at a top-tier luxury label before taking on six months of sewing classes.
The pair shared a vision of how Worstok would fit into the high-end fashion sector. As Friend says, "At this point, we realized, like, a lot of clothes get made, all the time — it's constant. We don't really want to be designers who make stuff just because it looks cool. Not that we don't respect that, but in our process, we realized we really want everything we make to be able to tell a story."
Worstok's SS19 collection is inspired by Colombia. Research into local garments and interviews with Grazziani's Colombian family inspired the pair to tap into the South American country's duality, where great beauty meets immense political corruption — and not just in the way popularized by Narcos and the story of Pablo Escobar. "There's evil in Colombia and there's beauty, too, so we wanted to show a mix," says Grazziani.
For Worstok, the devil is quite literally in the details. A recurring demonic skull graphic, drawn by hand, is inspired by an antique necklace pendant, and is a throwback to local folklore, but it also references the corruption found in modern-day Colombia.
The color palette is pulled from the red, blue, and yellow of the Colombian flag. These primary colors are muted with dense corduroy, thick short-sleeve button-down shirts, slouchy black knitwear with contrast stitching, and multi-fabric jackets with white, red, and blue art prints on the back.
A handmade "CRISIS" patch appears throughout, blanket-stitched onto shirts and outerwear. It's a Rothko-like arrangement of squares that's actually based on an image taken from Google Maps, an aerial shot that shows the extent of the damage suffered by locals who've been moved off their land.
"A lot of the farmers get displaced from their land by the government so they can grow palm, which provides oil," says Friend. "And then they go to a zone, far smaller than the original piece of land you had, there's no money to be made without their farm, and it's a very serious issue for the families living there."
Another key SS19 piece is the leather satchel. Its criss-cross patterning and anachronistic shape is Worstok's take on the ubiquitous side bag/fanny pack. Circumventing the trends for utility and safety buckles, however, Worstok's satchel is woven from waxed horsehair, a material that's a throwback to Friend's childhood growing up with Arabian horses.
As the Instagram picture above shows, the brand is exploring all avenues to showcase its collections. Casting is done through a combination of friends, friends of friends, Instagram, and the street, with models ranging from ages 16 to 65. "The whole point is we're trying to create this world, you know, like Planet Worstok," says Friend. "And the thing about planets is they're really diverse. I don't want people to think, 'Oh, that's a Worstok kid.'"
Two seasons in, the brand's design language is crystallizing around vintage-style, pseudo-’80s patterns and the fits and fabrics of a dystopian cowboy future. It's definitely on point, given this season's trends all point to maximalist fashion and a deference to the look of the Old West. But life on Planet Worstok also demands wearable, high-quality garments with thought-provoking stories from Planet Earth woven in, too.
Worstok's FW18 collection is available at 424 on Fairfax, Los Angeles, with an online drop happening soon. Stay tuned for more information about where to buy SS18 and follow them on Instagram @Worstokworld.