SkidRow Fashion Week is the fledgling streetwear brand that aims to help lift people out of homelessness in LA, one shirt at a time.
Created by recording artist and Warner Music cultural provocateur David Sabastian and skate industry veteran Rich Marshall, SkidRow Fashion Week operates from a printing house on the corner of Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. Every day, a handful of self-employed people who live near Skid Row make money by screen printing socks, t-shirts and hoodies with motivational slogans, crosses, black cherubs and other graphics. reminiscent of Yeezy, Fiorucci and Sister Corita Kent.
“The last thing the world needs is another song or a t-shirt, so I thought if we were to start a fashion business, it had to be around impact,” Sabastian said of the startup, which has ambitions to follow the social enterprise mold of successful LA Homeboy Industries. “When I grew up in Torrance, there was a large homeless community under Highway 110 near my home and I developed friendships there,” he added. “But too often the homeless are forgotten. They say they’ve been cleaning Skid Row for years, but the biggest problem is the rehabilitation and the opportunities. That’s the philosophy of this, you buy more clothes, you help more people because the clothes are made by people in the community.
The brand worked with Wendell Blassingame, a member of the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood council known as the “Saint of Skid Row,” to recruit around 28 employees over time, people like Sandra and Red, who were there on a recent visit, and whose names and faces of Sabastian painted on a mural outside the store.
“People talk a lot… these guys are walking the march,” said Blassingame, a longtime community activist, from his table where he sits daily in San Julian Park in Skid Row, an area 50 blocks from downtown of LA that crosses the Fashion District and the Arts District, and where many tony businesses and stores have opened in recent years. “We need to change the meaning of Skid Row,” he added, acknowledging the weight of using the name on a brand of clothing.
LA has an estimated 60,000 homeless population, with a history that began in the late 19th century when jobless men settled in the area around a Southern Pacific Railroad passenger terminal that is now known as Skid Row. During the pandemic, the city saw an increase in encampments on the Venice promenade and elsewhere, and conflicting public opinions on what to do. California’s new state budget has allocated a record $ 4.8 billion to spend on the cause over the next two years.
“When he said he wanted to do something on Skid Row, I thought of Patagonia, Toms shoes, Kind bars… The future of business is social impact,” said Marshall, who met Sabastian at the MAGIC show in Las Vegas. They launched the brand in 2019 with $ 2,000, starting by selling at the Melrose Trading Post flea market. In addition to providing temporary jobs, they regularly distribute donations of shirts, socks, food and other supplies to Skid Row.
Rapper who lists his fashion background working with Steve Aoki, Drake and FourTwoFour, Sabastian is known for putting on some provocative stunts, including a Gucci bonfire he hosted in 2019 to protest the controversial turtleneck sweater of the mark that looked like a blackface.. (After the public outcry, Gucci apologized, pulled it off the shelves, and stepped up its diversity and inclusion efforts.) To promote SkidRow Fashion Week, it is hosting a guerrilla pop-up shop in front of the market. of Dover Street in the Arts District on July 31, which the retailer is aware of and is not stopping. The brand is also available online.
The next step is to find large-scale financing and formalize the return aspect of the business, which they aim to achieve 10%.
“We have proven that we can sell products made and shipped by the Skid Row community worldwide,” said Marshall, who has received orders from as far away as Croatia. “Once that blows up, we have global ideas for buying land and creating transformational learning opportunities,” Sabastian said. “I also want to do a fashion show.
Not just a stunt but a whole moment.
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