worstok brings colombian folklore to american menswear
Saint Laurent muse David Friend and design partner Rudy Grazziani follow personal narrative rather than trends.
Photography Daria Kobayashi Ritch
At 18, in 2017, David Friend first walked the runway for Saint Laurent. This initiation into the world of fashion caused a creative ripple effect -- from becoming Anthony Vaccarello’s must to working as a styling assistant, Friend has worked behind the scenes with some of the world’s best stylists and photographers. Expanding his creative ambitions led to the launch of menswear line Worstok with design partner Rudy Grazziani. Debuting in 2018, the L.A. based brand recently showed for the first time in both Paris and New York. The duo met in L.A. two years ago.“I think that we’re both pretty unpredictable, we’re both pretty weird people. It creates a good mix, a good energy,” shares Grazziani of the pair’s synergy.
Representing their disparate upbringings, Worstok weaves personal history into its aesthetic. The first collection cast a light on Friend’s childhood growing up on an Arabian horse farm, while the spring/summer 19 line digs into Grazziani’s Colombian heritage. Titled DOSQUEBRADOS, which translates from Spanish as “two broken things,” the collection is inspired by Colombian styles and narratives, developed on fabrics and cuts that modernize traditional Colombian silhouettes. Featured in the collection is a patch that reads “crisis” and is an aerial view of a slum in Colombia where families and famers have been displaced.
i-D recently spoke to the designers, who share exclusive lookbook images from the summer/spring 19 line shot by Daria Kobayashi Ritch.
The new collection focuses on Colombia. Can you tell me how this is expressed through your garments?
David: Each piece has a meaning. A lot of the pieces have this skull that was drawn by Rudy. To get inspiration we started off by interviewing his family, but the thing is they all moved here after the 80s. We wanted more information on current Colombia and how it was doing so we started watching documentaries. One thing I found while researching, was how in 19th century Colombia there used to be a childhood tale where there was this demon and parents told their kids that this demon was gonna hunt them if they didn’t behave. I couldn’t find any pictures of it because there’s no photography obviously, but I found a piece of jewelry for sale that was way overpriced so I couldn’t buy it — it’s from a couple hundred years ago, it was a really worn down skull, kind of like a demon skull, a pendant, and it was rusted. We used that as a reference for these demons that Rudy did his version of, and we revived it. That was the reason for the skulls in all the pieces.
Rudy: We were looking for all these narratives that have to do with Colombia. A big part of what we did was take stories or narratives and turn that into graphics or descriptions that influenced some of the pieces. There’s a few pieces for example that have script on them and these all come from personal accounts of traditional outings in Colombia. The crisis stuff has to do with the displacement of families, which we did a lot of research into. It was a combination of doing research, taking real accounts and talking to people, and then interpreting that through drawings and design.
With this collection, who would you say the clothes are designed for?
David: I would definitely never say they’re for a certain type of person. One thing I’m stoked on is we shot it on people over 50 and we shot it on people under 18 and it looks pretty cool on both of them. That was something we wanted to capture — to have the youth angstiness to it but also a more cultured aspect.
Rudy: It’s timeless but of course of the time. It’s on Colombia but we’re here in the states, and trying to appeal to a broader audience is really important. The clothing we make has an edge to it, but also a sophistication to it — it has a level of complexity. That’s kind of hard because we’re young and trying to make these youthful pieces that are also sophisticated and well-made and high-end and so it’s interesting to make something within that realm.
You really champion community — can you tell me why it’s important for artists to support each other?
David: Because everyone gets fucked over. Like when you’re younger, you’re underpaid just because you’re younger — but they steal a lot of your work or your help on the shoots or on sets, and the fashion industry is dominated by the same people who have been killing it. Some of them are really amazing — there’s awesome people in the fashion world but there’s also really horrible ones. It’s gotten to a point where everything’s getting cheaper, whether it’s the modeling industry or fashion – everyone’s trying to get everyone for free and that has to do with social media. It’s like, “Oh, we can help you look cooler on the web and get you a following, so we don’t have to pay you,” or “you should just be an intern because you’re 20 or you’re 19.”
Rudy: David and I have so many talented friends. It’s like this new generation of creatives — all of our friends are insanely talented, whether its photography, video, painting or sculpting. We have an insane amount of resources just through our friends so I think it’s really necessary to help each other grow and in the process everyone wins.
It can be difficult to find the right creative connection — why do you think you two work so well together?
Rudy: I think it’s because we’re not the same at all. We obviously have a lot of the same interests and tastes as far as clothing, but even on the surface if you look at David and I, we’re kind of different. We have our individual senses of style that I think when they come together, creates this playful and sophisticated design process that works for us. If he was more like me or I was more like him, we would be leaning more towards one direction that might be predictable.
You have both accomplished so much. What advice would you give to people striving to bring their creative visions to life?
Rudy: It’s definitely a hard thing to do, so believe in yourself and develop your own projects. You have to remain focused on what your ultimate vision is and you have to try to ask a lot of questions, reach out to a lot of people, be unafraid of failing. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned — if you’re afraid to fail that first or third time, you’re not gonna have the perseverance to continue. David and I have been faced with so many obstacles already. Sometimes you lose a little bit of hope, but as long as you remain curious and ask a lot of questions and you’re willing to take the leap of faith and fail sometimes, then it will build a stronger shell, and you’ll be able to power through the hard moments.
David: You have to perfect your craft and you have to perfect your networking, they’re both equally as important. Another thing is not being ashamed of what you’re doing – a lot of artists start off and they’re so new they don’t wanna be super obvious about what they’re doing. Say you took some really cool pictures, but because you don’t classify yourself as a photographer maybe you post them and don’t say you took them and put them out there. It’s low-key insecurity but not really acknowledging the fact that it’s an insecurity. You have to be confident about it — don’t be the annoying people who are faking being artists — but if you’re working on something, you put in the work to get a result.
Where do you see Worstok going next?
David: My favorite place for clothing is Japan. I don’t think I wanna bring Worstok there but it would definitely be somewhere in Europe if there’s a place we can find. L.A. is seriously growing really fast right now, and that high end fashion world is coming. It used to be denim and streetwear but there’s real stuff here now.
Rudy: I think it would be really amazing to be a part of this L.A. revival of creativity and fashion, and I think we both wanna be serious players in that. It really feels like something is happening here and in some sort of way Worstok will maybe have an influence on it.