Welcome to The Window’s “A Drink With…” series, where each month photographer/writer duo Justin Bridges and Sean Hotchkiss sit down with an influential person(s), breaking the ice with their host’s refreshment of choice. Last month, we hung out with designer Mike Amiri over beers, and this month we’re catching up with En Noir designer and founder, Rob Garcia.
The Window: What are you drinking?
Rob Garcia: Don Julio 1942. It’s Anejo tequila. I’ve drunk enough tequila at this point in my life to have a standard, you know? [Laughs]
So we’ll never catch you sipping Cuervo Gold?
I used to be a whisky guy—Jameson. But I could drink too much of it. I don’t really waver from tequila, to be honest, unless it’s a geographic thing. In certain parts of Europe, it’s pretty tough to get a good Don Julio.
So it’s safe to say you enjoy going out?
I’m single. I don’t cook. There’s not much keeping me at home. My evenings usually start out with a meal somewhere with friends—I love Trois Familia, Little Sister, and Otium, next to The Broad—and then I’ll usually want to have a drink.
So you come here, to Tenants of the Trees?
This place is refreshingly different from the bottle popping you get in Hollywood. The owners, Reza [Fahim] and Jason [Lev], have created a cool vibe and clientele. It’s homey, a neighborhood spot. It’s also a place for me where I can comfortably observe the culture. That’s a big part of fashion—being able to submerge yourself into really authentic subcultures that are bubbling. It’s all about the youth in the neighborhoods that are popping up. How the kids wear things and what they do, that’s how trends start, so I feel it’s essential for me to be out and be where things are happening. I watch and then take those ideas and put my own spin on them.
And En Noir came from that? You guys started with leather.
When we started in 2012, we were doing leather and putting leather on everything. That’s what we knew was next. That was Chapter One. It felt fresh at the time, but that market got very saturated. The time we were forced to take off allowed us to step back a little. If we’d stayed around, we probably would’ve gotten sucked up in that trend and people would have gotten tired of us.
Yeah, talk about what happened. Why you guys took a season off.
With some great success came a lot of lessons, so to speak. [Laughs]. We got to the point where we needed to take on investment, and when you go out and seek money and you have a thriving brand, there are definitely sharks in the water.
Fair enough. Did the time away confuse your customers?
We were in a battle. And anytime you get back up from a fall or you come off of something like that, you’re not really sure what the reception will be. How will the consumer react? How will the buyers react? We’ve been really fortunate that people have shown us a lot of love.
Well the clothes are good. That helps.
Thank you. The most important thing now is that we have the structure to support success. Coming from L.A., it’s a very DIY approach. You’re kind of figuring it out as you go. You don’t think about how big something can get.
So following on the leather, denim seems to be Chapter Two for you guys.
Definitely. We didn’t sell denim in the early years, but we’ve been developing it since day one. Denim takes time to perfect. We didn’t want to release it without it being fully developed.
Your line also seems very focused on buying a few really nice things and wearing the hell out of them.
Yeah! The fashion icons we looked to were always musicians, guys who could go on tour for two or three weeks, a month, with just a pile of clothes and still look like rock stars. They had only the essentials—a couple pairs of pants, boots, sneakers. We don’t want someone to buy ten pairs of our pants. It’s not necessary. Pick a couple, wear ‘em out, and re-program.
A lot of guys seem to be into that feeling now. To have a uniform they go to.
I think it’s super cool. Everyone can have a uniform, something they wear that people notice and say, “He’s usually wearing that. That’s HIM.”
If we’re talking about personal style, we have to talk about your tattoos. It’s the first thing we noticed on you.
I had to wait until I was 18, out of respect for my dad. He’d tell me: “By then, you should at least have sound judgment. So you’re not getting anything crazy.”
What came first?
By 21 or so, I had a full sleeve. But I still couldn’t afford the best work. I knew where it was, I just couldn’t pay for it. By my late 20s, I had relationships with the people who would do the rest of the work on my body—Jun Cha and Dr. Woo.
A lot of your tattoos look religious.
Everything is renaissance and baroque era stuff: Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens—there’s consistency. I also use a lot of my tattoos in our graphics for En Noir. It just kind of ties right in. It’s a big deal to me. They tell a story, are a timeline of my life.
Did you go to church as a kid?
Not until my dad remarried. But I’ve always had an obsession with what you might call religious art. The Vatican, the cathedrals of Europe, stained glass, and so forth. No knock on our artists today, but the scale and the detail there is just kind of staggering. Working in fashion and going to Italy and France to source materials, I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of these things with my own eyes.
The L.A. style you helped usher in is on top right now. Where do you go from here?
The best Los Angeles designers right now aren’t so much focused on what’s next. They’re presenting an authentic take on what’s happening right now out here. They’re staying true to a style. And that’s a style that at one point—in the ‘80s and ‘90s—was thought of as kind of trashy. The brands that were doing it just weren’t doing it the right way.
That destroyed look? Like your jeans—ripped up, patched up.
Absolutely. It’s been cool to see destroyed denim elevated to high fashion. But I do see the destroyed look phasing out. Things will move back towards naturally distressed or even clean-cut denim. Don’t get me wrong, I love distressed, I love destroyed. But, as I said, things get saturated, and it’s time to roll them back a little. That happens naturally. But that uniform—a leather jacket, jeans—that’s L.A. It never goes out of style. It’s here to stay.