Garret Louie on the earliest days of streetwear


A series in which we show up to the studios and workspaces of our favorite creatives to discuss their cultural contributions in style, art, and design. The Louie family wears the Jefferson 2.0 Liteknit: a new Future Classic slip-on made from a foot-forming, breathable knit.

When Garret Louie introduced his first brand to the Canadian market over two decades ago, a word that joined art, fashion, music, and skateboarding culture was still relatively inexplicable. Between connecting the country to emerging international labels through Timebomb & FBOMB Trading, booking acclaimed musical talent at Fortune Sound Club, or building a sneakerhead retailer with Livestock; GMAN has been defining the streetwear term for years. With his wife, Jude, leading literary conversations through her social media book club at @mybookbath, and teenage sons Raiden (16) and Nevin (14) stepping into the city’s DJ and photography scenes, there aren’t many genres left for the Louie family to conquer.

On bringing the first streetwear brand to Canada:

The very first brand that I took on and introduced to Canada in the early ‘90s was Freshjive, which was arguably the first streetwear brand in the world. Of all the brands that I’ve worked with, Freshjive has had the biggest influence on my career as it got me into the promotion and event scene which led me to open Fortune. After Freshjive came Stussy, Conart, and Pervert — and actually I was just digging into this brand again because I found out that the founder joined this religious dumpster diving cult. From there we got into all kinds of skate products and in the past six years have added a whole fashion division.

On the new wave of streetwear:

If you search the history of streetwear or watch any documentary from that era you are going to hear about Freshjive, Fuct, and Stussy. Freshjive was literally from the streets at that time and I don’t think before the early ‘90s we had a term for streetwear. Ecko Unltd., Triple Five Soul, and LRG were a sort of second wave, and then came brands like The Hundreds who paid homage to the originals. Now we’re in a whole new wave with names like Brain Dead, Pleasures, and Chinatown Market. Streetwear is a label that people like to use but it’s getting harder to categorize things under just one word.

On streetwear’s globalization:

Streetwear (if we call it that) is at an interesting time right now as everything is more blended. I’m definitely seeing influences in high fashion to athleisure, along with skateboarding. Social media and the internet in general has globalized streetwear in the last decade. I used to travel and see some crazy style that I knew our market wouldn’t be quite ready for yet, but now people can see and copy trends faster. Fashion used to be very focused on New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo as its main cities, but now areas like Stockholm and Copenhagen have gained recognition and are two of my favorite places to look at style. There was a time when there weren’t any brands coming out of Canada, but now we see Native Shoes, wings + horns, Reigning Champ, Herman Market, Taiken, and Arc’teryx Veilance all from Vancouver alone. This was unheard of 20 years ago.

On hosting some of music’s biggest names at Fortune Sound Club:

I’m really proud to have had artists come through who were really small at the time and now unfortunately have simply outgrown Fortune. SZA, a Grammy award winning artist was on our stage not more than a couple of years ago. Mac Miller, Logic, Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, Grimes — these people are filling stadiums right now but were once in our 500 person capacity room. We’ve had some really cool people in there, but some of the best nights were random dance parties on our middle floor where people were just having a good time. It doesn’t always have to be a big thing.

On mixing fashion and art with club culture:

There was no hip-hop on the radio back in the day unless you caught it on some underground college station. As a DJ you’d be breaking tracks on people, so at the club during your set was the only time that people would be hearing new sound. Streaming has changed all of that. People still go to a club for an overall experience, so we’ve created a culture around it by bringing in art shows, or hosting fashion and streetwear events all in one place. I don’t want it to be a one-dimensional thing.

On passing the torch to the next generation of Louie:

The best thing about Raiden coming into the DJ scene is being able to connect with him over it and collaborate on music together. He’ll play me some song that he digs and I can tell him which original sample it came from, so it’s been really fun to get deeper into the music and teach him about the history. I didn’t starting DJing until I was in my 20’s, meanwhile he’s a teenager playing for 1800 people at a Lil Pump show. Nevin on the other hand has been really interested in photography. He likes trying out different film cameras right now and going to shows to take photos of the artists. It’s really cool to see the creativity of both of these guys come out, and the youth in general totally blows me away. I’ve had my stint with all of this stuff but it’s fresh when I can look at it through their eyes.

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