Before I moved to Los Angeles I used to sit in my apartment in San Francisco and read Women’s Wear Daily religiously. I took pride in knowing everything that was going on in the fashion industry at large and I would dream of some day working and socializing alongside all of these fabulous and successful people that I read about. At that time, the fashion scene in LA was just starting to get taken seriously and the publication’s West Coast coverage began to grow each week.
It was during this time that I used to read about Henry Duarte and his impact on the birth of the denim revolution that LA is now so well known for. I remember seeing his hip hugger flared leather jeans that were made so meticulously and wonder if I would ever be cool enough to put some of these on my body. I would see pictures of Henry and wonder, “Who is this character”? I was fascinated with the burgeouning LA fashion scene and intrigued by Henry and all of his cohorts.
Cut to about a year and a half ago when I walked into a new space in downtown LA that was right underneath one of my client’s office. I was surprised to find a retail venture on Los Angeles and 7th, much less one that had such an interesting aesthetic. I was taken aback when Henry introduced himself and proceeded to tell me all about this showroom/studio that I happened to walk into. It was fascinating, and there I was chit chatting with someone that I had been so intrigued by for all of those years.
Anybody that knows Henry has an understanding of his dark and moody aesthetic. You will never see the man in anything but black and his signature look reminds you of something like a 70′s pirate mixed with an Amish man. His aesthetic is gothic, rock n roll with a 1970′s handcrafted feel. His showroom magnificently displays this aesthetic with dark old wood, pirate ships, pieces from the 1800′s and an assortment of high end designer furniture that he has been collecting for 20 plus years.
Henry is a leather maker by heart but he has created a lifestyle around him through his designs that also include silver and brass amazing jewelry and castings. He has a collection of one of a kind leather handbags that he has made through the years that blow my mind. All over the studio are things from his past and his future. Whether it be furniture he has recycled and re-designed to leather jackets and pants from his past collections to a line of tshirts that he recently produced for a huge Japanese retailer. He never stops and he is always creating more to tell the unique perspective that he has to share.
Henry and I bonded over our love for Alex & Lee and it was a no brainer to showcase some of their collection in his space.
Henry has had many lives in the fashion business and is juggling numerous creative projects every time we visit. His latest venture is a line of unisex “basics” that he will be launching this market for Spring 2013. Everything is black and everything is unisex. A combination of utility driven items including waxed denim, vests, jackets and perfectly over-dyed black tshirts that are all worn layered to mimic the look that he is so well known for. He is also collaborating with Westbrook Makers on a few hats for the collection as his distressed version has become synonymous to his look.
The upstairs portion of the showroom is where Henry works and designs his collection. It shows a different portion of his aesthetic highlighting his love of music and the 1970′s. Upon every visit he’s playing records and telling some story he has had with whatever band he’s listening to. I love it. And then the next thing you know, I’ve been in his place for hours talking and talking. It’s what he loves to do and I happen to be a good listener and I take in every word.
Henry and I are now friends. We share a love of the 1970′s and the spirit of bohemia, rebellion and rock n roll. More importantly, we are both on the same wavelength in regard to knowing and appreciating “the good shit” and not giving a darn about the bullshit in the industry. Some of my favorite moments these past few years are my visits to Henry’s studio talking about the business and hearing him tell stories of his colorful life dressing every rock star in town and continually re-inventing himself. Henry is a legend in LA fashion history, and to be able to witness his genius firsthand is quite a full circle moment in the course of my blessed life.
Go and see for yourself at 715 South Los Angeles Street, Downtown Los Angeles.