It’s part of Image Issue 4, “Image Makers,” a hymn to LA style luminaries. In this issue, we pay tribute to the people and brands who are advancing the city’s fashion culture.
Cross Colors is no stranger to its ubiquity. Co-founded by Carl Jones and TJ Walker in 1989, the Los Angeles label, which is often considered one of the first streetwear lines, has grown to be as famous as the dozens of celebrities who wore it in the 1990s. and the early 2000s. The roster includes Will Smith, Aaliyah, Tupac Shakur, TLC, and Snoop Dogg.
Today, a new generation – Dua Lipa, Zendaya, Drake and Billie Eilish – are often seen wearing Cross Colors swimsuits, tracksuits and bobs, on and off stage.
This fervent fascination with all things of the 90s has permeated fashion and culture for several years. Since its founding, Cross Colors has been a visionary clothing brand that defines the era, promoting its philosophy of “clothing without prejudice” through contrasting color t-shirts, loose denim shorts and stylish jackets. varsity (from $ 40 for t-shirts up to $ 500 for leather jackets). The label’s resurgence and appeal to new audiences goes beyond nostalgia for the 90s. It taps into the demand for our clothes to represent something politically and culturally.
This summer, Cross Colors, which was the focus of a 2019-2020 retrospective at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, was selected by Nordstrom to appear in a rotating pop-up space inside the retailer’s flagship at New York. Additionally, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Boyz N the Hood,” Jones and Walker collaborated with Sony Pictures to create a 30-piece collection and honor the effect the film and the clothing had on black filmmakers and creatives. and on American culture. Last month, the LA-based fashion pioneers shared with us their current collaborations.
What is fashion to do with a strong message and mission as it is today compared to 1989?
TJ Walker: It is no different. It really is no different. This is what we did and what we still do. Whenever we go to create, we always start from the perspective of what’s really going on in the world, basically everything that’s going on in your neighborhood.
Carl Jones: I think politically we have been forced to take sides and take a stronger position. We promote “Black Lives Are Loved” and “Love Black Lives”. This is our version of Black Lives Matter. This is our point of view because we have always been Black Lives Matter from a fashion point of view.
You were promoting “fashion inclusiveness” before anyone really used that term. What does inclusiveness mean to you?
JC: You’re right. This word was not in our vocabulary in 1989. We were African Americans in the community who were not celebrities. We are not artists. We’re just average guys who went to design school, went to art school, got an education, put our ideas together, worked hard and said, let’s bring the community together. Let’s talk about where we’re from, what we love, the fashion we love to wear and the colors we love to wear. Let’s talk about gang violence. Let’s talk about racism. Let’s talk about bringing people together. It was the genesis of the brand. We are fashion guys, but at the same time we wanted to represent and show the world how we think and how we feel and how we perceive fashion.
Tell us about the Nordstrom pop-up. For people new to the brand, what do you hope they take away from the brand?
JC: For the Nordstrom pop-up, you could walk into the front door of Nordstrom in New York City, and we were there. You couldn’t be missed. They did all they could to promote [and] so that consumers are excited that Nordstrom offers cross colors. I looked at him like, “Wow, they really say, ‘Everyone is welcome to our store.’” That’s my take. Everyone is welcome.
TJW: I think a great thing about the brand and what they did in the 90s and what they still do today is that they give that sense of empowerment to the community. and empowering young people that they can do it. It can be done, especially when they really realize it’s done by someone like them. They walk into the store and they walk into the space and see it. I think it’s also an inspiration for them to see Cross Colors and see that we’re able to be in a retailer like Nordstrom – and have something that’s designed, manufactured and shipped by Cross Colors.
When creating the line for the 30th Anniversary “Boyz N the Hood” collection, did you feel any pressure to interpret the look of such an iconic movie?
JC: It was a great opportunity that Sony Pictures offered us. We love John Singleton. He was also a pioneer, from the point of view of the cinema, the community, the neighborhood. I come from the center-south. I grew up in the mid-south so I can relate to “Boyz N the Hood”.
TJW: Something that we have discovered with the brand is that every time we try to do something outside of what we were doing before or try to change the formula or try to change the look or put up to date, it doesn’t really resonate as well. That is why we must always go back. We have to go back to the ’90s vision, the’ 90s concept, the ’90s sensibilities, and build on that. We already have the roadmap. We already have the model. We just have to go back and learn from what we’ve done before, even the marketing approach, even the product placement, even the way we do our photoshoots, even the styles that we do as well. If we don’t do it right anyway, our client will certainly hold us accountable.
Your customer seems very loyal. Now your original customers present the brand to their children. It’s a pretty strong legacy.
TJW: We have always been more than clothes. We have been the community. The customer feels like they are part of the brand. This is the difference. You can talk to any of them back then, when they meet the brand, and they’re like, “This brand was something that made me feel good back then. They say it today too. It is therefore written into the brand’s DNA. That’s what resonates – resonated then, and still does today. It’s still a strong and powerful movement now. And it surprises us because we thought [the ’90s comeback] would just be trendy, but it just holds. It’s true.
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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.