Thousands of people crowd the streets of downtown Los Angeles, eager to dine, dance and look at pieces of artwork. Art Walk-goers pass by the table decorated with artful merchandise, often stopping by to grab free stickers and glance at a Lookbook laid in the center of the table. Beats from nearby African drummers drown conversation between vendors and potential customers. “Buy clothing designed and handmade from right here in L.A., not made in China,” Brian Wells exclaims.
Something that began as a mere idea derived from a group of teenagers has now become an outlet for art and progressive messages for the masses.
“We just wanted to live our dreams, make money doing what we love: spreading art and positive messages,” says Brian Wells, 20, co-founder of TUXEDOCOOL.
TUXEDOCOOL is a street-wear brand that was created in 2004 by James Astel, the 21-year-old co-founder, who began to put his ideas on shirts with small stencils, and later, he found himself sewing clothes with his mother’s sewing machine.
The idea of expanding the brand was born when the “TUXEDOCOOL Club” was created at South Pasadena High School and now the merchandise has moved onto the streets of L.A. and to fashion boutiques like Crack Galley in downtown Los Angeles and iVogue on Melrose Avenue. TUXEDOCOOL offers hand-made urban style clothing to both women and men starting at $8.
The brand also makes use of cross-promotion by sponsoring a skateboarding team who, in turn, shows off the logo around town.
The TUXEDOCOOL team was just one of the several vendors showcasing their products on Spring Street at the Downtown L.A. Art Walk.
Downtown L.A. becomes the cultural hub for the arts every second Thursday of the month when the Art Walk takes place. A plethora of vendors, artists and musicians display their talents before the public.
People wait patiently in long lines to get a taste of food served by famous Angeleno food trucks that usually tweet their coordinates. Fashionistas can be seen parading around in their best outfits, while others dress down for comfort. People from everywhere come to experience this once-a-month event, making it the ideal platform to spread awareness of artwork merchandise.
“It’s great to have an outlet and showcase at the Art Walk,” Astel said. “It not only gives us a chance to sell, but to have face-to-face interactions and spread awareness of our brand.”
The aspiring clothing designers have opted to create a bigger fan base by dipping into the online revolution and forming an online shop, a blog, YouTube channel, a photo stream on Flickr and fan sites on Facebook and Twitter. However, the recession has been one of the factors holding back the company from a major breakthrough.
“We have tried to build (this company) from the ground up; from the streets to the people,” Wells said. “But the hardest part right now is the economy.”
Many people stop by to check out TUXEDOCOOL’s table that displays a couple of shirts with political statements. Victor Andrew Hernandez, 19, was drawn into the political art.
“TUXEDOCOOL is not based on profit, but rather based on spreading a message instead,” said Hernandez, a college student.
The thing that the street wear brand brings to the table is not its unique clothing style, but its core message for society.
“It is all about staying positive,” Astel said. “Whatever you do in your mind, you can do it in the visual world.”
The slogan for TUXEDOCOOL, which is often printed on their shirts, is a crisp and straightforward quote, “Be what you be.”
“We want to lead by example,” Wells said. “Anything is possible.”
Chilly air added to the cold temperatures of the night. The crowds shifted, moving from the streets of downtown L.A. toward local restaurants and bars. Music was no longer playing, which meant the event was over. Thousands of fliers and publications were washed onto corners of the floor. Two young artists began to put away the table that displayed TUXEDOCOOL merchandise, hoping their message was spread that night.
“We will be back next Art Walk,” Wells said.