GUNS. GERMS. $TEAL (G.G.$) is an LA-based menswear label run by best friends Smiley Stevens and Phillipa Price, two 23-year-old ex-models. After hitting it off at uni, the girls started out as many cool young thangs do – using the uni facilities to make cool shit for their mates. Their brass wallets inscribed with quotes from famous rappers (‘Green for Da Money, Gold for Da Honey’) took off, and the girls started the business almost overnight. G.G.$ have recently released their first menswear collection, and with a fan-base which includes A$AP Mob and 2 Chainz, they ain’t doing too bad. The girls chat with us about working in a man’s world, getting inspired by East LA, and blowing up overnight.
What attracted you to each other as friends and business partners?
We met in New York at our friend Brady’s birthday in the Lower East Side and instantly bonded over the fact that we were both insanely tall (6 foot). Besides both being ridiculously tall we both see things in the exact same way, especially on a creative level.
You started off making wallets for your friends. How did this progress to becoming a business?
People started asking us if they could buy the wallets and a store picked them up. Smiley sent some photos of the wallets in to [men’s shopping blog] Cool Material, they liked them and did a post, and within hours we had emails from all over the world asking where to buy them. We had to set up a website overnight basically.
You moved from creating a really successful men’s accessories label to developing a clothing collection in a matter of a year. What spurred this rapid progression?
That’s how we roll. Fast Lane! It was really natural and it’s hard to say how it even happened. We just kind of went for it! We thought about what we liked to see on guys and made some basic button-ups, which we then expanded into our first collection for fall of this year. We tested the water with that collection and got a really good reaction.
What challenges do you face as chicks designing menswear? Do you test run your gear on guys before finalising the design, or do you just trust your instincts?
We are very conscious of not making a piece too feminine. We ask our guy friends for their opinions, but we’ve also become masters of observing our friends to see what they complain about/dislike about their clothing. We naturally have a very masculine aesthetic, and, bottom line, we are designing what we think looks sexy on guys. Who can say no to that?
We’ve got to ask – have you had any trouble being two hot chicks breaking in to what is an essentially male dominated industry (men’s streetwear)?
Are you kidding? It makes it so easy! [Laughs.] Well, not really. It’s definitely hard to get taken seriously as a girl in this industry. But the more and more we have put out, the more people have started to respect us and what we do.
The funniest thing we find is that most people that see our brand assume it’s run by men. Even at tradeshows most people who come through our booth assume we are hired tradeshow models, and ask how they can meet the owners. Watching people’s reactions when we explain that we are the designers and owners of G.G.$ is pretty funny.
What advice would you give other girls trying to get in to the streetwear industry?
Be a homegirl not a ho. [Laughs.] Be confident – the streetwear industry is a very macho, ego-dominated industry and you definitely have to earn your respect.
You have a strong styling aesthetic. What imagery are you drawing on?
We are literally inspired by so many different things it’s a joke. But I think that’s what makes our final designs so unique and versatile. For example, the inspiration for our new Spring collection started with us walking through the alleyways of Venice Beach and being really inspired by the colours we saw around us, then going to the library to research disaster and destruction and getting inspired by everything from 1950s Cold War propaganda to photos of bacteria to retro Japanese Comics and vintage Playboy magazines. Photography is a huge source of inspiration to us, particularly documentary style photographers. We love Jamel Shabazz, Mike Miller, Robert Yager, Bruce Davidson.
A$AP Mob, 2 Chainz, and B.O.B are just a few of the ‘tastemakers’ that have been photographed wearing your stuff. How did this come about?
Well…as we said, being a girl in this industry makes some things difficult, but some things really easy. [Laughs.] We met the A$AP boys at Coachella last year though our friend Mega who owns Black Scale, and they were really into our shit.
We met 2 Chainz at the MAGIC tradeshow last February and gave him two of our chains (the brass knuckle necklace and the gold lighter chain). We see photos of him wearing the lighter all the time – I mean, why wouldn’t you wear a gold lighter? Just imagine how many blunts he’s lit with it!
B.O.B. And a lot of the other people who have worn G.G.$ got it through our showroom 24 Karat out in NYC. A lot of stylists go through there and pick up our stuff.
American history is another one of your big inspirations. How is history incorporated in your latest collection?
We usually start designing a collection by spending a few days in the library just going on a history research adventure; it might be our favorite part of our whole process. A lot of our clothes are based off of vintage or military patterns. For the S/S 2013 collection we decided to make our own version of a Souvenir Jacket. In the post-war 1950s, Japanese craftsmen would embroider the occupying American soldiers jackets, creating an amazing hybrid of the two cultures. We reinvented the jacket by making it reversible – one side with solid colors, and one side with a crazy silk print.
How is G.G.$ influenced by LA and LA culture?
East LA definitely, especially Lowriders and Lowrider culture (we go to a lot of lowrider conventions). The aesthetics of that world is fucking amazing and over the top. We love it. Our friend Rick Klotz, owner of Freshjive and Warriors of Radness, gave us these amazing hand-written magazines from L.A. in the 1980s called Teen Angels, that are so rad. We highly recommend buying these on eBay if you have never seen them before. Skate culture is a big influence for us too, and it’s obviously really prominent out here.
You use authentic Mexican blankets in your take on the classic varsity jacket. How do you go about sourcing fabrics and materials?
We really have put no boundaries on where we source our fabrics. We go to fabric tradeshows, but we also like to design prints ourselves. We have had to learn to control ourselves with our main sources of fabric as the logistics of sourcing hard-to-find fabrics when it come to production can get really complicated and expensive. In our spring collection we even sourced a gold NASA space blanket we wanted to use as pocket lining. Our sample maker laughed at us, he thinks we’re crazy. We are!
I know you are keen to do more collaborations in the future. Are there any collabs on the horizon we should know about?
We worked with Chad Muska who shot our latest lookbook for Spring 2013. There are a few more collabs in the works but you’ll have to wait for the future to hear about those! Okay, but real talk, our dream is to do a collaboration with NASA. NASA, if you’re reading this, G.G.$ x NASA Spacesuits 2014. Let’s do it!
Check out G.G.$’s first menswear collection at their website.
Interview: Jessy Edwards