Enfants Riches Déprimés translates from the French to “Depressed Rich Kids.” You’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of this relatively under-the-radar fashion label—their clothes come in extremely small quantities, and sell primarily to the most rich, most depressed people on earth. The story of Enfants Riches Déprimés, however, has a more universal appeal. It’s a story about rappers and cocaine, rehab and Swiss boarding schools, punk shows and meth heads. It’s about Courtney Love, and Nazi Donald Duck, and plenty of Parliament Lights. More than any of those things, though, it’s about Henry Levy, the brand’s 24-year-old founder and designer—an artistic, rich kid himself, with complicated and often conflicting relationships with almost everything in his life, from money, to drugs, to celebrity, to his own name.
Despite his contradictions, Henry is a man who cares deeply about authenticity. “I’m not trying to make things for consumption,” he told me over the phone recently. “What the people want is—they don’t know what the fuck they want. And I’m not going to try to make what they want, because it’s generally not going to be very good. I just make what I want.”
Since Henry founded the label in 2012, none of his punk-influenced, unisex apparel and accessories—destroyed tees with hand-drawn artwork, sweaters featuring Lou Reed’s face, embroidered bomber jackets—have come in quantities over 100. His popular leather jackets are mostly one-of-a-kind, crafted from vintage finds that he and his team paint on and stud in his L.A. studio. His T-shirts in particular are popular among musicians like Future and Travis Scott—and since they retail for up to $320, celebs with deep pockets are an ideal match. Although Enfants is available in some very reputable boutiques—like Maxfield in L.A., Milan’s Excelsior and The Webster in Miami—distribution is intentionally kept small. The brand exists in a shroud of exclusivity, an atmosphere that Henry actively cultivates.
“The best way for me to explain the brand is ‘elitist, nihilist couture,’” he says. “The price point eliminates the masses, and the ideas eliminate the people who I don’t want, generally, in it, due to the dark nature.”
On the surface, that description can be applied to any number of labels, from Hedi Slimane-era Saint Laurent to Rick Owens and Vivienne Westwood. All are prohibitively expensive for the average consumer, all dissident in their own way, all an acquired taste to a large degree. Those designers benefit from credibility; no one doubts Vivienne Westwood’s punk bona fides, because we know she made clothes for the Sex Pistols.
When designers lack that verifiable history, it’s natural for their integrity to be called into question. Henry doesn’t shy away from identifying—and calling out—anyone he perceives as a pretender: “You see Diesel, and all these brands doing these mock punk jackets, and they look super pussy. These aren’t kids in the street going to shows, these are people having a meeting about trying to make a line that looks punk. It’s ridiculous.”
Any perceived lack of authenticity is a death sentence for Henry. He claims he knows punk, because he lives punk. But despite a Black Flag tattoo, and hair that’s gone from blue to bleached blonde to his current brown, his background primed him more for the tennis courts of suburbia than 538 Johnson.
He occasionally goes by Henri Alexander, but was born Henry Levy in Atlanta on July 14, 1991. (“The same day as the storming of the Bastille,” he told Glamour Italia last year.) His parents made enough money through innovations in water filtration that he was able to enjoy the spoils of the 1%: Trips to Europe, access to designer labels, and friends with just as much money as he had.
“My parents were just into making me go to the opera and museums,” he says. The museums he didn’t mind—he had an interest in art from a young age—but the other stuff didn’t resonate. On his own, he developed a passion for punk music. He discovered the Clash and the Sex Pistols at 11, immersing himself in research to parse who they were and what they stood for.
Henry cops to going through a brief phase when he was “Ralph’d out” like most of the other kids he knew, but punk music began informing the way he dressed in his early teens; he put safety pins and chains all over his school uniforms. His parents weren’t thrilled. “They just always thought I looked like shit,” he says. “They didn’t want to take me anywhere.”
They did take him to boarding school, though—several of them, in fact. And here’s where, after our initial conversation, things got a little blurry. As Henry told it the first time around, he went to a few different high schools in Canada and Europe, landed at UCLA’s art program, dropped out, and started Enfants Riches Déprimés during what would have been his junior year. Browns, the influential department store in London, picked up his collection first, and other boutiques followed. Celebrities like Jared Leto, Courtney Love, and Justin Bieber bought his clothes. He opened up a studio in Downtown L.A. and started making a full, seasonal collection with knitwear and cut-and-sew pieces. He said he spends a few months a year in Paris “doing a bunch of flossy Fashion Week type shit,” and uses his interest in art to feed his designs, like the Cy Twombly images he incorporated into black lab coats for Fall 2016.
That story is accurate, according to Henry, in that it all happened. But, it’s not everything. “The way I live and what I do, and what I do in my day to day, I feel like it’s completely authentic. I want it to be understood,” he explained when I asked him to clarify the timeline of his life a few weeks after we first spoke. Still, he had some initial hesitation about going too deep. “I have clients. I’m a big account. I can’t look too nuts.”
Eventually, his reticence about playing it safe lost to his desire to keep it real. First: that education. He attended Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland, known as the world’s most expensive boarding school, and described by Town & Country as the “alma mater of princes, shahs, and baby billionaires.” He also went to Leysin American School in the Alps, and a number of other ritzy institutions back in the States and in Canada, where wealthy parents send their kids to turn them into the next generation of well-heeled, well-connected leaders. Henry didn’t last long at any of them.
“I was, like, a fuck up in high school,” he said. “I was caught up in drugs and shit like that.” Henry did his first stint in rehab at 15, at Visions Adolescent Treatment, a Malibu facility for underage addicts. Over the course of his teenage years and into his twenties, he also visited Cirque Lodge in Utah and Promises, back in Malibu. He went to wilderness therapy treatment in the woods three or four times. He attended an outpatient high school and moved into several sober living homes. He would go through periods of sobriety, then dip back into using again. At one point, he made enough progress to pull his grades up and was accepted into UCLA for art school. “Then I was so hyped that I got in, that I got all fucked up again,” he says.
A stay at a Betty Ford treatment center in Hazelden, Oregon, was particularly effective. “That’s when it was on some not-flossy shit,” he remembers. “Like, came out and was sleeping in a bunk bed with a bunch of 50-year-old meth addicts trying to recover. And that’s when I started coming up with the idea for the brand.”
Cut off by his parents, he returned to L.A., travelling the city by bus, and saving for shows by acts like the Dandy Warhols. He spent his time painting—he eventually did go to art school at UCLA, but dropped out before graduating. Slowly, the three things he knew best—punk, art, and spoiled brats—coalesced as one cohesive idea: Enfants Riches Déprimés.
“Being around those kids [in rehab], just their absurd entitlement and everything, definitely had an influence,” he says. “They don’t have to work a day in their lives, you know what I mean? Their complete existence is based around what other people think.”
His first designs for Enfants were based in critique. He crafted shredded T-shirts emblazoned with the Le Rosey crest. Another featured a pack of Parliament Lights—the cigarette of choice among prep school kids everywhere (including Henry). He riffed on punk album covers and middle-finger-to-the-world-type designs, like Donald Duck giving the Nazi salute, and a defaced Hermès logo—you can still find the cease and desist on his Facebook page.
From a business perspective, it worked. Rebecca Osei-Baidoo, the women’s wear buyer at Browns, spotted an Enfants cap on Instagram, and tracked down Henry via one of his old school friends. “I honestly thought it was really cool,” she says. “You can see a lot of Henry in the pieces.” She bought a small selection to stock at Browns Focus, which showcases emerging designers.
“The first time we received the delivery of the caps and T-shirts, we posted it on Instagram with the caption: ‘All you rich, depressed kids out there, this is for you,’” Rebecca recalls. “The phone in Focus didn’t stop ringing with people wanting to purchase the pieces.”
It turned out to be a fortuitous first stockist in other ways, too. G-Dragon, the Korean rapper, bought the collection at Browns, becoming Enfants’ first celebrity customer. Jared Leto was an early adopter, too—he’s been spotted wearing the Le Rosey T-shirt, and has since been seen in Enfants jackets. Travis Scott wore a pair of the limited edition Vans SK8-Hi sneakers Henry drew on by hand. Ellie Goulding, Chris Brown, Lindsay Lohan, and Kendrick Lamar have all worn the brand’s destroyed logo tees and sweatshirts. Henry is also creating clothes for Guns N’ Roses to wear during their reunion show at Coachella next month.
Mike Camargo, a fashion sales and marketing consultant in L.A., ran into Leto wearing Enfants. The aesthetic and the celebrity co-sign drew him in, but meeting Henry ultimately sold him on the collection. “One of the things I got from Henry, talking to him, is that punk rock lifestyle is real to him,” Camargo says. He helped arrange a partnership between Enfants and Pusha T that will be revealed soon. Henry commemorated Pusha’s visit to his showroom with an Instagram post depicting a Polaroid of Pusha in custom gear tacked onto a bulletin board alongside what appears to be baggies of coke. “For me,” Camargo noted, “that dichotomy between the drug trap rapper and the Sid Vicious drug user…I thought that was super dope for them.”
DJ A-Trak hasn’t met Henry. He found out about Enfants on Instagram—“Shout out to the Explore page,” he says—and purchased three of the brand’s T-shirts. “What I like about Enfants Riches is the actual quality of the design, the attention to detail, and the cut, too,” he told me. “Also, there was a point when it was that brand that only a few people knew. That’s always cool.”
Henry is torn about celebrity fans, for precisely that reason, but understands the value they provide. Celebrities wearing Enfants have given him the bulk of his press coverage to date. In fact, there’s so little out there about Henry himself, that an early piece identified him as Henri Alexander (Alexander is his middle name). He chose not to correct it, and it’s become somewhat standard, appearing that way in write-ups on Vogue.com and the V Magazine website. NOWNESS referred to him as a “French designer.” He spends a decent amount of time in Paris, but he plays up the French connection well beyond that: On the Enfants site, you don’t buy sweaters, you buy chandails. You can’t click on leather jackets, but vestes. Hell, you even have to entrer dans la boutique on the homepage.
Henry is consistently unbothered by any perceived inconsistencies—or at least, consistently doesn’t admit to being bothered by people who may question his integrity. “If they get it, they get it,” he concludes. “If they don’t get it, they don’t get it.”
He explains his connection to punk as deep and very real. “You hear about punk, it’s very blue collar,” he says. “’We’re angry at you know, like, corporations!’ But for me, I’m angry at my parents for sending me to this place for a fucking year. I’m angry at the fucking people in the rehab for telling me what to fucking do all the time. I’m angry at my teachers and principals for kicking me out of every school I go to and not understanding me. That was, for me, my relationship with punk and that attitude.”
Without punk, there would be no Enfants Riches Déprimés—that’s clear. But the label also wouldn’t exist without the influence of the depressed rich kids he met in rehab, and he wouldn’t have gone to rehab if it hadn’t been for the drugs. It’s a precarious line to walk, being thankful for drugs, and Henry acknowledges that, but believes it to be true anyway.
“I needed that time. Even if it was a bunch of bullshit and nonsense, it was important for the DNA of the brand,” he says. He talks about shedding the excess of his past, trading in his Range Rover for a ‘91 Volvo, and getting self-esteem from art, instead of “dropping a bunch of money at Ralph and going to Vegas.”
“It’s just some shit I would never do now,” he says.
Still, his penchant for indulgence is not totally behind him. A recent Facebook post said, “If I wasn't Jewish I would kill myself. Because I wouldn't be rich.” Another quoted Kanye West: “Saint Laurent is my Zara.” His showroom has a skate ramp in it. And when I asked Henry if he was currently sober, he answered definitively.
“No,” he said. He’s quick to point out how his behavior now differs from what came before. “Basically, I didn’t have anything I cared about before. I would go as hard as I could and there were no consequences. Now I pay all my own bills. I have a bunch of employees. I have to show up every day. As an artist, I’ve had great ideas when I’ve been completely fucked up, and then I’ve had great ideas when I’m sober. It’s hard to judge.”
He can, however, judge how he measures achievement these days; now it’s not only about what he has, but what he creates.
“I look at a successful day, like, did you make something?” he says. “Even if business is great, I don’t value a day as a good day if I didn’t make something—whether it be a shitty punk song or a tight drawing, or painting. If I didn’t make something, the day doesn’t sit well with me. I think that’s kind of keeping me straight now.”