The COVID-19 pandemic affected the fashion industry in various ways over the past few months. It caused brands to add a new accessory to their product offerings: face masks. It shut down factories and caused designers to pivot elsewhere to produce pieces as simple as T-shirts. It turned Paris Fashion Week from a week-long party in Europe to a series of virtual presentations that streamed over a computer screen.
For Noon Goons’ Kurt Narmore, coronavirus was an unforeseen curveball that greatly shifted the brand’s usual procedures in the midst of producing its Spring/Summer 2021 collection.
“We are 90 percent made in Downtown LA, and fuck, everything's shut down. What am I supposed to do? How do I develop a collection? There's a bit of a shock factor,” Narmore tells Complex. “The pandemic has definitely made it extremely difficult. I couldn't be more stoked that I was able to get this much done, get it out, and present it in the way that we did. It was definitely a true hustle. I definitely had to move some mountains to make it all work, that's for sure.”
Noon Goons first launched in 2016 and has maintained its youthful Los Angeles vibe ever since. Narmore founded the brand following a stint with Warriors of Radness, the now-defunct surf-inspired streetwear darling founded that even received a 2011 CFDA nomination before its ultimate conclusion. Over its brief history, Narmore and creative director Sam Jarou have made sure Noon Goons continues to evolve with a more robust selection, expanding upon staple offerings like graphic T-shirts or board shorts to include more premium cut and sew items like denim jackets, work shirts, and baggy pleated chinos that all stay true to the West Coast culture that Narmore was raised in, while peaking the interest of notable stockists such as Dover Street Market and Union Los Angeles in the process.
Without access to his usual factories in LA and now two months behind schedule, Narmore turned to a factory in Shanghai that he says he made connections with back in September when he was sourcing fabrics to produce his samples for the SS21 collection. The detail-oriented designer, who’s used to being able to make changes as miniscule as a zipper pull color or button placement on the fly, says the process took some getting used to since he couldn’t oversee everything in realtime. Given the new barriers in place, he made sure to be as specific as possible with his requests.
“If it wasn't for [the factory in Shanghai], I don't know what I would have done because they really stepped up to the plate,” says Narmore who despite pivoting elsewhere for this collection says he hopes to keep manufacturing local to Los Angeles moving forward. “I had to spend a little bit more time on making sure my tech packs were more detailed, clean, and precise when I sent them off. But they really did an amazing job executing my samples to the quality and standard that I have.”
The resulting collection is an ode to the diversity of ‘90s Los Angeles, the era he grew up in, that references everything from surf brands of the era like Mossimo to West Coast hip-hop legends like Tupac and Snoop Dogg. The Ambitionz Jacket, a nod to Tupac’s “Ambitionz az a Ridah,” is a black leather jacket with Noon Goons spelled out in faux diamond studs across the chest. Baggy denim Throttle pants are inspired by ‘90s dirt bike riders like Mike Metzger and Carey Hart. Gaudy pieces like glossy logo tote bags in black and hot pink will also be up for grabs, which Narmore says, “add a little bit of tackiness but are still very mature.”
First-time pieces from Noon Goons like shadow plaid polos, a bleached denim vest, and the Public Image leather biker jacket with a white tiger-striped lining are also in the mix. Other highlights include jackets and pants covered in leopard print, classic wool varsity jackets with embroidered patches, and an assortment of graphics on pastel-colored hoodies and T-shirts inspired by things like quintessential ‘90s skate and surf brands or old school PennySaver ads.
“That's just what I grew up in, so it's what I know the best. It's where I was most influenced as a kid,” says Narmore when speaking on the collection’s heavy ‘90s influence.
One of the biggest challenges that Narmore was forced to adapt to is the lack of a physical showroom space during Paris Fashion Week, something he admits to missing from the usual routine. In its place, Narmore prepared a first-of-its-kind private preview site complete with a lookbook, catalog, and order form that buyers were able to sift through. The whole collection was styled and shot by Narmore, another first. To make up for not being able to physically see the pieces, he even put together videos for each piece that buyers could preview. His lookbook model wasn’t a model from some agency. It was a kid named Dylan that he met one day while surfing in Newport Beach. He felt like Dylan represented what he was trying to do best. To conform to social distancing guidelines as safely as possible, Narmore says many times there were the only two people shooting in the Downtown LA studio.
“I miss Paris Fashion Week, the interactions with the buyers, the conversations, shit-talking, and the feedback. It's special. It's a fun time,” says Narmore. “I can't wait to have that come back. I know that this way of selling is probably going to be the new standard, even if there's Fashion Week or not, I'm still going to have to do this backend website. So I did set the bar high for myself, but I'm really stoked and I am excited to see how it evolves in the next couple of seasons.”
Despite all of the hats that Narmore had to wear, he says he couldn’t be more stoked about the results. The preview site seems to be so beneficial that it will probably become the norm for Noon Goons rather than a one-time fix given unforeseen circumstances. It’s more work for Narmore and his small team for sure. But it won’t hinder his passion for what he does.
“I make clothes because I love doing it,” he says. “I'm not doing it to try to make a billion dollars, that's not my goal. Yeah, it's cool to do that, but I fucking love doing this shit. The feeling I get when I'm looking at the collection hanging up on the racks, it's a feeling like no other, that's what drives me.”