ComplexCon Brands to Watch: No Maintenance Is Designing Clothing Inspired by Decades Past

Ahead of ComplexCon 2022, we spoke to No Maintenance founders Sebastian Moraga and Roe Hodgson about their signature shag cardigan, world building, and more.

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance

Every great brand has its hero piece, an item that immediately comes to mind when you think of the label. For Supreme, it’s the box logo T-shirt. For Ralph Lauren, it’s the polo shirt. Sebastian Moraga and Roe Hodgson’s budding brand No Maintenance is becoming known for its shaggy cardigan. 

The cardigan, which debuted in February 2022, has a more modern fit thanks to its boxy and cropped silhouette. Its shaggy body is constructed of an original yarn blend inspired by the Japanese textiles used to construct certain sweaters in their personal wardrobes. The idea for the vibrant design that covers it was sparked by an impromptu brainstorming session at their apartment in the middle of the night. They used Photoshop to scramble a painting by American artist Clyfford Still that they were both fans of. A small quadrant from the reinterpreted design is what made it onto the final garments. When the cardigan launched, it sold out in just three minutes. Supporters included Kendall Jenner

“We grew a lot after that. It was a big catalyst. It’s a testimony to what a strong piece can do for you,” Moraga says about the cardigan. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without that.”

But No Maintenance didn’t start as a cut and sew brand. Moraga and Hodgson initially bonded in 2019 over their passion for collecting Japanese designer clothing from brands like Undercover, Number Nine, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyake. Both operated their own their own respective businesses curating archival fashion, Moraga’s Shop Don’t Tell and Hodgson’s Lake Vienna. They eventually joining forces to start Luna in 2019, which specialized in archival womenswear from names like Céline and Jean Paul Gaultier, while also offering a line of original women’s jewelry.

Years spent accumulating thousands of designer items from the late 20th century gave Moraga and Hodgson the opportunity to examine their intricacies. It also made them delve further into the world of vintage Americana from the ‘50s and ‘60s, which many of these designers referenced. Their exploration eventually morphed into No Maintenance, which officially launched in March 2020. By January 2021, they had shifted their focus to No Maintenance full time.

The brand specialized in curations of vintage minimalist essentials, like worn-in Levi’s or perfectly patinated Russell Athletic hoodies. These products are still the bread and butter of No Maintenance’s vintage business, sold online and by appointment at their showroom in Atwater Village alongside their growing catalog of original designs. The showroom, which they took over in June 2021, has become a hot spot for travelers from around the world visiting Los Angeles and major brands looking for reference pieces while designing their latest collections.

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance

Japan has been a valuable resource for the group for curating vintage Americana due to the country’s infatuation with the subgenre. But when it comes to hoodies and denim, they’re usually buying in bulk from their network of older collectors across California that have been stockpiling product since the ‘80s. They recall one specific trip where they unearthed close to 3,000 vintage pairs of Levi’s jeans in various earth tones like brown and olive green. They sold through the lot in six weeks. They say they have never sourced from a Goodwill bin before, a common practice for plenty of vintage pickers.

“10 pairs of vintage Levi’s are cool. But how can we drop 300 pairs of the best orange tab, made in USA Levi’s possible?” says Hodgson. “That’s always how we’ve approached vintage because vintage is the most unscalable thing that you can do in fashion.”

Establishing their brand in the vintage world gave Moraga and Hodgson the ability to pivot into cut and sew. With some of the extra money, they began to create. Their first designs were common starting points for any brand, like baby blue trucker caps with the No Maintenance logo accompanied by a black and white image of a waterfall. Eventually, the duo decided they wanted to create pieces that reference the vintage gear they had become a go-to source for. The scarce quantities of vintage clothing put a cap on how many people could experience their brand. Now, they could make pieces that felt one-of-a-kind, but for the masses.

“There’s only so many ‘90s Helmut Lang pieces that you can get and you can share,” says Hodgson. “We definitely had that creative itch from the jump. How can we create clothing? How can we share this with a broader audience and just tell a new story?”

By June 2021, they released their first cut and sew piece, an acetate camp collar shirt with chain-stitched details inspired by retro bowling shirts from the ‘50s to ‘70s. Two months later, they released a lace shirt in black and cream, which proved to be one of their most popular products to date. Since then, No Maintenance’s collections have expanded into an array of categories including things like cropped puffer jackets, heavy crochet shirts, and lightweight double-knee pants made of beige nylon. 

Neither individual has any formal training in fashion design. Moraga studied World Arts and Culture at UCLA, and Hodgson studied Chinese Language and Literature at UCSB. They both latched onto fashion organically throughout their teenage years (Moraga is 26 and Hodgson is 25), thanks to streetwear sites like Karmaloop, Complex magazine, Reddit threads, and rappers like ASAP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator weaving style into their personas. Searching through marketplaces like Grailed also opened up their eyes to how vast the fashion world was.

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance

“Grailed represented a really cool thing because it was a larger marketplace where one could indulge in clothing that wasn’t just the same force-fed channels,” says Hodgson. “As a result of that, we’ve seen this huge fixation on archive culture, curating that designer vintage that hasn’t previously existed in physical spaces before or even in digital spaces. Our curation of clothing was definitely reactionary to that trend as well, just wanting to afford to be able to wear drippy stuff all the time. You paid for your next piece by pawning off the ones that you previously had and continuously elevated your own personal wardrobe.”

Up until this point, No Maintenance has released its designs in relatively limited batches. Most pieces are gone once they sell out. However, there is always the potential for a restock for the bestselling items. For instance, the brand’s lace shirts have been restocked a few times since their initial release back in August 2021. This past October, the brand made its first foray into releasing full collection with the first installment of its 25-piece Fall 2022 offering that included fuzzy red and olive cardigans, flared carpenter pants, and ecru denim jackets with a chain-stitched back graphic. The seasonal model is something they hope to continue to build off of in the future. 

“We want to expand and we want to get product into people’s hands,” says Hodgson. “And the fact of the matter is, it’s incredibly difficult with vintage. How can we continuously build a world where we can set the mood and we can set the tone? I think that’s best conveyed through our ability to design new products and have fun.”

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance

As the No Maintenance world grows, so does its footprint outside of Los Angeles. It held a pop-up in New York City this past September at Colbo in the Lower East Side and says it hopes to continue utilizing the pop-up model in the future in other destinations around the globe. While the pop-up model is promising, Moraga and Hodgson see no reason to rush into it a permanent brick and mortar location. They aren’t interested in just being another outpost in LA for people to window shop. They want to build out a meaningful destination that offers customers more than just the clothing on the racks when they walk in. 

“We’re thinking about five-year plans. It’s not out of the question that in three to five years we would have a space adjacent to our fashion offering in the form of a cafe or a wine bar. Our ambition is to tie together an entire ecosystem of our own curatorial and creative hands,” says Moraga. “That’s what we’re thinking about. How can we world build?”

ComplexCon 2022 Brands to Watch No Maintenance

ComplexCon will act as No Maintenance’s latest world building exercise. It will give customers a chance to check out its signature shag cardigan in a way they never have before. The entire booth will act as an art gallery of sorts that is centered around the piece. Two of them will be framed on the wall like pieces of art. Walls and floors of the 10x10 space will be covered with the same pattern found on the cardigan. One wall will be a full mirror, perfect for shareability in the age of social media. 

“We want to have you feel like you’re stepping into the No Maintenance Museum,” says Hodgson. “It’s like this homage, revisiting the product that was a big launchpad for us for this year.”

Along a restock of the original, a new colorway of the cardigan will also be available for purchase. Both will cost $268. Only a size run of each color will be present in the booth for try-on purposes. Orders will be taken and shipped directly to the customer. They didn’t want to crowd their booth with racks of clothing.

“We’re trying to make this immersive experience for people to come in and not feel like we’re just another brand showing there,” says Moraga. “You can actually take away a meaningful moment. We want to put ourselves in the conversation with major brands in the streetwear lane.”

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