Don’t Let the Name Fool You. Fugazi Is the Real Deal

Shortly after Fugazi opened its first flagship store in New York City, we spoke with brand founder Trevor Gorji about its latest milestone, what’s coming next, and more.

The sales floor of the Fugazi flagship store in New York City. via Fugazi

A brand called Fugazi, a slang term for “fake,” opens up a store on Canal Street, a notorious destination to come up on bootleg designer goods in New York City. Context clues might tell you to steer clear of the establishment. But this corner store isn’t some tourist trap selling kitschy Sopranos T-shirts or knockoff luxury bags. Fugazi is a burgeoning streetwear label hailing from Los Angeles. The outpost in Lower Manhattan marks its first flagship store. What’s happening there is very real. 

“I think there's a lot of noise online and I always felt like my brand had more substance to offer,” says Fugazi founder Trevor Gorji. “A store is not where you make the most money, but I think it does a lot for a brand in terms of telling the story of what the brand is.”

Fugazi has been steadily growing since its first official product launch in 2019. It held a self-funded runway show last year (Gorji says the brand is entirely self-funded at the moment). It has hosted pop-ups on both coasts that have been met with fervor from local fans. But all of that would mean nothing if the clothes weren’t good. And they are.

Gorji is serving up thoughtful takes on classic Americana with a youthful twist. Now, with a permanent brick-and-mortar location and accompanying cafe in America’s fashion capital, he’s priming Fugazi to be in conversations among the power players in streetwear.

A hurdle that Gorji may have to overcome with new customers is its name. He recalls promoting the brand on Facebook groups in its infancy and seeing comment sections full of people questioning the decision. It’s a fair critique. The word “fugazi” doesn’t exactly have a positive connotation. But Gorji says that’s sort of the point. 

“It's almost like an inside joke,” says Gorji. “It's almost like the direct opposite of calling your brand something like ‘Supreme’ or ‘Greatness.’ I kind of look at it like a challenge where I have to convince people why the brand is good. That’s why we don't make a lot of shit that just has a logo on it. It has to offer something else beyond just the name to make people like it.”

So far, those items have included denim with chain stitched paint splatters or western jackets with half-denim-half-tweed bodies. Other highlights nod to streetwear’s past, like a coat with an all-over print similar to Rogue Status’ famous Gun Show T-shirts from the 2000s or layered zip-ups that remind us of Bape’s Shark hoodies.

“Every product that I do a little play on, there's a reason for it,” says Gorji. “I think that’s one of the most ‘streetwear’ things to do is a flip of something classic. I think it has been lost with a lot of brands these days. I want to preserve that feeling.”

The brand doesn’t totally avoid graphics. Tongue-in-cheek designs include a hoodie that shouts out brand-building agency Karla Otto (Fugazi currently does not use a publicist) or T-shirt that reads “Don’t Pay Your Taxes” across the front. But those types of playful T-shirts and hoodies are meant more as supplemental pieces that might get people in the door than the driving force of Fugazi. 

“I don’t think T-shirts and hoodies are the bread and butter of the brand. I want it to be sort of like a transition between the traditional type of streetwear and an upscale brand,” says Gorji, who clarifies that he doesn’t have a negative stance on the term ‘streetwear.’ “I wear a hoodie, work pants, and sneakers everyday. But I also want to offer high quality, more detail, and less logo blasting everywhere.”

The new storefront, which is split into two sections, echoes Gorji’s commitment to high quality. On one side is a clean and minimal shopping area. Fugazi’s latest wares hang from racks lining the perimeter of a square space, and a giant Persian rug sits on a hardwood floor in the center. There is a fitting room shielded by a fabric curtain, wooden benches, a giant mirror, and glass display cases at the cash wrap that are home to accessories like gold pendants and socks. The second component of the shop is le Gaz, Fugazi’s cafe that sells drinks like Vietnamese iced coffee and a rotating variety of pastries from C&B, a bakery in the East Village. 

While many new brands might shy away from the financial risk that a storefront brings, Gorji thinks of it as a way to escape all of the noise on social media and not succumb to fleeting trends that are taking over everyone’s timeline. 

“I just think it allows us to be in our own lane and not have to rely so heavily on, ‘What's the most trendy thing on Instagram right now?’ I don't want to be pigeonholed as an Instagram brand,” says Gorji. 

The location of Fugazi NYC is also key. It sits on the corner of Canal and Orchard, a block that houses plenty of New York City’s “it” spots of the moment, like Awake NY’s flagship store, the specialty boutique Colbo, and Scarr’s Pizza. Now, Fugazi is an important piece of that puzzle that is cultivating the current streetwear community in the Lower East Side.

“I was looking at other spots that were not on Canal Street, but it was meant to be,” says Gorji, who has called New York home since moving cross country from Los Angeles in August 2023.

Community is central to many of Gorji’s efforts. To help usher in the brand’s new home in New York City, he held a chess tournament and awarded store credit to the winner. When Fugazi hosted its first runway show, an off-schedule presentation at Tweed Courthouse in December 2023, Gorji used a lottery system to invite supporters of the brand instead of filling the front row with press and buyers (Fugazi does not wholesale at the moment). He acknowledges the unfortunate reality that many streetwear shops aren’t always welcoming. He wants Fugazi to be the antithesis of that. 

“I definitely want it to be warm and inviting. I always want to have people feel comfortable coming in and shopping,” says Gorji. “It's not all about the sale of the product. You come in, you have a good experience with the brand, whether or not you buy something.”

The idea for Fugazi came about in 2017 when Gorji was attending USC. It was his second brand (there was also the short-lived North Korea Skate Team project in 2020). The first, Paradox, was a skate-oriented label he ran as a teenager living in Sarasota, Florida. It was able to gain a local following and even sold at Compound Board Shop, a skate shop in town. It ended up being the subject of his college essay. 

Fugazi’s first big moment came in 2019 with the release of the “One in the Chamber” sneaker, a cheeky bootleg of “Chicago” Air Jordan 1s that replaced branding like the Swooshes and Wings logos with revolvers.

“I wouldn't say I'm the first, but I do definitely think that it had that impact and inspired a lot of kids to try to make their own shoes,” says Gorji. “The plan was always to use that as a launching point and then build an entire brand with that initial push.”

Other one-off footwear drops, like a Birkenstock Boston-esque mule with laces dubbed the Tibet or a ballooned German Army Trainer, followed. The brand introduced some more pieces into the mix in between like a cozy fleece jacket with a wavy zipper or a gigantic vegan leather tote bag with a bullseye embossed onto the side panels that hinted at what we see from the brand today. Now, you can expect Fugazi to release full-fledged collections incorporating a bit of everything.

Designs are executed by Gorji and two members of the brand’s design team on Photoshop and Illustrator.

“I'm not a traditional fashion student doing everything on paper,” says Gorji. He hopes to eventually get to a point where he releases two collections per year that are segmented into multiple drops in similar fashion to industry leaders like Supreme and Palace.

And while Gorji refers to Fugazi as an “internet brand” more so than an LA streetwear brand, don’t think Fugazi has completely turned its back on the city where this all started. Gorji envisions the brand’s next runway show taking place there. Eventually, he could see a flagship store in the City of Angels (Fugazi previously hosted a temporary space in West Hollywood in April 2023). 

Gorji is also eyeing Fugazi’s first official footwear collaboration. While the brand has found success creating its own designs in-house from avocado green loafers to hiking boots nicknamed the Bootstraps, the founder acknowledges the stamp that an official collab gives to brands and would love to execute a project with unlimited resources that only a big collaborator can offer.

“I'm definitely grateful and proud that we're in our own lane and can exist with no help from anyone. But at the same time, I’d love to have a New Balance collab or do these things that traditional brands do,” says Gorji. “Supreme, Palace, Stüssy, and ALD are the brands that are in this area of streetwear. I would like to be in that conversation. I know it’s early, but I know that’s where we are headed.”

Planting roots in New York City is a big step forward.

“You can't ignore the brand anymore,” says Gorji. “It's right here. You're going to see.”

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