How Fairfax Became the Mecca of Streetwear: An Oral History
By Karizza Sanchez
In 2011, Tyler, the Creator released "Yonkers," the song that catapulted him to mainstream success. Many say that was the day Fairfax changed.
Nick Diamond: Tyler used to help us pack boxes. I didn’t even know he rapped. I just knew he and his homies would hang around the store. It’s funny, ’cause one day someone that worked at the store was like, “Tyler got a write-up in this magazine about how they’re the new up-and-coming group.” I was like, “What do you mean? What group?” He was like, “They’re in this group called Odd Future.” I had no fucking idea. From there, it was crazy. They just started to blow up. Tyler dropped a song, which was um... I forget what it was called... It was the black and white video. It was his breakthrough thing [called “Yonkers”].
Bobby Hundreds: Within days, everyone in L.A. was talking about Odd Future. Within a week, those guys were stars. It was the craziest thing to watch, and that was, for better or worse, the day Fairfax changed.
Nick Diamond: Rick Ross called me out of nowhere and was like, “Yo, what’s up with Odd Future? I wanna talk to that Tyler kid. I want to sign him.” It was funny, ’cause when he called me, Tyler was actually in the store, standing next to me. So I was like, “Rick Ross wants to talk to you.” Tyler goes, “I don’t want to talk to Rick Ross.” I was like, “Dude, just fucking talk to him.” He was like, “Nah. I can’t talk right now.” So I didn’t put him on the phone. But so many people I knew from the music industry started calling me about Tyler. Odd Future just blew up out of nowhere. And then kids started coming to the Diamond store just to find these guys, ’cause these dudes started filming videos of themselves listening to music or jumping around inside the store, and they’d all be wearing Diamond.
Alex Olson: Tyler used to send me videos of them skating and rapping through Facebook message. I just thought they were being creative. I didn’t think anything of it. And then, you know, they exploded. That was really the turning point.
Chris Gibbs: Then Odd Future opened [a pop-up store] on Fairfax.
Brick Stowell: It was just supposed to be a temporary store. The guy that was licensing OF at the time had a relationship with Huf and knew the space was open. The idea behind [the shop] was like, “OK, we have all this momentum with the merch. It’s working really well at shows.” Everything was there—all the merch, all of the things that you liked but thought you couldn’t get or things that we held onto. The block was stupid poppin’ [on opening day]. I opened the gate, and it was thousands of kids, all the way down to Beverly [Boulevard], just waiting all day long. It was on Black Friday. It was really like some pop-star type of shit.
Melody Ehsani (founder, Melody Ehsani): I opened here during the Odd Future era. I came by the Odd Future store a few times with one of my best friends, Frank Ocean. It was actually how I discovered my space, because Turntable Lab had just moved out and they were putting up a “For Lease” sign. At the time, [Fairfax] had gotten more mainstream because Odd Future brought the music element here.
Bobby Hundreds: All of a sudden, you had real culture again. You had young people making art that was defiant and independent, and around that the clothing became the merchandise for this movement. That’s where I feel like Fairfax came into its own and became the Fairfax that we know today. As soon as Odd Future happened, everyone turned their attention to it.
Brick Stowell: There was no other place to [open the Odd Future store]. The guys used to hang out there so much, it was like, “Why would you do it anywhere else?” If that store would’ve been on another street, would the effect have been the same? I don’t know. It was a monumental turn in the Fairfax era because it really set the tone.
Everyone in L.A. was talking about Odd Future. Within a week, those guys were stars. It was the craziest thing to watch and that was the day
– Bobby Hundreds
Anwar Carrots: I remember walking Drake to the Odd Future store. This story hasn’t been told before. It’s my favorite story. One day, Drake called my phone. This was Take Care era going into Nothing Was the Same, so maybe, like, 2013. He was filming a music video on the corner. He was like, “Yo, where you at?” I’m like, “I’m at the office.” Meanwhile, in my head, I’m still like, “Oh, shit. This is Drake.” He’s like, “All right. I’m about to pull up.” We in the office smoking, just living life. All of a sudden, I start hearing girls outside yelling. Drake calls me and says, “Yo, we outside.” I go outside of the office and see a fleet of whips. There was a Bentley, G-Wagon, Phantom, ’Rari. They all come upstairs to the office, and Drake says to me, “Yo, I want to buy one of your sweatsuits.” I told him we didn’t have any on us but they sold them at the Odd Future store. He was like, “You wanna walk me?” I walked Drake from our office down Fairfax to the Odd Future store. Tyler happened to be there that day, too. When we walked in, he was like, “What are you doing here? Why are you at my store?” He copped a Carrots sweatsuit.
On the way back to the office, YG happened to be filming a video outside on Fairfax and Rosewood. Drake and YG met for the first time, and YG was like, “Hey, bro, you can get in my video?” I’m a big Drake fan, so to be in that space where somebody appreciated me as much as I appreciated them was next level.
Brick Stowell: I knew that Lil Wayne was coming down to the block—the boys had told me that—and everybody was making a big deal out of it. So we’re all outside—Odd Future’s there, Lil Wayne, and his three or four goons—having a good time. But there was this big white dude who had his Honda Civic parked in front of the shop. He had no connection to anybody, but he figures out that Lil Wayne is skating in front of the shop, and he wouldn’t leave. He was like, “C’mon, man—let me get a photo.” Lil Wayne’s ignoring him like it’s no big deal. But you could tell Lil Wayne’s goons are getting frustrated. A couple minutes pass by. Lil Wayne’s skating with Tyler and Taco, and a couple of his goons go up to the white dude and were like, “Yo, man. You gotta leave.” He’s like, “Fuck you guys. I don’t gotta leave.” Boom. Out of nowhere, one of these goons literally drops this fool. It was like “the crowd went wild” type of vibe. After that, I remember Taco got a text from Wayne being like, “I’m sorry that I brought that craziness to you guys’ establishment.” And he was like, “It’s all good, man. That was crazy!”
Nick Diamond: Odd Future definitely helped [Fairfax] blow up, bringing younger kids down—kids who weren’t necessarily into the streetwear culture but were into Odd Future. Kids came to Fairfax because they knew they could hang out with Tyler, Taco, and all them.
Ben Baller: [Tyler] was the cult leader of this whole new movement of kids who were into streetwear.
Alex Olson: You started seeing kids following Odd Future, dressing like them, and emulating them. They’re what made Supreme and everything in that area blow up.
Nick Diamond: Odd Future was at their height, and they were all rocking Supreme. Right at that moment was when all these kids started flocking to Supreme, and I think that’s when Supreme started getting really popular.
Bobby Hundreds: Supreme was always cool to domestic Americans who knew what was up and knew the market in Asia. Odd Future brought it down to a level where they could understand it here. It went from being niche, underground to… Odd Future is a massive mainstream rap group. So now every teenager who feels angry and disenfranchised gravitated toward Odd Future. And these teenagers were like, “What is this Supreme brand that they say is so cool? Let me look into that.” Supreme, as a brand, I think really snapped and became a different brand in that moment.
There were brands that came here that didn’t exist from the culture. They just jumped on and people were like, now the block is wack.
– Arsen Salatinjants
FAIRFAX BECOMES MORE MAINSTREAM
Dominick DeLuca: After a couple of years, I knew [Fairfax] was going to implode, and it did. Bigger stores started opening up and spending a lot of money. Crooks did this crazy store. DGK took a whole bank and made it this crazy mega-mall of their product.
Dennis Calvero: We opened the Crooks flagship on Melrose first in ’09. Then we moved to Sunset [Boulevard]. When we finally opened up on Fairfax [in 2013], the block was already starting to get somewhat weird. There was a lot more [random stores] here. But regardless of what we thought it was going to be business-wise, we knew that as one of the first brands of our genre of fashion, we wanted to be there and have our mark there.
Ben Baller: Crooks always had an office on Fairfax. When they came back in 2013, they threw a “Welcome 2 the Block” party, which I hosted [with Karen Civil]. Tyler was against it, and people were bummed about it. He felt like he created his own nostalgia on the block—“fuck the old dudes.” The party still did incredibly well, but if Tyler blessed it, it would’ve been haywire.
Nick Diamond: It’s funny ’cause none of the other brands wanted to be involved. We kept asking people, but it was only me and Crooks, so we put up all the money. But Nipsey Hussle performed, Ty Dolla Sign, Pusha-T. It was like a real festival. Thousands and thousands of people showed up. We actually built a stage in the middle of Fairfax, and the whole street was closed off. But [the neighborhood] wouldn’t let us do it again.
Bobby Hundreds: Random brands started to move in. They came in and came out. They’d have lines wrapped around the block, and then, within six months, they were gone. It was ridiculous and almost insulting because a lot of us had put in so much work to create this scene, this culture, and this block, and then you had these random brands that didn’t know or care.
Arsen Salatinjants: Everyone who had been there wanted the stores to stop [coming]. We didn’t need any more brands there. We needed more restaurants. There were five or six years that went by when you couldn’t get a coffee on the block. People were kind of like, the more stores open, the more diluted [Fairfax] is going to be, because only so many brands make sense without being cheesy. There were brands that came here that didn’t exist from the culture. They just jumped on, and people were like, “Now the block is wack.”
Nick Diamond: Some brands would come for a year, not make money, and would have to move. They probably lost a lot of money because it wasn’t cheap on Fairfax. I think my rent when I first moved in there was $2,200 a month, and now that place is probably $10,000. But you can’t just move your brand onto the street, expecting it to do well because people like some of the other stores there.
Lanie Alabanza-Barcena: The moment you started to see an even bigger focus on Fairfax was probably when the resale business started booming. More people were coming to wait in line to pick up exclusive product from these stores, especially Supreme.
Dennis Calvero: There were a lot of kids coming. There was also a lot of unnecessary bullshit that would go on—kids fighting over lines. I knew a couple of people that were getting robbed at the back [of the Supreme store]. One guy had a Rolex on, and the guys who robbed him only wanted the Supreme bag. They didn’t even bother to take his watch.
Dominick DeLuca: Now, you see a line, and it's all resellers and Asians that sell it in the Asian market. It's funny. You go down Fairfax on a Monday, and there's already a lineup for Supreme, and the shit doesn’t drop till Thursday.
Bobby Hundreds: Reselling was going on, but it was all in the Japanese market, so we weren’t seeing that in the States. Back then, the local people that were buying [Supreme] were wearing it. But all the Asian resellers that were in line were dumping it in Japan. And then that eventually became dumping it in China. And now they’re dumping it here. It’s happening on our home base.
Nick Diamond: The Supreme formula made [reselling] happen. They only sell in their store and online, and that stuff always sells out. So everyone else who couldn’t buy it online or at the store has no way to buy it, so kids just resell. Now that’s kids’ jobs. They’ve made careers out of it.
Bobby Hundreds: What was happening around Supreme on Fairfax two years ago was mind-boggling. But I feel like the market kind of adjusted to it. Now we expect the lineup. We expect a certain kind of reselling to go on. It’s entered a strange phase where you have a reseller who’s up a block from Supreme just selling their stuff. The reseller dynamic has added a new chapter to Fairfax in a way that didn’t really exist before. Reselling has always been a part of the game, but it wasn’t the only thing. Now it’s become the only thing.
All of the hype is real. [Fairfax] is really the shit. It’s an experience. And for somebody who likes to learn and dive into culture, Fairfax was a great place.
– Wiz Khalifa
Bobby Hundreds: Nowadays, when I look around Fairfax, a lot of it is pretty unrecognizable to me. But that’s also the point, because I’m older now. It’s not really meant for someone like me to blindly walk onto Fairfax and understand who these brands are, the way the kids are dressing, or the rapper that’s pulling up in the Ferrari. It’s for the 17-year-old kids who are aware of what is going on in culture in Los Angeles.
Guillermo Andrade: When I first opened the shop, there was no other store on the block that was selling $150 T-shirts. People thought I was insane. But the price points on Fairfax have definitely gotten higher over time. People are adapting to it, and it’s cool, you know? Now, we got $2,000 Alexander Wang jackets on the rack, and they sell.
Bam Barcena: It’s more commercialized now. It’s a big-business model. There are still a few brands that are making noise, but the playing field for smaller brands isn’t the same anymore. It’s super expensive on the block.
Dominick DeLuca: You can go down Fairfax now, and it’s not crowded. The only days it’s crowded are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, because of Supreme drops. Nowadays, more people are on La Brea. You have Union that’s been there forever. Undefeated’s been there for a long time. But now you’re also seeing Stone Island, Arc'teryx, Grizzly, OVO—everybody is moving there. I think it’s because times have changed. Streetwear has gone from a DIY brand to high fashion.
Anwar Carrots: I can’t go down there at all anymore. It just doesn’t have that feel right now. To me, it looks like the internet. It’s just all consumers ’cause of Supreme. It needs a bit more soul.
Ben Baller: I used to spend minimum four days a week on the block. Now, in the last two or three years, I’ve been on Fairfax less than 10 times. It’s hard to go down there now.
Lanie Alabanza-Barcena: It’s always weird when something that’s a part of you becomes a machine for somebody else. I just thought of Fairfax as a place we went to to kick it. But now, when we speak to business partners in Asia, they’re like, “We want to build a whole block and call it ‘Fairfax Avenue.’” That’s crazy. It’s bigger than you now. It’s something people feel like they can take and make money off.
Dennis Calvero: I’ve gotten DMs from other people with brands who were like, “My dream or goal is to have my flagship on Fairfax.”
Dominick DeLuca: Fairfax put streetwear on the map. It made L.A. the new birthplace of streetwear. But it also killed the word “streetwear.” Everybody was Fairfax. There were brands called Fairfax.
Bam Barcena: Fairfax will be around, and [Fairfax] High School helps bring in new youth every time, but it won’t be the same. One thing I like about Fairfax now is how the restaurant scene—with Animal and Jon & Vinny’s—there is evolving.
Guillermo Andrade: But there’s something special about Fairfax. You can start something different somewhere else, and it can have its own energy, but you can’t replicate what this place has been and will always be.
Nick Diamond: I learned how to run a company during my time on Fairfax, watching my friends. I was designing, but I knew nothing about how to make shit. Being there made me look at things differently, just seeing all those guys. We mentored each other.
Bobby Hundreds: People started traveling here from around the world. They wanted to be that next brand, rapper, designer, kid hanging out on the street—and you could, if you hung out and shook hands with the right people. If you were respectful, if you were nice enough, and you were humble enough to learn, in five years’ time you were the next videographer, director, chef.
Wiz Khalifa: Being on Fairfax definitely helped take my career to the next level, because being from Pittsburgh, you know, I didn’t have a real market or real crowd of people I was entertaining. When I was able to see those kids, tap in, and see that they were involved with what I had going on, I was able, as a businessman, to say, “That’s my target market right there. So whatever I do, I just gotta make sure they’re fucking happy, and I’ll win.” And that’s what got me to where I’m at.
Jerry Lorenzo: We had our offices for my nightlife promotional company, and later for Fear of God, on Fairfax, right above Flight Club. Fairfax 100 percent influenced Fear of God. At the time, we had a successful nightlife business, and the rest of my friends were brand owners. My friends represented a tangible thing for me. Watching Mega go from running Huf to Black Scale, Nick growing Diamond, and watching the Crooks guys—I had a vision that was different than theirs, but I knew that I would be able to make it tangible, just as they had. I give a lot of credit to Mega, Dennis, and Nick for showing me it was possible.
Brick Stowell: I think, for lots of people, [Fairfax] gave them their sense of identity. There were lots of people who came out of this—Na-Kel Smith, Mikey Alfred… Even a guy like Julian Berman. Julian is a very good, well-established photographer now. I owe Fairfax a lot.
Anwar Carrots: For me, it was a gateway. We watched people who came from nothing become bosses. Everybody getting mansions. Everybody getting whips. Everybody being able to take care of their families. It was inspirational. And Fairfax was an open book to learn, if you paid attention.
Na-Kel Smith: I kind of hate going there now. Fairfax plays a part in where people know you from or whatever, but I get mad when people think I’m only from that. I’m from so much more. We were all destined for greatness. But [Fairfax] showed me that it was all possible for somebody like me, because I’m like, “I see it. I see y’all putting in work, and I see it showing. I see you working, and I see what happens from your work, so I want to be like that. I want to make sure my work speaks for something.” I already had that mentality before I ever even met anybody. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew where I was going with it. But it was good to be around like-minded people.
Angelo Baque (founder, Awake; former brand director, Supreme): We’ve contemplated moving off of Fairfax, but at the end of the day, we were there before, and we will be there after. It is what it is. I can’t really see the store being anywhere else in L.A. [via Marfa Journal]
Guillermo Andrade: I don’t travel anywhere where people don’t know [about Fairfax]. I’ll be in Moscow, and people actually know what it is. That’s mind-blowing. I’ve thought about moving, but this is home.
Wiz Khalifa: All of the hype is real. [Fairfax] is really the shit. It’s an experience. And for somebody who likes to learn and dive into culture, Fairfax was a great place.
Bam Barcena: Fairfax was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- PHOTOGRAPHY BY
- Julian Berman
- IMAGES COURTESY OF
- Lanie Alabanza-Barcena, Guillermo Andrade, Ben Baller, Dennis Calvero, Anwar Carrots, Rob Cristofaro, Nick Diamond, Na'ama Givoni, Bobby Hundreds, Steven Luna and Arsen Salatinjants Additional Images: Bobby Hundreds via Getty Images/ Amy Graves; Keith Hufnagel via Getty Images/ Joshua Blanchard; Tyler the Creator via Getty Images/ PG/Bauer-Griffin; Wiz Khalifa via Getty Images/Theo Wargo; Ben Baller via Getty Images/ Noel Vasquez; Sal Barbier via Getty Images/ Imeh Akpanudosen / Stringer; Nick Diamond via Getty Images/ Johnny Nunez; Rob Cristofaro via Getty Images/ Sean Zanni; Jesse Villanueva via Getty Images/ Johnny Nunez; Dom Kennedy via Getty Images/ Tiffany Rose; Melody Ehsani via Getty Images/ Cindy Ord/ Stringer; Angelo Bacque via Getty Images/ Patrick McMullan; Curtis Buchanan via Getty Images/ Alexander Tamargo; Dominick DeLuca via Getty Images/ Noel Vasquez; Jonah Hill via Getty Images/ Andrew D. Bernstein.