Store: Brooklyn Projects
City: Los Angeles
Founders: Dominick Deluca
Year opened: 2002
Before Dominick Deluca entered streetwear, he was in the music industry. As an Assistant Manager for Rush Artist Management from 1988 to 1992, he toured with metal band Anthrax and helped orchestrate Shawn Stussy’s first collab, a collection of friends and family merch for the Public Enemy and Anthrax Bring the Noise tour in 1991 and 1992. He moved on to become an A&R in 1992 for EMI Music before becoming a veejay on MTV's Headbangers Ball later the same year.
Streetwear was still a very niche community, but Deluca wearing brands like X-Large, Fuct, and Stussy on air during the show led to companies sending him free boxes of product. “I stood out and I loved it. Eventually, my dressing room was just like a storage room,” says Deluca.
In 1992, to get rid of his excess clothes, he would open a flea market space at the Caesar's Bay Bazaar in Brooklyn. Because of the heavy foot traffic at the flea market, in 1993 he moved to a larger space, the Brooklyn House skate shop, which was located near Marine Park. It sold brands like Haze, Pervert, and Ecko in its early days. By 1996, Deluca made his way to Los Angeles working for Island Def Jam as an A&R once again, but Brooklyn House was his passion project.
“I just loved it so much. I never made money from it. I paid my bills for the most part, but I just loved it, loved being a part of a new movement and just meeting like-minded people,” he says.
Deluca says there was no scene in LA at the time other than a shop called Atomic Garage on Melrose that used to backdoor stuff to Japan. The Brooklyn House in LA initially had a problem stocking certain brands due to its proximity to Atomic Garage, but was still able to carry names like Haze, Pervert, and Project Dragon. By 1999, Deluca made the choice to permanently stay in Los Angeles. He named the shop to Brooklyn Projects, which would officially open on Melrose Avenue across from the original Brooklyn House location in 2002. It remained there until the lease was up in 2009. It’s been at its current location on Melrose since 2010.
“Melrose has always been the epicenter of fashion, music, and culture. Before there was Fairfax, before there was La Brea, there was Melrose. It's almost like opening up on Broadway in the Lower East Side or opening up on Lafayette [in New York City]. It has a certain thing about it, so Melrose has always been a destination,” says Deluca. “I've had opportunities to open on Fairfax when it first started, before Supreme even opened up. But I was like, ‘Nah, I want to be where I am. I want to be my own island. I don't want to play in the same sandbox as other people.’”
"If there was no Brooklyn Projects, there would be no Fairfax, period. [James Jebbia] went five blocks away from me, opened up Supreme, and started a whole movement, but it was because of the seeds that I planted. I should get a royalty."
—Dominick Deluca, Founder of Brooklyn Projects
Deluca says the look of the original space in 2002 was inspired by shops he visited in Japan, more minimalistic with displays that treated the items like art rather than just product on racks. His store mixed street brands of the time like Freshjive and Recon with more high-end names like True Religion and Paper Denim, a precursor of sorts for the melding of both worlds that has become so commonplace in fashion today.
Brooklyn Projects was also a cultural hub for the West Coast skate community, holding events for Chad Muska’s Muskabeatz and photographer Atiba Jefferson. At the same time, the shop was giving a platform to younger brands in Los Angeles like The Hundreds and Diamond Supply. Deluca even held the first release party for Pharrell and NIGO’s Billionaire Boys Club line back in 2006. Over the years celebrities including Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, and Vin Diesel all shopped there at one point. The shop is probably best known for its four Nike SB collaborations that included the “Reign in Blood” Dunk High inspired by Slayer, and “Walk of Fame” Dunk Low.
“You wanted to be in Brooklyn Projects because at the time, there was no Fairfax. If there was no Brooklyn Projects, there would be no Fairfax, period,” Deluca tells Complex. “[James Jebbia] went five blocks away from me, opened up Supreme, and started a whole movement, but it was because of the seeds that I planted. I should get a royalty. I'm kind of like the Ray J of the streetwear scene. How Ray J put Kim Kardashian on the map with his porno and really broke her? Well, I'm Ray J and Supreme is my Kim Kardashian. I helped them. Fairfax is my Kim Kardashian. If it wasn't for me, it wouldn't have happened. That's a fact.”
Despite the widespread impact that Deluca and his shop have had, he hasn’t been treated to the same level of mainstream success as some of his contemporaries.
“If I could take it all back, then I would go back in time 15 or 20 years, and a certain few that I helped out, I would not help out and I can pretty much guarantee that they would not be in a place they are now because I gave them the tools. I helped lift them up the mountain and now I'm down here going, ‘Hey, I'm still down here,’” Deluca says. “We were first along the way of a lot of things that we don't really get credit for because it's overshadowed by other things.”—Michael DeStefano