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R.I.P. Drew Bernstein, Freak Fashion Pioneer

Drew Bernstein
Drew Bernstein
Courtesy of Lip Service

Drew Bernstein, the creator of popular rock and roll clothing lines Lip Service and Kill City, was found dead yesterday of an apparent suicide by gunshot.

His body was discovered on a hiking trail in the Hollywood Hills off of Mulholland Drive. He was 51. 

The L.A. native came up on the local skateboarder scene, hanging with people like Tony Alva and another recently departed local icon, Jay Adams.

Bernstein was also in several punk bands. Though his music career was short, he was constantly on the scene, and appeared in Penelope Spheeris' punk film, Suburbia.

But it was the fashion he created, for “freaks” and “weirdos,” in his words, that left the greatest mark. 

It all began with black and white skull leggings, a simple yet bold design he created while living in San Francisco, working in wholesale and retail. Next came skull-daggers on leggings, spider webs and more for Lip Service, which he established in Los Angeles in 1985.

Lip Service became the garb of choice for punkers, metalers and goths who wanted to make a statement. The clothes were a blend of cheeky roguishness (leather pants and jackets with “Sex” embroidered throughout as a pattern) and classic, tough punk and fetish looks, including bondage pants, zippered vinyl skirts, and corsets.

When stylists outfitted acts like Guns n’ Roses and Faster Pussycat in his designs, his aesthetic gained great popularity, and inspired just about anyone since who has made rock clothing. 

As retailers like Hot Topic brought his look to the masses, he explored new directions, with sub-brands tailored to various, still-alternative style sectors. These included steam punks, industrial, and EDM. In 2006, he created Kill City to cater to folks who grew up on his stuff, but were now looking for something a bit more subtle.

His empire was re-branded under the name The Original Cult a few years ago and featured additional lines. Throughout the company's history, Bernstein remained its heart and soul. Despite evolving, he never abandoned the flamboyant underground.

He employed hundreds of rockers and club miscreants in his companies, teaching them the ropes about business and mentoring future movers and shakers. He also sponsored Hollywood club events up until his death.

Personally, we missed seeing him out as often on the scene in recent years. We told him as much at a recent Dripped fashion event in Chinatown. He was at his clothing booth, and discussed how a new crop of young “weirdos” were wearing his “vintage” looks again. We concurred that everything, eventually, comes back into fashion.

A memorial for Bernstein is scheduled for August 29 at the Dragonfly 

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