Many know Mexico City–bred Miguel de la Barracuda (real name Juan Miguel Garcia) for his 5,000-foot namesake Melrose store/creative compound. But it’s not the first time the retail wonder has tapped into a city’s scenester Zeitgeist. Barracuda helped put Mexico City’s fashionable Condesa area on the map, supporting the up and coming local designer scene and bringing floods of international buyers from Europe and Tokyo to the area, which still thrives. When he decided to do the same here, first opening the funky Blue Demon boutique, purveyor of unusual T-shirt designs and kitschy Mex-flavored merch like wrestling masks, the response was equally enthusiastic. Still, there were some hurdles.
“I didn’t know being Mexican was a bad thing,” says the well-traveled fashionisto. “It was a cool thing to be Mexican in Europe but not here, so when I opened Blue Demon, my thought was, ‘What if I go in the middle of Hollywood and just show them how fashionable we are in Mexico City?’ ”
Blue Demon and De La Barracuda after it (both originally in smaller locations on Melrose) became faves with local sneaker heads and jet-setters alike, showcasing street-wear designers from Mexico and around the globe, and revitalizing the east end of Melrose with mega-bashes, collaborations (with street artists, club promoters and, yes, corporations), and comfortably hip clothing.
When the space on Melrose that used to house Rosasen Golf apparel — and knitwear biggie Benetton before that — opened up last year, its expansive back yard, ample shop space and prominent, exterior wall across the street from Fairfax High promised to fulfill Barracuda’s ultimate vision: to tell “stories” as he calls them, with music, art and a more organic approach to networking.
Every story he’s told seems to have had a happy ending so far. Barracuda’s if-you-throw-it-and-post-it online-they-will-come approach to shindigs has made for many memorable nights, from its kegger-like grand opening rager with DJ Pube$ on the decks, to bumpin’ BPM Magazine bashes with the likes of Steve Aoki and Shepard Fairey, to a recent art show and performance from We Are The World, to designer-product debut soirees (Mindstyle’s Stanley Kubrick and Michael Jordon figures with design king Michael Lau, graffiti girlie Lady Claw’s bags, Buff Monster’s collectible toys, Beauty Bar’s first clothing line). There’s even a hair salon in the back of the shop.
The viral voraciousness of De La’s events has translated to its retail side, too. A recent skateboard deck created with ramp legend Christian Hosoi sold out in a matter of days and the store’s vibrant mash of MIA meets Harjuku-esque frocks for females (Hysteric Glamour, Stussy, 55 DSL) and streetwise styled duds for dudes (KZO, Insight, Converse by John Varvatos) epitomize the casual yet edgy style favored in the clubs.
Case in point, the shop’s popular T-shirt designs, the best known featuring an L.A. Dodgers–ish logo with a flying fish-type creature running through it, and another with their logo, the serpent from the Mexican flag. “When you see those shirts, it means something,” says Barracuda. “You automatically know that the person wearing them probably likes the same 20 things that we like and the things that we represent — cool art, parties, DJs, fashion, all from L.A.”
Of course, capturing the interest of those who create and consume all of the above is a marketing maven’s wet dream, and Barracuda has been courted by most of the biggies: Nike, Converse, Red Bull, Warner Bros. The heads of these companies are all quite scene-savvy, Barracuda says, and open to all creative ideas. (No doubt!) Nike, in fact, has been curating the outside wall (formerly used by record and film companies to hawk their latest act/flick) featuring up and coming international street artists on a rotating basis.
As for getting on the lists for Barracuda’s much-touted soirees, he says that he leaves it to the groups who throw ’em to promote, and that most events never have more than a week of advance buzz. (Check their blog at www.barracudashop.com for clues and endless party pics.) Though the social aspect is huge, it’s not everything for DLB.
“If we just threw parties for no reason it wouldn’t really have anything to do with lifestyle,” says Barracuda. “It would just be like one of the thousands of parties had in L.A. For us, it’ll always be about telling stories, building relationships and making connections. That’s what makes L.A. special.”