Rick Klotz is one opinionated mofo,
and he has every right to be. The local clothing designer/artist created L.A.’s first streetwear company, Freshjive, and 17 years later it’s still going strong with a bold collection of T-shirts, hoodies and bottoms that, even alongside a host of multimillion-dollar competitors, continues to set the standard for casual Cali cool.

“So many things excite me,” Klotz says as we look through his
clothing line and the stock of new and vintage books at his recently
opened Fairfax store Reserve. “This person excites me. These photos
excite me, this music excites me. That’s been kind of a problem. I
don’t want to categorize what I do any further. I’m a streetwear
company with a certain aesthetic and influences — skateboarding, the
L.A. lifestyle, rap music and rock music — but there’s so much more.
The store and my Web site are my forum to explore all of it.”

(Photo by Kevin Scanlon)

As for the dude’s dogmatic ways, all one has to do is flip through Freshjive’s catalog of tees and stickers to see what’s on the 39-year-old’s mind. Like his “Freshjive Destroys” tee featuring the ghost of Sid Vicious chasing two heavily tattooed punk “poseurs” from a band called “Bad Charlatans” (hmmm… wonder who that refers to?). Or the even more blatant “You Suck and Your Music’s Wack” line featuring portraits of recognizable heads from bands like Sum 41 and My Chemical Romance.

But it’s not all band baggin’. Klotz is not a fan of the thug element that’s permeated streetwear (thanks to all the rappers and rich kids who call themselves designers these days, perhaps?).

“Gun images, for example,” he says, “they sell. So I put in subliminal things that convey my message, which is anti-gun.”

Of course, it can be dangerous making jabs at the establishment, even on a T-shirt or sticker. The guy fought a veritable David-versus-Goliath legal battle last year when he was sued by Stussy for parodying its logo. It was all settled in mediation, but Klotz says the fight left him $100,000 poorer. And yet, he says, “I would’ve lost it all if I had to,” just to prove his point.

These days Klotz, who got his start designing club fliers (his product parodies for the rave party Truth are the stuff of graphics legend), has found new ways to spread his offbeat and controversial aesthetic and attitude: via cyberspace, with wacky blogs and an Internet radio station, and an annual journal called The Propagandist, not to mention an offshoot line of surfer looks called Gonz and the new store, which is helping to turn Fairfax Avenue into a slammin’ street again.

Next up for the designer: a line of tees depicting images from Slash and Wet magazines, provocative art exhibits and filmmaker-spotlight gatherings at Reserve. Plus, he adds, “more designs that fuck with people.”

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