Bite the bullets: “To Live & Die in L.A.” jacket is hard at its core. (Jeans by Kasil; silver necklace and ring by Geoff Thomas.)Glitter-sparked idolatry, weaponry, redemption, desire and the love of good, hard music are the themes behind True Love & False Idols, a men’s clothing line flying off the shelves at Fred Segal and Kitson. Its black “To Live & Die in L.A.” blazer is lined with a collage of images, including the Hollywood sign (only the letters read “FALSE IDOLS”), floating money set on fire, and a row of bullets along the bottom; large .38-caliber pistols peek up from the inside pockets. TL&FI’s reversible hoodie is printed with splashes of tropical colors, orchids, mo’ pistols and mo’ money. A T-shirt features wings on the back and a hand holding a gun that points at the wearer’s head; below, a single word is printed: “Redemption.”
Given the nature of the clothing, I thought it was fitting to meet the line’s creators, Alex Vaz and Alex 2tone, at a dive bar to kick back a few brewskies, talk about weapons, desire, what have you. I arrived at the Venice bar ahead of them, ordered a beer and waited. About halfway through my Corona, in walked two tall, dark-haired men, one with tatted arm sleeves and thick, curly hair peeping from under a fedora, the other with a trimmed, neat goatee, tight T-shirt and thick silver rings. Alex 2tone’s got the tats, Vaz the silver knuckles. Imagine my surprise, then, when, as I ordered my second beer, I was informed that 2tone is sober and Vaz straight-edge.
“I used to do everything,” said 2tone. “I was fucked up.”
T-shirt talks, bullshit walks.
Vaz described his straight-edge crew as “pretty-boy white boys with tattoos.” I asked if he’s a virgin. “Hell no, but it’s not about that. It’s about being militant with your shit. We don’t fuckin’ drink, we don’t fuckin’ smoke,” Vaz said, mimicking the straight-edge mantras. “But,” he added, “we don’t give a shit what people do — you go ahead and party hard. This is just my own personal belief.”
Well, I guess that explains the T-shirt with the flying squirrel that reads, “Cocaine Breakfast.”
“I think it’s hilarious,” 2tone said. “Every dude who has stayed up all night doing coke giggles when they see it. Then there are those people who are like, ‘What? I don’t get it?’ I just tell ’em you had to be there.”
Vaz and 2tone used to have “mad beef” with each other. Their crews would clash wherever they went. “Places got destroyed,” explained 2tone. “It’s like, even if your friends are dickheads, you back ’em no matter what.” Eventually, a mutual friend negotiated a truce. “She said you guys would get along if you knew each other,” said Vaz.
Then fate further intervened. One day, while 2tone was working at Howe clothing, he watched Vaz walk in to be interviewed. “In-fuckin’-possible,” 2tone remembered thinking. “He’s about to hire this asshole.” But 2tone loved his job, and Vaz wanted the new position badly. Eventually, they became friends and kicked around the idea of starting their own company. Their initial partner introduced them to a new partner, a dude who had a factory in Compton. “He told us to shoot for the moon,” 2tone said. Vaz would stop by the factory before and after his full-time job. Eventually, he quit his day gig and took out a loan so that he and 2tone could throw themselves into their new venture.
That was less than a year ago, last July. Almost immediately they landed Fred Segal and Nordstrom, two key accounts. And for spring ’07, they’re planning a line for the ladies. Vaz, who worked for years in women’s manufacturing, handles the business and cut-and-sew sides of things. All artwork is done by 2tone, usually drawings and watercolor paintings mixed with photographs.
“We don’t follow trends or try to capitalize on what’s hot now,” said Vaz, who wouldn’t be caught dead putting out a skull-and-crossbones tee. “We don’t give a shit what other designers are doing. We designed a hoodie for fall, and every part of it has a different piece of artwork to be screened on it. No repeating. I took it to another manufacturer, and he said, ‘That’s probably the best shit I’ve seen, but if you came to me with that for production, I’d tell you to fuck off.’ ”
That’s why they do it themselves. “I like to do it all by hand,” said 2tone. “With me you’re getting the raw dope. You’re getting exactly what the fuck came out of my head.”
Flash the cash: Reversible hoodie (above) looks good even when you're spent.
The raw dope: Tee (below) tells everyone where you've been.
Photos by Shari Abercrombie
Model: Eric Jonasson, guitarist for Gram Rabbit.
Shot on location at Red Garter, 2536 Lincoln Blvd., Venice.