Interview & Portrait by Air Pop
I remember my friend Flannery telling me before her band’s set started at The Smell that she had just modeled in some photos for a new label called Rowan. She didn’t really describe the clothing to me in depth but the way she looked at me while speaking about Rowan made it clear- It’d be foolish not to check it out. One of those kind of recommendations. A week later, Asher randomly told me during a phone call that I really should check out this cool new label Rowan. He said that someone had described it as “emo as fuck.” He also said that Brian (Rowan) was in L.A. and that I would probably vibe with him.
I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that I kept getting these recommendations from friends because of my unabashed love and respect for emo music – and that I would often openly discuss with anyone and everyone the emo resurgence that I’ve been noticing for a while. So I’m looking at Rowan’s Instagram for the first time- I’m depressed, probably low key listening to the new Pierce The Veil album, at my mom’s house, where I’ve been stuck in the suburbs of L.A. for a bit- it felt like a visual representation of how I had been feeling in the form of clothing. Fucking trip. This wasn’t by any means just “emo” – it was deeper than that.
I DM’d Rowan on Instagram and we became friends. I went to his home studio and wanted to know more, so Asher suggested an interview. I also ended up buying a Nancy Boy button-up shirt.
In traditional introvert fashion, we spoke through gchat. >:)
Pinky Rose, Rowan SS16 Lookbook
It was really cool hanging and trying on your clothes.
I’m glad! Can’t wait to see the vid :~)
Yeah! Jacque is actually editing the music video right now… I feel like you and I talked about music a lot. When you were making your first collection, what were you listening to?
I was deep in my teen nostalgia moment and listening to the bands I listened to around 13, 14, 15. My Chemical Romance, Placebo, Fall Out Boy. I think for a while I denied to myself how much that music influenced me and just totally embraced it around the time I was making that collection.
Yeah I really love your Nancy Boy shirt’s Placebo reference.
Some people asked why I included them because they’re not usually lumped in with emo bands, they were more prominent in the late 90s. But I didn’t really set out to make a collection in tribute to emo or anything; it was more rooted in just looking hard at the time I started developing my style and identity and that’s all part of it. They were really influential to me. Brian Molko was cool and queer and punk and wore shirts I wanted to wear and sang the opening sequence to Cruel Intentions and I loved him.
Another reason to watch Cruel Intentions again. It’s a great use of text, the position and scale of the letters on the shirt is perfect too – I know that some designers collaborate for graphics, like Raf Simons has called upon Peter De Potter for text concepts and graphics since forever… I was wondering if you personally make all of your own graphics or do you have a secret collaborator like many other designers do?
I do all the graphic design – Although this past FW16 collection I collaborated with my good friend Amber Bradford. She’s the one I vibe’d with so hard going through this process and reminiscing and thinking about the time we started putting our identities in the world, so I asked her to make a drawing with the ideas I was working with; the wolf in sheep’s clothing/black sheep. So, Amber drew the Eterna Chiron sheep for me and I’m so thrilled to have that as a part of the collection.
Amber Bradford In Eterna Chiron Sweatshirt, Rowan FW16
I like that drawing a lot – so all of this is mostly coming straight from your head, that’s amazing.
You’re in L.A. now, how’re you liking it? Can you tell me more about your car? It’s fucking sick.
It’s a ’92 Geo Tracker that I got about a year ago right after I was pretty banged up. It was actually at the beginning of SS16 sample production. I like L.A. a lot for what I do, it’s a lot of space and affordable and so many resources for fashion production. A lot of it is done by me and the space is crucial; as is cost efficiency starting a new business. But drivers are crazy here and I got in like a motorcycle accident and skating accident and needed a car so I got the Geo Tracker on Craigslist.
Yeah I’ve had a few friends go down on motorcycles, all bad… It’s funny, when I came over and tried on the bell-bottom-like stitch jeans I wasn’t sure if they’d work on me, but they did. How did you arrive at all these pieces that seem to work so well on so many different people?
When I was making the collection I really had just a small picture of how things are done pro style with fit models so I made the patterns based off mine and my friend’s body types. And it started more off wanting these clothes for ourselves cuz who knew if they would sell. It was more about just making pieces that worked that I wanted to exist in the world. I do try different experiments with pattern making, like that style you mentioned for instance has a double yoke which gives it a nice shape and looks good on a lot of butts.
Cool, I love when projects start with friends like that. I’d say that your pieces also effortlessly support various gender movements too, kind of a tired topic but still an important statement that you do in a non-forced way especially well.
Thanks. Yeah, I think gendered clothing is a farce and don’t really care to make clothes for any one group in particular, it’s more for anyone who wants to wear it and feels good in it.
Weird Fiction, Rowan FW16
Yeah more like everyone’s welcome. Another cool thing I see in the clothes is they’re reflecting a certain age… teenagers. Who’s your youngest fan?
I see really young people following it on Instagram, like as young as 11. Willow Smith found me somehow and she’s like 15. I don’t put much thought into appealing to a certain age group but it is really flattering when it strikes a chord with adolescents because that is when you start experimenting with your identity that you’re going to put out in the world and you gain a certain sense of independence. That’s the whole inspiration behind the first collection. Someone recently relayed to me that my clothes are what they wished existed when they were growing up which is really quite sweet.
Totally, damn wearing Rowan at those ages would have looked so sick! I’m usually pretty interested in the process of any realized technical artistic project. Randomly process wise; I like to mute YouTube videos of fashion runway shows while working on music and especially when I’m mixing an album or song. Glancing over periodically at a good collection and seeing human beings walking gives me a xanax-like state of calm which is extremely important during mixing hell. When you’re designing, what do you like to listen to or watch… what is your environment like, and when you run into problems what do you do?
I have a lot of routines in place. I do all the pattern making and cutting in my bedroom or the living room at crazy night hours and usually have something playing on the projector. It has to be something I’ve seen a bunch because it’s mostly background noise, so I’ll do something like Buffy or Daria. Actually, lately I’ve been getting into audiobooks while I work at home. I did the whole Harry Potter audiobook series during FW16 sample production which was amazing and totally came through in some of the designs – more so than I intended. During the day, I’m driving all around L.A. to different vendors, fabric suppliers, embroiderers, the wash house, etc. – so while I’m driving I have a playlist or mix going and kind of zone out and fantasize about what kind of clothes would look like if X song was playing during the show. Sometimes I build a bunch of looks off of one song that sets the mood. It’s nice because I work at home and live with two of my best friends so I usually can remedy frustration immediately just chilling with them.
Yeah, music and Fashion have a long history together. Filmmaking as well. When I’m writing for film it’s always an easy entertaining thought to think about the character’s clothing and style.
Totally, I mean we are all shaped by the bits of pop culture that impacts us and it all channels together when you’re doing creative work.
Brian Rowan adjusting top for Avie Acosta with other Rowan models Seashell Coker, Malik Alain, and Olin Caprison during pre show for Rowan FW16
True, I agree with that for sure, now more than ever too in a lot of ways. Wait, okay yeah let’s go back in time a bit before Rowan and designing – what was your high school experience like?
I had a really weird high school experience. I got sent to this really old all boys catholic school and tried fitting in freshman year, which was doomed, but then I’d go out to shows in D.C. by myself and make friends there, usually older friends. When I got my first car I started traveling up and down the east coast going to shows and part of that scene. So, I was totally checked out of school and hiding a lot of my life and personality from my family. At a certain point I became really drawn to N.Y.C. and the fashion/club kid scene there (Ruff Club, Misshapes, etc., this was 2007) and would drive to N.Y.C. a lot. But then I’d be going to school and be a total loser freak and have this secret life no one knew about. I got kicked out of the private school junior year and my senior year was a lot better but I loved having my secret fashion life and just kinda kept going with that. It’s funny though because sometimes those people I met then, pop up in the stuff I’m doing now; this stylist recently pulled some stuff for a magazine, and I don’t know if he remembers me, but he was the door guy at Ruff Club who would let me in when I was a baby. xD
Weird, you should ask him haha. Yeah man, I can relate to those times. Before I finished up High School in California where I’m from and eventually exploring cool shit downtown like junior year – I randomly had to spend a year in Indiana for 10th grade because I was fucking up in school and my mom’s side of the family needed us there for some complicated family stuff. It was fucked. Just like, Friday Night Lights vibe there, I was completely rejected. Pretty much the only lunch table I could sit at every day was with kids wearing ICP and Korn shirts who joked about shooting up the school weekly. I ended up with a really kind and goodhearted midwest freak group there – they became my only friends for that strange year and we would explore the internet learning how to hack people and I’d show them the emo music I liked and download movies – escaping the hell together.
Totally, if you weren’t a freak at that time you were doing it wrong.
Rowan pieces spotted at a show in Tokyo, 2016
Hey, your friend recognized the Nancy Boy shirt I was wearing the other night at a bar and told me that your VFiles pieces had sold out a bit ago. How do you feel about people embracing your work so quickly after only creating two collections so far?
I’m flattered, I’m very pleased. A lot of work goes into it and that’s the ultimate pleasure of what I do, knowing that my work is out there, living its own life and traveling far & wide. Someone tagged me in a photo of this show in Tokyo with people wearing my shirts and that’s such a cool thing to see.
Wow. Something I’ve noticed, particularly in fashion, is that there’s a ton of designers, stylists and fashion heads that are very overly fashion 24/7, but you really don’t really seem to carry yourself that way. Like, there’s multiple “fashion is life” crews… but do you sorta feel like an outsider to all of these fashion worlds?
I don’t know, it’s kind of a double edged sword. Like it did have a big influence on me in those formative years and the glamour appealed to me in a way where I knew I wanted to be a part of that and contribute to it through this channel. But, it brewed for a long time and my outlook did change when I started doing my label. I’m just doing my work and I’m pretty much just concerned with me and my people and the people interested in what I’m doing. I don’t know what it means to be an outsider or an insider in fashion. That’s the really cool thing about the young generation of designers doing shit now, it seems like a lot of us are very individualistic and just doing our own thing.
True, yeah I get a similar feeling when I see your models. They all seem like friends of yours and probably friends with each other.
They are, it’s all very organic.
So what’s up with your next collection?
Mmm, it’s going to be something new. I’m working on different ideas for textile development and new silhouettes, more mature. It’s going to be a gloomy Spring. It’s more abstract with the concepts, but still in my tone. This week I’m working on a freaky new printing technique and collaging with different mediums. I’m listening to a lot of Portishead.
Sounds sick, well thanks Brian. I definitely want to take selfies in your new shit, haha.
Ofc, thank u Air Pop. xD
Photo by Air Pop