The rapid ascent of Fear of God to become one of streetwear’s most dynamic, agenda-setting labels is often ascribed to its support from the likes of Kanye West and Justin Bieber, as well as its collaborations with everyone from Nike to Ermenegildo Zegna. But for its founder, Jerry Lorenzo, launching the label in 2013 marked the beginning of a far more personal journey—and one that reached a logical conclusion with the launch of Essentials, a more competitively priced sister label to Fear of God’s signature pieces, in 2018.
“When we first started Essentials five years ago, in all honesty, my heart was in creating a diffusion collection for the kids that couldn’t afford what we were doing at a luxury level,” Lorenzo explains over the phone from his studio in Los Angeles. “A lot of people were put off by the price points without having the education of why the prices were what they were, without understanding the nuances of the construction or the fabrics and materials that go into creating luxury.”
Where luxury’s inherent exclusivity relies on its high price points, strictly guest-listed fashion shows, and a narrow definition of beauty communicated via advertising, the exclusivity of streetwear operates along different lines. Whether it’s a scarcity of product that leads to eye-watering prices on resale sites or the unpredictability of in-store and online drops, the customer base may be more diverse, but the lack of accessibility is still there. After plenty of reflection, it’s a mentality Lorenzo now sees as dated. “To me, what I was doing with Essentials felt dishonest after a while, because it was just a watered-down version of Fear of God,” he adds. “I wanted to provide something that can stand alongside the main line as its own being.”
With his latest Essentials collection, dropping next Wednesday, July 1, on PacSun, Lorenzo is continuing to make good on that promise, with pieces retailing between $40 and $200. Here, the Essentials logo is plastered across sweatshirts, knits, and jersey shorts—a clear indication that the brand is becoming a status symbol in its own right. (The fact it’s modeled by some of fashion’s most in-demand faces, including Evan Mock and Alton Mason, doesn’t hurt either.) “We don’t feel that accessibility needs to be a knockoff or a cheaper version of a better thing,” Lorenzo explains. “Why not just make a great thing at an accessible price point that is founded in honesty?”
It also makes sense given Lorenzo’s past life working as a sports agent for the L.A. Dodgers and a party promoter across the city’s nightclubs; for him, building a sense of community is simply second nature. It’s an instinct that has proven useful over the past few months as his team has grappled with the challenges posed first by COVID-19 and now by the upswell of protests and petitions prompted by the latest spate of police brutality in Black communities across America.