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A heron is a long-legged freshwater bird. The classification
of the individual species is fraught with difficulty, and the relationships
of the genera in the family are not completely resolved:
although herons resemble birds in some other families
—storks, cranes, ibises—, they differ from these in the way they fly.
John James Audubon, Great White Heron, 1839
It makes sense that Heron Preston has adopted the bird and its colors as a part of his visual identity. The creative is as difficult to classify as the bird.
Ten years ago he published The Young and the Banging, a book out of candid shots of cool kids on the street corners of New York. By 2013 he was releasing crazy logo-driven bootlegs, and, two years later, he was already on the Dapper Dan trend with his spin-offs of the Air Force 1. He has taken his collection to outer space with NASA, he has produced zero-waste fashion upcycling the used uniforms of the Department of Sanitation of New York City, he has put Swarovski crystals around Putin’s face and he has just been to Italy for a trap-inflected DJ set. In his web he states that he’s the true embodiment of an artist born of the post-internet generation. What is clear is that he loves to switch up the formats and that he has a knack for getting everywhere early.
His dad was a police officer, and Preston liked to take his uniform and perform when he was a kid. Maybe that’s the reason why his fashion is so narrative. With the hoodie as a starting point, he takes conventional themes that arise from everyday life in the city and reinterprets them with heavy graphic work. In his clothes, airbrushed skulls coexist with Cyrillic letters, technical fabrics and internet references.
Often Torino invited us to his DJ Set and we had some time alone with the man that gave Ian Connor his first pair of Yeezys and set up Been Trill with Virgil Abloh and Matthew Williams. We had a candid conversation about the color orange, the heron bird and the importance of youth.
God save the internet.
You’re here in Italy for a DJ venue. Been Trill originally started as a party and you’ve worked with Kanye for The life of Pablo: music and fashion are really intertwined in your work. How does music influence what you do?
Music is everything. I think music is the heartbeat of the culture, what bonds it together. I started DJing and making clothes at the same time, they really just go hand in hand to me. Music just brings everyone to the same place, more than fashion, I think, and that’s what I love the most about DJing.
I’ve been doing it for over ten years now. It started off small but it has eventually grown into a bigger thing and now I find myself travelling around the world to play music at cool parties. It’s crazy, man.
You spend a lot of time in Europe lately. The streets are different here, the youth is different here, even the birds are different here. What do you take home from Europe?
The people, definitely. People here are very warm. When I landed at the airport this morning, even the customs police officers were cracking jokes me; we were all laughing together. But also the cuisine, the architecture, all its different destinations… from Greece, where I really love to travel in the summertime, to Italy, where I work… I even lived in Paris for a while; Europe holds a very special place in my heart.
You’re always taking inspiration from the streets. You take a look at the cool guys, you take the youth in account, but your eyes also stop at everyday people: construction workers, sanitation workers… Why do you do that?
Cause that’s authentic. That feels real to me: those are real people who do real things in the world, and I connect with that. I love to celebrate that culture and that community of people in my work, to make a crossover between real life and fashion.
“Construction workers and sanitation workers are real people who do real things in the world, and I connect with that. I love to celebrate that culture and that community of people in my work, to make a crossover between real life and fashion.”
Your fashion has always reflected about the idea of authenticity. You were one of the originators of the bootleg trend, the logo mania… How much authenticity do you see in today’s streetwear scene?
Not as much as there could be. There’s a lot more potential that streetwear has in conveying authenticity in the work that we create, in the clothes that we make. We have the opportunities. I think we just don’t push them as far as we can.
Around this, Kim Jones recently said that it might be the right time to retire the term streetwear. How do you feel about what’s happening lately, this tension between luxury and street labels?
I don’t think kids have to go to fashion school anymore. I didn’t go to fashion school; Virgil didn’t go to fashion school. We are examples of how you can create your own path. The tools we have today allow us to establish connections that can lead to create your own career. I think people are much more open-minded today, and more risk-embracing in general, trying new things.
“We are living a very interesting moment in which fashion is being disrupted and mixed: highbrow and lowbrow, luxury and streetwear. It’s creating a whole new lane, a whole new story and a whole new approach to fashion.”
I think that is really challenging schools and the idea of education itself: kids are asking “Do I have to go to fashion school anymore? People like Heron and Virgil are doing it their way…”. We are living a very interesting moment in which fashion is being disrupted and mixed: highbrow and lowbrow, luxury and streetwear. It’s creating a whole new lane, a whole new story and a whole new approach to fashion.
Streetwear is more mass now, and that means it’s available to new profiles. My clothes are being sold in Barneys, in Saks Fifth Av… there’s a whole new community of people that are embracing this culture. It’s getting to a whole new level now. It’s a really exciting time.
It feels like the Instagram is almost as important as the fashion week nowadays. Back in the days, you had to wait six months in order to see new proposals. In 2018 you can follow the creators on a daily basis. You can be aware of how the kids from Paris dress, of how the kids from Tokyo dress… Do you look for references in the Instagram?
Not really. I like to look for references more when I travel. I travel around a lot of different cities and I get in touch with their young communities of people who are very passionate about culture, fashion and music. Like here in Torino, Italy, this is where I get inspired.
“The color orange comes from the heron bird. I was researching the the different tones of color of its feathers and I found this orange. I loved it so much that I decided to adopt it and make it the signature color of my collections.”
Youth plays a very important role in what you do. Do you ever get scared of not feeling young anymore?
I wont necessarily say I feel scared but I definitely think it is important that I continue to embrace youth culture, that I continue to be a part of it. That’s why I DJ, this is the culture: imagine a city with no nightlife, no clubs, no parties. That doesn’t feel right. I’m not afraid of losing touch with the youth, but I challenge myself to always be in contact with people who are younger than me, to work with them, embrace their visions and support them.
One thing I’ve always wanted to ask is what is it about the color orange? It is a big part of your visual identity. Does it hide any special story behind it?
The color orange comes from the heron bird. I was researching the the different tones of color of its feathers and I found this orange. I loved it so much that I decided to adopt it and make it the signature color of my collections.
That and the Audubon paintings.
Exactly. In fact, one of the first paintings that I put on my collection was an Audubon.
S/O Mirafiori Brando y Fil Tenso.