Creating Wearable Nostalgia
is a clothing brand based out of Los Angeles that's putting out some of the most nostalgic 90's inspired pieces you'll find. We spoke with the founder JD about his experience starting the brand in 2015 and moving to Colorado where the brand started to grow and gain exposure before moving back to Los Angeles where the brand has continued to gain popularity and thrive. In addition, we also spoke with JD about the genuine relationships he built early on with some of the biggest names in the underground music scene, what we should expect to see next, and his plans to have his brand eventually grow to reach different generations while always staying true to himself in the process.
Where are you from?
JD: I’m from Los Angeles, California.
When did you start Balcony Lifestyle?
JD: I started it in 2015 so I’ve been doing this for about 4 - 5 years now.
How did you come up with the name?
JD: The name describes the vibe of hanging out with your friends on a balcony and enjoying the view. It’s the vibe and feeling you get from being on there.
What made you want to start a clothing brand?
JD: I used to be a Fairfax and Melrose rat in high school in the early days when the Hundreds and Diamond first opened. I’d camp out before Supreme was popping and all the hype that came with that. I wasn’t able to buy all the clothes I wanted since I had to spend my own money and it was expensive. Diamond went to the mall and became easy to purchase and I didn’t want to spend $40 on a simple tee when I knew I could make something better on my own.
Were you always interested in fashion?
JD: Yeah I’ve always been interested in streetwear and clothing. I used to work at shoe and clothing stores, and I was always on top of blogs and brands before they popped off for normal people. I was wearing the Hundreds and people would ask why I was wearing cartoon shorts, it was corny for people then before it became mainstream. Everything became really watered down and oversaturated.
What was the inspiration behind the Nostalgia Basketball Tournament hoodies you recently dropped?
JD: A lot of my brand is inspired by nostalgic stuff, the 90’s influence is really heavy. I’m a big fan of basketball, Jordan, and I loved Space Jam growing up. Space Jam is having its 23rd anniversary this year and I’d already had these in the vault from when I made them a while ago so it made sense to drop them now.
How did the Spurs guard Derrick White end up rocking BLS?
JD: I’m from LA but I lived in Colorado for like six years, that’s where I really started to grow the brand. I used to do a lot of pop ups and I’d set up booths at all the music shows, but I went to college with Derrick and we were homies and had classes together. He was already wearing the brand before he went to the league, so to me it’s just a homie. I don’t really hit people up and try to send them stuff. All the artists and athletes that wear the brand are people that I have actual friendships and relationships with outside of clothing.
Does basketball have a big influence on your work?
JD: Yeah, I used to play in high school and I still play in leagues now. That’s why I make basketball shorts for all my teammates in the league. But my whole life was centered around basketball until I was 18 or 19 when I stopped being as serious. When that door closed I had to turn all my interest and energy into something else and that’s when fashion became just as serious for me or even more serious.
How did you come up with the idea for the Scholastic lookbook for your drop from this past summer?
JD: My whole life is just centered around 90’s stuff. I’ll sit on Youtube and watch commercials from the 90’s just for inspiration. But growing up everybody loved the Scholastic book fair. I remember getting that little flier and my mom allowed me to only get one book. When you see it now it gives you that nostalgic feeling. I didn’t expect the response that it got but everyone remembered it and that’s what I do this for. Sometimes I put things out and my references might go over people's heads since it’s too small of a niche, but when a lot of people remember something it feels good.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
JD: It’s life experiences, the way I grew up, the way I was raised, the people I’m around, the cartoons I watch. Anything I see I internalize and it might come out through a design. I don’t really look at other brands and other stuff like that, I just stay in my own bubble. I’m just inspired by my life growing up and where I lived and the experiences I’ve had, and I reflect that through clothes. It’s the same thing with the album cover shorts, those are all albums that I listened to and was a big fan of. Everything I do isn’t for personal gain or clout, it’s for the fan first. So every time I’ve gotten a cease and desist by 36 Mafia or Lil B it wasn’t because I was doing it for profit, I just wanted a pair for myself and when other people saw them they wanted them too. I get in trouble for it in the end but it’s still cool. It becomes a piece of underground history, if you have it you have it and if not then oh well.
Where did you get the idea for the Cartoons & Cereal shorts from that release?
JD: I help out and work at this cereal bar in LA that has hella cereal. I’m into snacks and I have a side thing to my brand called @securethesnacks
. I never ask anyone to use that hashtag, but when I went on tour to China with an artist I work for I saw tons of snacks out there and posted them using that hashtag and a lot of people started using the same one. So those shorts were influenced by me working at the cereal bar and watching cartoons all day. It was Cartoon Network and classic cereals put together.
What cereal bar do you work at?
JD: It’s called Gizmo’s. I threw a popup here last March and that’s what led me to be here all the time watching cartoons, working on designs and packing orders. They have over 140 different kinds of cereal, normal and rare. You can mix cereals together and put on different toppings. I have a Balcony bowl that’s on the secret menu. It’s nostalgic vibes all day.
What does your creative process look like when coming up with a new idea for shorts?
JD: It’s a lot of lists since I like to write stuff down by hand. I have an idea and I’ll map it out visually in writing first. Say it’s an album cover, I have some shorts coming out as my first official collab with an artist. The way that I made those shorts started with me making a list of all their tapes. They have like 60 tapes, and I had to widdle it down to what influenced me most and what is best visually. Then I would see what looked the best visually on the computer, print it up, and go through a lot of trial and error. The frist time is never the right one, so it takes some time. But now with album cover shorts I’m being a little more picky about which ones I do since I don’t want to get any more cease and desists, I want to make them official from now on. It’s funny when I do get a cease and desist though, it makes me realize that I’m not as small as I think sometimes.
What made you want to make the Honey BLS Durags?
JD: I’ve always had waves, that was my hairstyle at the time and I always had it growing up. As I got older and was living on my own I started growing it out since it got too expensive to get haircuts all the time. I just wanted a durag for myself so I made durags and I thought it would be funny if I was the model wearing it. We were on tour when I made them, so I found a white backdrop in the hotel we were staying at and took the picture with a serious face. I’m not serious at all in real life so that made it funny. I went and designed my own cover, printed it out, and did all the packaging myself. I put a high standard out there so if I do it again I have to do the same packaging.
Are there any other garments or accessories you want to experiment with in the future?
JD: Yeah I want to do more cut and sew, button ups, and I want to do woven belts. I also want to make more hoodies with an all-over style print like my shorts with some crazy designs I’ve been sitting on. But really just more experimental cut and sew stuff. I made a sweat suit last year that was fully cut and sew 3M design, so I want to do more stuff like that. The only problem is you have to buy those at high quantity. I don’t like playing the game where it’s a digital mockup and the customer has to wait 8 weeks to get it because as a consumer I don’t even like that. Anything I’m selling you can get within a week or two, and if it’s more than that it’s because I’m out of the country. I don’t play that mockup game so that’s why I stay away from bigger items right now.
How did Pouya end up rocking BLS?
JD: I’ve been around the underground music scene since the beginning in 2012 - 2013. I’m a fan first and I’ve always been on top of the music before it blows up. When I was in Colorado I just had the ability to go to any show since it wasn’t crazy popping like in LA, it was chill. And I really just met everyone separately so it’s funny how everyone clicked up. I went on the first Suicideboys Grayscale tour in 2013 - 2014. I was in the minivan with them, Smurf, Ramirez, JGRXXN, this was before Pouya and Suicideboys clicked up. Anyone who came to Denver I would link up with and have clothes or tees and we could just cool in the city, and that’s how I met Pouya. I’d treat the artists that I liked liked homies, I didn’t treat them like artists. Fast Forward to now and everyone’s blowing up or in different positions. I’m just a fan, and anyone who wears my clothes I’m a fan of. I made a list and all my favorite artists have worn Balcony Lifestyle at one time. But they were wearing it when they didn’t have 500k on Instagram like they have now, they probably had 5k so it was never for any personal gain. That didn’t matter, there was no such thing as clout back then. That’s why any collab I’ve done has been super organic, I don’t want to force anything.
What’s your relationship with Freddie Gibbs?
JD: I met Freddy at a fan meet and greet in Colorado when it was him and Curren$y. At the time I only had one design that said “Vices” on it that I had Pouya and Raider Klan wearing at the time. I met them at a meet and greet and Curren$y said he really liked the sweater I was wearing and asked what it brand it was. It was my Vices sweater, and I had no brand name or Instagram at the time, but I took it off and gave it to him. My roommate took his off as well and gave it to Freddie, and 20 minutes later Curren$y had posted on Instagram wearing it. I made an Instagram right away, and I met Freddy later that day and he asked what the name of my brand was. I didn’t even have a name at the time but my first reaction was to say Balcony Lifestyle. After that I’d tap in with him every time he came to Colorado. He would stay at my house and come to shower if he needed to or just get away from the tour bus for a little while. I moved to LA on a whim 2 - 3 years ago, I just packed up my car and left since I felt like the brand would do better in LA. When I got there I ended up hitting up Fred and said that if he ever needed design work done or help around the studio I’d help out. So I linked up with him and helped design his tour merch, made a couple album covers, helped him with day to day activities, and he took me around the world. That’s like my big bro and I’m grateful for every position he’s been able to put me in since I met him. I don’t like to showcase that though, I don’t want my success to be based on anyone else but myself.
Are there any other designers, brands, or music artists you want to work with in the future?
JD: I like certain brands but to be honest I don’t really wear anything else but my own brand. I pay attention to a few other people. I’ve been in this industry so long that I’m so jaded with friendships and relationships and who I associate with. I’m only interested in genuine relationships. If I don’t like you like that then I don’t want to collab with you. Everyone I’m close to I’ve collabed with, Fred, Wulf, everyone I’ve vibed with I’ve worked with. But I really like Lord Knows, that’s my homie. I just like dudes that have been around as long as I’ve been around, I usually associate with them. But I’m not anti other brands, if I rock with you and we’re cool in real life then any possibility is open. I’m always open to working with others it’s just gotta make sense and be organic.
What should we expect to see next from BLS?
JD: It’s hoodie season so I have lots of hoodies coming as well as coach jackets and lettermans. I have lots of stuff in the vault right now that I’m trying to figure out the best time to release. I’m literally creating stuff every day it’s just hard since I’m making niche stuff that only certain people will remember. There’s lots of stuff that I wear that I’ll never put out. But then I walk around and people ask to buy it so I think maybe I should be releasing it. The majority of the pieces I put out are because I want to wear it. I’m not making it to profit off of Space Jam, I could really care less. If someone doesn’t like it then they don’t like it. The majority of designs that end up doing really well were because I ended up liking it and wanted to wear it, and people asked about it so I went ahead and released it. And sometimes it just works with timing. I dropped the Gucci mugshot shots, and two days later they announced that he was being released from jail. There’s no way I could’ve known he was getting out, it just happens like that sometimes.
What do you want BLS to become?
JD: I want it to be a timeless, nostalgia-based brand. I want it to be able to reach different generations too. I want a 25 - 30 year old person that might have kids to be able to buy the shirt because it reminds them of something that they want to put their child on to. I want to give people those “aha” moments of “I remember this” or, “I forgot all about this” and just keep spreading the brand. I’ve sent pieces to every state and over 25 different countries, so I just want to spread the Balcony umbrella all over. Expect more popups in America to spread the name while I stay true to the brand and myself in the process. And definitely a collab with a snack brand in 2020. Also shoutout to Made, he has the best blanks in the game.
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