Forever Raw, Uncut and Original
is a brand based out of Portland, Oregon that's telling a story many can relate to through their raw, uncut, original designs. We spoke with the founder Chris about his experience growing up and starting the initial buzz around Lord Knows which has led to him build a tight-knit community around the brand over the past five years. In addition, we also spoke about the inspiration behind the latest Summer '19 collection and his new release coming this fall, his advice for 20 year olds today, and his ambition to become known as one of the greatest streetwear brands of all time while always staying true to his roots.
Where are you from?
Chris: I’m originally from Tampa Bay Florida but I represent and reside in Portland, Oregon.
When did you make the move out to Portland?
Chris: I had a struggling single mom and she couldn’t really raise me. Growing up as a kid this dude in my neighborhood got murdered so my mom shipped me off to stay with my Dad full time. So I’ve been out here since I was nine. I moved back to Florida in my early 20’s and then I came back to Portland.
When did you start Lord Knows?
What was the inspiration behind the name?
Chris: I grew up and religion was forced on me at a really young age. I come from a devout Christian family. Anyone from the south can feel me on that since the south is behind on everything in life. I grew up with my grandparents and mom and they put religion on me at a young age which made me despise it as I grew older. I didn’t like religion at all. But as for the brand name I wanted to make something universal that was me so it came really organically. One day my cousin said that I was “looking like a lord” with the way I was dressed. I thought about it and realized that was gonna be the brand name. I decided to add the “knows” part to it because the lord knows your purpose in life. Lord doesn’t mean Christian or god, it’s just referring to whatever gets you through life. It’s a metaphor for whatever you believe in. All the inspiration for the designs comes from things I’ve been through and my view on society and the subculture from where I come from. I’ve always wanted to make clothes and wanted to make an impact that people can relate to from the stuff my homies and I have been through from the streets to relationships and life in general.
When did you rebrand from Lxrd Knows to Lord Knows?
Chris: It was Lxrd Knows for the first four and a half years and then we changed it last November to Lord Knows with just the o. A lot of people know it as “Lxrd” so it’s a 50/50 thing since half of the people know the brand as that and the other half are glad we changed it. It wasn't because I went through some religious moment of clarity or anything like that, I just wanted to clean it up to make it more universal. I don’t wanna say the x was cringy but I wanted to open it up for a more broad audience of people. It still means the same thing and the brand never switched up.
What made you want to start a clothing brand?
Chris: I’ve always been into streetwear. I’m a little bit older too so I've been through a lot of the eras in streetwear. My first brand that I fell in love with was Freshjive. That’s my favorite next to Fuct and Rogue Status. All those brands set it up for the people putting stuff out today. I used to come poke my head in with a brand in Portland called Capital Brand. I learned a lot from those guys, Ike, Boogie, TJ and Josh. I learned a lot from them from their actions more than their words. They didn’t give me any game but I saw how it was. That was around the time Karmaloop was popping. If you had a brand and you were lit you were on karmaloop. But while I was there I just saw everything that went on and all the work that it takes to make it happen. Even between those three people it was so much from production to shipping out orders, customer service, design, seasons ahead, trade shows, press, the list goes on. I'd help pack orders and I always had my say on certain things from a young age since they’d ask me if stuff was dope. These people that I knew were super geniune and making real authentic stuff. They had the biggest artists at the time rocking with them heavy which included everyone in Young Money and Prodigy from Mobb Deep. They inspired me to make a brand along with my cousin OJ who originally showed me streetwear. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't even have a brand.
How did you get the buzz going?
Chris: Nobody cared about Lord Knows for the first year and a half. But then I made a jacket that had an Uzi on it and it got on Tumblr and went viral. It has hella notes on Tumblr so the initial traction came from that. But once I started putting out small collections in 2016 and 2017 it really started to grow. Justin, Aiden and I used to throw parties at the skatepark back in the day and all these artists would come from Xavier Wulf to Fat Nick to Suicideboys to xxxTentacion, Ghostemane, Yung Simmie, the list goes on. So I would set up shop at those concerts at the skatepark to get my buzz going so people could know who I was and what I was about. That helped me get a lot of local buzz and then I started meeting artists there authentically and building relationships with them. The buzz started going too when I threw the first party with Goth Money. Marcy and I were really cool back then and they were going on tour. I don’t throw events but they wanted to come to Portland so I booked them for a show and they came out with Zac from FTP. My lil homies Justin and Aiden saw the formula of how I did it and knew about the skatepark so they came to me with the idea to throw underground shows there that would go crazy. So I brought Goth Money out first and they saw how I did it and then brought out xxxTentacion and Suicideboys and the rest is history.
Let’s talk about your most recent Summer '19 collection. What was the inspiration behind the designs on that collection?
Chris: Palm trees, strippers, prostitutes, heroine needles, drug overdoses, the Portland dope crisis, permanent gold teeth, lowriders, big trucks, summer drivebys, Voodoo Doughnuts, 2005 BBC jeans, Pharrell, BET Uncut 2004, it’s like so much stuff put into one. It was called a collection but it was more of a capsule. I just wanted to give people a taste of how I’m coming for the rest of the year since I have a lot of dope stuff on the way.
What made you want to design the Lord Knows vest?
Chris: We didn't even sell the vest since it was just a sample that I made. I’ve always been big into cut and sew but I’m waiting until the company gets a little bigger so that I can be hands on with it. The vest was just a sample but it’s definitely coming by the end of the year so I wanted to give a teaser. For the collection we dropped jeans, BET uncut shirts, and Beware of God. I treat designs like bullets with the way we design. If someone came into your house and you had your gun and shot at them, when the clip runs out I have all the ammo right there. I feel like a lot of stuff that's out right now doesn’t any have real substance or real meaning other than putting out a shirt to push units.
What does your creative process look like?
Chris: I can be uninspired for like a month and then all of a sudden be inspired and go on a run for like 6 months. There’s a lot of stuff that I get inspired by whether it’s wilding out, reminiscing, talking with friends, or getting drunk. Shout out to Crown Royal Apple and Hennessy Black. I’d sit and reflect on a lot of things that me or my homies been through and get inspired by that. I also watch a lot of documentaries on things that intrigue me such as Ancient Egypt, Religions, and cult leaders. I get inspired by stuff like that and stuff that resonates with me and the brand so the T-shirts have actual substance instead of just slapping something on there. A lot of brands out there are aesthetic-based but they aren't authentic-based. Everything I put out I’ve either lived or live and that’s the difference between me and a lot of other brands.
What was your favorite piece on the collection?
Chris: Probably the BET Uncut T-shirt. It’s really simple but it makes sense with the brand and I just really like that design. I came up with the idea and then our intern took out “show” or “episode” and replaced it with “brand”. Shoutout to Tankhead who did the lookbook, he killed it. Really good dude. It was crazy because I was gonna try to get Getter to do the lookbook his brother Dylan said he was busy so I didn't bother. I hit up Tankhead and he said he was with it so three days before I released the drop I flew him out. All he brought was a backpack with some underwear and socks so he literally came out, did the lookbook, and 3 AM the next day he went right back home. He lives in Florida and I’m in Oregon so it shows the sacrifices we made just to get it done.
What made you want to design the “They Rule You” tee from earlier this year?
Chris: That’s one of my favorite T-shirts of all time from the brand. I wanted to make a shirt that resonates with everybody that fucks with the brand. When you look at that shirt it’s society right there in front of your face. They control you with religion, cops are killing minorities and even innocent white people every day, and they control you with the military with war drafts from back in the day and Trump trying to dictate everyone. That shirt really hit home and people could really relate with it.
When did you release the Lord Knows app?
Chris: That app came out a little over a year ago. Just some advice for any kids out there with brands: When you come into the industry or into a marketplace and you want to make noise you have to do things that haven’t been done so you have to disrupt the market. That comes with innovation and doing stuff that hasn’t been done before. With that being said I was on the Supreme app and thought it would be cool to make my own app. I wanted to make something for the customer to make it easier to see when we’re dropping stuff and get notified when new products are available. It’s something that makes life a little easier for them. When I started Lord Knows I started with literally nothing. I remember I used to steal clothes and flip them on eBay just to get change for an LLC. It’s 5 years later now and if Lord Knows stopped today I wouldn't be satisfied but it would be one of those things where I know I created something out of nothing and made an actual impact. But I’m not content at all. From the underground to industry I’ve seen so many brands come and go. It's kinda spooky so you need to be ahead even when you’re not ahead and you need to think about where you’re gonna be in two years, five years, and ten years from now. Your vision has to be so broad because if you just focus on right now you can get eaten up. We used to throw skate parties out here in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and I remember when X was playing “Look At Me” and only 40 people were in the crowd. Yet a year and a half later he was the biggest person in the industry. It can happen you just gotta stick to it. But you want to be here for the long run, you want to be a Jay Z.
Where was the Lord Knows billboard located?
Chris: That was located in NE Portland right off of MLK. The inspiration behind that was guerilla marketing and guerilla tactics. I remember back in the day Rogue Status put up billboards all the time in LA and I knew I wanted to do that one day.
You’ve been releasing anniversary capsules for 5 years now. What does it mean to you to see people continue to support you after so long?
Chris: Words can’t explain how thankful I am for the people that support Lord Knows. I knew it had the potential to be something big from year two when I threw a pop-up shop and a kid came with his whole forearm tatted with Lord Knows. From then on I knew I had something cool going on. But I didn’t think I’d be collabing with Goth Money and working with Ramirez from G59 at year two or year three. I’m a big believer that if you sacrifice, work hard, stay consistent, grounded, and true, things will start to unfold for you. I’m forever a student and I’m always willing to learn. I’m super thankful for the Lord Knows familia and I treat them all like family. Over the years I’ve gotten close with some of the supporters and I want people to know that I’m not one of those hollywood people. I look at them as actual family because at the end of the day they’re supporting the business to keep it going and that’s real.
What made you want to design the 4 year anniversary graduation class tees?
Chris: It was like five weeks before the drop and I was trying to decide what to make and then when my brother walked in with his graduation class tee that had everyone's name on it from his class. I thought it would be cool to take all the Lord Knows people that have purchased an item from my website and put everyone's name on the back of a shirt. My screenprinter didn’t even think it was possible because it was so many names. But we printed a sample and it came out perfect so we ran it up.
How did people react when they found out their names would be a part of your shirt?
Chris: Everybody went AWOL. That drop was crazy because we did like 300 orders in the first minute. We made the shirt cheap since I wanted to make sure it was affordable. I’m big on making the best quality products for the lowest cost for the customer because I know what it’s like to be 19 and you don’t wanna look grimy but you also don’t have the bread to drop on something too expensive. It was crazy because two and a half years prior I was in my room at my dad’s house packing up 10 orders here, 20 orders there, to now having 300 orders in the first minute. What makes me different from these other brand owners is that I’m not part of these “cool kid” clubs. I don’t get co-signs or none of that so it meant even more to me because everything is 100% percent off of my own hard work.
Where do you see the brand a year from now?
Chris: I see it being much bigger. I want to keep doing dope stuff and I want to do a lot of collabs with my homeboys from Growth Clothing, my boy Menace in Los Angeles, WCKDTHGHTS, Bricks and Wood, and ETC Tacoma. My main focus is working on these collabs because the innovation of the band and the campaigns and collections are already set in stone. I just want to disrupt the industry and put everybody on notice on what we’ve been doing for the past five years. All I care about is growth. I told myself and the supporters back in the day that if Lord Knows can make it to year seven I’ll get a storefront.
Where is the store gonna be?
Chris: Portland for sure. Industry hubs are in LA, New York and Chicago now. When you come to Portland people think of Nike and all these other things but when supporters come they’ll see the Lord Knows store downtown. I want to make it a thug mansion for the youth. I want it to be a store and a spot where all the homies can chill.
Are there any other garments or accessories you want to experiment with in the future?
Chris: I really want to get into accessories. I just want to expand everything and do things that I haven't done so far. Hopefully I can do full fledged collections that are cut and sew once the company gets to a certain level. I just want to make a lot of products from accessories to garments so that you can have a whole uniform of Lord Knows stuff. I know it can get there it’s just gonna take some time. But right now the main focus is just the growth of the brand and putting out great quality products for the customer.
What advice would you give to the 20 year olds trying to make a name for themselves?
Chris: I would tell them to just do what you do. Do it from the heart, be passionate about it, and don’t look at other people’s successes because everybody’s story is different. Just sit down and be the best at what you do. I’ve never seen somebody put in 100% and not make it. So just put your head down and put in 100 plus percent and over time everything is gonna work out. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Everybody that gets success quick must sustain it and not many people can do that. So ask yourself if you want to be here for the short term or if you want to become a Jay-Z. I hope you want to be a Jay-Z because after 20 years he’s still relevant. When you were in high school 2-3 years ago the stuff you were wearing isn't what you're wearing now. So just imagine how hard it is to sustain that for two generations. There’s no excuse not to make it. To really make it though you have to become a monopoly. You literally have to be a 1 of 1 that cannot be duplicated. You always gotta remember that everything starts in your 20’s. Everybody that has “made it” in this world from a Dr. Dre to Jimmy Iovine or Steven Jobs, they all got their momentum in their 20’s. The older you get the harder it’s gonna get so you have to start now. It isn’t about having money, it’s just about building the momentum.
What should we expect to see from Lord Knows next?
Chris: I have a restock coming from summer and I have a collection coming in September or at the end of August for fall. That’s gonna be really dope because I have a Bay Area rap legend doing the lookbook for me. It’s gonna be super sick. And I have a collab coming with my homeboy from Growth Clothing. He’s been in it with me since day one when we were walking through trade shows and our heels were turning purple from being on our feet for so long. A lot of people liked this last collection but a lot of people also wanted the old Lord Knows stuff that’s raw and gritty. I’m about to give it to them. Fall ‘19 is inspired by all types of stuff that includes Tesla, gun ranges, downtown Portland chinatown shootouts, gangs, my brother Kenny Ray that’s dead, pitbull fights in the ally, it’s about to get really serious. A lot of people think that I’m just this subversive edgy ass brand but it’s not that at all. I made a half a decade book and it talks about all the inspiration and stories behind a lot of the things we do. I’m not gonna say I’ve been through the worst or the best since I’m a human being with experiences like everyone else, but a lot of the things I’ve been through have been dark so I’m letting that out. Some people look at that as edgy and subversive on the outside but that's not it. I’ve lost brothers to gang violence, cousins shot, shootouts, I've been arrested, so I’ve been through shit like everybody else and the ups and downs of being human.
What do you want Lord Knows to become at the end of the day?
Chris: I want Lord Knows to be one of the biggest brands in the world and I want to have a flagship store. All I care about is longevity. Anybody can push a million T-shirts, anybody can push a million records, but how are you gonna be remembered? I wanna be remembered as one of the greatest streetwear brands to do it. It’s a long haul but I know it’s possible because I’m passionate about this. I have Lord Knows tatted on my arms and my back so I live for this. I couldn’t fake it because I wouldn’t have lasted this long. It’s raw and authentic and can never be duplicated. I want my products to be timeless. It’s never been about the money, just making a lifetime impact. If you ever wore The Hundreds or Diamond back in the day that made an impact on you. That was a cool moment in your life so that’s what I want to do for people. I want to make that impact with timeless stuff that can never be duplicated. I hope that when it's all said and done I can inspire kids out there to start their own brands and do what they want in life and stop caring about what people are thinking. You can make it from anywhere and I’m a walking testimony of that.
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