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He may have made his runway debut for SS19, but Heron Preston is already a cult figure in streetwear circles. Having gained notoriety for his bootlegged designs – the fake Givenchy Rottweiler T-shirt and Star Sweeper sneakers are still sought-after items among collectors – the creative whiz counts brands like Nike and Yeezy as clients and was also a founder of the much-missed #BEENTRILL# collective alongside Virgil Abloh (Off-White) and Matthew Williams (Alyx).
In 2016, the designer – who also goes by the moniker Maserati Flamez – stepped out of the shadows and into fashion’s limelight by launching his own line of menswear. Based in Milan, the label’s legitimacy has upped his game while maintaining a signature mix of warcore workwear, industrial accessories and statement prints that made him an underground hero. We were lucky enough to interrupt Preston’s bumper schedule to discuss how he got here.
Tell us about your upbringing in San Francisco and how it influenced your style.
“My mom works in dentistry and my dad is a retired San Francisco police officer. The uniforms he wore in the force were always super-cool to me as a kid, and sometimes he’d take me to the station, where I was introduced to all the workwear. It’s a style that has inspired me since childhood. On the side, he was an artist and photographer and took a lot of photos that documented his time as a police officer. He also started a sportswear brand called Bartolo Athletic, which he would literally sell out of the trunk of his car. He even designed our family reunion T-shirts.
The sports and music culture of San Fran definitely influenced my style. Specifically skateboarding, which is heavily rooted in personal style, and Bay Area hip-hop artists like Mac Dre, E-40, Too $hort, Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics.”
Coming from West Coast skate culture, was it quite a change moving to New York?
“New York is such a melting pot, so it was a natural home for me. I had already become accustomed and close to the city through cinema, and the movie Kids was a huge influence. Once I saw it, I felt New York was for me – they spoke my language. I’ve always been fascinated by new cultures, and I love to meet people from different walks of life.”
I read that to make some extra cash you started DJing around the city using iPods, which is such a punk approach. Do you feel the DIY ethos still applies to your design process?
“It’s kind of the North Star when I’m designing, and I always try to preserve that attitude. That’s how I keep myself interested and engaged. In a similar way, I think the attitude of bootlegging is what’s influencing the industry now. Fashion right now is interested in street culture, which has always operated outside of the boundaries of convention, without authorisation and against “the norm”. In that space, you get stuff like bootlegs and hacking – people creating things that aren’t supposed to exist. That attitude is one I’ve always had and it’s one that fashion is beginning to adopt.”
“Fashion right now is interested in street culture, which has always operated outside of the boundaries of convention, without authorisation and against ‘the norm.’”
You’ve said previously that your first collection was based around what you were wearing at the time. Is this still where you get your inspiration?
“Yeah, things like my personal style, where I’m travelling and my experiences tend to inform all my collections. Then I take those elements and mix in parts of my life story. I have a living, breathing approach to design – it’s always changing depending on where I’m at in the world.”
Do you think you’ll ever go more conceptual, or will it always be rooted in the street?
“I can definitely see myself designing a conceptual collection and having fun there. That can really open your creativity and bring a far-out or outlandish dream to life.”
Virgil Abloh is a close friend and collaborator. How did you guys meet?
“We met on the internet. I think it was a discussion board or one of these aggregated sites that features streetwear and art. We eventually stumbled upon each other in person in New York around 2005, and our friendship became solid once we met in person.”
You’re both part of a new wave in fashion that includes the likes of Matthew Williams (of Alyx) and Kanye West. How important has that network been in supporting each other’s projects?
“I always look at our relationship as a satellite collective. Even though we don’t work directly together anymore, our story is still in the back of people’s minds. The support now comes from our drive to constantly challenge each other and ourselves.”
“I have a living, breathing approach to design – it’s always changing depending on where I’m at in the world.”