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Since its founding in 2011, 69 has been making waves by developing a global community that takes you for who you are despite what others may think. Contrary to other clothing lines that cater to a select group of people, this Los Angeles-based brand believes that what people wear shouldn’t be defined by who they are. With such a cool approach and attitude, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles is dedicating a massive solo show titled 69: Déjà Vu, from August 4 to October 28.

The brand’s goal is to allow people to see themselves in its clothing, which is why it doesn’t try to adhere to the stereotypical social labels of gender or demographic. That’s also why the elusive team behind 69 has chosen to remain anonymous; they want people to believe in the mission of the brand instead of the people behind it. But despite avoiding revealing their identity, they want to be heard. That’s why we had the chance to have a chat to discuss inclusivity, democracy, anonymity, and fashion as an art form.

To many people, 69 can mean one of two things: erotic play or the astrological sign, Cancer. What does the name mean to you? Why did you choose a name that could potentially be perceived in these different ways?
It’s a symbol, it’s balanced, and it can really mean whatever you want. A few years ago, Unicode gave it emoji status; that was cool.
I love denim. It’s classic and functional and you can dress and style it for any occasion. When you started the brand, did you know that denim was the sole material that you wanted to use for your designs? Are you planning on using any other material besides denim in the future?
Denim is democratic. Everyone wears it and it lasts forever. There’s a misconception that we’re just a denim brand though. We’ve been offering linen and jersey as well since the beginning. Our focus is denim, but we definitely mix it up. 
I’m quite sure someone has mentioned this in the past but your marketing campaigns remind me of the ones by United Colors of Benetton. However, the people you use in your campaigns are not models but ordinary people. Do you believe this real and natural approach helps the brand promote its ideas of diversity and inclusivity to a broader audience?
Our goal is that people can see themselves in the clothing and we want everyone to see themselves in 69.

Another question I have that relates to diversity and inclusivity concerns the fashion industry. Even though it is making some effort to open its doors to all, it still doesn’t seem enough, especially in 2018. What do you think about the current state of the fashion industry? How is 69 trying to change that with its commitment to being non-gender and non-demographic?
It really comes down to our casting, and in terms of the clothes, we’re ‘one size fits most’. We do a full spectrum of casting that includes ages, races, sexes/genders and body types.  We make clothes for everyone.
You’re originally from New York but have been in Los Angeles for quite some time now. Why did you make the move from one coast to another? How have you found the fashion scene in Los Angeles to be different compared to the one in New York?
We’re not a New York brand – we’re not really from anywhere. You can make clothes in Los Angeles and still have a really wonderful quality of life. It’s nice here.
Like Martin Margiela, a designer who’s known for his very low personal profile, you’ve managed to remain anonymous in a world where social media has made privacy almost irrelevant. How and why do you retain this anonymity in a social media-driven world?
We keep our anonymity by not telling anyone who we are in interviews! Because we’re not based around any one individual, it allows people to see themselves in the brand. 69 becomes a vessel, a way for people to express themselves.

Congratulations on the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles hosting a solo museum exhibition on your work! Did you imagine this kind of recognition so early on in the brand’s growth? That must give you some sort of validation that what you’re doing is being recognized.
We’re honoured that 69 is recognized as art and not as just commodity. MOCA knows what’s up. The validation really comes from the joy our brand brings to the community and our friends – getting that on a scale as monumental as a museum show is wonderful.
This museum exhibition is also a prime example of how fashion is just one of the many art forms that we as individuals can use to express ourselves. Because of your anonymity, is fashion essentially a medium for you to express yourself without allowing your real identity to distract from the mission of your brand and the change that you’re trying to create with it?
Any artist can be anonymous. We’re drawn to clothing because it’s so accessible. If you’re not a musician or a painter or a filmmaker, you can express yourself through what you wear and how you wear it. We’re not a fashion brand – fashion is trendy, fleeting. We use clothing as a medium to make you feel something, and ideally, that feeling is joy.
Instead of a fashion brand, you consider 69 to be a lifestyle brand. As such, you must obviously want to do more than just fashion. What’s next for you and 69? Where do you see yourself and the brand going in the future?
This weekend we’re going to Vegas, then we’re going to open up our first store in Tokyo in 2020.
The exhibition 69: Déjà Vu will inaugurate on August 4 and will be on view until October 28 at MOCA Pacific Art Center, 8687 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood.

Words
Tyler Lea

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