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Kyle Velasco on using TikTok to empower the next generation of fashion fanatics

Kyle Velasco on using TikTok to empower the next generation of fashion fanatics

Internet sensation, model, and Gen Z renaissance man Kyle Velasco is known for his hot takes on everything from food to the state of youth culture. Velasco operates with complete authenticity and is never afraid to speak his mind. While controversial to some, with nearly sixty thousand loyal followers on TikTok, he’s proven to be a pioneer to many. Now, he is pioneering to bring the fashion discussion online from Los Angeles.

Full look and bag by LOUIS VUITTON MEN’S

Kyle Velasco: I feel passionate today. A lot of days, I wake up, and I’m like, ‘I’m getting coffee and sitting on my ass.’ But that’s not one of those days.

Raf Simons just announced he’s ending his brand after 27 years.

I saw that. I thought it was satire.

He is youth culture. He got re-coined into this Gen Z icon, even though that’s not what he was trying to do. Every rapper and Gen Z tastemaker fell in love with him. He accidentally became a Gen Z design icon. It’s so funny to see the youth reacting to this shit.

What do we even call a designer? I use the term liberally because it doesn’t need to be gatekept. Who has the authority? There are different angles. If a teen puts a screenprint on a t-shirt, are they a designer?

Are there a lot of traditional designers people are lining up to buy from? Not really. There are legendary people I’m dismissing right now, but right now, it’s the same way the supermodel died; fashion is changing.


Youth Culture

How did you become interested in fashion?

When you’re 16, it’s your job to figure out where you fit. Are you a jock? Are you a nerd? Are you a party guy? I don’t want to be cliché and say, ‘I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere.’

I wasn’t good at anything except expressing myself through a fashion lens. Fashion found me because I was a quiet kid. I didn’t feel I could relate to people my age and kids at my school. Fashion was an escape from that.

So, what scene were you in?

I grew up in skate culture. I could do a flip, but I was more about hanging around the skate park when other kids were doing JV football. It’s not a good influence. No parent in middle America is itching for their kid to grow up to skate. They’re asking their kids, ‘don’t you want to try soccer? No? You want to hang out at the skate park? Fuck.’

If you want to grab the pitchfork, that’s okay because I’d rather have you point a pitchfork at me than think, ‘How can people like me today? How can I be loved?’ 

I hung out at the skate park growing up.

I can’t skate, but I loved the style before streetwear took over in terms of what the youth wore in 2017—until two or three years ago, stepping out in Supreme as a non-skater or a dedicated HypeBeast was corn. Nowadays, every random kid dresses as if they are part of that subculture. Right now, every kid in America owns a Thrasher hoodie. If you did that in 2017, you were trolled. Believe it. 


Flexing Moment

It’s an aesthetic like anything else now.

I like fashion. I loved how Supreme, a 17-year-old in the suburbs of Chicago, understood what I was going through. At that time, I was subconsciously making choices about who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. So, I started dressing like a fucking freak. That’s how I found myself.

Digital creator, influencer, or fashion influencer?

I understand why people run from the term influencer. It’s an umbrella term. Everything is so self-proclaimed. All these terms overlap, and basically, they mean the same.

What does fashion need?

On the surface level, what does fashion need? Nothing. Fashion doesn’t need more of anything. It needs less. I said this before on the internet, but too many people look at a Balenciaga billboard and think it’s the pinnacle of what the fashion community is about. Some people look at A-list supermodels as their idols. That’s what they love about this industry.

Fashion can be a multi-millionaire supermodel stepping out in exclusive looks, getting packed. A lot of that makes it fun. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that. I wish more people saw the power of fashion as a way to help give a voice to people who aren’t able to.

I’m concerned about the future of fashion and the people who do creation within it. I need to see more young people hustling for pieces, curating them together, and creating. The active subcultures are dying out within fashion because it’s become dominated by a consumerist, opportunistic, flexing moment. 

I’ve been finessing vintage Supreme pieces, finessing Prada pieces, and musing them together. It’s a community thing. The best fashion people are weird. Act like it. Fashion needs to focus more on youth and expression and giving a voice to those who don’t have one instead of only the jet-set crowd vibing. 

Abloh’s LV

True. This community is enormous. Do you follow Vuitton? You’re wearing Virgil’s last collection in this shoot.

I never met Virgil. I never worked with him. I never had the gift of being in his presence. But he did much for me and every other young person in culture. Not only impact but that power he had to help other people. I remember when he began designing and Vuitton yassified the Rodeo Drive store.

It had officially become the Abloh administration. The store was wholly transformed. We see prominent hologram figures, bright pinks, fluorescent colors, and oranges. Anyone who knows Virgil’s Vuitton knows precisely what I’m describing. That was my first time in LA. I was some hungry high school kid who desperately wanted to do something with my life that was different. Something that could give me the best possible life for myself and those I cared about.

In my senior year of high school, I was getting ready to go to homecoming and didn’t have any shoes. I went to the Louis Vuitton store in my town, which is 10 minutes away. I’m at the mall, and I go and try on these sick $1,900 shoes.

When I tried on those shoes at the shoot we did, I thought back to that moment because Virgil designed those shoes. I remember trying them on and saying, ‘this feels special.’ I had a flashback of going into the store to try it. I felt this full circle moment. I’m hungry for so much more. It was an incredible feeling. 

On Christmas morning, my mom got me a Virgil book in high school, which was this thick blue book. I remember paging through, thinking it was the coolest thing ever. It was a walking book of culture. I loved Virgil’s Vuitton. 

What else do you love?

I love t-shirts. I love hoodies. I love being offensive. I love to troll cancel culture. I like to push the boundaries and break the lines of what is deemed acceptable in the moment.

And that’s your most authentic form of self-expression.

I always say I wish I were smart enough to make this shit up. That would require a lot of effort. Being inauthentic is eighty times more work than keeping it one hundred. People want to see what the general public’s rocking with. That’s so much work.

I’m going to tell you what’s on my mind. And if you want to grab the pitchfork, that’s okay because I’d rather have you point a pitchfork than me thinking, ‘How can people like me today? How can I be loved?’ 

The Met Gala

What do you think about Anna’s Met Gala theme of Karl Lagerfeld this year? 

Oh, I am still determining which way celebs will take it. I think anything related to Karl or Choupette; I hope people aren’t literal about it. It would be weird if everybody showed up looking like Karl. However, he would have liked that.

Yeah, that would be funny. There is 70s Karl, Fendi Karl, Chanel Karl, 90s Karl, Y2K Karl. He was always reinventing himself but also not.

I want to get invited to the Met Gala to be like, ‘I low-key trolled my way here.’ I’m not saying I’m the first person who trolled their way there, but I want to laugh at myself and say, yeah, I’m posted up here. 

Troll Culture

The funny thing is they say, ‘Kyle, you should take this seriously.’ Shouldn’t, you know, not be a troll. How dare you?

Before I break my neck to get invited to any gala or show, I want to be the reason 15-year-old kid changes the way they view art, fashion, or the culture around us. The way I felt when I saw all these great tastemakers, designers, and influencers stepping out in things I hadn’t seen around my hometown or that I didn’t have access to in a suburb.

It’s not a cliché, don’t give up on your dreams. Whether you’re listening, reading, or scrolling, you’re consuming and retaining this information towards fashion or whatever. Don’t take it for granted. I put my soul into my content because it’s all I have. I can’t let that moment sail.

Every half-court shot is delusional until it rolls in the hoop. No one believes in you. You have to believe in yourself. Those who do support you, keep them close. Just remember the main reason: we’re on a rock; let’s jazz things up a bit, and leave things different. 

Talent: Kyle Velasco

Photography by Meg Young
Styling by Britt Layton

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