(neonhoney / Los Angeles Times; Daniele Oberrauch)
It’s not every day that a brand taps into the sensibility of a place. But that, at least in part, is exactly what Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God has done so effortlessly in the city in which it was born. The L.A. sensibility resists any easy categorization but ebbs and flows through the intersection of formality and comfort. You can rock a suit in Los Angeles, but if you want to do that (and you should), you simply have to freak it. And no one is freaking the suit like Fear of God.
A Fear of God silhouette is instantly recognizable to the real heads. Note-perfect, generous tailoring with tapered sweatpants that hug the figure. The suit jackets defy the standards of suiting, with odd proportions and idiosyncratic touches like collars without lapels and single buttons. But you can pair all of that with a hoodie, a pair of fresh sneakers or the now-iconic California slippers. One could describe it as “business up top, party on the bottom” — a riff on the colloquial description of the mullet. In the 10 years that Fear of God has been operating, it’s defined and then redefined the future of street wear and luxury all at once.
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On April 19, the Hollywood Bowl was the setting for a fashion happening that you’d have to lie about going to if you didn’t get an invite. Every celebrity in the orbit of the brand was there — Tessa Thompson, Bill Burr, Tracee Ellis Ross, Pusha T, Taraji P. Henson, Jay Ellis and Ye, to name a few. It was fitting that Ye, Jerry Lorenzo’s friend from back in the day, would emerge from his public banishment over numerous antisemitic statements. At times, the show recalled the concert vibes of classic Yeezy shows. It was occasionally more concert than fashion show, thanks to a soulful prelude from Sampha. There was even a merch booth to commemorate your attendance. As the sun set and the giant cross that looks over the Bowl started to glow in the distance, one could be forgiven for feeling the holy spirit.
This eighth collection, featuring a highly anticipated collab with Adidas, leans hard into that ethos. Huge dust-colored topcoats on top of pants bearing the three-stripe trademark of the massive German athletic brand. The collection doesn’t stray too far from what makes Fear of God so covetable. The earthy palette, chunky knits and heavy coats were there. But there were clear deviations from the formula as well. A duffel bag that let you flex at the gym (or on a staycation). Ankle boots that look more like socks than shoes. A giant fur that makes you feel like Magic Johnson walking into the Forum Club in ‘86 is a piece I covet, knowing full well that it will eat me alive.
The ’80s always seem to be on the mind of Lorenzo. Who could forget the seventh collection from 2021, full of wide shoulders on long blazers — the kind of clothes Armani never made. Those elements will seemingly never leave the Fear of God brand. But those references now sit side by side with nods to rugged western style. There’s leather. Lots of leather. Sleeveless zip-ups, motorcycle jackets, and chunky boots. Fringe on trousers and jeans. Lots of suede. Lorenzo works with heavy material. If there’s anything that doesn’t feel suitably California, it’s how unforgiving the material is.
Lorenzo’s definition — or interpretation — of luxury is rooted in the idea that clothing should feel substantial, like armor. L.A. style has to function as protection (emotional as much as physical), but it also has to be loose, organic and adaptable. Both ostentatious and active. But it’s rarely as subtle as Fear of God.
Logos and branding are the territory occupied by Fear of God’s sub-label Essentials — the approachable and affordable everyday clothes that fly off shelves and represent the majority of the company’s business. Besides a small, rubber tag on the sleeve or back of a jacket, it’s hard to find anything that IDs a Fear of God piece besides the fact that it’s perfectly constructed. It’s the look that matters, and that look is unparalleled.
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Fear of God leans on layering, the way every element of a fit works with the others. As smaller brands chase Lorenzo’s mastery of simplicity with so-called modular wardrobes, Fear of God has created a galaxy of pieces that feel complementary and allow you to truly play with what’s in your closet.
Layering is not the easiest thing to do in L.A. The weather doesn’t often cooperate. It’s better to take layers off. L.A. is a place where showing skin is inherent to sex appeal. The kind of layering the collection demands would require you to be either incredibly brave or comfortable sweating out your water weight as if preparing for a boxing match — if you try to wear most of this stuff after “June gloom” ends. Even if you don’t wear a shirt under your jacket, like most of the models did. There are gloves in this collection. Imagine wearing gloves. In L.A.!
But Fear of God taking over the Hollywood Bowl is a sign that L.A. style is growing in sophistication and another step toward street wear becoming more than just good business. Lorenzo got his start selling T-shirts, but his work is now so much more than that. That sort of rough-and-tumble street wear, with a do-it-yourself ethos, will always have a place here. Entrepreneurship plus opportunity is the equation. High fashion labels like Dior keep invoking the classic street wear vibe of 1990s L.A.: big jeans, chunky skater shoes, cheeky humor and haphazardness as a north star. Fear of God isn’t so much grasping at that nostalgia as pushing it forward into something more luxe, more elevated and more beautifully built.
Big clothes are for the wearer who prefers swimming in their garments, but Fear of God does big fits that flatter. There are no missteps in the construction, the lines are clean, the silhouettes inspired. What Lorenzo does so well is make big fits hold the shape of the wearer.
Lorenzo added a futuristic-looking corded leather belt to a few of the looks. The belts cinched up blazers and coats, giving a figure to the models that otherwise would not have been there in the voluminous clothing. A lot of us (and by “us,” I mean me) don’t really want to cinch. In fact, we (me) have felt a strong desire to never be cinched again. But you can’t deny how good it looks on the people it was made for (not me). It’s giving Friar Tuck realness. All the homies at the cloister are going to be rocking these.
Like a good church congregation, there was a cross-section of the community in the house that night. Hype beasts mixed with the chicest couture addicts. Art kids and agents jostled each other as they moved toward trays of Champagne.
Religion at its worst can be a tool to divide — the saints and the sinners. But religion can also unite people behind a common cause. It’s nervy days in America right now, and Lorenzo made sure to remind us of that. Like a lot of Black men in his position, he is consumed by purpose and defined by a sense of duty to his community. He told GQ, “there’s a responsibility that comes from a lot of pain. But more than pain, it comes from love.” That dichotomy between pain and love is dramatized by the story of Jesus on the cross, sacrificing himself and his body for the world. That tension is the foundation of Fear of God. The entire line is about tension, about opposites and about faith.
Winks at religious imagery are integral to Lorenzo’s vision for Fear of God. The clothes are monastic in color and shape. The music choices — Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit” into Ye’s “Blood on the Leaves” — brought a heaviness of purpose to the event. There were moments filled with true awe, in the biblical sense. But like a good church service, the reminders of shared suffering are tempered with the ecstasy of spiritual transcendence. Fear of God can be a grim brand with a deeply serious mission statement. The clothes, on the other hand, can make you feel like you can fly.