Good Vibes Only | Meet Vally Girl of Freak City LA

Author: Ali DiEmidio

There is truly no cooler place than Freak City in Los Angeles. The creative factory simultaneously acts as an independent record label, a design studio, a clothing gallery, and a party venue - all in one tripped out, graffiti-clad space. It's also the spot where the baddest babes like Nicki Minaj and street style star Sita Abellan shop for custom-made, "bootleg bougie" fits. We recently caught up with Freak City co-founder Vally Girl to talk about LA's artist subculture, partying with Lil B, and the importance of having a safe space for creativity. Check out the interview below.

Tell us a little bit about the journey of Freak City from inception to its current success; how did you get to where you are today, about to celebrate Freak City's tenth anniversary?
Long story short, we were crazy art kids in Hollyhood hustling, and we accidentally found a commercial space off of Melrose in 2008. One of the tenants saw us peaking through the window and told us to give the owner a call. Fast forward, and this became our first creative space where essentially Freak City began. We set up our music studio upstairs, the shop downstairs, and we threw events. Originally, Freak City was an idea [that co-founder] Justin had for a party, and he had drawn a logo on a Post-it note that I saw in the music studio and I thought it would be a great idea to name our place “Freak City” - that's when the concept was born, based on our lifestyle. From then, we went deeper down the graffiti brick road. As we did not fit into any scene, we felt the need to create our own movement for our music, art, and fashion. There was a lot against us. The neighbor next door hated hip-hop, he slashed our tires, called the cops, etc... it was a hard beginning that actually led to many more struggles. We had to really make our own path, as nobody wanted to help us in the beginning. We were discouraged, we faced a lot of obstacles, and it wasn’t easy, but we constantly kept our dream alive. We kept going despite all odds against us and we were blessed to be able to connect with key people who believed in us and that strengthened us and led to more opportunities. One thing leads to another and synchronicity really is the key.

With a motto that embodies the phrase "we are the underground," Freak City truly exemplifies artist subculture and a raw side of Los Angeles that most people don't get to see.
We choose to shine light on how we live and we’ve never been into filtering. Freak City keeps it real, and sometimes that means breaking the rules, making mistakes, breaking boundaries, and making people a little uncomfortable with our art and what we showcase. We’re interested in art in it’s rawest true form, not the artificial, inauthentic, processed and packaged ready-to-consume art. This is organic, no GMOs. A lot of what people see from LA is fake. We want to support the real ones who the mainstream “artists” actually get their inspiration from.

How important was it from the beginning to have Freak City act as a multi-faceted destination and a safe haven for creativity? What roadblocks have you faced along the way?

The beauty behind our barbed wire is that anything can happen. I think it’s important to have a safe place where you can do it all. It’s also really important to have an atmosphere that’s inspiring and creatively encouraging. We only invite good vibes, we freestyle most of the time, and we don’t operate off routine or set plans. We keep it pretty fluid and we tend to operate at odd hours because we’re on a global schedule. Our shop isn’t open to the public, as we’re selective with the types of energies that enter our space. More than roadblocks, we’ve been on detours. We’ve encountered danger zones and dead ends; we’ve had to climb fences, tear down walls, gut buildings, and abandon ships. We don’t advise anyone to follow the path we’ve paved, as it’s way too dangerous. You truly have to be mentally strong to surpass the difficulties that we’ve faced, yet we wouldn’t change any of the process, as what we’ve experienced has really kept us humble.

We'd love to learn more about your creative process, from clothing design to parties and partnerships; when you're seeking inspiration, to whom and to where do you look?
We’ve always been inspired by our experience of not fitting into a scene in Los Angeles; so really, the inspiration has always come from being "other". How we’ve lived, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve experienced by being born and raised in LA is truly the framework to our inspiration. Not following the crowd, not always believing the hype; this extends into our designs, the kinds of events we throw, and who we team up with. It also helps that we’re really selective with who we collaborate with; if it isn’t interesting to us or have an element of real, it gets dismissed. We’re also procrastinators and work well under pressure, so a lot of the creative process involves getting down to the wire.

What are your thoughts on the growth of what has been deemed "faux luxury" or "cheap-to-chic" fashion, and do you see Freak City as a pioneer in the genre?

We’re bootleg bougie. We been doing this. We start trends and end them. We can help other brands kill the game, too.

Freak City is a fave of some pretty amazing trendsetters in the industry, from M.I.A. to Sita Abellan (you were even shouted out in a song on Lil B's new record). Who are some of your favorite fans right now and who would you love to see rocking Freak City in the future?
Based recognize based. Lil B is the homie, so are Sita and Maya. We don’t really look at people as fans, more as friends. We love Gwallah Gang, Simi & Haze, and Rebecca & Fiona to name a few, but really all of our friends are our favorites. It’d be dope to dress Cardi B and Snoop Dogg and we would love to direct a music video for Ninja and Yolandi. We’d like to work on bigger projects, like design for a major fashion house like Gucci or alongside Marc Jacobs, create a furniture collection for Ikea, and even direct and style movies and orchestrate their soundtracks. We’ve broken a lot of boundaries and don’t want to limit ourselves to only what we’ve become known for.

Freak City was recently invited to create a pop-up retail space inside L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which was dubbed “Hi Fashion LO Price." Tell us a little bit about that experience and how you went about curating.
It was an amazing experience. Being able to have creative control within the MOCA was a lot fun. It was pretty intimate, a team of just five of us put it all together within two days. We created a retail art environment that encouraged guests to interact with our pop-up shop in which we replicated a mainstream type of consumerism. We made a coupon flyer and installed shopping carts and baskets that, from a distance, looked like a hybrid bargain store (LO Price), but we were actually presenting original fashion pieces (Hi Fashion). Our favorite part was when some guests were confused and/or offended. 

"The beauty behind our barbed wire is that anything can happen. I think it’s important to have a safe place where you can do it all."

You guys also showed on the runway for the first time at Mexico City Fashion Week earlier this year. What was it like prepping for your first runway and how did you decide on the models and looks that you'd be featuring?
We were only given three weeks notice, so it was pretty chaotic, stressful, a lot of fun, but definitely a learning experience. We didn’t realize how much work goes into putting a runway show together. We flew to Mexico City with over twenty pairs of shoes and got questioned by the TSA about the handcuffs. We basically had to freestyle on the date of the show, as we didn’t have all of our models that we had requested prior to; one of the agents kept bringing us models and we had to choose them on the spot. There was a lot going on, our entire makeup concept got lost in translation, but we did the best we could with incredibly limited time and we somehow presented our fashion felons successfully. We had our good friend do the visuals and Justin put the soundtrack together. The models had the most fun walking our show because we allowed them to have fun rather than take it so seriously. We dug deeper in terms of what we’ve dealt with in life and presented it in a controversial way, using the runway more as an art exhibit. We didn’t want to show the audience what they wanted or expected to see from Freak City, but rather what we had to see growing up. We shocked the audience and later on received a lot of flack for our inmate looks. We’re really grateful to our friends, Axel and Omar, and to Mercedes Benz for inviting us.
How important is your Instagram channel to you personally and professionally? Any favorite Instagram feeds?
It’s our most used platform in terms of connecting with our following, and it’s helped us connect with like minds across the world and that has a lot of relevance. It’s become one of our more used sources for news. We watched the Mayweather vs Conor McGregor fight live on Instagram, we’ve seen numerous fashion wars and seen a lot of call-out culture incidents live on Instagram, so it’s more entertaining and realer than what gets broadcast on television. We appreciate the @Veteranas_and_rucas feed, for sharing photos of the OG cultura. But because most of our friends are artists who we respect and admire, it wouldn’t be fair to name favorites! 
What are three of your favorite hidden gems in LA (besides Freak City, of course)?
Alpine Village for treasure hunting, of course! The Huntington Library and the Arboretum are also both beautiful places we enjoy escaping to.
What have been a few of your favorite parties and shoots since the birth of Freak City in 2008?
One of our favorite parties that we worked on was with Lil B. It was so epic, fans lined up for an entire block that wrapped around to the end of the alley, and the walls were literally dripping with sweat -  it was crazy. The event we did with Line app, Rae Sremmurd and Fade to Mind was also a favorite because it had an interactive live chat room projected during the party. I think the best video shoots had to be “Nothin On Ya” with Gucci Mane, he loved our place and our Freak City beats; and with Stones Throw Records when they shot the “Faden Away” with Dam Funk and Snoop. 
What can we look out for from you guys closing out 2017 and into early 2018?

It's been a long time coming, but we are currently working on an official Freak City Collection. We've done the t-shirt thing and we've always offered very limited runs of custom and rare one offs, but we're working on developing fabrics and really implementing our design skills to the game. We've also been in discussion about a children's line and in talks about opening our second location...

What does MISSBISH mean to you and who's your MISSBISH?
MISSBISH, to me, is fearless female energy; that woman who makes moves, gets shit done, and doesn’t ask for permission but for forgiveness. She’s a lover, a fighter, a giver, an entrepreneur, a voice, but most importantly a leader and a positive role model to all genders. So to me, I think all of us women who are contributing to the greater change in the world are MISSBISHes.

Photos by: Angelo Vasquez

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