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.
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.
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.
"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 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.