Punk’s New Prodigy: Midnight Studios’ Shane Gonzales Offers up Decades' Worth of Inspiration
- Words Gregory Babcock
- Date July 31, 2017
Shane Gonzales is the definition of “wise beyond his years.” The young mind behind Midnight Studios has crafted a thoroughly modern label that fuses the best elements of brands like Undercover, Yohji Yamamoto and Vivienne Westwood while advancing those elements for today’s fashion-obsessed youth. But designing isn’t the only thing Gonzales has on his resume; collaborating with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and A$AP Rocky’s mysterious AWGE collective are just a few highlights in an already impressive career. Read our candid and insightful exchange with the somewhat enigmatic designer and shop his jaw-dropping personal archive of pieces that have influenced his signature blend of punk, streetwear and modern art.
Photography by Jeremy Gonzales.
To start, can you tell us about who you are, where you’re from, and what got you started with Midnight Studios?
Hi, my name is Shane Gonzales and I’m an alcoholic. That question always makes me feel like I'm at an AA meeting. Well, anyways, I’m 22-years-old, from the self-proclaimed “paradise” that is Canyon Lake, CA. Canyon Lake is basically where people go to raise a family, ride motorcycles and retire or do meth and heroin. It’s a small town with nothing to offer really, but I’m proud to be raised there. The best times of my life were in Canyon Lake causing trouble and skateboarding. Long story short, skateboarding and music went hand in hand. I've skateboarded almost my whole life and the skate games and videos I watched always had the coolest soundtracks. It would be like Black Sabbath, Dead Kennedys and Notorious B.I.G. in one video and I loved it all. Eventually, revisiting that history turned into Midnight Studios and putting the feelings that it gave me onto clothes. It started with some T-shirts and then blossomed into fully developed collections and I'm hoping to expand more and more over the next several years.
At the moment, what are your three biggest influences?
At the moment: Daft Punk, Martin Margiela and Piss Drunx/Baker Skateboards.
As a young, but clearly lifelong fashion fan, what is your take on once-niche designers like Raf Simons, Jun Takahashi and Takahiro Miyashita broadening into the wider consciousness? Does it cheapen the things you love about fashion design?
I’ll never stop loving the work of Raf, Jun or Taka. What they've accomplished throughout the years is godlike. Not many can touch them. It’s exciting that more and more people are opening their minds to design like theirs and falling in love with it as I once did. It does take a bit of pleasure away buying and wearing it now that so you see it so much more often compared to a few years ago. But that's the goal of owning a brand, right?
In a world full of “influencers” taking spots in the front rows at fashion shows and the forefront of campaigns and product launches, who in your opinion actually influences fashion?
Damn, sure not them. The funny thing to me about
influencers is that they don’t actually do anything or have any skill set. Aside from a few of them, most them don’t have anything to contribute to fashion. I can’t pinpoint who influences consumers anymore. It could be their favorite rapper or just some kid with followers on social media. Its sad to see designers and creative directors focus in on “influencers” to wear their collections and come to their shows. Personally, my collections are influenced by musicians, movies and ordinary people I see in the street.
You’re someone who’s created several incredible collaborations, including work with brands like Off-White and G-Shock. Aside from a cross-exchange of ideas and aesthetics between two parties, what draws you to the collabs you choose to take on?
I don’t have any certain requirements for collaborations. I kind of just go with the flow. They always come pretty naturally—I never force it. With Off-White, it started with me having an idea and just texting Virgil a photo of a sample I made, saying, “Yo, we should make these together.” He loved it so we made a few more and they ended up on his F/W 16 runway. My F/W 17 collection is in collaboration with Bauhaus, one of my favorite bands. I reached out to a shady email I found online and about a month later, Daniel Ash (Bauhaus guitarist) responded to me saying they were all for it. I usually choose to visit things that impacted my childhood when it comes to collaborations. Like, I really want to do a full collection with Baker Skateboards right now because that's what I grew up with—that team, the videos, the boards, all of it.
How is it working with Virgil Abloh? Do you view him as a mentor or more as a contemporary and peer?
Working with Virgil is literally the best. No meetings, no conference calls, no middle men, no bullshit. Simply a couple texts and FaceTimes. The collaboration was such a smooth process haha. He will always be somewhat of a mentor to me, even though our brands are different theme and concept-wise, I look up to everything he does with Off-White. But, at the same time ,he’s just a good friend of mine. He’s like one of those guys I can always go to for advice on anything.
In a world where streetwear brands are a dime a dozen, how do you stand out making items that can sell while retaining a certain level of cool or desirability?
I don’t really know. I suppose everyone that is successful in this industry has that one thing that makes them special or stand out. I guess I just have the whole rock & roll/punk inspiration deeply built into my brand. Although the brand is fairly new and young, collaborations with bands (the Sex Pistols, Bauhaus, etc.) are things you don’t see in this industry very often, so I think people can appreciate that and want to purchase it even if they aren’t familiar with the music. Sometimes I just approach my brand as the merch bands and artists never had or could make. You’ll see that ideal heavily throughout my F/W 17 collection.
How do you take inspiration from your favorite designers while still innovating and avoiding duplicating ideas?
“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” - Yohji Yamamoto
What’s the future look like for Midnight Studios?
The future? Hm, hopefully bright. A lot of good projects and collaborations are rolling out fairly soon. Midnight Rave, the collaboration with AWGE (A$AP Rocky’s creative group) is coming out this summer. The Midnight Studios/Converse collaboration will be unveiled soon, I hope. We’re working on a F/W 17 “see now, buy now” runway show as well. That’s about all I can say for now haha.
Finally, is there anything that you can tell us about AWGE?
The first rule of AWGE is: You do not talk about AWGE. The second rule of AWGE is: You do not talk about AWGE.