Norwood

Norwood

Ali Saint Q

Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ali Saint Q. I was born in Paris. My family moved to America when I was 6.
I am a storyteller and a designer.
A storyteller?
Yes. It means to share my life experiences with people, to help them. Hopefully, my stories can save people time from certain things in this industry and in life, in general.
I feel like all my collections are based off of stories.
What’s the story of Norwood?
Norwood is the name of the street I grew up on, in the city of Los Angeles. On that street, you would have to be one thing, either White or Black. You couldn’t play basketball and do skateboard because people would look at you weird. I was good at basketball but I’d love to skate. I would listen to rock music and hip hop. It was very hard for me to be who I wanted to be.
I really feel like I had to get beat up by people to be who I wanted to be, and I feel like it relates to fashion. People want to be a certain way but are scared of what other people might think about them. The brand Norwood, that I founded about a year and a half ago, is about embracing who you are, being free and living without labels.
You were in Paris to show the Norwood Spring-Summer 2020 collection. How do you describe it?
This collection is called "Desierto de Sierra" and is inspired by survival and by the desert. Basically, it asks the question of how would you survive if you were stuck somewhere. The clothes have a lot of pockets and hidden pockets, allowing you to carry tools to survive.
Coming back to Paris, from LA, doing a showroom with such other big brands and people that are well-known is also a form of survival for us.
I am proud of being from Los Angeles and to represent it, as much as I represent Paris.
[Norwood]
Norwood is also very committed to mental health awareness. Do you have a personal experience of mental illness?
I personally deal with a lot of depression. I can’t tell you why, not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t know where it comes from. For example, if 10 good things are going perfect in my life, I will focus on the one thing that is not. I have dealt with it my whole life.
It’s something that I just have and I feel like we all have it in us. A lot of us don’t want to talk about it, which is fine. But I am really happy that I can bring awareness to it and maybe inspire people to deal with it, through creativity, fashion and art.
With Norwood, I felt like some things were missing until we started raising money for mental health awareness. Now, the brand has a purpose and it has started to make a difference.
Mental health is very topical at the moment, and a lot of people come out to share their experiences and struggles. How do you feel about that movement and the reactions it provokes?
It’s tough. I understand that because somebody famous comes out saying “I have mental health issues,” other people say “Oh I have it too!” I am not knocking them and I hope they can get help, but it wrongfully became cool.
But if somebody says, “I have this problem,” who are we to say, “No you don’t?” We don’t know what people go through. But also, people think it’s cool to have this problem. It’s like saying, “Cancer is cool!” No it’s not. It hurts and it’s frustrating.
Prior to Norwood, you launched an accessory brand, called Caravagio. Was it your first fashion venture?
Caravagio was the first brand I have founded, but prior to that, I did the Goodyear line for adidas Originals in 2007, and won Best Show at the Magic convention in Las Vegas. From that, I felt confident enough to launch Caravagio, a sunglasses brand.
I learned a lot, about how business works, about how to deal with stores and buyers, and even about how to work with celebrities. If I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn’t be here today.
Do you wish you could have gone further with it?
It had its time. Caravagio was going to end, I couldn’t sell sunglasses forever. Times are changing, people wanted to dress differently. It was tough to do.
I also had a bad knee injury, so I had to stop. But in my mind, it’s still Caravagio! I think about it everyday.
Norwood is also popular amongst celebrities. What’s your opinion on the concepts of fame and influence, and the impact it has on fashion?
First of all, product reaches everybody, thanks to the internet. Celebrities check everything and they do have an impact. Say, somebody influential like Kanye West, J. Balvin, or even a local influencer is wearing something and tagging it everyday, people are going to wear it too. On the same end, if somebody posts something negative about a brand for whatever reason, it’s going to provoke a negative reaction.
Influence is important but it’s not everything. If you do have a good product, people are eventually going to know about it. It goes together.
You need influence because of today’s world and social media, and a lot of buyers and stores look for that too. But you have to have good product.
Does the popularity of Norwood amongst celebs get in the way of your creative process?
It does! I would design a piece with somebody in mind, telling myself it would fit him or her, or he or she would love it. And every time I do that, It never works. Here at the showroom, there’s a piece I was really confident about, and nobody even looked at it. But everybody gravitates towards a t-shirt we made last minute.
It’s funny, but in design, what I think will work never works. Other things do, in a totally organic way.
Norwood is part of a wave putting the city of Los Angeles on the fashion map. How proud are you of that accomplishment, and do you feel any pressure or responsibility from it?
It’s not pressure because I am from Los Angeles and I know how people are. I am proud of being from LA and to represent it, as much as I represent Paris.
Brands like Fear of God, Rhude and 424 are very big brands. Jerry [Lorenzo, founder of Fear Of God], Rhuigi [Villaseñor, founder of Rhude] and Guillermo [Andrade, founder of 424] have been doing it for a long time and we all strive to be like those guys. They do the work and are successful.
People tell us, “You are on your way to be like this brand,” and one day, maybe, we will. We have to keep working. I am happy that Norwood is mentioned in the same breath as those brands, it shows that we are headed in the right direction.
Why should people care about Norwood and buy into it?
I always think about this, when I go shopping. Things are very expensive these days. You look at something and wonder why you should buy this. People are very smart, they research and know what they are buying.
The customer that buys Norwood knows what the brand is about, where it is coming from and where it is made, all in Los Angeles. These are informations the shoppers are familiar with, and if they are not, I feel like they will not even touch it.
Interview by Iggy Nko (@iggynko)
Pictures 1, 2 and 3 by Antoine Martin (@antoinemartiin)

Norwood

Ali Saint Q

Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ali Saint Q. I was born in Paris. My family moved to America when I was 6.
I am a storyteller and a designer.
A storyteller?
Yes. It means to share my life experiences with people, to help them. Hopefully, my stories can save people time from certain things in this industry and in life, in general.
I feel like all my collections are based off of stories.
What’s the story of Norwood?
Norwood is the name of the street I grew up on, in the city of Los Angeles. On that street, you would have to be one thing, either White or Black. You couldn’t play basketball and do skateboard because people would look at you weird. I was good at basketball but I’d love to skate. I would listen to rock music and hip hop. It was very hard for me to be who I wanted to be.
I really feel like I had to get beat up by people to be who I wanted to be, and I feel like it relates to fashion. People want to be a certain way but are scared of what other people might think about them. The brand Norwood, that I founded about a year and a half ago, is about embracing who you are, being free and living without labels.
You were in Paris to show the Norwood Spring-Summer 2020 collection. How do you describe it?
This collection is called "Desierto de Sierra" and is inspired by survival and by the desert. Basically, it asks the question of how would you survive if you were stuck somewhere. The clothes have a lot of pockets and hidden pockets, allowing you to carry tools to survive.
Coming back to Paris, from LA, doing a showroom with such other big brands and people that are well-known is also a form of survival for us.
I am proud of being from Los Angeles and to represent it, as much as I represent Paris.
[Norwood]
Norwood is also very committed to mental health awareness. Do you have a personal experience of mental illness?
I personally deal with a lot of depression. I can’t tell you why, not because I don’t want to, but because I just don’t know where it comes from. For example, if 10 good things are going perfect in my life, I will focus on the one thing that is not. I have dealt with it my whole life.
It’s something that I just have and I feel like we all have it in us. A lot of us don’t want to talk about it, which is fine. But I am really happy that I can bring awareness to it and maybe inspire people to deal with it, through creativity, fashion and art.
With Norwood, I felt like some things were missing until we started raising money for mental health awareness. Now, the brand has a purpose and it has started to make a difference.
Mental health is very topical at the moment, and a lot of people come out to share their experiences and struggles. How do you feel about that movement and the reactions it provokes?
It’s tough. I understand that because somebody famous comes out saying “I have mental health issues,” other people say “Oh I have it too!” I am not knocking them and I hope they can get help, but it wrongfully became cool.
But if somebody says, “I have this problem,” who are we to say, “No you don’t?” We don’t know what people go through. But also, people think it’s cool to have this problem. It’s like saying, “Cancer is cool!” No it’s not. It hurts and it’s frustrating.
Prior to Norwood, you launched an accessory brand, called Caravagio. Was it your first fashion venture?
Caravagio was the first brand I have founded, but prior to that, I did the Goodyear line for adidas Originals in 2007, and won Best Show at the Magic convention in Las Vegas. From that, I felt confident enough to launch Caravagio, a sunglasses brand.
I learned a lot, about how business works, about how to deal with stores and buyers, and even about how to work with celebrities. If I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn’t be here today.
Do you wish you could have gone further with it?
It had its time. Caravagio was going to end, I couldn’t sell sunglasses forever. Times are changing, people wanted to dress differently. It was tough to do.
I also had a bad knee injury, so I had to stop. But in my mind, it’s still Caravagio! I think about it everyday.
Norwood is also popular amongst celebrities. What’s your opinion on the concepts of fame and influence, and the impact it has on fashion?
First of all, product reaches everybody, thanks to the internet. Celebrities check everything and they do have an impact. Say, somebody influential like Kanye West, J. Balvin, or even a local influencer is wearing something and tagging it everyday, people are going to wear it too. On the same end, if somebody posts something negative about a brand for whatever reason, it’s going to provoke a negative reaction.
Influence is important but it’s not everything. If you do have a good product, people are eventually going to know about it. It goes together.
You need influence because of today’s world and social media, and a lot of buyers and stores look for that too. But you have to have good product.
Does the popularity of Norwood amongst celebs get in the way of your creative process?
It does! I would design a piece with somebody in mind, telling myself it would fit him or her, or he or she would love it. And every time I do that, It never works. Here at the showroom, there’s a piece I was really confident about, and nobody even looked at it. But everybody gravitates towards a t-shirt we made last minute.
It’s funny, but in design, what I think will work never works. Other things do, in a totally organic way.
Norwood is part of a wave putting the city of Los Angeles on the fashion map. How proud are you of that accomplishment, and do you feel any pressure or responsibility from it?
It’s not pressure because I am from Los Angeles and I know how people are. I am proud of being from LA and to represent it, as much as I represent Paris.
Brands like Fear of God, Rhude and 424 are very big brands. Jerry [Lorenzo, founder of Fear Of God], Rhuigi [Villaseñor, founder of Rhude] and Guillermo [Andrade, founder of 424] have been doing it for a long time and we all strive to be like those guys. They do the work and are successful.
People tell us, “You are on your way to be like this brand,” and one day, maybe, we will. We have to keep working. I am happy that Norwood is mentioned in the same breath as those brands, it shows that we are headed in the right direction.
Why should people care about Norwood and buy into it?
I always think about this, when I go shopping. Things are very expensive these days. You look at something and wonder why you should buy this. People are very smart, they research and know what they are buying.
The customer that buys Norwood knows what the brand is about, where it is coming from and where it is made, all in Los Angeles. These are informations the shoppers are familiar with, and if they are not, I feel like they will not even touch it.
Interview by Iggy Nko (@iggynko)
Pictures 1, 2 and 3 by Antoine Martin (@antoinemartiin)