Based out of LA and strongly supporting the Second Amendment, Crooks & Castles merges streetwear and high fashion to create a signature look that represents the lifestyle of its fans. And with two new collections dropping this fall, the brand is poised to take its message to a whole new level. We caught up with design director Emil Soriano at the Las Vegas MAGIC apparel trade show to ask about the company’s backstory, celebrity endorsers and what’s to come.
The underlying theme is that behind every castle, there is a crook to achieve the goal. For example, the Rockefellers and the Carnegies—those guys had to really do things to amass their fortunes.
MADE MAN: Tell us a little bit about what Crooks & Castles represents.
EMIL SORIANO: Crooks & Castles started in 2002. The owners, Dennis Calvero and Robert Panlilio, are childhood friends of mine. The underlying theme is that behind every castle, there is a crook to achieve the goal. For example, the Rockefellers and the Carnegies—those guys had to really do things to amass their fortunes. I also like to think of it as the balance between the good and the bad. Everybody has that, you know? It was really just made for our homies growing up in LA, and it was never going to be more than T-shirts. Then it just started gaining momentum. We knew a lot of people already—people working in the industry and for other companies—and they were opening up stores all over the U.S. That’s how we were able to really enter the marketplace quickly.
MM: Do you guys have a target demographic or market?
ES: We never really like to classify ourselves in any particular market. I like to think of it as a lifestyle street brand. I went to school for clothing and just understanding what the high-fashion market does, I wanted to emulate their way of design—their thinking, the kinds of fabrics that they’re working with, the color combinations—and fuse it into the line and that’s affordable for all our customers, who maybe can’t afford that Gucci jacket or that Hermes scarf. In essence we like to do things that have that type of feel but I never want to say it’s imitating or ripping off that type of aesthetic. I want to use it as an inspiration and see how we can flip it our way, translate it our way through the brand.
MM: What can we look forward to this fall?
ES: Two big things. A hunting theme—we’ve never really done anything hunting related, so I wanted to kind of pay tribute to that old Americana hunting feel. Like duck hunting and stuff like that. The collection is called “Crooks Arms Company” and we wanted to show that we’re also supporters of the Second Amendment—the right to bear arms. Understanding that there’s so much gun violence going on today, we want to educate our consumers to say, hey, if you are a gun owner, you should be responsible and know how to use them. The second theme is the “NCL,” and it’s paying tribute to old sports pastimes. NCL stands for “Notorious Crooks League” and that’s something that we wanted to do because we were never really a sports driven brand. We do support a lot of athletes—Desean Jackson was just in here earlier, he’s a good friend of mine—and we wanted to pay tribute to a vintage sports look.
MM: Are you going to have old-school jerseys?
ES: Yeah, we’re doing a lot of things. We actually created our own teams in the league so the two teams that we’re presenting for the collection right now are “The Heathens” and “The Bastards.” Every season you’re going to see two new teams from the NCL from here on out.
MM: You guys should get a celebrity basketball game going on for that.
ES: That would be nice. That’s something that we definitely would want to look into. Our marketing team just got back from Houston at All-Star Weekend, and we’re also apart of this big collection of sneaker gatherings called H-Town Sneaker Summit. It’s huge in Houston and we’re invited guests every year so we like to do something with them out there. We definitely have love for Houston.
MM: You sponsor some people too. Who are some of the celebrities that you guys have on the roster rocking Crooks?
ES: Everybody from Drake to Rick Ross to Pusha T to Trinidad James. French Montana. There’s a long list of guys that we support through the years. Vado, Raekwon, Ghostface. We respect all rap artists and all artists in general. All the artists that understand our brand—and can understand it just by looking at it—we appreciate it. We try to offer the product that makes them feel good about buying it and supporting us.