Shane Gonzales is something else.
Photos by Alexander Bortz
It was a frigid January morning in London. Shane Gonzales stood outside the mecca of punk fashion, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s monumental Chelsea boutique located at 430 King’s Road. On his face was a look of disappointment. His hopes to pay homage were dashed by towering scaffolds and a sign that read “Under Construction.”
Rather than packing up and calling it a day, Gonzales did what any enthusiastic 20-year-old would: He climbed a gate and snuck into the building. What he found upon entering was a desolate wasteland, with barren white walls and cold concrete floors. Though far from what he hoped to find, Gonzales relished the ethereal soul of the space and channeled this spirit into his Spring/Summer 2015 Midnight Studios Collection.
Hailing from Canyon Lake, California, Gonzales detached himself from a small-town mentality early on with Stay Dirty Co., his first foray into fashion. By peddling wares to his meagerly peers, a teenage Shane quickly discovered that his knack for designing could pay off.
Gonzales’ business hustle was refined via an internship with Russ Karablin and his SSUR label while finishing up his senior year of high school. “If I had to work under anyone, it would be Russ,” Gonzales says reflecting on his work with the streetwear pioneer. “He knew exactly what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go with everything. It taught me to be that way with whatever I’m doing.”
Following his two-year stint at SSUR, Gonzales terminated Stay Dirty. Then the following year, Gonzales returned with Midnight Studios. Although the first two collections were not entirely formed, the monochromatic graphic tops caught on.
Almost overnight Shane’s previously unknown Midnight Studios was getting nods from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Virgil Abloh, Wiz Khalifa, Theophilus London, and other fashion influencers.This next level of acknowledgement was due in large part to advocate and cultivator of the youth Ian Connor. Once Connor caught wind of Gonzales’ movement (via Instagram, no less), the two instantly clicked and became close confidants.
“Ian is a big part of how the brand grew so quickly,” says Gonzales. “He liked it so much that he just wanted to give it to everybody. So, that’s when it started picking up; he gave stuff to Wiz, Rocky, and Theophilus.” For those unfamiliar with Ian Connor, he’s like a street fashion Andy Warhol for the social media age. Connor has the ear of influencers across the world, and his co-sign carries serious weight.
Working with Connor also opened the door to previously unfathomable opportunities beyond fashion, too. With prominent figures sporting Midnight, Gonzales began to receive requests to put his creative stamp on these same luminaries’ visual direction. Although he now has album covers, artwork, and even tour visuals credited to his name, Gonzales’ expanding resume does not mean the focus will stray from his clothing design.
Gonzales considers Midnight’s forthcoming Spring/Summer 2015 effort to be his first truly realized collection. Dubbed “Something Else,” the collection centers on the London youth culture movement of the late ‘70s. It also draws heavy inspiration from Sid Vicious’ post-Sex Pistols career.
Sid’s lone solo LP, Sid Sings, features the notorious musician covering a handful of tracks that the Sex Pistols’ bassist and unrepentant junkie had no business singing, but that is the beauty of punk. Gonzales selected key track titles and choice lyrics from the album to set the stage for his graphics. Phrases like “Born To Lose” (a cover Sid performed of the classic Johnny Thunders tune) are paired with meticulously sourced images from vintage punk magazines.
Complementing the graphic tees are items that feature periodical patterns: plaid button- ups and tailored trousers, striped French terry crew necks, and oversized denim truck jackets. To bring his vision full circle, Gonzales will be collaborating with photographer Steve Emberton on a capsule collection. Emberton spent serious time with the Sex Pistols and provided Gonzales with never-before-seen photos from the pinnacle of the band’s short- lived career.
“You know, obviously, everyone wants to put those photos on their clothing. I reached out to him before I even began designing to get his approval and he was totally into it. He instantly sent me a folder of all these photos. I sat there for three hours just staring at all of them. Photos of shit I’d never even seen before–Sid & Nancy, all this other stuff. It was a sign of approval for everything I’ve been doing.”
Emberton’s punk cosign was only the beginning. Gonzales went full-on punk himself, dyeing his hair a spectrum of hues over the span of several months. When people would ask what color it was, he couldn’t even answer himself. For the moment, he has settled upon a dirty blonde of sorts.
Thousands of kids on any given social media platform try to promote their “brand,” but very few find success so quickly, if at all. Gonzales’s case exemplifies the special touch one needs to employ on social media to leverage your personal brand. His formula is not about abundance and over-sharing, it’s about a commitment to high-quality content.
Much like the punk era in 1970s London, the youth is taking over in 2015. Shane just happens to be at the forefront of those leading the charge, and Midnight Studios is the movement’s outfitter of choice. Although the mantra “No Future” was a Sex Pistol favorite, the future couldn’t look brighter for the 20-year-old designer and his label. “My ultimate goal right now is to be able to present a full collection at Paris Fashion Week,” Gonzales muses. “Depending on the way things go… that’s gonna happen…having my own stores across the world would be cool too.”