Living in New York has many advantages, especially for an artist. Not only does the Big Apple’s backdrop provide an ample amount of inspiration, it also contains many of the necessary resources needed to build virtually anything from the ground up. Gianni Cortes may not be from the concrete jungle, or any other booming city, but his determination to leave a lasting impression in the fashion world is truly commendable.
The Tampa, Florida native has conjured up his very own clothing line FŌE, at the young age of 19 years old. Gianni, who is also a self-taught photographer, started the ready-to-wear brand with simple graphic tees and has since garnered a huge buzz in his home state.
I recently sat down with the budding designer to find out a bit more of his come up and passion for fashion. Check it out below:
FRENDY: Gianni, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. With all due respect, one doesn’t necessarily think of Tampa as a fashion hotbed. What inspired you to start your line?
GIANNI: Thank you Frendy, the pleasure is all mine. It really isn't at all, there are very minimal resources here. I utilized the Internet to make these resources available to me. I taught myself graphic design and not long after started making T-shirts. It's something I just fell in love with.
FRENDY: When did you initially embark on your fashion journey? Also, did you receive any aid from your parents or any close friends to jumpstart your line?
GIANNI: When I was 15 years old I screen printed 400 pieces, which included hoodies and tees. I would bring 5 or so a day to my high school and the kids who wore my shirts started to spread the word.
I work full time for my dad's construction company to fund my clothes and so I can save to relocate to LA, which will be happening within two years. So in a way, yes they aided me but it was earned. I think my young age has given me a competitive edge however that won't last as I get older because I know what people want right now and talk to people in my target audience.
FRENDY: What does FŌE stand for?
GIANNI: FŌE stands for Freedom of Expression. Clothing is a form of art and expression depending how you see it. The time and the craftsmanship put into some garments separate it from normal clothing that you just need to cover your body. It's something people want and want other people to see them in.
FRENDY: How did you market your very first release?
GIANNI: Marketing my very first release was simple in a way because of my age. I did not do it as an official business so I focused local and attended every event and just being cool with every type of person has helped me.
FRENDY: Can you please explain your latest collection?
GIANNI: My collection that is dropping this spring is called "The American Dream.” The vision for it is the values and visions of the youth in today's world, but how those drastically change as you grow and mature. It consists of men's and women's pieces featuring custom treated fabrics and perfected fit for any body type. I personally scale and make the cutting patterns myself.
FRENDY: So you do all of the cut & sewing yourself?
GIANNI: No I don't do all cut & sew by myself. I make cut patterns and grade my pieces and create measurements. I am very involved in the process of manufacturing my clothing and don't leave it to someone else.
FRENDY: Where do you sell your garments? Are there any stores carrying the brand?
GIANNI: Currently my clothes are available exclusively on my website, foethreadsco.com. I will have stock in retailers for my newest collection but will not release names until it happens.
FRENDY: What would you say separates the brand from others that are created by your peers?
GIANNI: The thing that separates me from other brands is my ability to innovate and my standpoint as a younger competitor. I can talk with the largest buying market for clothes and relate to my target. Instead of creating something I can't relate to.
FRENDY: Which brands are you currently fond of and why?
GIANNI: Brands I am fond of now are Gucci (I love their latest pieces), Undercover and Vetements. I love the niche Vetements found.
FRENDY: You stated earlier that you’re planning an LA move. What will you do there exactly?
GIANNI: I plan to move to LA in two years to pursue fashion and myself full time. Yes my Internet based resources will work for now but I never planned to live in Tampa permanently. I have visited LA many times before and I definitely see myself making a living there.
FRENDY: What is your ultimate goal as a designer?
GIANNI: My ultimate goal as a designer is to create storylines of each collection that focus on cultural issues and developing mindsets of the next generation that are not fully matured and that have been altered. I want to shed light on these through visuals, short films, or pieces that tell a story but don't speak to loud on the matter. It will just be an expression of myself and my inner thoughts. Big things are coming.