Artist Brett Westfall on working with Rei Kawakubo and growing up in California.

An installation constructed using canvas paintings and wooden pallets as walls, with interlocking bicycles as a roof, may not sound practical nor conventional but offers an undeniable glimpse into the colourful mind of LA-based artist, Brett Westfall.
Brett describes himself as first and foremost an artist, viewing fashion as another playground for his creativity. In 2007, he began his latest eponymous fashion brand, Westfall, which has since joined Dover Street Market Paris’ incubator program; an initiative driven by Dover Street Market and founded by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.
To celebrate our collaborative installation with Brett Westfall and Dover Street Market, here’s an exclusive interview with the artist himself.
Where are you from originally? How did this all start? 
Brett: I grew up in Orange County in Southern California, where I was skateboarding and into punk and metal and art and everything like that.
My ultimate dream when I was little was to be a professional artist - so when I was 19, I decided to just go for it. When I was that young, I didn't know a lot about how everything worked, you know? I would call galleries and ask: “how do I get a show here?”
There weren’t a lot of good responses, but I learned a lot through getting my feelings hurt on those phone calls. But then there was this one gallery, a small gallery and a really cool dude. And he said: “fax over some drawings. Let's see.” He loved the drawings, and he invited me for a show. So that started everything.
How did you get your start in fashion?
Brett: I had a really close friend, and we started a t-shirt line called Basco Chocho - it was our old graffiti names or whatever from a long time ago.
My friend was taking a screen-printing class at a community college and had printed a t-shirt and gave it to me. I happened to be painting in it one day and I got paint all over it.
He was working at Ron Herman, and one day he was wearing that t-shirt at work and the buyer was like, “Where'd you get that shirt?”. They wanted to buy it! So that’s how the brand started.
We were young and had different ideas, and eventually we decided to high five and go our separate ways. When I met my wife, she had encouraged me to start another brand. I called that one Unholy Matrimony. That was in the 2000s, I think Spring 2002 was the first season.
How did you start working with Comme Des Garçons?
Brett: I decided to make clothing as an extension of making art, and I think that really sparked when I first discovered Comme des Garcons when I was 19. I saw it in a Japanese book or magazine, and I was dumbfounded by how awesome it was. It really opened me up to what's going on out there, that fashion design is an art form. That moment changed everything, and I decided, all right, I want to try to do this.
I talked a lot about how much I love Comme des Garcons and Rei Kawakubo’s work. And one day my wife was like, “why don't you make a package and send it to her?” I was like, “no way”.
My wife and a couple other friends convinced me to do it, so I put together a pack of work - really nice photographs that I had cut and pasted almost like handmade Photoshop, and then I made a book to go with it. And I wrote a letter about how much her work changed my life, and how it's been a dream to work with her. I thought: hopefully she opens it and sees that what she's doing is important.
And then two weeks later, I get a call from Adrian, her husband. He's like “Hi, can I speak to Brett? My name's Adrian Joffe. I work with Comme des Garçons. Did you send a package over to Rei Kawakubo? I just want to let you know that she absolutely loved it and we want to start representing you at a couple of our stores in Tokyo.”
And then I think I hung up the phone and I cried. I cried so hard…I was so stoked. I was so happy.
If you had to try and describe the aesthetic or the vibe for Westfall, what words would you use? We’ve got our own words, but..
Brett: Cybercrust.
Oh yeah, that’s what we had.
Brett: But with a lot more nature intertwined. I love technology, but I love nature too. It’s cyberpunk, but not as dark.
Tell us a little bit about how the pieces for Westfall are made.
Brett: I’m self-taught, you know, and I'm just practicing and taking clothes apart. It's constant learning and growing. Everything that is dyed, it's done by my hands only.
I'm creating the colors and dyeing them myself. And that's mostly because I've been using the same recipe for a long, long time. And I don't really want to change it, and I don't want anybody to know it.
Tell us about your signature motif: ‘FRESH’.
Brett: Fresh started in 2007. When I was doing Unholy Matrimony, I had a friend that was working with me, Greg, and we had a trunk show set up at a store in San Francisco. On on the way there, the car broke down in a small farm town called Patterson. It was such a small town that it was definitely on its own schedule. And what should have been a couple of days, ended up being seven or eight days that we were stranded in this farming town.
It was filled with fields and fruit stands, with signs that said fresh - fresh with strawberries, fresh with apricots. And those signs were all broken down and super old wood. And I was looking at them thinking: “those are such beautiful pieces”. I loved how they were weathered in. I thought I wanted to do something with that image. It's such a strong image.
After walking around the town, going to the bars all night, and talking to the locals, we learned a lot about the agriculture there. It made me think more about California as an agricultural hub, and it made me think about the workers, where they're coming from and how they're being treated. I started thinking of ‘FRESH’, almost as a human rights sign.
So that's the foundation of it, but now it can mean love, it can mean oxygen, it can pretty much mean anything depending on what I’m working on.
Who or what is ‘Snoppy’?
Brett: My daughter Moon has always loved Snoopy growing u, and she started making paintings of, I guess her version. And she’s told me it’s almost like a self-portrait. We call it ‘Snoppy’ because it's a different version of her favorite dog.
We are loving the way you’ve transformed our café space. How did you come up with the idea for the installation?
Brett: I've been experimenting a lot with mass, objects and their size – and thinking about sculptures in that way. I thought a cube would have a big impact. And I've never been to Australia, but I always think it's maybe close to California, with beaches and sun, so I thought something with a lot of color would be really nice.
Based on that, I started with a sketch and then it evolves, through more thinking and more sketches - and the first one could look way different than the last.
With the bikes, there's a lot of bikes in California. Growing up, we always had bikes. I think a bicycle is so universal – it’s transportation, but it's so human powered. I think bikes can say a lot about everybody's culture, regardless of where they're from or where they're located on the globe. And then I feel too, that when you ride a bike, especially the first bike that you have and you learn to ride, your energy kind of goes into it.
Bikes are cool, and having it as part of an installation, I just think it’s kind of interesting and odd.
Our interesting and odd installation is on from 1st to 31st July, only at Sorry Thanks I Love You.
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