Empowering manufacturers. Creating jobs. Transforming our city.

Manufacturing Model: Outsource to local factories
Age: 5
Employees: 2
Neighborhood: Mission
Member since: 2011
Product: Men’s hats, hoodies, t-shirts and button downs.
Website: www.fazeapparel.com
Retail Location: 3236 21st Street, San Francisco


“Risky” is a word that comes up often when talking with Johnny Travis and Herbert Gracia, the owners of FAZE Apparel. But then, we shouldn’t be surprised— FAZE is an acronym for Fearless and Zealous Everyday. Five years old and having just opened doors to their first retail store, the duo has big plans for supporting smaller brands, mixing up their lines, and expanding their own brand. Before they go any further, we asked them to share a few lessons they’ve learned a long the way.

How did you guys get your start and what was the idea behind FAZE apparel?

Johnny: The brand started in 2007, so we’re coming up on our 5-year mark now. At that point there was a void in the fashion market in general, and we thought we could fill that void with our passion for fashion and our fearlessness to try new things. That’s what the brand is about.

Herbert: We just tried something different that wasn’t out there. Something more affordable that we thought kids our age could gravitate to, and create not just a brand but also something that people actually stood behind. It’s being able to mix it up and not being scared of what anyone else is going to say, because at the end of the day we’re going to do what we want to do.

Why did you decide to manufacture in San Francisco?

Herbert: We’ve been here for so long, I’ve been here going on 15 years and Johnny is born and raised, so one of the things we wanted to do, if we could afford it, was be made in San Francisco. This is the city we call home, so why not give more business to the people that are here? It’s obviously a little difficult, but if we could do it and keep it up, we’ll be feeding the city that’s feeding us. So all our cut and sew is done here: we design it, we make samples, and then it’s all manufactured downtown.

What was the process like moving into this new retail space?

Johnny: It was a lengthy process to identify a location that fit us, without giving everything in our wallets. We wanted to get as close as possible to 24th street and Valencia, but obviously we didn’t want to pay the rent of Valencia Street. People tend to think the heart of fashion is on Haight street, but we feel like the shift is coming here, so we wanted to be ahead of that curve.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about opening their first retail space?

Herbert: It’s not cheap. It’s a lot of work. You better be able to carry a lot of hats. We’re lucky that we get along really well and that we could distribute a lot of things between us. It’s definitely a ride. Be ready that the community may support you, or they may not. There’s no guarantee that people are going to like what you’re doing just because you opened a store. Don’t depend on the numbers that you were doing before. Be prepared to switch it up and add new things.

One of the things that we like about having a store is that we can give to other people. We’re going to have a couple shows just to feature other artists, who maybe don’t have their own stores. We really want to help out the community in that form.

You successfully did a Kickstarter a while ago, did that help launch your brand?

Johnny: Prior doing to Kickstarter our brand was already in existence. The primary purpose of doing it was just to expand to a cut and sew line— it allowed us to make our first cut & sew products here in San Francisco. It was somewhat risky business to do Kickstarter when our brand was already in existence, because you’re coming up with new stuff all the time— and then you have a campaign that’s basically asking for money to do a new line, in exchange for a gift. But, it was a risk we had to take. The outcome was very beneficial for us. It created a lot of camaraderie between our supporters, and got us a lot of recognition throughout the city.

Herbert: Friends and family helped out, but a lot of people we never knew who had been following our brand all of a sudden showed up. And after we got it funded our first cut & sew line sold out after one month. Which told us to keep pursuing the cut and sew line, and now we do about 50/50.

What advice do you have for people just starting out in the cut and sew industry?

Herbert: Get an internship. Sometimes working for free sucks, but you end up getting a lot out of it. Having a line sounds really cool, but there are a lot of brands that come in every day and leave the next day, for the simple reason that they haven’t done their homework.

Johnny: A lot of people have ideas for fashion, but it’s about execution. That’s cliché, but you may be able to think of a t-shirt design, but you have to come out with something new and fresh season after season. I think people gravitate towards the fashion industry, particularly t-shirts and street wear, because there are small barriers to entry. You can get in pretty easily, but once you’re in but you don’t know what’s involved. You really have to have a passion for what you’re doing and it’s more than money as the motivator for your craft. You gotta have a love for it. You’ll realize when you first start that the money isn’t coming in.

What are some of your goals now?

Herbert: Before we would do three or two lines a year, this year we may get a little more aggressive because we have the new space. Maybe do some more seasonal things, but we really want to just try new things now. We also would like to bring in a couple new brands to the store.

Johnny: We’ve been around for a few years, and we realized that because we weren’t a household name, stores wouldn’t give us a chance. Which I can understand, but sometimes you got to take a risk. That’s the opportunity we want to give to smaller brands.