Catching Up with Streetwear Sensation and HPC Designer Heron Preston

by Kristen Heinzinger

He’s a prep-school kid turned multihyphenate fashion influencer/DJ/streetwear fixture turned designer of HPC Trading Co. Now, Heron Preston is officially a guy that even Anna can’t help but talk about. Surely you’ve met?

Your jump into fashion was with #BEENTRILL#. How did that come about?
It was just a bunch of friends who were disappointed with nightlife who came together. We would open our laptops and play music that we wouldn’t hear in the clubs. We questioned why we weren’t hearing these songs, and we started throwing parties. It kind of took on the identity of a boy band, and so we started to dress alike, all wearing matching T-shirts. Those T-shirts became super popular. We had never planned on selling them, but due to the excitement, we started to. And that became the clothing business, #BEENTRILL#.

How long did you want to do your own thing before you pulled the trigger?
I’ve been doing my own thing since, like, high school. I always pushed myself to step up and to do more than the last project. I was talking to my friend Virgil [Abloh] about doing just another one-off—like another one hat, or one tee, stuff like that—and he was like, “Yo, that’s it?” And so I started thinking, should there be more? I had never really thought of doing collections because I didn’t have the right infrastructure. I’d always just done things that I could do on my own, and I’d never really looked for outside help. Then Virgil was like, “I have a team in Milan that could help you if you want to do more.” I was like, “Alright, f**k it, sure.” I do want to do more. Like, I wanna f**king do some sweatpants as well, with that idea that I have. A jacket could be dope with it, and then some socks could be cool. So that all happened in this past year, April or May or June. It happened super quick.

Do you go to Milan often?
I go out there once like every two months. That’s where my office and my company is located. I’m part of a fashion group called New Guards Group. You can think of them as an LVMH or a Kering Group. Under their umbrella they have five brands: Heron Preston, Off-White, Marcelo Burlon, Unravel Project, and Palm Angels. I have a small team—a production partner and a graphic designer. If I’m not there, then I’m talking to them every day on WhatsApp and Skype.

Who were your creative heroes as a kid?
Tom Sachs, for sure. I really identify with his work. And a bunch of San Francisco–based artists. I came from the era of Red 5 and Haight Street and Eric Ross and all the work that he was doing around the streetwear space at that time. My father and my grandfather—they’re both artists. My father had his own clothing company that was all sportswear—hockey jerseys and baseball jerseys, hats and sweats. I was one of his biggest fans.

So HPC Trading Co.—where can we find your designs other than the website?
I’ll have 30 accounts for this first collection. Bergdorf, Barneys, Colette, K20 in Moscow, Harvey Nichols in Dubai, Maxfield in Los Angeles. All over.

Why did you title the collection For You, the World?
I realized after doing the Department of Sanitation project [last September in New York] that the textile and the apparel industries, second to oil, are the most polluting in the world. When I realized that fact, I was like, f**k man, that’s crazy! That’s insane! It’s so damaging—how could you not want to figure out how to reduce some of that impact? So I’m using [this project] as an excuse to educate myself on how to do just that—reduce impact on the environment as much as possible through every project that I do.

Why’d you take the presentation to Paris this year?
It wasn’t even my idea at first. I’m so new to this world, so I wasn’t even thinking about much of a presentation. I was just trying to figure out how to make a collection. My partners were like, “Yo, we’re gonna help you make this collection, and we’re gonna do a showroom in Paris, and you should do a presentation.” How could you say no to that? Paris is, like, the ultimate stage for fashion. I couldn’t think of any bigger stage. I just felt like, man, why not? Let’s do it. Shoot for the stars, and go big or go home.

Will you ever show again in New York?
I want to break tradition and rewrite the rules and define the future of the industry. There are no rules. F**k that. If I want to show in Paris, I’ll show in Paris. If I want to show in New York, I’ll show in New York. If I want to show wherever, I’ll show wherever. It’s all about thinking back to what stories I want to tell and who I want to connect with.

Which brands were you wearing growing up?
I was wearing Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Nautica, Nike, Jordans. I was wearing a bunch of skate brands, like Stüssy and Billabong. [Laughs] I was going to a preppy school where you had to wear a collared shirt, and it always had to be tucked in. You had to wear khaki pants. But then I was a skater kid from Lower Haight, San Francisco, and that was my influence on the streets.

What was your first job in fashion?
I worked at Eddie Bauer in the mall. [Laughs]

What would young Heron have spent his last penny on?
It was either sneakers or records. I remember spending my first big paychecks on Technics 1200 turntables. You know, I’m also a DJ. And Nike SBs…the Danny Supa Nike SBs.

Do you feel that HPC is actually accessible to street kids?
Yeah, totally. If kids really want it, they’re going to find a way to get it. I just read an article online about kids spending thousands and thousands of dollars on streetwear, rare streetwear, where they can get the ’gram off, that gives them the opportunity to use the hashtag. Then they’ll go and resell it and get the next item that they really want. And the resale value is higher than the market retail value, so they’re actually making money at the same time. So, yeah, for sure. I don’t feel like there’s anything that is not really accessible. If kids really want it, they’re fully going to figure out how to get it.

How do you see streetwear as runway evolving?
I’m not sure if it’s creating a whole new genre or if it’s creating a whole new lane, or carving out a deeper space in a lane that’s kind of already existing. I’m noticing that fashion wants to be street so bad and street wants to be fashion so bad. So it’s coming to this middle ground that I think is creating whole new conversations. My clothes are going to be sold on the same racks as these luxury fashion brands. Or these luxury fashion brands are going to be sold on the same racks as the streetwear brands. It’s creating this whole space. I saw someone call it “adult streetwear.” Like, what? They’re fishing for whole new genres and ways to call it something. I think the future looks like there’s a whole bunch of new rules that are going to start being written. People are just experimenting with culture and flavors that have never been mixed together before.

What conversations are you hoping to start with HPC Trading Co.?
New conversations through new collaborations outside my industry. That’s what I’m really obsessed with—working with people who aren’t normal fashion collaborators. To achieve real, true breakthrough, you’ve got to have those conversations with people who aren’t really your normal collaborators. And that’s kind of how I got to the Department of Sanitation. They’re so not fashion; they’re waste management. But the media loved it. The feedback on the streets and everywhere was like, wow, that was next level, I think partly due to the fact that they were not the normal collaborator in the fashion space.

Even Anna wrote about it!
She did?

Yes, in her January Editor’s Letter, in Vogue.
No way! I have to go f**king look at that now!

Do you read fashion magazines?
[Laughs] No, not really. I’m so in this industry, but not really. I don’t read a lot of industry media.

Were you surprised by the reaction?
Not so much, because I felt it so deep down in my gut, that this idea was gold. I knew exactly what I was doing.

Let’s talk about the heron bird graphic. What’s the story?
I commissioned this work by an artist in Vermont. I wanted to incorporate the meaning of my name into the clothes, which I’ve never done. I’m using this as an opportunity to work with the National Audubon Society, as well. They’re super beautiful birds. I was watching YouTube videos the other day of herons hunting for fish. They walk really slow in the water, and they have really long, sharp beaks, and they just pierce the fish through their guts like a harpoon. They’re really, really big, and they look kind of scary.

Do you identify with that in any way?}
I was reading about the bird and its character. When they grow up, they become their own and they leave the nest. So, yeah, I identify with that. To be unique and independent will be an ongoing theme in the collections. You’ll always see the heron bird. It’s almost like my sub-logo, in a way.

How many of your projects are fashion-related?
It’s mostly just the collection and using this platform as an opportunity to branch off and do other projects in the creative space. I have some short-film ideas, fragrance ideas, furniture ideas. And DJing and music is a big part of who I am and how I got here—through making people dance all night long.

Do you still DJ for fun?
The fun work was when I couldn’t really catch checks. But now I can catch checks, so I’m not really doing anything for fun anymore. [Laughs] If I’m in the mood, I’ll DJ all night. Sometimes I don’t even care about getting paid, and I’ll do a friend’s party for free. But mostly, it’s hired work.

Have you turned away anyone who’s approached you to collaborate?
Oh, yeah, for sure. The people who are asking me are the typical fashion collaborators. The people who are not asking me are the people who are not the typical fashion collaborators. And that’s who I’m looking for. It’s up to me to identify those opportunities, because they don’t see it. They don’t have the vision. Actually, the DSNY did. I approached them, but they had been wanting to do a fashion show. They were like, “Oh, my God, we’ve been wanting to do this forever! We wanted to kick it off with a fashion show during Fashion Week.” The fashion show wasn’t even my idea. There might be people at some of these organizations or companies who aren’t normally in the fashion space who might be obsessed with fashion. But they don’t pursue that idea because they don’t see it. They just kind of feel it and want to do it, but they don’t know how to approach it, because their company or organization isn’t even set up to do something like that or their bosses or colleagues won’t get it. I think that was the case with the DSNY—this guy Vito Turso, who had been at the DSNY for, like, three decades, had always wanted to do something. But how are you even going to get that idea off the ground? All of a sudden a fashion designer walks through the doors and then the magic happens. I feel like it’s really up to me to kind of bring these desires to life.

You were out to NASA about a collab years ago—did they ever get back to you?
Yeah, I’m definitely in touch with NASA. That’s the next project I’m really trying to finesse.

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