March 30, 2009 | By


words: Hana May
photos: Kenza
styling: Mira Catherine

It's been a long time coming. Even the mother of the owner and founder of Crooks and Castles was harassing her son to do a women’s line. And although the economic climate may be less than temperate, Dennis Calvero is finally launching the female side of Crooks, set to hit stores this month.

Calvero started out the women’s line in the same vein as the men’s—with a couple graphic tees. They were tested out at the Crooks’ shop in LA and according to Calvero, ‘flew out within weeks.’ The summer line will be mostly graphic tees but Fall will take the line further to include cut and sew pieces and an Hermes inspired tote. And hearty has the exclusive first sneak peak.

When you walk into the Crooks shop on Melrose you can’t tell the difference between client and staffs—loyal male customers rep the brand just as hard as the family of employees. However, Calvero has less confidence in female buying patterns, which he thinks are based more on fit than brand loyalty. I sat down with Dennis on the upper level of the store to talk about why he chose to delve into a girls line now, where it’s going and what kind of girls he’d like to see sporting the gear. He also dished on the new Crooks and Castles store opening up on Sunset.

Who designed the line?

The stuff that’s out now, I did. It’s mainly taking a lot of our core graphics just to get a lot of that early following to have on tees for girls. It was more graphic stuff and most of that comes from me anyways. And the stuff that we designed for Fall Emil our designer, who you know, did a couple cut and sew pieces. I did the majority of the tees. My other graphic designer Brett Paige did, I think one or two graphics and then I had a couple knockoff Hermes bags from China that we sent to a factory to knockoff. We’re actually opening up a new store on Sunset.

Oh cool. Tell me about it.

On Sunset, just past La Cienega. We just signed a lease for a 4,000 sq feet space that’s going to be a storefront that’s more concept based. It’s going to carry like our Illuminati line, the more higher contemporary stuff. We’re going to dabble into candles, fragrances, maybe a footwear line. It’s more of like a front for us to test certain things and plus it’s a more upscale customer up there. And then it’s going to be our office as well, we’ll probably have 1,500 feet of store and the rest will be office and show room.

So you’re consolidating everything there?

Right exactly. Right now we’re around the corner on Fairfax, we’re outgrowing that spot and everyone’s over there, so we’re kind of over it, like we need a new look.

You didn’t want to open up in a different city?

We do. We were going to do Vegas but I think were going to hold of for now, we’re looking at San Francisco cause the majority of our customers that come on the weekend are from The Bay. They drive down like 6, 7 hours, just to shop.

Those are serious customers.

Yeah and we want to do New York but…

The rent is so expensive.

Yeah. Not so much the rent, we just want to make sure we’re in the right area and I guess right now it’s ideal to get a spot right?

I’m sure there’s deals.

I don’t know we’ll see. Maybe like a couple of the other brands will decide to open up down there, then we’ll like try to build a little community with them.

What inspired the women’s line?

Mainly we looked at our brand and basically we said ‘ok this is what our core following is, obviously this is what’s going to attract our women’s customer,’ and at the same time it helps to have Hellz Bellz next to our office. [Laughs.]

Right. [Laughs.]

So every now and then I’ll go in there and look around—ask for like paper clips and I’ll look around.

You’re totally spying on their stuff. Like ‘oh really, is that what you’re doing?’

[Laughs.] Yeah. But I think we’re both instrumental in each other’s growth so I don’t know, I mean I shop with my wife every weekend. We do the Marc Jacobs, the Louis, we got to Opening Ceremony and look at all the brands there and we were in New York for three and a half years, so that’s all there is to do anyways shopping and drink, right.

Was it a big leap for the cut and sew pieces?

Not so much because there was still knit based hoodies and stuff. We did like a button up woven and a sweater and then we wanted to like get into denim, which is a really hard thing to do for women—and you know we’re in LA and all the women’s denim brands started out here—and mainly build the accessory part. We’ve been approached by a couple licensees to give them the license for women’s, but for me working at Ecko, I could see how that could either be a really good thing or a nightmare so we’re still balancing that out.

What kind of women do you want to see wearing your stuff?

Hmm. Other than women like yourself. [Laughs.] I guess mainly a more knowledgeable customer to our lifestyle, I don’t want to say a streetwear customer because there isn’t too many streetwear brands for women other than like Stussy, Hellz Bellz, 10 Deep does a little here and there, but just like the girls that really understand what we’re doing and where we come from and if they like it, they like it.

What are some of your favorite female brands?

I like Marc by Marc Jacobs, I like them a lot. Theory, I kind of like Theory some of the stuff they do. I love Hellz Bellz I think Bam and Lawn are amazing designers—they really understand their market and even some of the Stussy women’s stuff like the main designer there is a friend of mine Pauline, way back before I had Crooks and Castles and she really understands the market and has really good style. I’m trying to think, like higher end brands I like Luis Vuitton for their accessories. I like the basics for American apparel and what they offer. Oh and I like Rag and Bone.

Given the economy right now, does it worry you at all to be starting up this whole other faction?

No, not really. We kind of felt like us going into other categories kind of helped pick up the slack from the men’s. So right now we’re trying to launch footwear, either that or go into a footwear license We want to go into kids. The women’s obviously and will hopefully just become like one of these other bigger brands and have longevity. The one thing that did help with the recession is it kind of weeded out the up and coming brands. You know the start-ups.

So past Fall what can women expect?

Past Fall, I think a more well-rounded collection. We definitely want to have the right accessories like bags, wallets and sunglasses. I think the quicker we are at getting the men’s stuff done which we know like the back of our hand—that allows us to do more research on the women’s and all that.

Are there any people you want to collaborate with?

I haven’t really thought about that. I’d like to do something with porter on like an accessories level of course probably do something with Hellz Bellz.

You guys can just throw t-shirts at each other.

Yeah. [Laughs.] I don’t know, if I could pick I’d love to do something with Goyard just like their whole thing they have and then I don’t know, I guess that’s probably it.

Where’s your heart at?

Right now it’s with my unborn child.

Aw. So exciting. Congratulations!

[Laughs.] I’m hoping for a girl and then in 10 years, you can interview her.

Yeah, she can rock the women’s brand too.

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