Design as art seems to be a running theme here at Industry of All Nations headquarters. Establishing the brand in 2010, brothers and co-founders Juan, Fernando, and Patricio Gerscovich combined the stylistic simplicity of architectural structure with a steady focus on sustainability and ethical production. Using 100% organic dyes and materials, Industry of All Nations aims to promote the quality of commercial exchange, emphasizing a personal relationship with local factory owners and producers while also making an effort to popularize iconic goods from all over the world. Approaching the Industry of All Nations office, I can already feel myself relaxing. The location is a small, minimalist building tucked in its own corner of the world. A row of phones and computers leads into a cool, concrete space chock-full of the company's signature pieces: totally biodegradable unisex espadrilles, comfy slippers, organically-sourced denim and t-shirts. My photographer and I are pleased to find some shelter from the oppressive SoCal heat in this placid place.
The brothers Gerscovich are clad in anything but workwear attire: relaxed denim and t-shirts complete with the company's iconic espadrilles that are made to be worn in (to achieve the ultimate laid-back look, of course). "I just got back from Argentina like a month ago," Juan tells me, "we get some of our stuff there." Originally architects in their native home of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the family shifted locales to sunny Southern California, applying their technical knowledge of shapes and sizes to the design realm. The office is smattered with a few pieces from the Gerscovichs' first endeavor called Sundayland: a furniture hotspot specializing in tongue-in-cheek decor ranging from long-legged telephones to a chandelier made out of silver vibrators. Yes, it did take me a while to figure out the naughty subtext behind the statement piece, but I was initially taken aback by the chandelier's likeness to the works of contemporary furniture designers. Now that is a well-conceived product.
After a brief tete-a-tete relaying the ups and downs of yesterday's soccer match (Croatia and Italy tied 1-1), we sit down in Industry's low-lying "Panamericana" chairs reminiscent of those accompanying roadside vendors in the South American countryside. A line of monochromatic espadrilles catches my eye.
What inspired the iconic espadrille design? Are they popular in Argentina?
Fernando: Yes, they have been around Argentina since like 1890. They are totally historical and have been done exactly the same way for 120 years. We're working with the company that basically invented the shoe. [It is called] Alpargatas and one product they've done for many, many years is these espadrilles. Slip-on versions and some with laces. These espadrilles are sold by the dozen in the countryside, there's a market for it once out of context [out of the country] and weird stuff happens. Like, people might look at [the shoe's heel] and ask, "How come there's no rubber on it?" So it becomes an issue that you need to teach people to understand.
So your pieces are inspired by the local culture?
Fernando: The espadrille talks a lot about the culture and history of Argentina and that is what we try to bring from every country. We use hand-loomed machines, we dye everything with natural pigments. Take this grandpa slipper from Mexico. We're inspired by grandpas. Abuelitos. I mean, we have this Panamericana Chair we named after the Pan-American Road in Mexico. You see roadside retailers selling watermelons and peaches and they're sitting in these chairs; it's so cool! I mean, it could be a Herman Miller piece.
Juan: We want to make the consumer product industry a bit more fun, a bit more deep. We know there's so much production going on in every single country and we want to use that and learn about what's going on everywhere.
Fernando: In every country there's a factory making shoes, a factory making t-shirts. Like, why do we have to make everything in China? Let's work together and do something global.
Juan: These factories are having trouble competing with Asia and they're slowly closing. Let's include everybody.
How do you find these products?
Fernando: I guess we have an eye [laughs]. We really admire iconic products from all over the world. It was natural and when when you start working with these products in a real way then it's not an effort. We only collaborate with the manufacturers; every single product is a collaboration. Many times in these factories it's the first time their product gets out of context. We'll go to a tiny mall in Mexico and find something cool. Like, grandpas go and buy the shoes. We talk to the store where we find this shoe, we find out who specifically produces the shoe, and then we work with those people. They go from being available to grandpas to being available to everyone in the world.
Juan: Made by exactly the same company that has been supplying grandpa.
Fernando: It's very personal.
Juan: It's directly us and the manufacturers, no middleman. [It is] super personal.
What inspired the Industry of All Nations brand? Was there a defining moment?
Juan: We grew up in the fashion business in Buenos Aires, our parents were fashion designers. But we are architects and our third brother is in business administration and we wanted to start an apparel company. We found that this was the only work to do; this was the only way we'd have fun. We wanted to create a company in the correct way. Let's try to create a new, modern company. The people want to see a GOODer company with a better way of production. A more human-friendly, environmentally-friendly company.
Fernando: We don't want people to have to work in sweatshop conditions. We want these generations of families to stay in business.
Juan: We touch human life and interact with people.
You seem to really believe in carefully crafting a product.
Juan: When we chose to work in India, they do completely organic production but for real. Environmentally-friendly, 100% natural dyes, cotton basics, jeans, shirts--making all of that with 99% less pollution. Cotton is 100% organic, no pesticides, the water coming off can be used to water the garden. We're going to India within the next few week to produce products for the next season. We don't know any other companies doing anything like this.
Fernando: All of these clothes are dyed with natural pigments like indigo. They're hand-loomed into salvaged denim. We're making the fabric, the dyes, then the fabric goes to major factories to cut and sew.
Juan: We go to the loomers, we go to the factories. We are going to start making films, we love movies, and taking pictures, but we're not cinematographers, we aren't going to be in the movie business any time soon [laughs].
Do you think fair trade will make it in the fashion industry?
Juan: I think every company, the world of the future, will be fair trade. If we don't do that the world will disappear. If we love seeing the Caribbean, if we want to see a blue beach, we need to work to make that happen.
Has architectural design influenced your work?
Juan: That makes everything easier. Designing, dealing with problems. Architecture is such a hardcore career that everything else looks kind of easy.
Fernando: Imagine if you have to design a skyscraper. That's a lot of pressure.
What are your plans for Sundayland?
Juan: The progression of Industry of All Nations incorporated Sundayland. Any of the Sundayland products could be in Industry of All Nations.
Fernando: In Sundayland we would invent super conceptual products. But [Industry of All Nation's products] are a little redesigned to make it a little more urban, a little bit more for the everyday man.
What other projects do you guys have going on?
Juan: We have so many projects coming up. Women's jeans will be in the stores for the first time. We're working with a boardshort company in Huntington Beach and now we're going to stitch our denim in LA at the great denim factories here.
Fernando: And we make sneakers in Kenya.
Juan: We had this sneaker in the Kenyan Embassy in Washington and they like totally sold out.
Fernando: We have Bread and Butter in Berlin. We're showing all of the denim.
Why set up shop in L.A.?
Juan: We're from Buenos Aires, you know? It's a dense metropolis like New York, super intense life, the city life. You wear a suit, you take cabs, you walk on the street, you go to the theater. When I went to the office I had to wear a suit. Now, when I go to the office I just wear this [points to his t-shirt and jeans]. We have lunch at the beach. We are so laid back--we like the ocean and the sun, that's what makes LA such a great place.
Fernando: LA is also a great place to start things. It's a very creative city.