For our latest installment of Essentials, we catch up with MIDNIGHT STUDIOS founder Shane Gonzales. Starting his label at just 19 years of age, Gonzales found early success with support from figures such as A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti. As his brand has grown rapidly over the years, the designer recently took advantage of the pandemic-induced lull to go on a short hiatus, taking the time to restructure and charter a new direction for the label.
After returning earlier this year to showcase his Season 0 collection titled "WELCOME TO THE MACHINE" at the iconic El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Gonzales is now back in full force as he looks to push forward with a three-pronged approach via MIDNIGHT STUDIOS, MIDNIGHT ART DEPT., and Midnight Rave. Without further adieu, follow us below as the designer shares what he's been keeping with him on the daily, offers a glimpse at future collaborations, and dives into his vision for the next chapter of MIDNIGHT STUDIOS.
MIDNIGHT STUDIOS Brooklyn Box Trunk
This bag may be a bit impractical for everyday essential use, but I literally bring it as a carry-on with me for every flight. I like traveling with this because it fits perfectly in the overhead compartment, and I can kind of just throw all my airport belongings in it and close it up with no issues. These bags took around 2-3 years to figure out and manufacturing made these in several sizes but the medium size is the travel size for sure.
Raf Simons SS18 Hat with Personal Lighter Cap Clips
This one's just a simple black hat, and the Raf branding is super minimal which I love. Just a subtle tonal embroidery on the front and I added a handful of clips from janky 7-Eleven lighters over time. Good everyday hat.
MIDNIGHT STUDIOS Coin Pouch
I made these pouches this year pretty much just for myself. We offer them for sale online from our SS22 collection, but this idea was mainly for me. I hate standard wallets, and I lose cardholders much too often. I lose my phone a lot as well, so the wallet phone case isn’t ideal. It clips right onto my belt loop and perfectly holds credit cards and other small necessities.
Alexander Digenova Reconstructed T-Shirt Hoodie
Special thank you to my friend Alexander for making me this 1-of-1 reconstructed t-shirt hoodie for my birthday featuring one of my favorite bands of all time, Sisters of Mercy. He made the fit XXXL so it's nice and cozy. I pretty much wear this every other day.
Leica D-Lux Type 109, Contax T3, AbergBest 21 Mega Pixels Digicam
These are honestly the only cameras I shoot with and they each serve a very unique purpose. I’ve shot several editorials and client work with the Contax and it never fails. The Leica, I like to use here and there just for a specific look. I shot the Glitter book in collaboration with Virgil and Off-White™ on this camera back in the day. I love the contrasted/low-saturated look that I can’t really replicate any other way. The cheap digicam is my go-to for random nightlife shots. It's light, easy, and takes amazing overexposed low-res photos, which I oddly love.
These two rings in particular are the most special to me. The first piece of jewelry I ever made for myself was a Silver "A" ring inspired obviously by the Jonio (Jun Takahashi/Hiroshi Fujiwara) "AFFA" rings. Hatton Labs of the UK reached out and wanted to work together on this "upscale" version this year and I’m super pleased with the turnout. The ring was made of 18K white gold with a ruby trim on top and a VS diamond accent on the side. The "M" ring is my MIDNIGHT STUDIOS logo and my brother Jeremy had this made in Los Angeles for my birthday. These two rings get worn every single day.
Undercover FW09 "Earmuff Maniac" Backpack
I’ve pretty much only used this backpack for work and traveling since the day I got it around the summer of 2015. I love the natural fade and distress it's acquired over the years from so much use. It fits just about everything I need on the daily so I never plan to get rid of this one.
How has MIDNIGHT STUDIOS changed following your recent revamp?
We went through a big restructuring really when the world shut down with Covid-19 and we had a lot of time to figure out how to restructure MIDNIGHT STUDIOS and put everything together. Because there were always so many special projects and collaborations — people and musicians wanting to work with MIDNIGHT — we were trying to figure out a way to structure everything. Not everything necessarily fits within a collection and vice versa, so we created a brand in three tiers.
We have MIDNIGHT STUDIOS by Shane Gonzales which is the designer collection and the pieces you’ll see in stores. It’s a lot higher end and everything is made across Japan and Italy. Denim is made here domestically in L.A. so because it’s higher in price that’s what we’re selling in stores and it’s actually sitting in HBX store right now. That’s what we’re showing on the runway, and the brand is now part of CFDA. They’re showing the pieces on the calendar for the first time at NYFW in September which is really exciting.
Under MIDNIGHT STUDIOS by Shane Gonzales we have MIDNIGHT ART DEPT. which is really our special projects brand. Under MIDNIGHT ART DEPT. this year we did projects with Motörhead, Ozzy Osborne, The Batman movie, and we’re doing something with The Lost Boys movie for their 35th anniversary this year. Also, there’s a David Bowie project we’re doing this year as well, so MIDNIGHT ART DEPT. is really everything music, movies, other special projects, and collaborations. It’s an extension of MIDNIGHT STUDIOS but slightly more affordable as well, living online only. We’re not really selling to anybody and keeping it to ourselves on the MIDNIGHT website.
The third tier is Midnight Rave which is its whole separate entity. It’s a lot more colorful with graphics inspired by the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, and different rave cultures and subcultures. That, we have a lot of fun with and throw a party every few months. We’ve done it in L.A. and we’re doing a really big party in New York on October 7th which is really exciting. For Midnight Rave we’re going to Paris and Miami with plans to take that all over with separate collaborations.
What can people expect from your upcoming Spring/Summer 2023 collection?
Without giving too much away, it’s a collaboration with HIM. It’s a Finnish goth rock band that I’ve admired since I was a young child so getting to work with them was huge in itself — expanding on their iconography, lyrics, and songs to really establish the band as a whole. We’ve been working with them for a few months now on the collection. It’s primarily darker colors and softer palettes with some off-white and things like that. It’s kind of the first full collection that we’ll be putting out as far as the return of MIDNIGHT STUDIOS on the seasonal collection calendar. This one’s really head-to-toe compared to the first show we did in February which was establishing more of a permanent collection and a new silhouette for MIDNIGHT STUDIOS.
We introduced a tailoring program that is suiting made in Italy and there’s a full denim program now. Our Fall collection which we showed as well on that runway is getting closer to a full collection. It’s not as head-to-toe as the things you’ll see in Spring and it’s definitely a lot more graphic based with more of an experimental fabric element there.
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How did the M-Note logo come about? Is it going to be a central motif for your brand going forward?
That was something I kind of randomly put together years ago that never fully launched until the latest collection. It kind of made small appearances in different things from 2016, 2017, and slightly into 2018, but when we were rebuilding the brand, we were looking for a new logo element that we hadn’t really introduced before. Because our collections were much smaller, the cut and sew wasn’t all there. Now, we have this emblem to scatter within the collection across the different trims and graphics.
Could you touch on your hiatus and what you discovered while taking some time off?
Everyone was kind of holding back from shopping a lot of those two years so it allowed us to pause our operations and gave me the chance to figure out what I wanted to do going forward. There were moments when I could focus more on the behind-the-scenes and get more into the focus of runway shows and taking it to Paris one day, focusing more on full head-to-toe collections and getting it back to retailers. Once that was pretty clear to me, it was time to find a partner that we connected with on all levels, someone that had the time and resources to rebuild this brand from the ground up. We found a company also based in Los Angeles called The Foundation and they're now our partner. They’ve really just made everything possible that you’ve seen this year.
It’s good to see the progression of your brand since our first interview with you back in 2015. We see a lot of those early references are still there, just from a more elevated standpoint now.
The roots always remain the same with rock and roll being the primary root. It was a bit more punk and DIY when I first started out because I was 19 or 20 at the time, but as I grow older, I kind of have a more mature state of mind which is why I wanted to introduce suiting for many years and more minimal-based garments. but there are still the details which you can see roots back to day one basically like the zipper trims and safety pins which root back to the old design. There are a lot of things that hint back to my early days doing MIDNIGHT STUDIOS, but it’s much more refined and production is much nicer seeing that we’re doing this mostly in Italy and Japan.
What do you see the future of MIDNIGHT STUDIOS looking like in the near and long-term?
What we created this year, putting MIDNIGHT into a three-tier system, ultimately, was the long-term goal. We wanted to have these lower tiers to have something for everyone. I always wanted a place to put all these big collaborations with musicians and films and whatnot and Midnight Rave has done so well for us. That was something that was created by A$AP Rocky for the fam so a lot of the long-term goals are happening sooner rather than later. We originally didn’t expect to do any runway shows for the first three years of this relaunch. As far as long-term, we’re looking to just grow the brand, get into more retailers, grow the team, and just keep doing what we’re doing — just at a higher level.
With where MIDNIGHT STUDIOS is now, do you see the creation of a lifestyle around what you’re doing?
Within the three tiers, we do want to introduce more elements within the brand as opposed to just fashion. With Rave, that’s kind of already kickstarted experiences. With ART DEPT., those collaborations allow us the opportunity to do concerts, film screenings, and artist presentations. With Studios, some of those projects allow us to focus on live experiences going forward which is what we’re trying to do with the David Bowie collection coming out. We want to do a film screening that celebrates him. At the end of the year, we have The Lost Boys collab which allows us to do another film screening as well, so within each project in fashion, we want to have an element that’s in-person experiences and something for everyone to be a part of that doesn’t necessarily require the purchasing of a clothing item.
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