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Real Life Situations: The Allure of FELT

Deep in the bowels of Miami-Dade County, two relatively unknown individuals work harder and drop better clothes than most high-end designer brands.

I’m by no means a fashion or streetwear type (writers can’t afford to dress well, believe me) but I’ve been obsessed with FELT since it first crossed my Twitter feed in 2020 when I saw that Da$h was carrying some of their stuff. I dug a little deeper and lost my absolute shit when I saw the smokehouse carved into a mushroom patch. After that I noticed the brand on all my favorite artists including Mac Miller, Frank Ocean and Freddie Gibbs to name a few. I needed to know more.

FELT is owned by two boys, Kosta and Louie, who officially founded the company in New York in 2015 before returning to their hometown of Miami in 2020. You’re basically hell on wheels when the wheels are attached to a Dodge Charger and lubed with codeine. A self-confessed lunatic, Kosta describes Louie as young Puerto Rican Johnny Depp (though without the high-level court appearances). Both grew up in Miami. Kosta is a bookworm who loves Hunter S. Thompson, Louie is a better cook than anyone and can usually be found in a white gas station t-shirt sipping exotic lemonade. They also have six beautiful pit bulls under them, which I would pick easily in a fight for the most grizzly bears.

“We wanted to start a magazine called Southern cut, and then in the magazine we needed ads. We didn’t really know anyone, so we just did fake ads saying FELT. And then we thought they were somehow sick,” said Kosta.

The duo have released some really beautiful work together and pushed the boundaries of what’s expected of a streetwear brand by releasing work that isn’t clothing at all. Some of my personal favorites are a butterfly-covered couch from a MEDICOM collaboration, an ashtray that reads “Jah is my co-pilot,” and an unreleased action figure named Abel that looks like he’s hot-wiring spaceships in a dystopian future.

Courtesy of FELT

“What Louie and Kosta do with felt is a great example of DIY. Looking past my personal relationships with each of them to see how they both infuse their different perspectives on art and the world into their clothing is incredible. Da$h said via Twitter DM. “We’ve traveled everywhere together and also burned spliffs of hash from the Paris projects up to the $60 per gram eighth sativa in Japan. I have a few other stories too, but the ones in the Journal of the Dark Arts must kill you for telling them… but if you ask what those guys are… SOLID INDIVIDUALS.”

FELT stands for “For Every Living Thing” but originally started out as “Fuck Everyone Let’s Terrorize”. The clothing itself appears to be a smooth blend of these two concepts. Subtle references to psychedelia and graffiti culture become not only palatable to the average consumer, but magnetic to all. The classic butterfly sweatsuit, for example, looks like something you’d see in a major department store at first glance, but it’s actually a silent nod to the CIA’s LSD mind control experiments in Project Monarch and MK Ultra. That’s fitting, as Kosta once told me that one of his favorite things to do is take LSD and try to give himself a bad trip.

“He’s a sick asshole,” said Don, a close friend and former FELT intern, referring to Kosta. “He’s probably one of the sickest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

It’s not just the clothes that are cool, but the appeal lies in the community that Kosta and Louie have created, which stretches far beyond the limits of what a marketing department could achieve on their best day. There is a FELT Discord server with over 1300 people and I’ve seen Kosta and Louie there every day since its inception earlier this year hacking it up with people, organizing movie nights, giving away hundreds of free t-shirts and even running Pokemon- fights. It’s worth noting that no one has even come close to KOing my Blastoise.

I have to admit, at first I thought there must be some financial incentive for them to be this interactive, but if anything, the discord has cost them money because they often buy people’s art just to have it, right? to put them on a t-shirt. On the other hand, they’re also not afraid to tell someone constructively that their shit is weak. They’ve made themselves available to anyone who appreciates what they do and the only rule is don’t be weird. They tell everyone in there all the time to go to their office and have a smoke.

Kosta in full makeup for a FELT photoshoot where he told his artist to make him look like he got into a fight with Robert DeNiro in 2003.

“It’s all for [the] community at the end of the day. Of course there is a monetary aspect, people live on it. We just wish someone would have opened their doors to us back then,” said Mac, a close friend of Kosta and Louie who has helped them in their New York office for years. “All the fame, notoriety and money that came in didn’t change them because they know very well what it was like to be broke.”

It drives me nuts when brands partner with other brands just for the financial incentive, with no regard for the art, but FELT does whatever they want because it’s fun and they do it with style. They recently did a collaboration with Elbo Glass on some plush and vinyl dinosaurs covered in monarch butterflies that I’d be willing to trade a kidney for. They are constantly ahead of themselves and the curve by focusing on authenticity, art and fun rather than monetary gain.

“[Kosta] didn’t do that shit to get rich. It was never about the money or the money. He always said money burns you out,” Don said. “He says that a lot, but clothes are just the medium he works with or clings to, but he’s really just a sick person and a nutty artist, both.”

Every company in America that spends dollars on SEO readability and other useless metrics of capitalism is trying to replicate what Kosta and Louie did from the strength of their own characters. From what they have told me and what their friends say about them, it seems that they stayed true to themselves and created their own world where they didn’t have to water down to survive, and everyone Those who know them seem drawn towards them for this reason. The only thing they seem to care about is the strength and authenticity of the work. According to Kosta, her success stems from a perfect storm of hard work, persistence, and luck.

“It was a lot of luck and a lot of consistency. And that’s what it’s all about. We’re really consistent with the shit we put out,” Kosta said. “I know a lot of people who start something and then just stop for a while and then start again. You never really grow that way. You have to keep fucking pushing buttons.”

I’m still not sure what FELT is. I can best describe it as the sum of many parts, parts without a fixed order or directive. The concept seems to evolve over time, which is fitting as the E stands for evolution. FELT is a secret handshake, a random clothing-making religion, a community of lunatics, and a Pokémon Gym rolled up into one big, beautiful, goddamn work of art that somehow makes you a better person. I feel deeply privileged to know these cats in any way and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

https://foreverylivingthing.com

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