Anthony Vaccarello muse David Friend is making waves in fashion, but not just in modelling – he’s started his own brand, Worstok, with his collaborator Rudy Grazziani
Los Angeles-based model David Friend was 18 years old when, in September 2016, Anthony Vaccarello called upon him to walk in his debut show as creative director of Saint Laurent. Friend was the sole male model to do so, sporting a shaved head and a billowing sheer shirt. His look embodied the youth, modernity and particular androgyny that has come to define the Belgian-Italian designer’s vision for the French house. But while they began there, Friend’s aspirations for the catwalk did not end with walking it; in an interview with Dazed shortly after the show, he revealed that he was shooting and styling in his spare time.
It has been almost two years since Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent debut, and while Friend has made plenty more appearances on the Paris Fashion Week runway for the house in the seasons since, he’s also made his first step towards following in Vaccarello’s footsteps. This spring he launches his own label, Worstok, with design partner Rudy Grazziani.
Both based in Los Angeles, Friend (now 19) and Grazziani (24) were introduced last year by Friend’s sister, who assured the pair they’d “click”. Worstok was born not long after – the duo made up the name, feeling that it sounded like a country – and drew inspiration from nature. Their designs comprise deconstructed menswear, juxtaposing grunge, raw and rustic elements with more elegant, elevated ones. “We like to have this utilitarian feel to the clothes,” explains Grazziani, “but a more high fashion look or aesthetic. We’re trying to find a balance.”
Hailing from Echo Park, LA, Grazziani comes from a family of seamstresses – “I grew up in this apartment building with my grandmother’s factory downstairs,” he says. “So, I learnt from my family to an extent, and I took classes at college as well.” It’s these fundamental design, pattern-cutting and production skills that he brings to Worstok, along with an ability to draw and an innate artistic sensibility. Friend, meanwhile, injects a “high fashion trash” aesthetic. It’s “a bit bummy,” Friend says – an emphasis that endures, in spite his success on the runway. “I just feel like I’m being something I’m not when I’m wearing really nice things. It’s not entirely me.”
Though he doesn’t come from a family of seamstresses, Friend has gleaned a wealth of styling skills from assisting Sean Knight, and, of course, from his own experience modelling. “This is how I found out I liked clothes,” he explains. “My first time ever seeing high-end clothing in person was all through modelling.” His career thus far has also provided him with the financial resource to back this new venture, along with a network to collaborate on it with. “Stylists I’ve worked with have reached out to us and cool photographers said they would help us shoot it. I would never know these people if I wasn’t a model.”
Friend’s undone aesthetic has not only been informed by his personal taste, and the grungey subcultures he’s surrounded by in Los Angeles – there’s a trace of the rural setting of his childhood – Friend grew up on an Arabian horse farm – in the brand’s identity too. “I started reminiscing a lot about things and how I used to live a hippy life. That’s why these pieces have a lot of horse hair – that’s actually Arabian horse hair. We used that type of fabric and we used wools and mohair, because that’s what people like my mum used to sew wool blankets and things like that from. We used cowboy-inspired prints that Rudie drewby hand, and we even drew two of the cowboys that, if you look closely, look like me and Rudie.”
What Friend and Grazziani lack in years, they more than make up for in ambition. “Given that we’re younger than most people doing this, I think it’s often an uphill battle to be taken seriously, or respected as artists and designers,” says Grazziani. “I think that’s why we’re working so hard at this. We really want to get to that point where we can collaborate with people that inspire us.”