Heron Preston, founder and designer of his namesake label, is part of a new generation of fashion designers who, versatile and curious, is helping to redefine the way we think about streetwear, luxury and sustainability. As many people grown up in the post-internet era, he has an eclectic talent. He is an artist, a creative director, a creator of content, a clothing designer, a DJ... there are no borders. For him to experiment, playing with different arts and disciplines is as easy and necessary as breathing. And everything that he does becomes an immediate success. So much to gain a place on the acclaimed BOF 500 list of The People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry and to be adored by stars like Bella Hadid and Justin Bieber.  

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Born in the Bay Area of ​​San Francisco in 1983, Heron Preston Johnson (his real last name) showed soon his creative nature. Still in high school, an institute funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he launched a line of recycled t-shirts that he had silk-screened and sold them all over the world. But it is only shortly thereafter, in 2004, when he arrives in New York, that his life takes a decisive turn. The young Californian boy, who moved to the the Big Apple to study at the Parsons School of Design, spends his free time taking care of a blog in which he documents the picturesque characters of the Downtown scene. The project draws the attention of Al Moran, founder of the Ohwow contemporary art gallery, who decides to create a book, a sort of collection of all these cool NYC personalities, entitled The Young and the Banging. Among the many fans of Preston, there are Nike, which offers him a job first as a marketing specialist, then as global digital producer for Nikelab, and Virgil Abloh

We were these nerdy streetwear dudes posting on the same message boards 

emphasizes Heron. While he's working for the sportswear giant, a new offer comes in for Preston: Abloh wants him to join him and Matthew Williams in Been Trill, the collective they are creating. 

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Together the trio organizes parties, produces recordings and releases tracks, develops apps and occasionally designs clothes. Needless to say, success is immadiate, and, thanks to the project, the guy from San Francisco becomes also a creative consultant for Kanye West.

It was more like a game between us, a way to express ourselves, to throw out the excess of ideas we had... It taught us so much, used us to believe in our ideas 

recalls Heron. When Williams and Abloh decide to establish their own brands, Alyx and Off-White, Preston launches an online store, HPC Trading Co., and makes a capsule for the NYC Department of Sanitation. Once again it is Virgil who supports the talented friend. In fact, after seeing his creations, he tells him:

Dude, you have to merchandise it out - you have socks, shirts, sweats; a full look, a full collection.

Heron presented it to the New Guards Group, the company based in Milan that produces and distributes Off-White.

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It is the true birth of Heron Preston which, a couple of months later, debuts at the Paris Fashion Week, gaining global attention with his style always on the edge between street, workwear and couture. Although from this moment on, fashion becomes his main activity, the thirty-year-old continues to divide his time between artistic installations and DJ sets.

Revolution 

I would say it's inspired by workwear, luxury streetwear with a New York point of view. 

This is how Preston would describe his namesake brand that, launched in early 2017, in just two years has achieved a turnover of 25 million euros and is distributed through its e-shop and a network of around 200 multi-brand stores worldwide, becoming one of the most avant-garde contemporary fashion companies.

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A success obtained and multiplied thanks to the many collaborations with Carhartt, NASA, Off-White, Gap, UGG, Nike. The trait d'union is a style on the border between street, workwear and couture, made of hiking trousers, crewneck sweatshirts, bomber jackets with herons, safety vests, camouflage, bright orange nuances, cyrillic letters, technical fabrics, upcycling, inspirations taken from the daily life in the city mixed with Internet references.

#1 Workwear/Uniform aesthetic 

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I’ve always looked at uniforms as being fashionable, and I think that’s why I’m so influenced by them. I get excited about taking this part of the real world — the construction worker, the police officer, the firefighte r— and working with that authenticity. That’s real fashion. When I spent time with the guys at DSNY, they were wearing t-shirts, Timberlands, dope Dickies. They had really cool outerwear. I want to use my platform to bring as much realness into it as possible... Workwear is an opportunity to do something real, something that a fashion brand cannot really provide, which is authenticity.

Son of a policeman, Preston grew up with a deep admiration for the uniforms and, perhaps, that's why they are such an important part of his fashion. It is therefore not a coincidence that Heron's debut in 2016 was with a capsule collection called UNIFORM for DSNY, in which the designer explored the recycling and sustainability processes through the use of a series of recycled uniforms of New York garbage collectors. Exactly as it is not a coincidence that his dream was to collaborate with NASA. And what about the color that, almost obsessively, chooses for his creations? Preston himself explains: 

Orange is a key color in the uniforms of construction workers, firefighters [and] I have always identified with the idea of labor, and the blood, sweat and tears that go into their job function. So the use of orange and reflective elements pays homage to the work they do.

#2 Sustainability

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Do designers have a responsibility? Maybe yes maybe no. But they have the fucking power to inspire change, for sure... It's great to see artists and designers speaking up about social issues. It doesn't mean you have to start a crusade or turn into a hippie. It's just that you can do your part. I know how to make clothes and throw events and bring people together. I'm good at marketing. I can help save the world in the ways that I know how. Everyone can do a little. Like recycle or donate your clothes instead of throwing them away… Sustainability by definition is strength and growth. 

2016. For some time now Preston has been wondering how to help solving the big issues of the world with his work. Then one day, while he wa swimming in Ibiza, his attention is captured by a plastic bag floating in the ocean. In that moment something changed in him and his interest in the environment began. His first action is to support the 'Zero Waste' initiative (the aim is to eliminate waste in landfills by 2030) of the New York City Department of Health by reworking its uniforms with a second hand philosophy using vintage T-shirts. His involvement becomes greater with For You, The World, the first real collection of the HP brand presented during the PFW, which marks the beginning of a long-term investigation of sustainable production practices. In the showroom there is a banner in PVC which reads the controversial statement of Eileen Fisher "Second To Oil, Textile And Apparel Industry Is The Most Polluting In The World, So Let's Change That". To recycle, Heron cuts it and turns it into little camera bags for his Hong Kong store. This is just an example of how the Californian designer tries to reduce the environmental impact of his products, just like avoiding using cotton (a plant that needs a lot of water to grow) or wrapping the goods in tissue paper to make it look more luxurious and, above all, challenging its team to look for more environmentally responsible materials. 

#3 Not just fashion

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My logo says style. Style is universal, it means so much to so many people around the world and you don’t necessarily have to work in fashion to have style. Arts, to me, is a celebration of life and lifestyle, which is why I also play music and DJ. I see myself as someone having many interests in all the various creative industries from art to music or fashion. That is how I like to identify myself and how I contribute to the world. It is not just a fragment but a whole entire experience.

We have already said this and Heron himself confirms it, he has an eclectic talent and for him there are no borders, nor definitions like 'haute couture' or 'streetwear', used to keep the respective worlds separate. His collaborations are the perfect example. For his projects, Preston draws often inspiration outside the field of style, as it happened with NASA