Still Cruising After All These Years: A Visit to the Warriors of Radness Studio
To call Warriors of Radness
founder Rick Klotz an over-sharer is a major understatement. To be honest, he has no filter. And after spending two hours touring his downtown-LA warehouse, Adrian, Charlie, and I wonder if he’s ever had one. The WOR building has been in Rick’s family for over 30 years and acts as the creative hub for many of his fashion endeavors. From outside, it’s unassuming; just another gated warehouse in a class picture of gated warehouses. Inside there’s a purpose for every room and nook, which is an appropriate reflection of WOR’s DIY design aesthetic. Rick explains, “We want the brand to have the personality of a guy who surfs during the day, comes home and makes his own jeans, and then rocks them that night.”
Rick starts our tour by showing us the prop room where he stores an assortment of objects he’s shot for the brand’s t-shirt graphics; red police tape repeating the phrase “No Future,” a neon heart enveloping the words “Cash Only,” and an assortment of sex toys. Rick and his small WOR staff shoot the graphics for all the brand’s tees in-house. In fact, almost all aspects of the brand, from inspiration to packaging, are done at the Hope Street location. This hands-on approach is what gives WOR its credibility. It’s not some big corporation trying to preach California-cool to the masses. It’s Rick joking around, putting a condom on his raised middle finger and saying, “Hey, let’s shoot that!”
If you think of WOR as just another beachwear company it’s hard to believe the amount of industry notoriety they’ve received. Would a line focusing on, say, golf culture be nominated for the GQ
Menswear Designer of the Year Award? We ask Rick how he keeps such a genre-specific collection fresh. “The thing about Warriors of Radness is we just make the same thing every season. Not saying we’re anti-fashion, but we’re stuck in an aesthetic.” We see what he means when he shows us his inspiration wall; three floor-to-ceiling corkboards covered in clippings, photos, and scribbles. We make note of the printouts of unlit fireworks, a teal book cover with its title California 1961
underlined by palm trees, and a shot of a woman’s bare bottom forming the shape of a peace sign. It’s a vast visual collection focusing mainly on sex, waves, and anarchy. But where, in other brands, these concepts may seem contrived and vulgar, WOR has made them feel genuine, masculine, and cool. This is, with no doubt, mostly due to Rick. He’s been living this lifestyle his entire life. He bought the original wetsuit brand Body Glove and Jimmy'Z
in the 80s. He still surfs at the beaches he features in his promo videos. He finds inspiration in everything. Holding up an unimpressive vintage Hawaiian shirt he says, “I liked this print because we realized the flowers make the shape of a guy getting some behind a bush.”
As our tour winds down we start taking on some of Rick’s vocabulary. Everything is “dude” this and “gnarly” that. His attitude is contagious. If Rick were recruiting a WOR army we would all enlist. While walking the space we stumble upon different clusters of boxes. In a small corner we find promo stickers, including some branded with the famous Gay & Lesbian Surf Association logo. And then, finally, what we all have been waiting for, Rick leads us to his vintage clothing closet. It’s a small room with racks upon racks of rare finds he has been collecting over the past 3 decades. Our eyes (and hands) are overwhelmed. Where to start?! Black high-waisted jeans with an all-over Keith Haring print, a crocodile leather bomber jacket, and a graphic tee that seems to be an advertisement for gay zebras. Rick only allows us halfway into the room, blocking the rest of his treasure with his body. Smart move.
When we say goodbye it’s with a heavy heart. Rick is so candid and honest about his life we feel like we made a new best friend. He gets bashful and quiet when we tell him how much we love his line at Opening Ceremony. Maybe in all his days of partying, surfing, and sticking it to the man he never saw himself as an inspiration. Making our way back to OCLA we wonder what Rick has gotten up to in the 20 minutes since we left him. Probably something really awesome that is too racy to print in this blog post. But we bet he’ll print it on a tee. And we’ll be the first to buy it.
Shop all Warriors of Radness here
Photos by Adrian Gilliland
Warriors of Radness