Clothing from the Heart
Ivan Reyes, creator of the Basilica fashion brand, took some time with Charcoal’s, Chike Asuzu, to explore how his quarantine pastime morphed into a sense of community he has always sought after. Ivan opens up about the inspirations behind Basilica, the cultural significance it has for him and his Mexican-American upbringing, and the little moments that have made it all worth it.
Ok Ivan let’s get into it. Who are you and how do you make impressively inspired clothing as a full-time student?
Well, I grew up in Oakland, California, and honestly, I was just really obsessed with graphic t-shirts, streetwear and looking cool. Somewhere down the line, it started to mean much more than that to me.
Was younger Ivan as cool as I am picturing him in my head?
[Laughs] Hah! I hope so. When I was younger, I thought that if you dressed cool, it made you cool. It all started with styling, which led me immediately to streetwear because it is so different from regular clothes. You get to put your own art on display through it, you know? The idea is that anybody can do it - it’s not as inaccessible as high fashion in that way. Anyone can D-I-Y a graphic t-shirt to express themselves.
Mad respect for little Ivan’s goal to be the coolest in all of Oakland, but how do you feel like your intention has changed throughout the years with clothing design vision?
When I was in middle school shopping for graphic t-shirts, I would always talk about little things I wish they were doing. Then I realized I could just make that, so now that’s where I found a lot of inspiration - making what I wanted to see. On top of that, I think I use every single experience I have in my life toward it. It’s how I get my emotions out: happy, sad, or anything. It is like chasing an endless dream. I think about it every day. I talk about it every day. It’s always on my mind.
Well, you’ve definitely done an amazing job shaping your dream into reality. What were some of those first steps you took to craft the idea behind Basilica?
I tried three different names before this, and it never clicked until “Basilica.” I remember looking into the town my parents are from, Michoacán, Mexico, and all the houses were small but they had massive cathedrals, full of beautiful art. They’re called basilicas, which means a space with multiple different uses for it. Those churches were filled to the brim with different people’s art. That’s kind of what Basilica is for me. A space for me and so many others to bring our art together. This past summer I actually contracted COVID-19, but not being able to do anything except stay in my room and rest gave me time to devote to this brand. I always considered who I am, where I’m from, where I’ve been, and the community I want to make around this. I’ve always been inspired in that way.
I love every part of that, especially how your sense of identity shaped your original idea of this, but your community has kept you moving forward.
Yeah man, being at BU helped a lot. My friends and even just internet strangers who do cool shit keep me going. My friend Veronica Fadel (CAS’20) helped me out tons with our designs too. I feel like I have a really good community around me, and it’s always such a collaborative space. There’s also this underground streetwear page called @staygroundead on Instagram that has helped me really get my footing with meeting new faces that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve learned so much about streetwear from them.
Speaking of streetwear, you mentioned earlier your appreciation of it in contrast to traditional high fashion. You think the two exist completely separately?
Oh, not at all! I feel like today’s streetwear has massively bled into high fashion to the point that streetwear is becoming mistaken as just a trend and not a culture. I was scared [to start] a brand because of that, but I remember that’s the point and that’s why I love it. Anyone can do this and make clothes that they feel their coolest in. It’s accessible and easy and should always be like that. Money and resources shouldn’t gatekeep anyone from expressing themselves through fashion. Anyone can love fashion.
That’s amazing man, especially recognizing how important street fashion has been for years now to so many. But moving past young Ivan’s endless ambition to look cool, what has made 22-year-old Ivan feel proudest with all the success Basilica has had?
This is going to sound cliché, but I think it was the first time someone random from like Houston or something ordered one of my hoodies. That was huge for me. I can make plenty of things that my friends love, and that’s great and all, but for one stranger to find it cool – [it’s] amazing.
I’m sure the “you” back then could have never imagined how far you could keep expanding on your vision for Basilica. When you’re hard at work finalizing prints and designs, do you ever think of anyone you’re doing all this for?
It sounds weird to say, but I feel like I am always making it for myself. It always starts from what I would want to wear, and I go from there. Having little references are great to me, like my hoodie inspired by Jay-Z’s The Blueprint album. I know so many people who love it and knowing they won’t miss the little details means the world to me. So, in that case, I guess it’s for everyone.[Laughs]
Oh my god, The Blueprint one is beautiful. How do you think someone would feel with that on?
You know that feeling when you buy new clothes and you just feel fresh? That’s how I want everyone to feel – like a fresh, new pair of shoes every time they’re in my clothes.