PENELOPE GAZIN’S FASHION BRAND COMPANY SERVES UP WEARABLE WORKS OF ART
“This whole company feels like a joke I took too far,” says Penelope Gazin, founder of Los Angeles-based clothing line Fashion Brand Company. “I was up one night at 4 a.m. and wondered if ‘fashionbrandcompany.com’ was available,” Gazin recalls. “It was $40 on GoDaddy, so I bought it.” Gazin founded the company in her apartment in 2018, and if you type “fashion brand” into Google today, her business is the first search result. “I guess it worked out accidentally.”
Humor is integral to the brand, as evidenced by its name and by Gazin’s surreal, irreverent designs—some of which she says come to her in dreams. Best-selling items include a velvet “moth” dress with winged sleeves and knit sweaters with patterns ranging from three-dimensional nipple polka dots to storybook-style cottages with “SEX HOUSE” in all caps sewn underneath. “I just like to make myself laugh, and I feel very lucky that other people sometimes also find it funny,” the former animator says. “I have learned to indulge myself when I think, ‘Wow, I just thought of the dumbest idea.’”
Gazin, the sole designer and fabric sourcer, is also a trained dancer and drummer for the band Slut Island. Her familiarity with live performance informs the costume-like creations, which feature few zippers and lots of soft, stretchy fabrics. Gazin then works with a small China-based manufacturing team to realize her visions. All employees work less than 40 hours per week with paid vacations, pensions, and maternity leave. “I wanted to make sure we actively know the people who make our clothes are living well,” she says.
In L.A., Gazin works with a small operations team; she brought on four full-time employees in 2020 after becoming pregnant with her first child. She adores this “dream team” while still thinking fondly of the two years she spent running the company solo and shipping inventory from her apartment: “It was a nightmare hellscape that I actually felt very comfortable living in...I still kinda miss doing everything myself a little bit and daydream about starting a teensy-tiny company in my garage that sells such strange clothes no one even buys them.” –Rachel Sanoff
PHOTOS: (NIPPLE SWEATER) PENELOPE GAZIN; (MOTH DRESS) ALANNA DURKEE; (SEX HOUSE) KATE HOWELL