California-based streetwear brand Crooks & Castles is making a comeback. After a short hiatus and the closure of its Los Angeles retail location in 2017, the brand is back with a robust e-commerce site and is turning its attention to its wholesale strategy.
“Now under a new business partnership, we are bringing the focal point back to wholesale again,” Dennis Calvero, co-founder and creative director of Crooks & Castles told MR. “We are being selective in who we are opening up and paying way more attention to the details of our garments. We want to elevate our quality a bit, elevate where we position ourselves in the market, but also recognize who we are and who our core customer is.”
Calvero and his business partner Rob Panlilio are no strangers to streetwear. Long before the category’s global takeover of recent years, the duo conceived the idea of an aesthetic merger of the hip-hop lifestyle with a luxury sensibility. The concept of Crooks & Castles emerged from their common experiences and influences growing up in Cerritos, California.
Before Crooks & Castles hit the scene in 2002, the two introduced L5 Landscape, a streetwear line with an outdoor vibe. The brand thrived in the Japanese market in the late 90s, selling exclusively at United Arrows and creating buzz on a national level. The U.S. wasn’t ready for it, though, and the sell-through on their home turf suffered. The newness didn’t translate, so they decided to regroup and go in a new direction.
“In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, hip-hop was beginning to hit its stride,” says Calvero. “Even though we were L.A.-bred, our crew was heavy on East Coast rap. Having been through the ‘wild side’ of L.A. street culture, there were elements of our mutual experiences that we wanted to reflect in this new brand.”
Energized by their common upbringing and cultural encounters, Calvero and Panlilio landed on Crooks & Castles. The name was informed by their younger realities and the premise that everyone in their world had to hustle to make it to the top. Founded on the notions of family and loyalty, the label aligns with every hustler, entrepreneur, and mogul trying to win. It’s about the journey from being a crook to a becoming a king. “We believe that behind every Castle stands a Crook,” adds Calvero.
Since it’s incubation, the brand has made a serious mark on streetwear. Individually, Calvero and Panlilio contributed to the evolution of the fashion space, developing brands like Ecko Unlimited along the way. With 2002 came a palpable shift in urban style, leaning in the direction of indie streetwear. That was a clear signal that it was time to go full force with their new venture.
Sixteen years and many lessons later, Calvero and Panlilio have cultivated a brand with an undying commitment to a transparent ethos and designs that have maintained relevance despite a changing cultural climate. These days, they find inspiration everywhere and are constantly striving to combine the comfortable and the opulent. Times might have changed, but their mission remains the same: creativity and authenticity above all else.
“What we started when we introduced a luxury influence to streetwear is now extremely prevalent in fashion,” said Calvero. “Most of the creatives that are currently leading the way in fashion come from a hip-hop background. It’s the biggest influence of today and it’s what we’ve embodied since day one.”