Behind the Scenes with Christión Lennon
We had the opportunity to sit down with creative entrepreneur Christión Lennon, in his beautiful Boyle Heights home, where we talked about his roots, balancing music and fashion, and staying lowkey. His advice? Be a student of the game.
MW: Alright, so first things first, can you give yourself an introduction for those who might not be familiar with you? Where you’re from, what you’ve been working on? The whole thing.
CL: Yeah, for sure. I’m from Pasadena, CA. I’ve lived in about 4 or 5 different spots in Southern California, from Temecula to Orange County to west LA. Man, I come from streetwear and skateboarding, mainly.
MW: Yeah, it’s in the culture.
CL: Yeah, I feel like most kids started with skateboarding, and a lot of this now stems from it. There was this store called Versus, which was the only streetwear store in my area. They had SB’s and were one of the first to carry Diamond, and it was this weird T-shirt scene of like graphics and graffiti. I used to go over there and hang with those guys, and that’s how I got embraced into streetwear. From that group, I started to be mentored by one of the partners of Us Versus Them. I left high school in the 10th grade, I was 16.
MW: Which is so wild.
CL: Yeah, for sure. I just spent all day in their warehouse, packing orders and helping run their store. Just doing whatever they asked really. My mentor, James, was managing Dom Kennedy at the time in LA, so like early Watermelon Sundae, the whole Fairfax scene, you know? So we would drive up and I was just like, there. And that’s how I got embraced into the music scene.
MW: And this is pre-instagram, pre-social media buzz, right?
CL: Oh, for sure. This was the Myspace era. There was no Instagram. Facebook hadn’t really taken off yet. But yeah, I got into music from hanging around those guys. That really shifted my focus into: ‘Let me explore this’. So I started managing a few artists and songwriters. I moved to NYC when I was 20 and was there for a year, and met some really good people in music. I interned at Warner, unofficially, under a good friend. I just used to show up to work everyday with him and literally be annoying. I just had some empty office space and would work on random shit, whether it was graphics, or anything else. But, the music side of things eventually took off, and we had got my artist a publishing deal. And that was really the height of it. He was in sessions with people like Tricky Stewart and The Dream, and was writing for Rihanna. But we kinda had a falling out, he had other things he wanted to do, so he took a break. And that really shifted me to get back into clothes from there. I put a pause on the music side of things and moved back to Orange County with my fiance, Ashley. Since then I’ve just been doing my own thing.
MW: So, working on anything you could get your hands on, really?
CL: Yeah, precisely. My little brother, Tommy, wanted to start a brand, obviously from me being around Us Versus Them and that whole scene. We came up with the name: Brotherhood. It just made sense. So that was my main focus for years. Even until now. It’s been a legit business. From me playing the CEO role and handling the sales aspects, to distribution, to production, to design. Literally every aspect of it. So yeah, that’s where I am as far as the clothing side goes. I also have Peace & Quiet, a project that me and Ashley work on. On the music side of things, I manage Jean Dawson and help with his overall strategy & creative direction, and do random consulting things that are presented, but that’s a good abbreviated history of my career to date.
MW: Do you feel like you have a hard time switching between clothing and music? Or do you see the same process in both?
CL: They definitely overlap. I think what I have trouble with, that a lot of creatives struggle with, is being fully passionate about each project, the same amount. One day I might be on a walk and see some graphic, or some 18-wheeler with cool font, and I’m like: ‘Wow this would be sick for a Peace & Quiet graphic, but it also could be cool for this one client I’ve been thinking about.
MW: It creates a real conflict of interest in that case.
CL: Yeah. So trying to separate everything is my hardest part I would say. But for me, music and clothes definitely are in the same world, creatively speaking. When I talk with Jean, it’s the same thing. Making an album and making a collection of clothes; there are palettes and moods and colors, it’s all very similar. The main difference, to me, is that music is lyrical. It can inspire people in a different way, and all around the world. So can art and design, but lyrics are perhaps in a different category.
MW: Yeah, maybe music is more direct in that sense. I can tell what people are like, more or less, based on a single song they’re listening to. That seems harder to do with clothes. Like, you’re wearing a blank crewneck, what does that say about you? It’s a little harder to discern.
CL: For sure.
MW: But, fashion and music are both united by having good taste, right?
CL: 100%. A mentor and friend of mine, Ben Edgar, always says taste is the key. Branding wise, taste is what connects everything. And it’s the same on the personal level, too. Whether you shop at Maxfield or Dover Street. They’re both cool in their own world. But there are reasons certain brands are in Maxfield and not Dover Street, for example.
MW: And it’s a curated thing. People’s tastes come into play and become gatekeepers.
CL: Yeah, exactly.
MW: It seems like a specific few people really got you where you needed to be. Can you talk on mentorship and being connected to the right people, as opposed to as many people as possible?
CL: I’m definitely a student of everything, I mean I pay attention to everything around me. As far as mentorship, it was super important for me. I think there's a chain of command, and respect, from the OG’s, where you have to put in your 10,000 hours. You can’t charge a company $15,000 for brand identity, just because you went to some school and have some degree. That’s cool, but they probably have interns and people doing that stuff for free for awhile. And I think it’s super important that you have to put in your work. A degree, who your parents know, that’s all fine, but I come from streetwear and there’s a rawness to it. I remember being intimidated going into a tattoo shop when I was 16. You don’t want to set your drink down on this table because you might get yelled at. I think you need to have that type of feeling at a young age.
MW: Do you feel like when you were getting started, like OG Fairfax scene, was there this sense of imposter syndrome? Like maybe I don’t belong here, I don’t know what I’m doing. Or were you pretty confident that this was where you needed to be?
CL: I just really embraced it. I don’t ever feel like I shouldn’t be anywhere. If I’m there, it’s for a reason. Or in certain rooms with certain people. I definitely think that’s where I was supposed to be. I’ve said this a lot to my two younger brothers but, mentorship is just super important. And being strategic about it. Like I said, I’m a student of the game. So tapping into people who I know are doing what I like.
MW: Did you feel a pressure to take your work extremely seriously when you were starting out? Like: ‘What I’m doing has to be the best it can be’, or were you experimenting and having fun with it?
CL: I think I take it all super serious, but at the same time not serious enough that I’m making myself sick because the company is gonna fail, or the project will fail. I’ve never been scared to fail, in that sense.
MW: And I think that is important for creatives and perfectionists. We want our work to be the best it can possibly be, but at the same time leaving ourselves room to fail and experiment and not be afraid of that.
CL: Yeah, and I think the right word in that case is pivot, instead of fail. If you could substitute pivot for failure in your vocabulary, that’s literally what it is. I think it’s super important to just keep it going. I know people who have had 4, 5, sometimes 6 clothing brands. And the 6th one worked for some reason.
MW: You have to be able to adapt and roll with the punches.
CL: Exactly, so I’ve learned to compromise, to a certain extent. I also know how to play my part, in whatever situation I find myself in. I think these days you have to be multifaceted to a certain degree, you just have to.
MW: Playing the generalist is a really hard position. We always talk about the crossover that team sports have in the real world. Playing to your strengths, knowing what your weak link is.
CL: I played baseball my whole life, up until 10th grade, so yeah definitely. It’s almost a perfect analogy.
MW: You have a huge body of work, in so many different areas, but if you looked at your Instagram, people wouldn’t know otherwise, unless they’ve sat down and talked with you. What are some of the benefits of working behind the scenes?
CL: Yeah, I feel like there are a lot of pros, I guess. It’s never been a thought of mine to get ‘X’ amount of followers. For me, it goes back to knowing the right 10 people vs. knowing 60 people. And from there, companies start, mentorship happens. I think for me, not forcing things, letting it happen organically, has been super helpful. And people ask me about that, about being super lowkey, and honestly part of it is I’m just doing so many different things. I feel like my Instagram, from the outside looking in, would just be too much. So I just stick with what I like. If I feel like posting something from a project I’ll do it.
MW: I get that. There’s a real tendency to flex on Instagram, since so much of our time is invested into it. But what I like about your Instagram and website, and how you project yourself, you maintain a sense of mystery. Like, I don’t really know what this guy looks like, I don’t know what work is his, or isn’t. It really gives you the ability to move freely, and do what you want, while others might be obligated not to do that.
CL: For sure. I don’t really take it too seriously. It’s tough, because the Instagram thing is taken super seriously, which I get. It’s just tough to post my actual work on there because a lot of my stuff is not just graphic design or portfolio-based work. A lot of it is connecting dots for people, or putting two and two together. Maybe it’s just a dinner, and yeah posting a picture at that dinner and that’s it. That was the start of a whole company. And it’s tough for other stuff like Jean Dawson’s music. I’ll never know what his music is like to the world, because I’m there, I'm in it.
MW: You’re too invested in it.
CL: That’s always funny to think about. We’ll never know what it’s perceived as. And music stuff is tough to not share. The artwork and packaging and all the things that go into it besides the music itself.
MW: Because it’s so cool. But at the same time the focus should be on the artist and not the work itself.
CL: For sure. We’ve all mutually agreed that it’s a bigger thing than any of us individually.
MW: Do you feel like there are any obvious cons with staying lowkey and behind the scenes?
CL: I think probably perception is the first one that comes to mind. There are ignorant companies and ignorant people out there who won’t follow you or work with you based on how many followers you have. And don’t get me wrong, businesses need followers for growth and sales and attention. I’d love if Peace & Quiet had 8 million followers, of course, but I’m not out here forcing it. And I probably should be more focused on when we post and all that, but it’s really feeling-based for me.
MW: What’s up with The Museum of Peace & Quiet? Is it any different than what Peace & Quiet already is, or is it all under the same umbrella?
CL: So, it’s all the same. Museum was just the name of the Instagram account, and we might transition the domain to that as well. Previously, our shop was called the Gift Shop, so it’s just a weird way to brand this project. It felt like a home for Peace & Quiet to live in. And it was just a cool name.
MW: Yeah that’s tough though, obviously things are going to slip through the cracks in that transition period.
CL: Oh, for sure. It’s all good though. This brand wasn’t ever meant to be taken too seriously. It’s not some high-fashion, wellness-based, amazing lookbooks, sort of thing. I’ll go for a walk with Ashley and she’ll wear a sample and I’ll snap a shot while we’re out. That’s it.
MW: That’s kind of the beauty of it. You guys went to Palm Springs to take some of the photos, and they looked so good. It’s natural, which is what you guys printed on one of your crewnecks. And it’s so cool to see your background and Ashley’s background, and see the melting pot it’s formed. It’s been incredibly well received by a lot of people in different fields.
CL: Yeah, we’re going to grow it for sure. We are planning on some wholesale stuff, and trying to get into some good stores, but at the same time it’s very organic. The most organic thing I’ve done to date.
MW: Does working with your fiance feel like working with other partners, or is it different?
CL: Haha. It’s easier and harder at the same time. There’s a lot of compromise. Sometimes I’ll get something by that she says yes to, and sometimes she’ll tell me to switch it and I’ll agree.
CL: I would say overall it’s the same though, we’re just together every day, every night. It definitely feels like more of a hobby. My hobbies are working. Working on new projects or ideas.
MW: So if your hobbies are working, how do you relax? What do you do to unwind?
CL: It’s funny. To be honest, I don’t feel like I ever have to go to work. So in that sense, there is no unwinding. I’ll start my day unwound, it’s great. And I’ll get really busy, and I have anxieties and stress, and stuff like that, but I can come home and sit down and put my phone away and that’s all it takes. For me, going out and getting a good meal, taking a walk. Yesterday we went out and bought a new chair, stuff like that is exciting for me.
MW: Haha. You sound like an old man.
CL: For sure. Exactly. Ashley always reminds me that I’m on some Dad shit. Like yeah, pretty much.
MW: Are there any clothing brands you’ve been excited about recently?
CL: For me, my favorite brands are not your traditional clothing brands. I heard my friends fiance call it “Luxury Merch”, like an employee shirt from Jon & Vinnys, or a Chateau Marmont pen. Like Sqirl, that breakfast spot, that’s a brand to me. Whether they drop a shirt that says ‘A Contemporary Breakfast’, you know. Or like The Cactus Store in Echo Park. Their shirts are some of my favorites. And they know what they’re doing. They’re using the right blanks, and it’s treated correctly.
MW: Somebody behind the scenes is pulling the strings.
CL: Yeah 100%. Exactly.
MW: And I feel the same way when Sqirl worked with Sam Jayne on a shirt. These are like two of my favorite things coming together and it feels so right. And Sqirl has like no obligation to be making fire apparel, but here they are.
CL: And it just shows what worlds these people are in, and how much they care. It circles back to being unified in taste.