• Featured Brands: Rent Party

    Founded by Bianca Chandon co-founder Steven Kay and nightlife veteran Andrew Brown, Rent Party is a new line of graphic tees and hats that celebrates the unity and positivity of ‘90s rave culture. We stopped by the brand’s studio in Los Angeles to take a look behind the scenes. 
    Photos by Duy Nguyen

    Tell us about Rent Party. How did the brand get started? 
    Steven: Andy and I have been friends for a decade and we’ve always had an enzymatic relationship. A couple years ago he started kicking ideas to me about developing a brand based on his 90’s rave and club experiences. When I left Bianca, the timing seemed right to see what we could get going. 
    Where did the name Rent Party come from?
    S: The history of the “rent party” goes back to the jazz scene in Harlem in the 20’s, but the concept is somewhat timeless.
    Andrew: From knowing the history of Mancuso at the original Loft to the first scene in Party Girl where Mary gets arrested for throwing a rent party, it just kept coming up during our development.
    S: When we saw the term come up on a flyer while doing our initial research it just popped out at us like “yeah, that’s it.” The name was instantaneously unanimous. 

    The brand’s ethos is rooted in ‘90s rave culture. What is it about this era that appeals to you? 
    A: I lived it. From 16 on, it was a huge part of my life. I was a hip-hop guy but worked in a record store that only sold dance music. I hung out at Raves as a teenager, then house and gay clubs as a young adult. 
    S: We’re both in our mid 30’s and those were our salad days. Living through it: skateboarding, partying, finding first loves and all the other things that come with adolescence… that era sticks with anybody regardless of the decade in which it happens. 
    A: We all just hung out in the underground back then. As I’ve gotten older I started to understand how lucky I was to have been exposed to all the subtleties I was too young to appreciate. All the PLUR and SF hippie-raver vibes that seemed corny when i was an angry teenager are really rad now. 
    S: We’re fortunate that the timeframe in question coincides with what’s coming back around now stylistically. Hopefully we can do right by the era and still inspire young people who are looking back at it through their own filter.

    Do you have any all-time favorite rave promo graphics from that era? Where do you find your inspiration materials— the flyers and posters, etc? 
    A: My favorite is this Fever flyer I have from 95. I wasn’t able to go, but my boy went and said Wink killed it. He mixed into reggae from the Size Nine breakdown. It’s such an absurd flyer—says they’re giving away Wink Pogs—but it was a wild time.. and who doesn’t love “Higher State?” 

    S: The fact that it was just before the internet popped off is the defining factor to me. You didn’t have access to everything yet but the idea of referential art was reaching critical mass. It created this wildly varied visual language that somehow held together. That curated chaos is the message of the time. 
    From an apparel design perspective, what kinds of these ‘ 90s design elements transfer best to a t-shirt or other garment?  
    A: The best is the DIY stuff that people did. Everything went to shit when the computers started getting good. You look at some of the flyers from like ’99 and they’re just brutal. 
    S: Yeah from a graphic design perspective, the people that knew what they were doing always have always shone through. The ones that didn’t gave us this great chaotic hand-drawn stuff. Once amateurs got ahold of digital editing software they turned out some real duds. 

    As far as physical production, the era obviously lends itself to baggier clothing. When we were designing and size grading the bodies of the tees we intentionally made everything a bit bigger. We also cranked up the colors. We were restrained enough to make it work in 2017 but felt like we had the freedom to have some fun with it.

    What records does Rent Party keep on rotation at the studio? 
    A: When we were working on developing the brand it was classic American rave and house mixes: Scott Henry, Feelgood, Diesel Boy, DB, Terry Mullan, Derrick Carter… shit, even Icey, “Tricks” that’s a masterpiece. 
    Once we got a little further along we started working to a lot of Mastercuts comps. Yeah, they’re surface level, but they’re all killer no filler. As a teen the first Rare Groove one was huge for me. 
    S: First of all, our “studio” is my apartment. I’ve got my two little dogs running around causing chaos but somehow it’s the right environment for us. It works.

    I can’t work in silence so I always had to have something going in the background. 

    A lot of the time I would start with the Party Girl playlist we featured on the back of the Rent Party Girl t-shirt. As Andy said, I was playing a Mastercuts comp one day and he suggested another one and we just started letting those cycle.

    Rent Party harkens back to a kind of golden era in electronic music. Can subcultures like that survive today? 
    A: We’re nostalgic but we’re not a nostalgia brand. Everyone I talk to in New York has said that right now, it’s the best it’s been for dance music since the late 90’s. 
    Being 16 is not any less potent than it was 20 years ago. It’s everyone’s golden age. 
    S: Our beloved age of music was our parents’ nightmare. Every new wave of kids will find their own golden era There’s no way to stop people from falling in love w/ the songs that speak to them when everything means everything. 
    Who do you design for? 
    S: We aspire to make something so good that it doesn’t look like we made it. For this project we decided on certain parameters because it spoke to us and hopefully all the people who went through similar experiences. 
    A: Back in the day, the big clubs were places where different types of people would come together. Don’t get it twisted.. it wasn’t Utopia, but it worked, and was pretty incredible. We designed the line that way. There’s something for anybody that’s adventurous enough to come to our sketchy warehouse. 

    What’s next for Rent party? 
    A: We’re busy with the next collection and have a lot in the works and on on our dream list. More mixes, more gear. More good vibes. 
    S: We’d love to do more to tie our source material into the line while bringing in and inspiring new people. Maybe we can bring some of these old flyer artists we borrowed from out of retirement and work with the next generation at the same time. 

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