It’s not a brand your parents would approve of, and that’s why Lockwood51 is so popular among gay men and the larger queer community.
With the motto “Stay queer as fuck,” its T-shirts, hoodies, swimwear and accessories are in-your-face and plenty subversive. Now the shop, which has had an online presence for years, has big news: The very first brick-and-mortar Lockwood51 shop has opened its doors in Los Angeles.
Virgil Village, the neighborhood where Lockwood51 has opened up shop, is the perfect setting for the brand, just blocks away from the city’s leather bars, Faultline and The Eagle, and not far from Sunset Junction, an area where the gay community of Los Angeles first settled and carved out a home.
The shop is also close to The Black Cat, a queer bar where two and a half years before the Stonewall Riots, police staged a raid, beating and arresting gay patrons as they rang in the new year. A shirt bearing the Black Cat’s original logo is available in the Lockwood51 shop, along with shirts stamped with the logos of other gone-but-not-forgotten L.A. clubs.
The brand has a history of collaborating with local queer artists, both individuals like Big Dipper and Jeremy Lucido (of Starfucker magazine) and iconic outlets like the Tom of Finland Store and the guys of @lgbt_history.
Hornet recently sat down with the owner of Lockwood51 (who has always remained anonymous) to chat about this next big step in the life of his beloved shop.
HORNET: Tell me about what led you to start Lockwood51 back in 2014.
LOCKWOOD51: In 2013 I quit my corporate job and moved to L.A. to start doing freelance design work. I was making T-shirts for fun as an outlet to vent frustrations with my homophobic, evangelical upbringing and my negative experience in corporate America. I never want anyone to go through what I did — the shame I endured in both my personal and professional life.
It became clear the only positive outlet for those feelings was to create Lockwood51 and celebrate queer identity in a way I couldn’t before. I wanted to amplify queer voices and visibility in a field that felt stifling.
How do you describe the brand’s aesthetic and typical customer?
Our brand is unapologetically queer, and our customers are as well. The goal is to make streetwear that amplifies the LGBTQ community and lets the rest of the world know that we are everywhere. There are so many corporations that are trying to cater to a gay audience and tokenize the experience and point of view.
We are a queer company making apparel for our community. We want to stand as a wearable “fuck you” to all the bigots of the world.
Congrats on your opening of a brick-and-mortar shop! Was that always part of the plan?
I actually had no idea I would still be doing this five years after starting the company. The growth of Lockwood51 is solely based on the community engagement and the amount of love we get from the customer base.
As far as a master plan for Lockwood51, we are expanding in a truly natural and organic way — growing when we need to, collaborating with artists and people we respect and admire. I’m really grateful that we can continue to grow without a convoluted strategy or forced business plan. I use the word “we” because this is larger than just me. I couldn’t have done it without the support of amazing friends and talented artists I have been able to work with.
The store is located just blocks from where I was living when I developed the initial idea for Lockwood51, so this is really a full-circle moment for me.
I also understand that more than just a shop for your designs, the retail space will also feature in-store art installations and act as a meeting place for queer artists. Tell me about that.
Growing up as kid, I loitered in a skate shop, and that was a super formative experience for me. I want to create a space where young people can congregate and engage in culture and queer identity. Lockwood51 is not only a brand but a community of queer folks who can connect around shared experience and artistic aesthetic. The store will be a physical manifestation of that.
During the store’s launch party later this month, you’ll also be releasing the new Lockwood51 Spring/Summer 2019 designs. What can we expect?
The SS19 designs are a nod to Los Angeles’ queer legacy. I was never taught queer history, so I continue to incorporate it into the line. Some of the shirt and hat designs pay homage to historic queer businesses in L.A. or landmarks from queer uprisings in the city. I am also bringing back a limited edition of some people’s favorite designs. We will also be debuting some of our new boardshorts for summer.