FN is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. Observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the occasion recognizes the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. FN invites you to follow along as we shine a light on Hispanic-American shoe designers and entrepreneurs making big waves in the fashion industry.
In less than a decade, Guillermo Andrade has grown to become an undeniable force in fashion, delivering eye-catching apparel and footwear ranges through the 424 imprint he cofounded.
However, it’s his ability to story-tell that is equally compelling.
Andrade, 36, emigrated from Guatemala to the United States when he was 9 years old, arriving through San Ysidro, a district in San Diego near the Mexico border.
Much of his time during his formative years were consumed by soccer, eventually landing on a select team in Los Angeles, the Central Marin Jaguars, from the age of 12 to 19. Andrade would later become enamored with footwear, securing retail space in the Fairfax District of L.A. in 2010, where he would sell high-end jewelry to be placed on shoe eyelets dubbed Sneaker Crowns.
However, Andrade found his true calling in fashion in 2014, delivering a collection under his 424 imprint — a nod to his retail space at 424 N. Fairfax Ave. — which consisted of eight pieces. “That first collection was about being an undocumented immigrant. It was just subtle,” Andrade said.
When creating his debut range, Andrade, still without a green card, was unable to travel. The restrictions and inability to move about the world freely would inform the collection’s look.
“I took screenshots on Google Earth of all the places I wanted to go in the world, because at that time, when I started making clothes, I didn’t have a green card yet, so I couldn’t travel,” Andrade said. “I put a geotag of the exact places I wanted to go. It was a lithograph appliqué and looked like they were randomly placed on every garment. I told myself I would go to all those places.”
Not long after his first collection arrived, Andrade got his green card.
Previously, the designer only showed his collection in Las Vegas at Slate and Magic. Although his aspirations were worldly, being stateside proved beneficial. In Las Vegas, Andrade secured his first-ever account in luxury retailer Harvey Nichols, showing the collection to buyers from his hotel room.
However, with the ability to move around the world, Andrade almost immediately became a jetsetter. He traveled to Copenhagen, revealing his work at the Siff trade show, and also made his way to Paris, appearing at Project with several similar brands, in a sectioned-off corner called Neu America.
And Andrade’s rise in fashion was well-timed.
“At the time, L.A. was just a hotbed for brands. People were coming here to see what was popping. Our experience in L.A. was attractive and we were sharing it with people. There was a handful of us that just ran it up,” Andrade said, mentioning labels such as En Noir, Tisa, Fear of God and Wil Fry.
He continued, “Fashion was super ready to embrace us.”
But his journey hasn’t come without challenges.
At the age of 22, Andrade was detained by ICE and spent more than a month at the Santa Clara County Jail on a deportation warrant from when he was 12 years old that he didn’t know existed.
“Because I came into this country illegally, those things don’t just disappear because you stay out of trouble. It’s quite the opposite,” Andrade said. “There was an immigration case where parents applied and I got denied. My parents were absolutely mortified of sending me back to Guatemala, where who knows what would have happened to me. They did what a lot of scared parents do, which was they kept their heads down and hoped after some time it would go away — but it didn’t.”
He continued, “I was already moved out, I was at home, opened my door and there are ICE agents ready to arrest me. They put me in zip ties and threw me in a van. It felt like they were collecting undocumented people like it was a sport. It’s very disgusting.”
Andrade also recounted some of the compromising situations he found himself in when trying to make ends meet, performing manual labor only to be taken advantage of by those who hired him.
“I learned very fast that someone could actually say to another human being after doing a whole job, ‘I’m not going to pay you. What are you going to do? Call the cops? Get out of my house,'” Andrade said. “After we painted the whole f**king house on the inside, I learned that someone could actually live with themselves inside the home, finished and polished by people they never paid.”
Rather than dwell on the negative experiences, Andrade opted to use them as fuel for success. Having found his way, he hopes that sharing will encourage others with similar backgrounds to do the same.
“My story hits home for a lot of people because I share the same story with so many people in this country. Either you’re an immigrant or your parents were immigrants. I think that’s why I connect with so many Latin people specifically, and it’s almost like my calling to show them if I got here, you can too, for sure,” Andrade said. “There’s nothing absolutely special about me, I’m just very passionate about what I do and was given a chance to express myself. But I didn’t invent pants, you know what I’m saying?”
Beyond finding opportunity, he hopes his success and the wins of others like him will change a narrative that he believes is both toxic and misinformed.
“We’re not even close to scratching the surface of properly documenting and telling the story of the Latin experience. The labels and the identities that my parents were given, and by default I was given, don’t f**king apply to me,” Andrade said. “This is the time to change the way that we are perceived as a community. This is the time to share our stories and be proud of them.”
Armed with a desire to better represent himself, his family and the Latin community, Andrade continues to design with a more compelling and positive narrative in mind.
Aside from his creating own product, Andrade has teamed up with Adidas and Arsenal this year on a special performance collection, bringing his youthful soccer aspirations full circle.
Most recently with 424, the storytelling surrounding his family has come to life through footwear, including the captivating 424 Work Boot.
“For the past couple of years, my footwear was based on my dad’s work boots. I just gave them a contemporary point of view, a luxury perspective done in the nicest way possible in the spirit of honoring the work that my dad had to do so I could work on T-shirts and shoes,” Andrade said. “You know how many times I tried on my dad’s dirty boots after he got home from work? They looked so sick, but they were so floppy and loose. I couldn’t even lace them up, but I just wanted to have them on.”
The continued inspiration behind 424 staples isn’t lost on his father, also named Guillermo, who today is a house painter by trade.
“My dad doesn’t even know how to be more proud of me anymore. We have a really beautiful relationship,” Andrade said. “He wears 424 at work. He doesn’t break ‘fits for the ‘gram. He wears that s**t in real life. It’s my favorite way to see it — alive, in action.”