PARA TODOS MEANS FOR ALL IN SPANISH. PARATODO IS THE PHILADELPHIA-BASED BRAND MAKING CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES FOR ALL OF HUMANITY, AND OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS, WITH A PHILANTHROPIC BUSINESS MODEL THAT GIVES BACK TO WORTHY AND IMPORTANT CAUSES SO THAT THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE FOR ALL OF US(THEY DONATE 25% OF PROFITS TO CHARITY). IT DOESN’T TAKE A LONG TIME BROWSING THROUGH THE PARATODO WEBSITE OR THROUGH THE RACK OF CLOTHES IN THEIR DESIGN STUDIO TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE BRAND ISN’T ABOUT TRENDS OR FLASHY GRAPHICS. IT’S CLEAR FROM THE JUMP THAT PARATODO IS ABOUT MAKING PRODUCTS THAT LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD, LAST LONG, AND HELP US TO CONNECT MORE MEANINGFULLY WITH THE WORLD AROUND US. THE COLORS OF THE GARMENTS AND ACCESSORIES HARKEN TO THE INTERSECTION OF THE URBAN WORLD AND GREAT-OUTDOORS, A SPACE THAT FOUNDERS SAEED FERGUSON AND FRAN YOUNG LIVE IN EVERY DAY. THE FABRICS SERVE AS A REMINDER THAT QUALITY DOESN’T IMPLY STICKER-SHOCK AND THAT, YES, A SIMPLE PULLOVER HOODIE CAN BE THAT NICE. EVEN PAST THE CLOTHES AND THE BUSINESS MODEL, IT IS CLEAR THAT EVERY ASPECT OF THE BRAND’S PRESENTATION AND CONCEPT HAS BEEN WELL THOUGHT OUT AND CRAFTED WITH CARE AND PASSION. THE LOOKBOOKS AND EVEN THE COPY ON THE WEBSITE IS BEAUTIFULLY LAID OUT AND CONSIDERED. WITH SUCH GREAT PRAISE ABLE TO BE SUNG ABOUT A BRAND SO YOUNG, WE SAT DOWN WITH SAEED AND FRAN TO TALK ABOUT THE DRIVE BEHIND THE BRAND, THEIR CREATIVE PROCESS, AND THE BUSINESS ASPECTS OF RUNNING A CLOTHING COMPANY.
How did you come upon the idea to create a brand like Paratodo?
Fran: So it was my last year of college and I was kind of like any other student. I was just going through a fucking crisis. I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to do anything with my major. My major was Criminal Justice and Spanish. So, I really didn’t want to do anything with that and I didn’t know what to do so when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica I was meeting with a bunch of new people and they were kind of going against the grain doing their own thing. Like, they really didn’t care about the security within a 9-5 job or anything like that, they just wanted to do their own thing. I kind of took that influence I was like, ‘you know what, let me try to figure out what I want to do. What am I passionate about?’ So, I was always passionate about clothing and fashion and stuff like that, but I always felt like it was like a little vice of mine. I don’t know, I felt like it was kind of greedy in a sense. Like I’m only buying this jacket, I’m only buying this hat for myself to look good or whatever the case may be and nobody else is benefiting from this and I still kind of wanted to be able to help people out and stuff like that. So I wanted to combine the two. I just didn’t really know how to. That’s where I started seeking a sort of guidance in a sense. That’s kind of where we started to form this partnership.
Paratodo's palette and style consists of pretty earthy tones, classic cuts, not necessarily full-on streetwear or menswear. How did you come upon this style of clothes for the brand?
Saeed: Right. Yeah, yeah. I guess it comes from like a lot of things we want to wear. Because we came from streetwear, but we like still want to like mess with [other types of] brands. It’s kind of interesting if you fuse the two together to see like what can happen. Usually the colors... we like to use different colors just, like, when we wear stuff usually. We just want to make sure the collections have different colors and it’s playful and not just like black and white. We want it to be something that is us.
F: Yeah, I mean especially like when it came to like us designing the jackets, the big influence there was nature and that’s the olive and navy colored jacket. I don’t know, we both have passions for hiking and stuff like that. I mean we like the outdoors but we’re both city cats too so it’s just... we like the idea of brick and mortar and kind of concrete and brick towns, so we wanted to make the slate blue and brick colored collared jackets. So yeah that was kind of the influence for that too, we really wanted to blend those two ideas together.
Can you explain how your prior background in fashion influences your work now? Explain the differences between working retail and running your own brand.
S: Of course, I come from working at Abakus and then from that to P’s & Q’s. At both shops we always tried to work on starting our own in-house brands, so that was always a process and we got to be hands on in that. I was very fortunate to have experts [around], so pretty much we took all that knowledge and that experience and kind of just went from that to this, but that still wasn’t enough. You still have to find different manufacturers, you still have to find different screen printers and all that stuff. That’s probably the hardest part, finding the proper manufacturing, the proper sourcing. You still have to get fabrics, right? You want to find decent places to get fabrics. Like you don’t want the same fabrics as another place, you want to switch it up and all that stuff so it’s always researching and just going out. We spent, like, days in New York just finding different fabrics, different manufacturers. It just takes us going out there and doing it.
What are you looking for in terms of fabric selection? Do you making designs first and pick fabrics, or is it the other way around? How does that process work for you?
S: We usually decide on, like, an idea or a concept. For this past collection’s concept, it was more of a city meets outdoors so we just used like certain colors for that. Like the brick for the city and the olive and the navy kind of represented outdoors. It kind of comes with the concept first and then we do the designs and then we’re just like alright what fabrics do we need to work with for these designs.
F: That’s pretty much it, yeah. I mean unless there are the rare occasions like where we went fabric shopping and we found a fabric that we loved and then a million and one ideas come to mind for it so we just grab that fabric, you know what I mean, and we end up brainstorming. So I think we end up coming up with designs for that you know what I mean. Sometimes it’s both. Like how Saeed said, it’s mostly just, like, we plan it out first and then we shop for fabric. Sometimes the fabric pops out and it can really influence the design and it can really start a whole new creation. I don’t know, we like to take that inspiration too.
What brands influence your designs?
S: I mean being at P’s & Q’s you get to see a lot of stuff. I’d say some of our favorite brands that we wear personally and like really respect are probably the Hill-Side and Norse Projects. I think those guys pay great attention to detail. The fabrics are always really great. The ideas they produce are always really nice. Their lookbooks... I mean everything they do is on point, like, from the websites to the fucking clothes themselves.
F: And it’s still new. We know what to expect from these brands but that doesn’t mean we’re not surprised at the designs and stuff. And that’s kind of how we want to be too. Like, we want people to be able to be like, ‘Oh Paratodo they produce great quality stuff like they come up with awesome designs and stuff’, but they’re not like, ‘Oh we know what to expect, I know what’s coming blah blah blah’. We want people to still be awed by it, you know what I mean, we still want to keep that attention.
How did you come up with your charitable business model?
F: Okay, so when like I said earlier like when I came back from Costa Rica I was still kind of out on the whole idea of what to do. I honestly read Blake Mycoskie’s book, he’s the dude who created Toms, and it’s called Start Something That Matters and I kind of just ran with the idea. I didn’t just want to create clothes to give away clothes you know what I mean? There’s so many other things out there that people need and so many different issues that need to be addressed and you can’t just solve it with single solutions. So I figured, I wanted to work with different charities that had to do that. So that’s when me and Saeed started talking about like, ‘Okay well each different season we’ll work with a different charity and then that way it’s a brand new story and we’re able to raise as much awareness as possible and we’re able to raise as many funds as possible as we can for like these organizations and these issues.’
Where does the name ‘Paratodo’ come from?
F: Like I said, I was a Criminal Justice and Spanish major in college. Spanish is something that I always wanted to learn, something that I was really passionate about. I finally took the opportunity in college to explore it and learn it and understand it. Only thing was, like, after deciding to not do anything with criminal justice, I didn’t want to be a translator or anything but I still wanted to apply it to something in my life, something meaningful. So I [thought], ‘you know what let me just call it something in Spanish.’ Then I think there was at least, like, 20 different names and I finally figured paratodos but then I figured paratodos kind of sounds weird because it sounds like shoes, it sounds like more than one. So I figured para todo. I grew up around a lot of Puerto Ricans, like my friends and stuff, and they would tend to drop the s when they spoke.
Can you describe the process of collaborating with a partner on the brand?
S: I think we each definitely have our strong suits and, like, I feel like Fran does a lot of the production. He works with the manufacturers, he’s very hands on. He does a lot of the design work and I’m on the other end doing marketing and all that stuff. And, like, with those two we can work together and get a lot done easily. Yeah for some reason, I don’t know, it just works out really well.
F: Yeah I think we just really lucked up, you know what I mean? Not that there isn’t gonna be and there isn’t any crossover. Like, there are times where Saeed will fix some of my designs, he’ll help me out with editing and design and stuff like that. And then there are times where I’ll introduce ideas to Saeed that we can use for marketing. So it’s a little bit of both as long as we aren’t treading on each other’s boundaries and stuff like that. As long as we’re not trying to take the reins from the other person.
Can you speak to what being in Philadelphia has given to you, what has this environment been like for the growth and development of the brand?
S: I guess, just because we’re from Philly, it kind of justs works out for us. Like we are both from northeast Philadelphia and we know what the city is about. It’s nice to not have a city that’s known for fashion and stuff but to actually create that [here]. I think it’s really important to not go to New York, to not go to LA, to stay where you’re at and make that the best place possible for what you’re doing.
F: Especially since, like, now with Philly it’s kind of going through a bit of like a revolution anyway, in terms of the art scene. The culture is changing a little bit, whether it’s for better or worse. It’s introducing new people into new things and things that are already going on in the city and I think it works out to our benefit.
How is it managing all these different aspects of a brand with just two people?
S: It is challenging, the first collection alone was challenging. But you get to learn so much from that, you get to learn how to make the process better. It takes a lot of time. You have to be very detailed and you have to work really quickly and make sure everything is on point, but yeah it’s hard, it’s not easy. But it just takes a lot of communication. We have to make sure we’re communicating and make sure everything gets done. So yeah the key part to getting a lot of that stuff done with so many elements is communication.
So how important is having the right environment and vibes for doing a certain kind of work? Is that important for designing and creating?
S: Umm, I think so. I try to stay motivated no matter what space I’m in but I feel like this space does definitely influence it. This kind of light, there's greens and all that stuff around here. I think it’s just very appealing and very attractive. But it doesn’t necessarily influence how we design, I think the designs come from ideas and stuff like that. Like we can pretty much work in most environments I think.
F: Yeah I mean, I think that’s the same for me. Like, when it comes to designing and stuff I already have an idea before I sit down and do it. So it’s like my creative space. I feel comfortable in it and I think that’s the most important part, that I’m comfortable when designing. But yeah I feel like my ideas and stuff are already coming into mind beforehand. The space... I mean yeah it matters I don’t want to be in a cramped up desk or something like that, I don’t want to be restricted in any way. Like I don’t want it to be sweltering hot or anything like that in my room, but I feel like as long as I’m comfortable I can get my designs out and it works.
Your first collection has been received pretty well. You’re always thinking about the next thing, but you also have to think big time but make sure the stuff you’re doing now doesn’t slip. How do you balance that?
S: Right. We’re kind of going through that right now because we have a winter collection coming up, we have a spring coming after that, but we still have this collection we have to worry about. Yeah, I don’t know, I guess it’s just a balance. You know, with most things you have to spend a certain amount of time designing this collection, making sure you got the right fabrics, screen printers, and manufacturers for the upcoming collection. You have to make sure that’s running. Once you get that, you start worrying about marketing for this collection and stuff like that.
F: Yeah, I mean it’s all about prioritizing and time management I guess. Like Saeed was saying, we have three collections we’re working on right now and that’s including our current collection, our winter collection, and our spring collection. It is hard revolving around all three because you want all three of them to get the attention they need in order to work. I think that we’re doing a pretty good job, we do obviously want to elevate though. We’re definitely expanding, we’re trying to expand on our idea a little bit farther.
Does this feel more like a passion project or work?
F: I’d say it’s passion. It’s not, like... especially from my end. It’s definitely not like where I sit down and design and I’m like, ‘Aw fuck, I have to come up with something or an idea blah blah blah.’ It’s more like, “Damn I get the opportunity to put my idea into a t-shirt or into a jacket or whatever.’ I think it’s more passion. There are times where you get writer’s block in a sense and you do get frustrated. But, it’s more of… it’s not frustration in the sense that you have to do it, it’s more like you haven’t like gotten your idea finalized yet.
S: Yeah, I feel the same way. I look forward to doing this stuff. Like there’s never like a time where I’m like, ‘Fuck I got to take this picture or I have to talk to this person.’ It’s like, ‘Hell yeah, I get to take this picture! I get to go wherever and take this shot of this awesome group of people.’
What are your favorite parts of working with the brand?
F: Well, I know for me personally it’s when we finally have the product lined up. When you get to see all the hard work that we've been putting it in, [manifest] in a physical form. Like, seeing all your ideas enacted is an awesome feeling. Like, I don’t know how to describe that.
S: Yeah, it just like starts as an idea in your head, right, and now it’s real and everybody can see it and wear it too. It’s a pretty cool feeling. Yeah, that’s probably my favorite part too, for sure.
F: Like, it’s our form of expression I guess in a sense. Like we get to express other forms of like our passions other than just designing clothes. It’s our creative outlet in a sense and it’s awesome because we get to give back to other people through this outlet so and that’s probably the coolest part for me at least. Thinking about, yeah I get to design and stuff, I get to draw. Something that I always wanted to do and I just never really had the outlet to do it and now I do. It’s cool, definitely cool.
Do you guys wear your own stuff?
F: All the time. [Laughs]
S: Yeah all the time. Like, a lot.
F: I think I wear a piece every day, and not because I’m trying to promote it or whatever. Like I believe in it and we both believe in it. If I didn’t want to wear it that means we’re doing something fucking wrong.
Advice for the kids?
F: My advice may be different from Saeed’s advice, but it’s definitely that you have to really throw ambition into it. You really have to understand that you’re taking a huge risk here, you really are. Most brands aren’t going to stay afloat and you have to understand that. Once you get that grip and you feel like you still want to do this, then go for it, but you have to put your all into it. Like, we both made huge sacrifices to make this work whether that’s financial sacrifice or personal sacrifice. You have to be willing to put that on the table, and that kind of separates, like, the truly passionate ones from the fake ones in a sense.
S: Right, right. Yeah, I was pretty much going to say the same thing. I mean there’s a lot of risks you have to take, a lot of sacrifices you have to make and if you’re willing to do that and go through that… I mean sacrifices can be anything from not sleeping too much, not eating the right food or anything. Like, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to hurt. But, if you can do that, if you can go through that, then you’re made for it.