The topic of the early 2010s #menswear moment comes up fairly frequently with this column. My next subject, Nicolas Lazaro, is one of my oldest internet friends, and an integral part of said moment. I came to know him through his blog, The Bengal Stripe, where I thought he displayed an incredible taste level and vibe. In a way, the blog, and Nico’s online tone, were a bit different from who I found Nico to truly be.
He’s very soft-spoken, but careful, and caring; one might call him shy. That hasn’t changed about Nico, but neither has his sense of personal style. He’s always been adept with blending differing aesthetics and brands, straddling the line between familiar and unexpected. To feature Nico for this series was a no-brainer.
Nico and I sat down to discuss his rise from intern to manager, Grailed as platform for the fashion-conscious of all levels, buying vintage and deadstock, style in L.A., where to find good menswear content, and plenty more.
We’ve known each other for almost a decade, and it’s been really cool to see your style evolve. How did you first get into fashion, and were there people who helped you along in your journey?
I got into fashion the way most other people did—through having idols and role models that informed my journey. I didn’t have any formal training but I went through the gauntlet of Tumblr blogging and ended up in a community that empowered me to seek out opportunities within the industry. I’m not sure I would have had any of these opportunities without the friends I made through blogging and I’m tremendously grateful for everyone who believed in me enough to advocate on my behalf. I think it’s true for everyone’s journey that it really “takes a village.” The important thing I’ve found is just not to force it and let things develop naturally.
You’re working at Grailed, and you’ve been there, basically, from its inception. What was your career journey like before Grailed, and why has it become your longest-tenured job? What makes Grailed, as a platform, special?
Throughout my career, I’ve always been willing to do just about anything the job requires, and that has manifested itself as freelance writing jobs for stores I admired, retail sales for a small boutique, an unpaid internship for a PR agency, and finally, a full-time gig assisting an (at the time) up-and-coming menswear brand. I’ve sort of found my calling being behind the scenes doing the necessary work to make everything run smoothly. Grailed was the first place to make me feel valued and respected in the workplace, and I think in turn that’s increased the amount of value and output I’ve been able to provide. For me, Grailed has always been a platform that uplifts the community around it and increases the accessibility of designer fashion for the masses. Not everyone has access to high-end boutiques near them, and websites often offer a suboptimal shopping experience. On Grailed, you’re able to interact with savvy sellers who are actual, albeit imperfect, human beings who know their product in and out and can answer any questions you might have. Grailed has also done a great job of fostering a new generation of fashion-conscious individuals and I’m excited to see the journeys the user base will take from here.
You’re pretty conscious about the environment. What are you doing to do your part in impacting the earth for the better? What do you think is missing in men’s fashion at the moment?
I think the most important and impactful thing anyone can do in fashion and daily life these days is voting with their dollars. Whatever you believe in, you have to take a holistic approach to it or else it’s basically moot. In fashion, at the moment there’s a lack of a true and unique expression of values. What deeper message are you trying to get across besides this looks good? I say unique expression because there’s such a glut of clothing out there that I want to see things that haven’t been done before. Anything else I’m better off buying secondhand.
Do you have any favorite current brands? Do you have any specific criteria you look for when shopping for a new piece?
The only new clothing I have at the moment is from Industry of All Nations and our friend Avery’s brand Ground Cover. What I like about both is that they’re hyper-focused on sustainability in an honest and transparent way and you can tell from the product they release that they’re both knowledgeable about how clothing should fit and function. I buy new basics as well, but I’ll still go with Hanes, Uniqlo, or Muji if I can’t find deadstock vintage. Most everything else I own is vintage or second-hand.
You moved to L.A. fairly recently. What makes it differ from New York, and do you see any differences in how people approach style out West?
In terms of fashion, people have a lot of misconceptions about L.A., but just like NY and anywhere else in the world, you have to find your tribe. I’ve been able to make friends here who are a lot less regimented about the things they wear and as a result their personal style flourishes.
What sort of advice do you have for someone who’s currently bored by the fashion landscape? And, perhaps, also give advice to someone who is ready to downsize their closet and reset how they purchase clothing.
If you’re bored, then you’re boring! You have to seek things out and you’ll find there’s plenty to uncover; I find a lot of new brands through social media and just talking with friends. If you can’t find something, that’s probably a sign that you should make it!
I have this motto that most of my friends have heard which is, “You have to know the rules to break them.” The same sentiment has been attributed to a few different people I find inspirational, including Picasso and the Dalai Lama. In this context, it basically just means I had to go through the wringer of learning the rules of just about every facet of menswear that interested me in order to find my style. If you’re at where I’m at, the next step is downsizing, and that involves getting rid of everything that no longer resonates with you. If you’re not sure, do some more reflecting and come back to it later. How often do you wear it? What do you like about it? Is there something you might like better? For me getting rid of clothing is a great excuse to buy more, but I always try to buy less but buy better.
The days of menswear blogging are long gone, and I think it’s a bit difficult to find the sort of content we came to love, which is why I started this series in the first place. Where do you go for good men’s content, and style inspiration?
It’s sad. I can’t honestly say there are many places that are consistently putting out good homegrown content anymore. I started listening to a lot of podcasts during quarantine and Jeremy Kirkland’s Blamo was the best Patreon investment I’ve made. Not only is he the most thoughtful and knowledgeable podcast host I know, but the Slack group has a reinvigorated sense of community that, if I had more patience, I’d probably be going to StyleForum for. I also think the lads at Put This On not only do their research, but have found ways to make new content that is engaging and actually enjoyable to read. As for style inspiration, it’s all around you, and probably even within, if you take the time to seek it out.
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