step into the dojo with nick lenzini
By Cami Thomas
I had never actually met Nick Lenzini in person. In early August 2016, my photographer Richard and I visited the Swedlife store on Delmar Boulevard to check out the pop-up shop that Nick was throwing for his clothing brand. Much like my millennial counterparts, I'd only seen Nick on social media after stumbling across one account or another on Instagram and Twitter. In the flood of clothing brands accounts that bog down my social media timeline, Nick stood out the most. He had long, platinum blonde hair that stuck out in whatever direction it felt like. His Instagram feed featured rows of images starring himself, often with a nonchalant expression that lived somewhere between "I just woke up" and "who the hell stole my lighter?".
Most notable, was the name of his brand that could be seen plastered on the back of the skater t-shirts he wore. Stay Broke.
The name Stay Broke goes against the theme of our generation, which often calls us to stack paper high enough to reach the top of the mound of student loan debt that we've collectively accumulated. Millennials want, love, and crave money. We see our favorite singers and actors pose on the stairs of private jets, fearlessly leap off yachts into the Mediterranean Sea, and even live tweet their high-roller strip club adventures. We can't get enough of the smell of fresh printed cash and the thrill of spending it just as fast as we earned it. Our brands often support this habit and feed into the assumption that more money, still isn't enough money.
"I wanted it to mean something," Nick said of the name of his clothing line. "If you know, you know."
Nick's answers tended to be that way; short and to the point. He took us into the Swedlife store and showed us around, being sure to point out an area for people to play Grand Theft Auto while they were shopping. Next to the Grand Theft Auto station was a small rack of clothing that featured his latest Stay Broke collection.
Between snapping pictures and shopping, I was able to sit down and give Grand Theft Auto a shot. Nick's friends stared with their eyes wide and eyebrows raised, seeing if I would figuratively drop the mic and show them who the real GTA queen was. I had the controller for about three minutes before crashing the virtual truck and tumbling down a mountain. Needless to say, the controller was taken from me amidst sympathetic pats on the back.
A random video game station propped in the middle of a shopping area spoke volumes to the type of guy Nick was.
"I like being hyper and annoying" said Nick. "And I run two miles every morning when I wake up. That keeps me sane."
The rest of the store donned the familiar Swedlife gear that has graced the U-City Loop for five years. It was Swedlife that lead Nick to start his own clothing brand in the first place.
"I was raised in St. Louis and I hung out at Swedlife as much as I could when I was younger" said Nick. "They kind of taught me all about clothes. When you hangout with the people that inspire you the most you usually try and do something to show them that they inspire you, so eventually after time I created my brand because it felt like it was right and it was time."
The time for the Stay Broke takeover came at a period in which St. Louis was thirsty for something fresh and original. Nick's designs blow a breath of vintage air into a industry obsessed with being modern.
"I get inspired by a lot of shit" said Nick. "The greats inspire me obviously: Jason Dill, Tyler the Creator, Swedlife. I like how they go about it and try to figure out their mindsets."
Nick also likes to tap into the emotion and aura of those around him. "I get inspired by emotions easily" said Nick. "Like, if I see someone stressed or see someone sad about something that inspires me. I like to see people care."
The healthy crowd of people present for the Stay Broke pop-up shop proved that people are excited about what Nick has up his sleeves. The feedback for the brand has been mostly positive, though lessons of relationships and friendship were put to the test as his brand grew.
"I lost a lot of friends" said Nick. "I gained a lot too."
Those who have grown used to seeing Nick's wiry platinum blonde locks on Delmar Boulevard will need to cherish the few moments they have left with him in St. Louis. He's packing his bags full of Stay Broke gear and Red Bull, and relocating to Los Angeles. And while he's leaving the colorful walls of Swedlife, and a group of supportive friends, behind in the Show Me State, Nick is hard at work on his next collaboration and collection. The expedition to Los Angeles is sure to provide Nick with plenty of emotional inspiration for the next line of Stay Broke gear.
St. Louis fashionistas can keep up with Nick's Los Angeles shenanigans on Instagram, where he'll undoubtably grace his page with heaps of minimalist bathroom selfies and sneak peaks of clothing items to come. As with all great migrations, this one is bound to provide the young St. Louis native with plenty of fuel and knowledge to catapult his brand to the next level.
"Just learning" said Nick. "I have a big need of knowledge when I become dedicated to something."
One could ponder whether or not a "stay broke" approach will resonate with the glamorous tendencies of Los Angeles. Though the spirit of the brand (simplicity, minimalism, vintage, freshness, rejection of snobbish disposition) is guaranteed to capture the hearts of those who live by the same principles. Some won't quite get it. But those who do will have a chance to live as a part of Nick's Stay Broke vision.
After all, it's like what Nick said. "If you know, you know".
I wanted it to mean something," Nick said of the name of his clothing line. "If you know, you know."
"I get inspired by a lot of shit." - Nick