The Premier League is largely comprised of immigrants, players and managers who have come to the league in pursuit of success, both monetary and football related. As a 2nd generation immigrant myself I know what it takes to move to a completely foreign country in order to build a new life from scratch. My father moved from Kosovo to London in the early Nineties and since then I have seen him work relentlessly to build a future for me and my sister. While footballers are rich and have a head start in that sense, they often experience other barriers such as cultural and language related difficulties- similar to the challenges faced by my dad.
Today we celebrate the career of one particular immigrant who has risen to the top of the football/fashion world. Born in Guatemala City, Guillermo Andrade moved to the US at the age of 8 where he grasped the full spectrum of opportunities available to him. However not before being held for ransom in Mexico City for a month, while his aunt and brother were deported back to Guatemala. It was in the US that the future designer shaped his taste in fashion and music that would later inform and inspire his work. Already viewed as an outsider by fellow class mates, Guillermo recalls receiving weird looks thrown his way for wearing brands such as Ecko (his class mates tended to wear more surf related brands). However, he was not dissuaded and is a staunch believer in looking good no matter how little money you have. It is a mantra he has stuck by to this day, with the pieces he designs being accessible and affordable to all.
Immigrants often start life at the back of the queue. It contributes to their drive and ambition, which see many become self made successes. This is the case for Guillermo Andrade who came to the US with nothing and has made a name for himself within fashion circles across the world. The designer is the epitome of a hard working immigrant who with no formal fashion training was able to create a label through sheer hard work and passion. His clothes make wearers feel special and help them stand out in a saturated street wear community. Andrade’s career started with him creating DIY pieces by buying Paul Smith suits and pinning them together to create unique items of clothing. He has carried this innovation through into his work with 424, collaborating with various labels and driving change within the industry. The concept store on Fairfax in LA was opened as a place to sell his own items as well as promote the work of other labels such as Paisa Boys, which dropped a t-shirt collection through 424. It was a fitting partnership, with Paisa Boys being rooted in immigrant culture, with the goal of representing the Chicano movement and Mexican culture as a whole.
While Andrade has been on the radar of connoisseurs for a while thanks to collaborations with the likes of Wiz Khalifa, John Elliot and Born x Raised; Andrade’s crowning moment has come with the announcement of a partnership between 424 and Arsenal. The project was made possible thanks to Andrade’s friendship with Hector Bellerin who is known for having his finger on the pulse when it comes to style. In a recent video entitled: ‘424 x Arsenal. A short-film into the journey’, we get a look into the creative process that saw the production of a collection of suits to be worn by Arsenal players pre and post match. The suits were created with the aim of increasing the sense of prestige off the pitch for the north London club.
What stands out from the video is Andrade’s humility and appreciation for the opportunities that have come his way. He has been shaped by the challenges he has faced which have enabled him to remain grounded and hard working throughout a 10 year career. Speaking to the camera Andrade mentions: “Where I’m from, football gave you a dream and it gave you something to look up to. So, football gave me the opportunity to have my first dream. I didn’t know I would go on a journey to where I am today from where I was born, nobody does.” We know that many footballers have come from poverty and the sport provides an escape from troubles at home, however Guillermo Andrade was able to harness the power of the sport and used it as a creative outlet for his own journey in fashion.
There are myriad success stories out there. Many immigrants have had to start a new life at the ‘back of the queue’ but have risen to the top through strong will and determination. Guillermo Andrade is without a doubt one of these people. His journey serves as an inspiration to creatives out there, allowing them to dream of the impossible. It is therefore perhaps fitting that towards the end of the video, Andrade turns to the camera and says: “you don’t need all of this to do something cool. You don’t need a co-sign from a massive company, you just have to be genuine, you just have to be real”.