You don’t expect to spot a reference to Oswald Chambers devotionals in the pages of Vogue—unless you happen to know the man the magazine calls “LA’s coolest” menswear designer, Jerry Lorenzo.
Considering the name of Lorenzo’s brand, Fear of God, or that the promotional video for his latest collection features the church favorite “How Great is Our God,” it’s clear that the 39-year-old doesn’t shy away from the Christian faith that inspires his work.
Without context, the Bible references on his apparel seem like lip service at best or ironic appropriation at worst. But the fervency and frequency of Lorenzo’s God-talk prove his faithfulness is more than a brand fad. You’d almost assume he was trying to evangelize through cheesy T-shirts if his style wasn’t so supernally hip.
“What makes Fear Of God cool is that it taps into the nostalgia guys from 50 years old to 18 years old have for the ’80s and ’90s,” explained GQ style writer Jake Woolf in an email. “He’s taking the touchstones of that era—stonewashed denim, plaid, slightly looser fits, awesome rock band tees—and setting them against a 2016 backdrop where streetwear, high-fashion, and ‘middle America’ all have collided.”
“The result is something that’s familiar enough to get customers in the door, but cool enough to be instantly recognizable in the streets,” Woolf said. This meeting of disparate elements is apparent in Lorenzo himself. He seems tough, with an armful of tattoos and bandana holding back tightly curled hair, but his slow, steady speech conveys more inner stillness than swagger.
So how did a dad with no formal fashion training who can’t shut up about Jesus become one of the hottest names in menswear? “If God’s given you a gift, you want to do whatever you can to honor him through that,” he said, “and I guess I have this gift about fashion.”
After years of working retail for high-end brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Diesel, Lorenzo became a manager for professional athletes. As he shopped for players, he realized that key garments he wanted—say, a short-sleeved hoodie for layering in hot Los Angeles weather—didn’t exist. Back in 2012, Lorenzo began visiting LA garment factories to learn how to put these pieces together himself. Six months later, he had enough for his first collection.
His design process involves pulling vintage pieces from an archive in Italy or thrift stores in LA, then working with a production manager to execute his vision for an updated version of the garment. “The essence of what I make is American classics with my spin on it,” Lorenzo said. “The goal is to modernize these pieces to make them say Fear of God 2016 and not 1984.”
Once Lorenzo started his fashion line, he knew he wanted it built on his faith.
“I started at a time when there was a lot of religious symbolism within fashion, much of it very dark,” he said. “I felt like the fashion world was open to a religious take. But I wanted to offer it and have the foundation be truth, not random symbolism for the sake of looking cool.”
The inspiration for the brand’s name, Fear of God, came from the classic devotional My Utmost For His Highest. “Growing up, God and Christianity had always seemed kinda light. I don’t wanna say they were corny, but if you grew up in church, you knew your church friends were never really as cool as the cool kids at school,” Lorenzo said. “But the devotional was talking about dark clouds surrounding the kingdom of God, and I saw the fear of God as reverence for this figure who was so layered and deep that he seems dark to us. For the first time, I saw God as this really cool character.”