A Conversation With U.S. Alteration’s Miggy Gala
There aren’t many labels out there now that are showcasing such a defining concept as U.S. Alteration. Having known Miggy for a while now, I decided to sit down with one half of the label and there is no surprise the label is doing so well with a unique vision with a hands on approach the defining element of this independent label from LA.
JAMES OLIVER / Can you talk about your childhood and how it shaped your interest in street culture?
MIGGY GALA / I grew up in Mexico City, in the hood. When I was really young, I used to take the metro all around the city. Every day I would go to different neighborhoods and meet people from different areas and social positions which was a really eye-opening experience. I was always more attracted to underground culture like skateboarding, graffiti, and punk & hardcore music. From the start, clothing, music, and art was always the way to learn about and communicate with the world. Sneakers were also very important in my hood when I was a kid. One of the most interesting things about Mexico City is the contrast of the different people there—from the indigenous people to all the tourists—which was very influential to me. I was always attracted to how everyone rocked their clothing and the various personal styles and I always picked up on the differences between them.
Later, I moved to New Orleans for nine years where my Dad—who started Preservation hall—was one of the founding fathers of the original art & jazz scene. Then I moved back to Mexico City to go to college. When I got back, I started my first store and skate park there and lived in the Condesa which is like the SoHo of Mexico now. My shop was one of the first of its kind and very influential in its time.
Eleven years ago I moved to Los Angeles to start my first store on Melrose, Blue Demon—which was more like what we’re doing with US Alteration now—before founding my previous brand, Barracuda, which was more of a streetwear line.
JAMES OLIVER / What is it about skating that interests you?
MIGGY GALA / I love skateboarding. It was everything to me as a kid and it shaped my entire outlook on life from an early age. Trying over and over to land a trick tought me persistence and, especially when I was coming up skating in the ’80s & ’90s, skating was much more rebellious and not totally mainstream yet. It was like punk music as a sport and I totally related to that. The whole lifestyle of the music and the sport and the fashion was just incredible. The style of skaters like Christian Hosoi and guys like Shawn Stussy had a huge impact on me and totally shaped my style in a way that still resonates today.
Barracuda played such a big role in LA. Can you talk about the concept and how it was different to everything else around?
MIGGY GALA / When I opened Barracuda, I had just come from Mexico City and started a small store & line called Blue Demon which was a little more like what I’m doing with US Alteration now but on a much smaller scale. But at the time, I was really influenced by the streetwear and art scene that was happening in places like Japan and London and so I started Barracuda as a brand to embody an LA perspective on that. I’ve always been very in touch with fashion & streetwear internationally, so as a store we were one of the first here to sell brands like Bape, Maharishi, and Medicom, and show art by people like Futura and Banksy. The shop was incredibly successful from the start and was always like a clubhouse where all the heads gathered. When I got a chance to open a bigger space in 2006 I jumped at it because, in addition to being able to host big events and art shows in there, it came with an amazing billboard wall facing Melrose that allowed us to run an ongoing public art project with constantly changing murals by friends like Neck Face, Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Todd James, and JR.
JAMES OLIVER / Moving forward, what was the catalyst for the shift and move away from Barracuda?
MIGGY GALA / Barracuda was a passion project that was very close to my heart and was very popular in LA. At some point, though, I just hit a wall as a designer and an artist where my personal inspiration was pushing me in a new direction. Eventually, I couldn’t help feeling like, as great and successful as it was, it was time to close the chapter on Barracuda and move on to a line that was more reflective of where current head space and inspiration as a designer. So, in 2011 I closed the Barracuda space and launched US Alteration with my partner Candie Weitz.
JAMES OLIVER / What’s the idea behind US Alteration?
MIGGY GALA / US Alteration was founded as a way to embody my most important influences as a designer which have always been military, streetwear, vintage Americana & workwear, indigenous and tribal arts, and high fashion. Also, I’ve always been a huge fan of handmade clothing and tailoring. My partner Candie’s sensibility is a juxtaposition of luxury, couture, and vintage that fits in well with our overall direction. Coming up in Mexico City, I saw all of these elements on a daily basis and in US Alteration, we’ve found a way to combine all or many of these elements at once in a way that feels new and modern.
JAMES OLIVER / Where do you source inspiration for the label?
MIGGY GALA / I’m always looking at classic military and athletic gear, Mexican and indigenous tribal art, the art world and couture, and what’s going on in Japan in Europe in general as constant sources of inspiration in everything I do. I travel a lot and spend a lot of time at flea markets, vintage military surplus warehouses and the museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Candie collects new and vintage couture and spends a lot of time traveling to attend the runway shows in Europe to stay connected with that scene.
JAMES OLIVER / Can you talk about the new US Alteration space you’re opening in the Fall?
MIGGY GALA / Moving from what I was doing with Barracuda on Melrose in Hollywood into where I’m going with US Alteration put me in a completely different headspace in terms of who we are as brand and our cultural POV. When we started looking for a new space to embody that, we kept feeling drawn to Beverly Hills out of a sense of nostalgia for what it used to symbolize in terms of classic Hollywood glamor, and wanting to modernize that and put a new spin on it with what we’re doing with USAlt. We took out an incredible, classic corner space on Wilshire near Robertson last year and have been busy renovating it from the ground up with my partner Candie taking the lead. When we’re finished this Fall, the store will be a total reflection of the new brand and, like Barracuda, will be a constantly changing space where we can host art openings and fashion shows for our circle of friends.
JAMES OLIVER / How does your lifestyle in LA influence the brand and the retail space?
MIGGY GALA / I feel the way about LA that New Yorkers feel about NYC. Candie is a native and totally influenced by LA as well. I’m truly at home here and inspired by the city every single day in whatever I’m out doing. I think that LA vibe shows in everything we do and the fact that our production is 100% based in Los Angeles plays a big part in that. Being a center of the garment trade, we’ve been able to find world class cut-and-sew production locally and everything we make is created by hand in our facility downtown, which is a source of inspiration unto itself. I spend as much time there as possible with the craftspeople and all that heavy old machinery and the endless bolts of fabric and materials. I’m never more inspired than when I’m in our LA workshop.
JAMES OLIVER / What direction do you want to take US Alteration? What do you have planned for the label?
MIGGY GALA / We’re going to continue with the major themes of military, Americana, and workwear as the core inspiration for our basics and the details and color palette will evolve each season to reflect our current inspiration. We’ve also got some great collaborations coming up that we’ve very proud of.
JAMES OLIVER / Finally, words to live by?
MIGGY GALA / I live by actions, not words…
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