This story is from Issue 19 of Highsnobiety Magazine. You can buy it here.
Fruition is a Las Vegas boutique whose clientele includes everyone from Kim Jones to Kanye West. But according to co-founder Chris Julian, their real constituency is the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Chris Julian talks like a futurist. On the phone, his vocabulary and intonation are on par with a Silicon Valley visionary. Instead of a conventional interview, he responds to the talking points I sent him with prepared statements written with the rest of his team. It’s a demeanor that reflects Julian’s current home in Malibu, but also speaks to how Fruition sees itself — not as a store that specializes in repurposed and re-contextualized vintage clothing, but a forward-thinking education platform that doubles as an idea incubator.
Julian describes Fruition as “simply a case study of reimagining the education system in America,” as well as “the communication found in purchasing well-designed products.” He talks about retail in the way developers seeking venture capital would explain an app. “Being behind both the retail and the designer side of the counter, we are working on extremely complex strategies — logistical, cadences, et cetera — to fulfill all the new technologically imbued language of human service retention and the transfer of excellence found within the human approach which can lead to joy. This is where I identify the largest growth opportunity in the current state of retail.”
Founded by Julian and Samantha Alonso in 2005, Fruition has quietly built a reputation as one of Las Vegas’ best shopping destinations. And yet, it doesn’t specialize in carrying the latest designer gear, nor does it look to curate obscure vintage rarities like allover print Mosquitohead shirts from the ‘90s or rare rap tees. Instead, its wares vary from bootleg-inspired T-shirts featuring graphics inspired by JAY-Z’s Unplugged album and Louis Vuitton motifs to hand-dyed Carhartt chore jackets in an array of bright colors, made to order at a cost of $2,295.
Considering the jackets are vintage pieces from the 1960s-90s, and the environmentally safe pigment dyes they use are hand-massaged into the jackets in a process that reportedly takes 33 hours, the ticket price emphasizes the point that these aren’t just cool customs, but bespoke, one-of-a-kind objets d’art. Items like this keep Fruition a must-visit stop for designers like Kim Jones, Jeremy Scott, and Kanye West — one of its most frequent high-profile visitors.
In addition to Fruition, Julian has worked with West on projects for the YEEZY label and his defunct Pastelle line. Julian also appears in the infamous 2009 Tommy Ton street style photo of Kanye West and company outside the Fall/Winter 2010 COMME des GARÇONS show in Paris. He’s the Filipino guy standing between Taz Arnold and Kanye West, clad in a bright yellow button-down, red trench coat, and slightly tinted sunglasses — a look recreated by South Park when they parodied the entourage later that year.
Being Filipino myself, it was eye-opening to see someone who looked like me among West’s confidants. Like many Filipinos, Julian went to Catholic school. His alma mater is Bishop Gorman, a private school located in Summerlin, Nevada. There, he says he was an orator for most of his adolescence, which explains his characteristic eloquence. We talk about growing up in a world where we had to search for our role models, and if he sees the significance in how other Pinoy kids see someone like him doing what he does and feel validated in pursuing a creative field.
“Being behind both the retail and the designer side of the counter, we are working on extremely complex strategies — logistical, cadences, et cetera — to fulfill all the new technologically imbued language of human service retention and the transfer of excellence found within the human approach which can lead to joy. This is where I identify the largest growth opportunity in the current state of retail.”
“I am just being me,” he replies succinctly. There’s a devout humility to his answer. He praises and thanks God throughout our conversation, but in a way that makes it clear his faith keeps him grounded. For him, Christianity is a reminder that he’s one part of something much bigger than himself, and part of his duty is being a conduit to empower other people’s success. In Julian-speak, maintaining a humble, service-oriented mindset translates to “optimizing the opportunity to be someone else’s miracle, and to use my influence to help and advance all people with no expectation.”
He’s also a partner in UNKNWN, a Miami boutique co-owned by LeBron James, and lets slip that one of his latest projects is designing his first mall — one that bridges California and Nevada. But Fruition is the truest manifestation of Julian’s vision, and for 14 years, he and his team have been bringing a unique energy to Las Vegas. Similar to The Matrix, one can’t simply tell a person what Fruition is — you have to see it for yourself.
It’s a hundred-degree day in Vegas, and I’m standing in a strip mall far removed from the Strip’s adult Disneyland — far from the neon lights, fake New York skyline, miniaturized Eiffel Tower, and luxury hotels that double as self-sustaining ecosystems and money pits alike. Tiffany Square, a small, unassuming lot located behind the University of Las Vegas campus, is one of those spots you can easily ignore. There’s the empty shell of a former Paymon’s Mediterranean Café, one of the city’s most prominent restaurant chains, but next to it sits a little retail oasis.
The front window at 4139 South Maryland Parkway contains just one item — a hard-to-miss pair of hand-dyed Carhartt overalls with contrasting yellow-and-orange block stripes, surrounded by flower petals. The door is emblazoned with the image of a bunch of purple grapes beneath the store’s name, Fruition, followed by their website and Instagram account.
Inside the store I’m greeted by Frank Vertucci, Fruition’s store manager and a man of many different hats — local tour guide (he was born and raised in Vegas), social media guru, photographer, and fashion encyclopedia. He kind of looks like an alt-rock Post Malone, minus the face tattoos. Round-lensed Ray-Ban glasses frame his cherubic face, with a mess of curls atop his head and Kanye West’s “Dropout Bear” tattooed on his left forearm.
He’s absolutely getting a fit off, rocking one of those boxy Prada camp shirts with green flames (a gift from Julian), quilted navy Dries Van Noten sweatpants (also a gift from Julian), and Saint Laurent combat boots from Hedi Slimane’s tenure at the fashion house (those he got from Grailed). Underneath the Prada shirt, he’s wearing a white hoodie embellished with Fruition’s “B.U.Y. N.O.W.” logo, a multi-colored monogram-esque graphic that screams “Goyard meets Google.” It was designed by Virgil Abloh, and an enlarged version is also plastered on the wall in Fruition’s entryway, punctuated by a tiny black “V.”, nodding to the graphic’s provenance.
Above the racks are walls made to resemble grapevines — spheres are wrapped in purple cellophane and hung on a verdant, leaf-textured background. The back wall is a physical moodboard. Images of Ludwig van Beethoven, Tupac Shakur, Muhammad Ali, and Albert Einstein are next to a life-size poster of Michael Jordan (replete with a ruler to see how you measure up against the NBA legend). A surfboard covered in graphics from Virgil Abloh’s Pyrex Vision label is propped up next to a Tyrone Lebon Stüssy poster from the ‘80s, wall clocks set to different time zones, a world map, vintage globes on a shelf, and an iMac G3 with strawberry-colored casing. The text “CASE DA FRUITION” is displayed above it all, rendered in the same Futura Bold Condensed Oblique typeface used by Nike. Below, several italicized idioms say things like “Seeing Beyond Sight,” “Graphic Modernism,” “Sculpture In The Microworld,” and “Beyond The Iconic.” I can almost hear Julian’s didactic delivery in my head as I read them all. It’s a physical manifestation of a well-curated Tumblr.
Vertucci walks me through some of the racks. Even Fruition’s tags contain multitudes. There’s the “Authenticator Series,” featuring the aforementioned hand-dyed Carhartt jackets and tees. There’s the “Archive Series,” with vintage items like Gucci T-shirts, Marvel Comics graphic tees, well-worn Levi’s 517 jeans caked with dried paint, and Iceberg jeans with Mickey Mouse on the back right pocket. And then there’s a series of pieces labeled with “Foundational Reference.” It’s used to describe a purple Patagonia poncho — which becomes a “Louis Vuitton Foundational Reference” after Virgil Abloh made a similar piece in metallic silver for his debut men’s collection at the house. A simple sleeveless gray sweatshirt becomes a “Fear of God Foundational Reference” after Jerry Lorenzo’s designs. Even a hoodie with the abstract black-and-red graphic of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is re-contextualized into an “Issey Miyake Sport Foundational Reference.”
It becomes more evident as to what Julian means by reimagining education. Fruition is not so much a store as much as a perspective. The retail outpost is a look into the inner workings of their hivemind, and the cultural viewpoint from which they interpret the world. Collegiate hoodies, technical outerwear, and graphic tees aren’t just products, but a source code to be hacked. Style isn’t a means for personal expression, but a launchpad for emergent gameplay — an act where players spam simple video game mechanics to achieve things that the developers didn’t originally intend, but enhance the overall experience. Think of games like Fortnite, where players figured out a way to “rocket surf” — jumping on launched rockets at the perfect moment, allowing them to reach new areas or attain unique vantage points for sniping enemies.
“Words of wisdom for aspiring creatives who aren’t sure where to start. Call or text me: +1-323-599-0110.”
In Julian’s vernacular, he refers to Fruition’s style syntax as “new codes.” He defines it as a way of “accessing the supernatural and our natural.” It’s the sweet spot bridging inspiration and aspiration, a rationale for contextualizing why a distressed Levi’s Trucker Jacket is actually a “Virgil Abloh Foundational Reference,” and thus possesses more cultural value than something mass-produced. “New codes is the radiance. The original,” he says. “So in this way, it is of equal essence and it was the original, but it is transformative and in this sort of dreamlike state between the preservationist and the evolutionist, which speaks to the laws of luxury.”
New codes justifies how Patagonia can be as revered as Louis Vuitton. It’s a paradigm for today’s high/low mix — pioneered by Fruition but now proliferated all over the world and Instagram. It fosters a stronger appreciation for designers by emphasizing the importance of reference pieces, making them covetable in themselves. And it does this with a service-oriented mindset derived from Julian’s own mantra.
“You have to stay constantly malleable and open to having a teachable spirit,” he says. “That’s kind of the way that I’ve been able to understand all of the great teachers and mentors that have instructed me, but still maintain my voice, where I come from, and my truth.”
Part of Julian’s truth is seeing philanthropy as a flex. You see a little bit of his magnanimity in the pricey gear he’s blessed Vertucci with. Back in the store, Vertucci has put on his “tour guide” hat, casually chopping it up with a family visiting from Hawaii. They’re here because their teenage son, Asher, is participating in a dance competition. He demonstrates some moves inside the store and his talent becomes self-evident. They found Fruition by looking for “streetwear stores” on Google Maps, and their search has led them here. Specifically, Asher’s looking to buy some Supreme. Vertucci mentions that Fruition is holding one of their “Fruition Vineyards” events at the end of the month, a recurring sale where the team pulls together grail-worthy items from labels like Supreme, Human Made, Maison Margiela, Palace, Prada, and Gucci — then sells them at extremely low prices. The hope is for buyers to resell the items for a profit, and use that to fund their dreams.
“Fruition Vineyards is eternally minded, a joy with infinite roots that subverts the idea of preciousness and scarcity in order to form photosynthetic and solar processes within people to invest in their destiny,” explains Julian. “Speaking things into existence, we have a vision to evolve and scale the corporate idea of the Salvation Army, or Goodwill, but in a context perhaps similar to how Tesla evolved the idea of Ford in the automobile industry. Our technology is our service. A very powerful force. Words of wisdom for aspiring creatives who aren’t sure where to start. Call or text me: +1-323-599-0110.”
In Julian-speak, money is a means for photosynthesis, and Fruition is the light that reflects energy on the next generation of entrepreneurs. His hope is that Fruition Vineyards helps aspiring musicians pay for studio time, or helps artists buy new supplies, and beyond the scope of the arts, one could even put that money towards college or trade school.
Meanwhile, the store continues to draw in a wide array of visitors throughout the day. Currently, Vertucci is assisting a group of women looking through some of its “Archive Pieces,” including a red track-and-field-inspired Polo Ralph Lauren windbreaker from its 1992 “Stadium Collection,” a turquoise Billionaire Boys Club T-shirt from the early 2000s, and a black-and-yellow short-sleeve GORE-TEX anorak that Fruition has dubbed a “sacai Foundational Reference” due to its aesthetic similarities with Chitose Abe’s hybridized collaborations with The North Face.
I occupy myself by taking a deeper look at Fruition’s growing in-line offerings. There are two pairs of vintage skate shorts that they’ve tie-dyed, resulting in multicolored psychedelic swirls on the front and back. I try a pair on and decide they’re going home with me. But what I’m especially drawn to are their graphic tees and sweatshirts, printed on vintage blanks in colors like green and purple that reference Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, a bittersweet children’s book about the selfless love between a growing boy and the titular tree. “Fruition” is carved into the tree’s trunk in the same typeface as Silverstein’s book cover, and its leaves are dropping a bunch of grapes into the waiting hands of children below. It’s the perfect summation of what Julian says Fruition is really about.
“To be able to step back 14 years later and take a look at all that God has done through us, I think it’s pretty profound,” he says. “And I want people to know that all of those 14 years have been well spent, and it’s been something that we’ve been looking forward to sharing.”