We spotted designer Aldo Olivarez, who also goes by Aldo El Creator, at 29th and Larimer streets, selling items from his Dark Denim clothing line. The aesthetics of Dark Denim reflect from his outsider perspective: His designs are striking, unapologetic and dripping with attitude, with imagery that draws from underground culture, punk rock and horror movies, filtered through a modern street-wear sensibility.
Olivarez has a strong online following that responds to free giveaways he hides for people at random places as promotion. "It's nice that people actually like Dark Denim and care enough to take time out of their day to drive from Fort Collins or Brighton and come get a shirt," he says. "They actually care about the brand and want to do something, which is cool."
We stopped to chat more with Olivarez about Dark Denim and what inspires his style.
Westword: Who or what inspired your outfit today?
Aldo Olivarez: My whole outfit today is inspired by Kurt Cobain and just being different and weird. That's why I put him on the pants, too. It's a reminder to be yourself. I made them for a DJ who is more of a gothic, be-yourself kind of guy. The brand is about a rock-star lifestyle. I want people to just be themselves. You're doing you, and other people are questioning it, but they still like it.
How did you start Dark Denim?
I used to be a welder, and I would draw on my jackets or pants and go to the skate park after work. People would be like, "Cool pants," and I would be like, "Thanks, I did it." But now this is all that I do. It's different, because I make most of my living online or doing events in Denver. I used to be a welder, and then I quit my day job about eight months ago. Now I am solely focusing on Dark Denim. This is it. This is everything.
Where are you from?
Michoacán, Mexico. After that, my family moved to California and we moved all over the place. We ended up in Fort Lupton. There were five of us who lived in a studio apartment for seven years. We grew up really poor. My dad is a teacher now, and he bought a really nice house eventually. Back then, I built my first bike from scrap parts, with one tire that was bigger than the other, and I used nails to hold it together instead of screws because I didn't know any better. But, yeah, I did that and it was cool.
Do you think that forces you to be more creative sometimes?
Yes. Because I can't afford expensive shit, I just make the expensive shit. Like, Balenciaga comes out with pants just like these, but they're $800 and I'm like, fuck that. So I go buy $2 pants from the thrift store, and then I make them $800-worthy.
What is your favorite color?
Green, but I hardly use it. Green and black are two of my favorite colors ever. I could just use those two colors. But I don't use green in my designs, really; it's a weird color.
What colors do you use in Dark Denim, or the aesthetic of Dark Denim?
I mainly use black and white and a little bit of red here and there. Red symbolizes blood to me; it's also a really strong color that people notice. I try to keep it just red, white and black. I do have patches that have colors in them, but I mainly want black and white patches because I make all those patches myself, too. Even Kurt Cobain here is representing by wearing a Dark Denim T-shirt.
What is your favorite accessory?
That's a hard one. I do like bracelets. I haven't taken these red bracelets off in four years. If I get hired at a place and they don't allow me to wear them, I tell them to fuck themselves and I find a new job, because I am not taking these off.
What do the bracelets mean to you?
I get one from my mom every time I do something good. I did a lot of bad shit when I was younger. When my mom is is proud of me, she gives me one, and they mean a lot. I have to do something special to earn them.
Who or what inspires your outfits on a day-to-day basis?
Creepy and cultish stuff. Something you would see a cult leader wearing low-key, and then you'd be like, "Why?" And then somebody somewhere else would like it. Usually with the way I dress every day, people will question it, and then they want to copy it. Every day I will be like, "What is going to be weird?" Anything from Pope Francis to metal music. I like clothes that get a reaction or are controversial.
I have this one denim jacket I made that says "Dark AmeriKKKa" across the back. It deals with all the dark and corrupt things in America. There are OJ Simpson patches that tell a story. That pretty much is my thing. The dark side in general, and the dark side of America. I tend to look at everything from a dark perspective. I'm also not really into following my friends on social media. I just like to be alone and in my room listening to music and making stuff.
What inspired these shoes?
The shoes are inspired by Die Antwoord. They inspire me, too. They just keep it very simple. I want my stuff to be different, and for people to look twice and have it stick in their heads. It has a really strong aesthetic. That is why people are noticing it.
I like the word choice of Dark Denim, the look of the words. My logo took me two weeks to come up with, and I wanted something like Nike. I will be at a bar and people will recognize me from online. I don't really go out or make an image online that is not me. I'm too busy thinking of stuff to make to bother with anything else.
What inspires the darkness in Dark Denim?
Dark Denim is made out of all the darkness, like the fringe kids in high school who sit outside the band room and are weirdos. It's for those kids who tend to grow up and just want to express themselves. Most clothing companies just offer a T-shirt with a brand logo. I don't really do that. I try to tell people stories. Each garment is different, and each outfit will tell a different story.
I made a Pokémon piece that was for a kid from Mexico who paid me $100. He said, "Do a shirt with Pokémon on it, but do it in your style." I interpreted that to be this nerdy, gothic kid that was into anime — someone kind of like me. Dark Denim is a nerdy and gothic thing. I am into anime like Dragon Ball Z. I am more into the villains in anime, because they interest me more than the actual good people. Like, Frieza is my favorite. I make stuff for the dark kids who are the underdogs and who do their own thing.
What is the first piece you made for Dark Denim?
I didn't even plan to make the first piece. I was hanging out with a friend, and he's a rapper and had a show coming up. I went to the thrift store to look for some pants for work, and I ended up finding this gray jacket to make for him, and it looked sick. He wanted a jacket to perform in. I wrote ICEE BOY on the back of the jacket. I went to four different skate shops looking for cool patches. I placed them on randomly. I painted some letters on it and ripped up some of the denim. I made that first piece while I was listening to Suicide Boys, Lil' Peep and Omen. I made that jacket last summer; that was the first time I put my stuff out into the public, because before that I just did it for myself.
What is your jam of the moment?
"I Put My Dick in Your Mental," by BLVC SVND X GIZMO. Also, "Benz Truck," by Lil' Peep. I always listen to that song.
What is your favorite film?
My favorite movie ever has to be Edward Scissorhands, because he is that weird guy, but everybody tends to love him by the end. Like when they get to know him, they're like, "Yeah, do my hair," and he has his own salon space and everything. Pretty much Dark Denim came out, and everybody thought I was weird and creepy. When I go to shows, people are like, "What the fuck are you wearing?"
Describe your style in three words?
Dark, grungy and unique.
Because Dark Denim is a huge, cult-like following; we all tend to do our own thing. If you are wearing Dark Denim, that means that you are unique. You can even be a nine-to-five office type, but once you get home and put on your Dark Denim, you become yourself again. There are those jock guys who wear creepy shit sometimes because they like goth girls or scary movies. I want to put stuff out there for kids who are broke; my custom stuff is not that expensive. Some creators here in Denver sell things for $600 to $800. I don't care about making a name for myself or money. I just want people to have cool stuff and to be able to afford it. Regular Levis are $65, and I sell my Levis that are custom for $80. My Levis are pimped out, and people at school are going to be, "Where did you get those?" My brand is all about "Where did you get that?"
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Where do you shop?
I shop in my own studio. If we are going to an event, I have to make a new outfit. I'm sewing things up until we leave the house. Little things count; people can see little details and say, "That is cool. I'm into it." Details can make a new client.
What is your style mantra?
I have notes I write to myself and put on my studio door. If I see an idea I like, I always recycle it and always make it better and make it my own.That is me for that day. Each day, I'm recycling the previous day and constantly improving, having better ideas or sewing better, or having more ideas. I like creating organized chaos.
Like Olivarez, never be afraid to be your own unique person, Denver.