Ant vs Anti
Ant in his own hand-cut and sewn jacket
Ant is a young, highly skilled designer with aspirations of building something that holds itself up, a niche but sought after brand. His pieces are made with focus and a genuine appreciation for the art, even amongst the industry hazards and rise of fast fashion behemoths. He's quick to smile, nervous and careful about his demeanor but ultimately an artist who’s humility and grasp of fine garments is something that will keep him a staple in the world of streetwear.
I'm wandering through the fashion district in downtown LA. It's chaotic and dirty, but alive, even during the pandemic. There's man in vans and high socks with plaid long shorts, tattooed from his knuckles to the back of his head, eating sunflower seeds and talking to his friends. People in bright masks wander from shop to shop along the street, boarded by closed once-upon-a-time indie fashion outlets and old sneaker retailers. Hot dogs are grilled in the open air.
Stopping at a glass door, an old man wearing his mask opens the door for me. The entryway is tiny, filled with an assortment of ceramic pots. Anthony Digenova, or Ant, as he prefers, steps out of the elevator, wearing a tattered Portland shirt, his own self-made denim pants, and Mason Margiela tabi loafer, which look like some sort of samurai slipper combination. It’s one of many cross-cultural moments in streetwear between Japan and the United States.
His loft is industrial, but cozy, filled with fabric and sewing tables. His intern and friend, Teddy, is shirtless and ironing a stack of jeans in the corner. He would beat Machine Gun Kelly at a Machine Gun Kelly look-alike contest.
A recent sneaker collab dropping this month
Ant immediately changes his shirt to another vintage distressed tee. His studio is dominated by a giant worktable, littered with cutouts, scissors, half-made coats, and many, many zippers, all waiting to be converted into high-end streetwear. A line of hand sewn coats hang from a sprinkler pipe. There are crates of printed shirts ready to be released in the coming weeks, though with only himself and two interns, the young artist is carrying a lot of responsibility to deliver on his collections.
He's careful with his words, a stark contrast with how seemingly chaotic the patchwork jackets with wild zagging threads have been constructed. His brand, split between the parallels of ANT and ANTI+, has received some considerable praise and been worn by a myriad of artists, from indie acts such as Steven Moses099 to the recently arrived star of 24k Golden, and Young Thug.
Lil Pump wearing a custom ANTI+ jacket earlier this year
There’s a lot of work that goes into these moments, and with collaborations with other burgeoning designers and bigger collectives like Guitar Boys, a lot more work to maintain and grow the brand on its own.
“It takes, you know, not even 5 minutes to print a tee… a patchwork jacket that I hand-cut, that could go up fifty, a hundred hours. I did these jeans for 24k Golden, those were 100 hours”.
And that’s just for making the clothes. The clothes then need to be modeled, folded, steamed, pressed, and stored properly until they’re ready to be released to the public. On top of that, there’s social media accounts that need to be attended to, fabric to be sourced, and the regular routines that everyone else goes through. No wonder his bed lies almost underneath his worktable.
Thugger in a the classic ANT tee late-2019
“We’re working on a bunch of reconstructed old pieces, taking stuff that just is unwearable and fixing it…”.
As we sit and chat, the level of detail and the concepts that go not just into the clothes, but their purpose in a grand scheme of the world develops in real-time. Ant concedes that he’s still working on fully realizing how his dual vision will play out. ANT is a brand that’s designed to appeal to the masses, something for everyone. But he also needs an outlet for a more experimental platform, even clothes he himself deems too crazy for anyone to actually wear.
After the pieces are made for ANT, the leftover scraps, what would normally go as waste comes right back as the foundation for ANTI, the avant garde, chaotic-split to the creative efforts. The jackets, bags, pants, and shorts that come out of this end of his creative spectrum are littered in scrap cloth, seemingly randomly pieced into the clothing with insane zig-zag threading that adds movement and chaos into every inch of fabric. “We’re working on a bunch of reconstructed old pieces, taking stuff that just is unwearable and fixing it…”.
There are pounds of fabric that are switched from collection to collection, as well as separate commissions, failed ideas, and enough samples between the two to fill out Ant’s personal closet. All of this is in an effort to create garments that have high utility and can be worn not only as pieces of expression, but as the chassis to keep someone safe. Ant’s philosophy is pretty simple:
“I think of my clothes as armor. Physically and emotionally. I’d say an armor because it keeps you warm or if you fall off your bike or something, but also, like, I dress pretty plain or in dark colors because if you dress flashy, people will ask you for things in the street or bug you, you know?”.
The ideas of utility and self expression are evident in the dense fabrics, the painstakingly hand-cut and sewn pieces and individually manicured collections. Even as we continue to speak, Ant is measuring out the lapel for what looks to be the beginnings of another coat, writing down quotes and phrases from the conversation to incorporate in future prints. His bed is situated between his worktable and a bookshelf with organized fashion references and magazines. Each moment of consciousness is devoted to learning and expanding his craft.
Ant continues to bring out and show various pieces that may or may not ever see the light of day, some old samples, some personal pieces he’s intent on keeping. Most of his stuff is sold through his social media and site (he’s been banned several times from Grailed and Reddit’s r/streetwear). Almost all of his own clothes are cut-and-sewn. His reserved demeanor quickly melts away to reveal a thoughtful soul; he’s not the type of guy to be in your face. His words are still pretty infrequent, but he’s very aware of his surroundings, making observations about not just the specificity of what he likes, but who’s making it, and the context of his own pieces outside his studio.
“I want everything to be about equivalent exchange. You only get out what you put in, you know?”
And if Ant’s focus is to get out what he puts in, he’s going to do extraordinary well.
Ant in his DT LA studio