How NDSLA Creates Couture Kicks

Using off-the-rack pieces, no less

In the realm of couture, individuality usually comes at a high price—whether it’s a $5,000 made-to-measure suit or a $4,000 pair of brogues bench-built to match the peculiarities of one’s feet. Through their label, NDSLA, artist Rob Hill and his cousin Slim Jefferson have taken a less costly route to one-of-a-kind fashion.

There’s no custom tailoring or handcrafted toe boxes. Instead NDSLA salvages old clothes, and Hill applies his fine-art skills to them. His canvases include football jerseys, high-top Nikes, and Prada wallets. The geometric designs—which favor blue, olive, gold, and rust—bear the influence of Frank Stella and African dashikis while mirroring the free-form style of L.A. ’80s hip-hop. “There’s a West Coast chill, but there’s also the speed of this city,” says Jefferson, who produces soundtracks for NDSLA’s shows. “Los Angeles’s streets live in the geometry of the art on the clothes.”

An embellished Air Force flight suit starts at $350; a decorated denim jacket runs $450. “What’s happened in your life—what drives you, your ideas—helps create the art that you’ll be wearing,” says Jefferson. “It has to match who you are.”

Clients, including Motown recording artist Mila J. and rapper Chris Brown, work with the designers to turn out pieces that reflect their personalities. “It’s a collaborative process,” Jefferson says. “It’s not just point-and-click.”