“I’m in the art game, not the fashion game. Fashion is cool but it’s very temporary, so I had to come up with a way that I could introduce my art to it.” Delano Brown makes this statement about his work as we chat over the phone, a call that was hard to get finalized since this young twentysomething is constantly on the go.
He describes himself as an introvert who’s good with people. But he’s even better with art—particularly roses. It’s his signature. And Delano Brown isn’t your average artist. With clients like Chris Brown, Fabolous and many other celebs, the Baltimore native has poised himself as the walking billboard for the multitalented artist gone businessman.
Brown went from custom designing H&M shirts at his booth in a mall (at the tender age of 15), to developing a worldwide customer base, which typically has him custom designing Hermes, Louboutin and Rolex pieces. All this is in addition to holding his own art shows and running his clothing line, Lano for Public. Talk about Black, Fresh & 20 Something.
EBONY: You’re making quite the strides in the world of art and fashion!
DB: I’m a rock star! [laughs] Yeah… I found a good way to take my art and connect people [from all over the world] to it.
EBONY: Speaking of your art, how you’d develop a love for it? How long have you been creating it?
DB: As long as I can remember, to tell you the truth. I’ve been in art schools probably ever since, like, sixth grade. Not to say that I didn’t learn much in art school; they gave me fundamentals like history, but they didn’t teach me how to develop my own style. And I didn’t go to college. I went to high school, and when high school was done, I jumped into the real world. That was my college.
EBONY: You’re drawn to roses in your art—they’re all over the clothing, shoes and accessories that you custom design and create. Why roses?
DB: Before all of this, like the past five years, I’d been tattooing. The most popular design that I was doing was the flower. No matter how many times you do it, you never really master it, so it was just one of those things that I [naturally held on to] when I transitioned into clothing. It’s very organic, very free. Flowers represent timelessness to me—like an instant classic. I had to come up with something that wasn’t just a logo but people could look at it and instantly relate it to me.
EBONY: So what has the journey for you been like up until this point?
DB: It’s all coming full circle, because before tattooing—I started tattooing when I was 17—I used to be at the booth in the mall. I was doing something very similar to this; I was painting shirts, back when Ed Hardy was popping. My designs were more tattoo-esque, which kind of led me into tattooing. I had the booth in the mall for a good year and half, maybe two years, doing real well.
EBONY: Speaking of clothing, you’ve been very adamant about where you stand when it comes to fashion and art.
DB: I’m in the art game, not the fashion game. Fashion is cool but it’s very temporary, so I had to come up with a way that I could introduce my art to it. The way that they taught it to us [in school] never interested me. So I had to come up with a way to make it interesting to me. That’s why I have Delano fashion, because it’s something that I’ve always been into.
EBONY: You’ve been very verbal about the fashion industry and who the higher-end brands cater to. How do you feel about high-end designers and the African-American consumer?
DB: We walk into these high-end designer stores and these guys, I’ma be just 100% with you: these rich White people always look at me like, “what is he doing in here?”
A lot of these designers are making these clothes and they’re not putting them in places where we can get to them. They’re not marketing any of their stuff towards us—they’re not doing their commercials on BET. We’re starting to see more and more high-end coming to our music and everyday life, so we’re starting to buy into it—and we’re spending big. I know for a fact they don’t make this stuff for us. In my previous interviews, people kind of got my statements confused thinking that I “disrespect” the high-end brands. I never really said that. I don’t disrespect any of this. I’m a fan of fashion. Whether it’s expensive or not, I’m a fan of it.
EBONY: There’s definitely a “hustler vibe” to you. You’re an artist, but at the same time, you’re very much a businessman. As an independent artist, how have you navigated that sometimes treacherous territory?
DB: I prefer to manage my art and my business. It’s good to be able to be creative and not have to worry about what goes on behind the scenes. That’s a stress relief. But at the same time, once you see progress, you get like... a hunger for it. You’re attracted to it. You want to keep it going. I think where a lot of artists struggle is branding. A lot of people don’t protect their brand like they should. You can’t take every opportunity. You don’t need every dollar, you just need the right dollar.
EBONY: So is everything that’s currently happening on the business end a part of a premeditated plan?
DB: Honestly, when I first started, it wasn’t necessarily premeditated that I would be doing art shows. But there are a lot of kids that look up to me, a lot of young boys. I get 300-500 emails every day from different people telling me stories about their life and how they want to get serious about something. These people sat here and they watched me, so it’s not a game. They’re not just saying that. Your dreams can really happen. So I’m really getting a grasp on the fact that it’s not just the athletes, the rich people, that are inspiring others.
EBONY: What has been a major obstacle that you’ve faced?
DB: There are going to be 10-20 people that are going to try to pull you left, pull you right—“I think you should do this and that,” “this would be good,” “this would be smart”—but everybody hasn’t done what you’re doing. When you step out of the house, you need to always be on a straight path.
EBONY: Who would you say gave you some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
DB: That’s a good question. I’d say the guy that pretty much taught me how to tattoo. It wasn’t really “advice,” but he instilled me with that idea to paint. Before I was painting I was tattooing, because I really didn’t like to paint. I never really listened to him. But when I finally did, I realized it was going to take my tattooing to a whole other level. And I was really good.
EBONY: What advice would you give other Black, Fresh and 20-Somethings?
DB: It’s important to research. It’s important to know what you’re about to get into and to plan to ahead. Once you got that good stuff—once you got that crack—people are going to try and take it and make it they own. That’s when you know you got that crack, when everybody wants it. Know your worth and don’t stop until you get it.
EBONY: So what’s up next for you? I know you released No. 1 of your clothing line, Lano for Public.
DB: Delano No. 2 will be released this month. I’m looking for ways to keep my product as exclusive as when it started. I’ve figured out that (a) I don’t want it to be everywhere, and (b) I don’t want to see everybody with it every time I go somewhere. My people who buy my stuff are fans of the art; they’re not just buying a cool shirt. They see the hustle. They see a brand. So it’s just about keeping that going. That’s all I can do.