One of San Jose’s up-and-coming women’s clothing lines started out as a fake brand. Petals and Peacocks began as a senior project for Victoria Velasquez, at the time a student of fashion marketing and management at the Art Institute of California in Sunnyvale. She practically begged the dean to let her display her work, a collection of oversized cotton tops and tees, many borderline offensive, some emblazoned with the oft-controversial upside-down St. Peter’s Cross or punchy profanities.
“The school had second thoughts about letting me showcase it—they thought it was too ‘out there,'” says Velasquez, now 25, a career clothier and purveyor of that same tongue-in-cheek irreverence that earned her the dean’s disapproval a couple years back. “I’m not trying to offend anyone. My brand just reflects my sense of humor. If it’s on one of my shirts, I, for some reason, thought it was clever or funny.”
The year-old brand’s alt-goth-raver-hipster aesthetic mash-up stems from Velasquez’s real-life “Catholic school girl gone bad” narrative; its existence as a commercial clothing brand comes from her parents’ and fiance/urban streetwear designer Ryan Mante’s business investments. Mante owns the San Jose–based clothing brand Booger Kids and co-owns Breezy Excursions. Though he helps Velasquez sketch up some of the designs, Petals is still patently hers.
“By making this into something that I really like, personally, I hope it appeals to a lot of other people,” she says. “This isn’t meant to be a line that sells a whole look. It’s more about you taking a piece and making it your own.”
Petals and Peacocks doesn’t really market its logo; it’s a unisex clothing brand thanks to the loose-fitting tops it sells and it exudes an antiestablishment sarcasm palatable to the 18-to-25 crowd. That I’ll-do-it-myself mentality jibes with bloggers and the anti-fashion fashionistas that populate Tumblr or shop on sites like DollsKill.com, which, unsurprisingly, sells Petals pieces.
A bestseller since the Petals launch in summer 2011 was a top that came in either a cropped tee or sweatshirt cut with a broad brush-stroked Chanel logo over the equally broad-brushed font spelling “fake.” “People loved that one for some reason,” Velasquez recalls. “I think it works because it was recognizable with the logo, but still cheeky and rebellious É anti-high fashion.”
The Bay Area online goth-punk clothing store Dolls Kill carries the Petals brand for just that reason: it appeals to the unfamous-yet-influential alt-fashion crowd. It carries a sensibility cultivated from Velasquez’s school-aged raver days, when her parents would chastise her for staying out too late and hanging with the wrong crowd—back when they exhorted her to pursue pharmacy school and quit wasting time obsessing about fashion.
Velasquez, incidentally, completed pharmacy school and turned down an offer to work at the Stanford Medical Center to enroll in art school. Her parents now encourage her business endeavor, even though the brand’s message isn’t exactly family friendly.
“Everything I make comes from either a memory or idea of growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the pop culture, the druggy culture, the cartoons,” explains Velasquez, who ironically favors wearing more subdued black and shapeless threads than the ones she makes.
In fact, for someone whose sartorial creations include shirts with the screen-printed imperative to “fuck shit up,” Velasquez is surprisingly mild-mannered and intensely private. It’s a far cry from the San Jose–born-and-bred reputation peddled by her fiance’s family of brands, whose Breezy Excursion motto exclaims, “Fuck the rest, we the best.”
Conversely, Velasquez avoids pegging herself or her company as San Jose’s own. There’s no storefront, the showroom’s in Los Angeles and the clothes are sold online. The brand’s Facebook fan page remains free from any photos of her even though she’s gorgeous enough to model.
“I don’t want to influence anyone’s perception of the brand,” says Velasquez, a raven-haired, tawny-skinned Filipina with a penchant for little-to-no-makeup save the occasional red lipstick. “I want it to speak for itself.”
It does, evidently: and in the year since its launch, Petals has started to garner a following of social media-savvy fans to speak for it. Velasquez hopes there’s enough buzz to launch her first cut-and-sewn collection next year on a strong point.
“Even though this brand is still a baby, it’s been rocking out mad ‘n bold graphic collections from the start,” reads a description on Dolls Kills, which counts Petals among their “new favorite sweater designers É too loud to be ignored, too fun to take too seriously.”
Petals and Peacocks
$30 or more for tees, $60 for sweatshirts