Keith “Rooftop” Herron’s virtual runway show opens in a pristine, sunny wood. Herron sits on a blanket wearing a hoodie bearing the show’s titular words “Thoughts Become Things,” while designing clothing on his laptop. A narrator describes the process of bringing an idea to life.
Music begins as models sweep down the forest paths wearing the designs of the seventh clothing collection released by Advisry, a fashion and media brand that Herron founded in Sacramento. The bright designs are informed by athletics, Black pride, nostalgia, pop culture references and more. The film shifts to reveal him directing the show. The video has a dream-like, sophisticated and self-referential quality. “It was the actualization of the creative process,” Herron says.
Surprisingly, the elaborate show wasn’t fully planned from the start. “The show was moving based on how I was feeling,” Herron says. “The whole thing wasn’t fully conceptualized until the very end. The name of the collection was ‘Untitled’ up until after we shot the runway. It’s funny because all of this stuff just fell into place.”
Yet, for a production that was so improvisational, it has helped elevate Advisry to new heights. The collection was in a designer showcase for New York Fashion Week 2020.
For Advisry, the past year has been one of adaptation, although the company had already been constantly evolving throughout its existence. The brand makes clothing, produces films and releases music under its moniker. Now, in a time when many businesses are struggling to find a way forward, the brand is being spotted on high-profile athletes, musicians, influencers and celebrities, such as NBA player Donovan Mitchell and actor Lena Waithe, who is best known for her role in the Netflix television show “Master of None.”
Herron founded Advisry in 2014 when he was only 14 years old. His co-collaborators, Glen the Saiyan and Brandon Lamont, joined in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Herron was the enterprising child of entrepreneurial parents who took pride in running their own Sacramento small businesses. They encouraged his business pursuits, starting with a clothing resale enterprise in the fifth grade.
Advisry began with Herron selling handmade stickers in middle school. He eventually started producing clothes with iron-on designs, but his classmates demanded more. To improve the value of his product, his first big investment was a heat press for roughly $150. He then expanded to cut-and-sew apparel designs.
“It was really unique to see someone that young in the industry have so much knowledge and understanding of what it takes to do a cut-and-sew project,” says Jonathan Feld, who taught graphic design at Rio Americano High School and helped mentor Herron through apparel creation.
Feld says Herron was well ahead of his years when it came to navigating apparel creation. Herron started creating samples that he’d send to manufacturers for production. “It’s challenging to manufacture your own garment; you need to know exactly how you want it to fit and feel and look from the buttons to the stitches,” Feld says. “Keith was very thoughtful in that sense.”
Herron has mastered the art of working with manufacturers and seamstresses, and interned with Gucci in New York City. He is currently about to release his first piece of custom footwear for Advisry. He says his designs are largely influenced by his childhood, people of color, and pop culture in general. “What really allowed me to find my voice was (making) things I personally wanted to wear and not caring about anything else,” Herron says.
“Keith is very successful because he knows his lane and he knows his path to success and he stays true to his brand,” says Feld. “He doesn’t try to do something that doesn’t fit the mold. He’s very creative in his own right.”
Activism, charity, sustainability and inclusivity have always been important aspects of the Advisry brand. The company holds an annual archive pop-up sale out of The Hardin, a mixed-income apartment community downtown, to support the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
The sale serves three purposes: giving back to the community that nurtured the brand, reducing clothing waste and ensuring that the clothes are available at accessible price points to its earliest supporters. “We understand that as we raise the prices, as the quality goes up, it’ll just be more difficult for people who really nurtured us to get to this point to afford it,” says Herron.
Last year, the brand released a special edition “Reparations” hoodie with proceeds going to bail funds for protestors in response to the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
The brand has been resilient through difficult times. Herron says the coronavirus pandemic has “shaped what the brand is today. I was feeling really anxious because I hadn’t released a collection since summer of 2019. It was like, ‘Am I falling behind? Why can’t I get this done?’”
The pandemic, for all its difficulties, opened some opportunities for the brand to move forward. Herron says that he was able to use a refund from school — he is currently in New York City on a gap year from Fordham University, where he is studying film — to produce clothes, and because he had extra time he was able to get the internship at Gucci and meet people within the fashion industry.
It also helped that the fashion industry went digital in 2020. “It was like, ‘Now that fashion shows are virtual I can afford to do one,” he says. “The pandemic is what allowed it to fall into place.”
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