Kevin Gorgonio grew up in rough neighborhoods around SanTana. Without a father, he was the man of the house for his mother and sister. And now, at 20 years old, he's also a rising fashion designer. Gorgonio creates the streetwear brand Dead Homme (deadhomme.us), and no, it's not pronounced “Dead Homie.” Homme is “men” in French, Gorgonio's little tip of the hat to his favorite designers.
Fashion captivated Gorgonio since childhood, and it became a way to make money while he bounced around various Santa Ana high schools. He'd buy shirts at Goodwill, cut them up, then sew them into new shirts to sell—mostly brightly colored pocket tees, which weren't available in bulk at Urban Outfitters at the time, as he likes to point out. Eventually, Gorgonio created his own brand inspired by minimalist cuts and such high-end streetwear designers as Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens. What started as Dead Society became Dead Homme in 2012, and Gorgonio's hand-printed T-shirts and caps have since received recognition from popular rappers and DJs; Chris Travis, RL Grime, Flosstradamus, and even Baauer of the famous Harlem Shake either wear or have contacted Gorgonio about his pieces. Part of it has to do with the fact that Gorgonio does everything himself, from jewelry to sewn-in tags, with a little help from a friend's printmaking machine. Because it's done by hand, each Dead Homme line has a very limited run and sells out quickly.
But growing the brand into a viable career has been an uphill battle. “Getting here has been a tough process,” Gorgonio says, “because where I live, people look up to coke dealers instead.” He has had his fair share of getting in trouble, but the young man is so committed to one day designing under his own name that he's sworn off partying and runs his entire business from his room and a broken laptop while saving for a warehouse. (Find him on Instagram: @deadhomme.) Gorgonio's struggle and triumph is woven through pieces printed with “Pray,” “Lord” and tiny crosses. Otherwise, little of his personal life shows through—and that's how he likes it. “Death is unpredictable,” Gorgonio says, “and I want my brand to be like that—you don't want to know what's coming next.”