As Alternative prepares to open the doors to its first flagship retail store in Venice, California, we thought we’d introduce our customers to the man behind the design. Meet Danny Gonzales: interior designer, passionate artist and jack-of-all-trades. With his appreciation for detail and hand-crafted approach, Danny was a natural fit for the job and is bringing the Alternative experience to life at 1337 Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Read on for a little Q&A as he talks about his multi-faceted design career, his lifelong love affair with fashion and his surprise success as an actor.
It was an organic process for me. As a child, I was naturally drawn to anything art-related. I always wanted to transform and create exciting environments, and as a product of the New York City public school system, I was blessed with teachers who exposed me to various art movements and fashion trends. After attending Parsons the New School for Design, I began my career by managing the sample department for Angelo Donghia’s New York showroom. I was working with some of finest designers in the industry, but I soon realized I had to pursue my love for fashion and find an outlet that would allow me to create in more immediate and varied mediums, so I turned to visual merchandising, designing concepts for Henrí Bendel, Ferragamo, Fendi, Cartier and Armani.
As a 20-year design industry veteran, what do you consider some of the most fulfilling or notable moments in your career?
I’ve had many proud moments in my work, but I’m not sure what one would consider notable. I once had my hand-painted jewelry displayed in the windows of Harrods of London—and I had never even heard of them! I was only 18 years old. I also found my work at Giorgio Armani to be extremely rewarding. During my stay I developed the visual merchandising program and assisted in the expansion of Armani’s domestic stores. I also created special projects and installations which were hand-picked by Mr. Armani himself and implemented across the US and Europe. On a personal level, a notable experience for me was designing events for Tony Randal using toys as the décor and donating the toys afterwards to children with AIDS…nothing greater.
Yes, I would definitely consider that notable. Retailers all over the world, Alternative included, are drawn to your signature style. How would you describe your personal design aesthetic and how does it align with the Alternative brand?
Above all else, I would consider my style to be eclectic and authentic. I’m constantly influenced by the world around me, seeking to reinterpret the things I see and the experiences I have. I feel that a space should inspire your emotions as well as your vision, so I tend to borrow from what I’ve seen and attach what I may have felt at the time. As a designer, I often have to detract from my personal style for the benefit of my clients; but with Alternative, I felt a connection to the brand’s emphasis on authenticity and craftsmanship—especially in the use of reclaimed materials and found objects.
When designing the new Alternative store, what was your creative inspiration for the overall look and feel of the space?
Having spent a lot of time at Alternative’s Los Angeles Design Lab to familiarize myself with the brand, I wanted to reinterpret that creative, diverse environment without forcing anything. I wanted every room or space to be treated differently, yet flow seamlessly into each other. I would describe the look as sophisticated and urban, but casual and laidback like Alternative itself. There are subtle details in the fabrics, painted treatments and materials used throughout. For example, the dressing rooms are made from oversized shipping crates, but each one has a different approach to the interior finishes. I wish for the customers to want to peek in the dressing rooms much like people visit bathrooms in nicely designed restaurants to see the interiors…at least I do.
You certainly have a passion for your craft. How do you continue to stay inspired in your line of work; what fuels your creativity?
I often turn to film and theater as a creative outlet. When I was working for Armani, on a dare some coworkers suggested that I audition for an off-Broadway show. I did—and I landed a lead. I was bitten by the acting bug, which led to opportunities in directing, producing and screenwriting short films and theater. My biggest inspiration, however, comes from international travel and urban settings. I love to walk in a foreign countryside or bustling city. Admiring the everyday landscape, I’ll find natural beauty in the way people choose colors, fixtures or treatments based on necessity rather than intent. I tend to look for beauty in ugly.
photos by Stephen Zeigler