While many of us fell victim to the pandemic slump following the initial distress, alumni Ace Greene was one of the few exceptions– successfully launching his clothing brand “Distressed Los Angeles” in August of 2020. Since then, the brand has grown exponentially, receiving nothing but love and support from loyal customers.
Though Greene has been planning for Distressed LA since the summer before his senior year, he too felt the cloud of hopelessness from the sudden deprivation of major role models in 2020.
“Everyone’s favorite stars Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman had passed, COVID had killed my senior and the George Floyd riots had took the world by storm,” Greene said via Snapchat.
Amidst all the chaos that further ensued, the designer still kept his creativity alive by tirelessly working on building his brand, creating about six designs a day, with each design taking about an hour and a half.
“Amongst all that pain and anxiety we suffered, we grew stronger,” Greene said. “ I felt my higher calling was to help others who are still trying to get out of that distressed state, hence the name ‘Distressed LA’.”
Greene’s interest in clothing developed from his passion for outfit-styling from as young as 13, as well as a conscious reminiscence of times when he wasn’t able to afford high-end fashion pieces.
“I’ve always loved to put together and shop for different styles of clothes, [be] it vintage or brand new off of rodeo drive,” Greene said. “I thought to myself I could definitely form a brand that can help give back to my community and similar to Louis Vuitton of Gucci status to my clothes.”
Since starting Distressed LA, Greene has stayed true to his original mission: make wearable inspiration and give back to the area that had helped raise and shape him. So far, he has donated undisclosed amounts to organizations like the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program.
“After each collection of clothes I release on my website, I donate 30 percent of all proceeds to some charities that require the most attention right now,” Greene said.
Past donations made by the streetwear creator include COVID-19 kits, which he buys and passes out on Skid Row. Each Distressed LA product that is purchased is equivalent to one kit donated; each containing basic sanitary products, non-perishable snacks and, most importantly, masks and hand sanitizer to ensure that those who receive the care kit will have a basic form of protection against the virus.
“The highest human act a person can achieve is to inspire another human. When people tell me the brand inspires them to follow their own dream and do better each day, I consider that to be very successful,” Greene said.
Although Greene’s expectations for the brand are based around his desire to lend a helping hand, the brand has surpassed some of his objective goals as well.
“A big milestone was having an actor by the name of Theodore Barnes, who played on shows like The Goldberg’s, wear a [Distressed] shirt on national television,” he said. “Theodore has supported each collection of clothes I have put out since the start of my journey as a clothing brand owner. One day, I had a FaceTime call from him showing me he was on set of his new show ‘The Ms. Pat Show’ on BET, wearing a Distressed LA hoodie.”
As the sole manager of Distressed LA, Greene also handles the business and logistics of the brand. With the popularity of his products increasing, Greene plans to take his successful endeavor to the next level, with a new project focusing on making homes for high school students.
“My goal is to do even greater things outside of clothes,” Greene said. “My next project is the Distressed LA Foundation, so I can eventually make homes for kids in high school.”
As of right now, Greene has carved a promising road for himself. Despite having only completed high school a few months prior, the financially-independent designer has recently moved to Hawaii to further his education at the University of Hawaii, where he hopes to develop his knowledge on fashion merchandising. Although this transition will medan a break from designing and producing the clothing brand, the hiatus is temporary.
“My clothes have a story to tell,” Greene said. “Each piece of clothing I put out has depth, be it a controversial statement on the shirt or a small tear in it, there is a reason behind it.”