Based in Denver, Alex Bortz is an artist, photographer, and founder of the brand Now and Then US. It was during a stint in San Francisco that the 20-year-old began to photograph his daily life which mostly involved hanging out with his friends in the city. His photographs have a spontaneous, unrefined, here-and-now feel to them which may be why they tend to circulate quickly amongst online blogs as soon as he's posted them. A bit of a jack-of-all-trades, Alex - who has long been interested in streetwear - was quick to identify that there was a certain market online for individuals who had similar clothing tastes to him, and it wasn't long before he was putting together quality pieces and selling them online (a far cry from when he was selling his first designs in the school parking lot!). It seems that Alex has managed to side-step the trend treadmill that many budding designers get trapped on, and he is now forging his own path towards success.
What's the best thing about being young and living in America?
Being young in America is cool. I guess the possibilities are really endless. It's awesome seeing so many young people being creative and doing their own thing. Living here I get to have so much inspiration from other kids like me all over the country. There's so many young photographers, designers, painters, musicians, producers etc. it's really awesome to see the kind of stuff they're doing and all the other young kids that they are inspiring to follow their dreams as well.
When did you start documenting yours and your friend's everyday life?
I moved to San Francisco when I was 18 to go to art school. I really hated it and stopped going to class after a couple weeks so I had a lot of time on my hands to do art and take photos. I wanted to start shooting more film because I was kinda bored with digital so I started buying disposable cameras and bringing them everywhere I went. I had a pretty interesting group of friends so it was always cool taking photos and documenting the shit we did in the city. Eventually my dad shipped me his old Canon AE-1 and I really enjoyed shooting with that. So I ended up carrying it around all the time and just constantly taking photos of my friends and anything exciting we did. I moved back to Denver about a year ago and reconnected with some of my high school friends who had started making videos called Flaming Shit. I immediately started spending all my time with them because I didn't have a job or go to school at the time. I continued taking tons of photos of us hanging out and skating and started to really blog and post all the photos online.
A lot of your photos on tumblr have a ridiculous amount of notes, what do you think it is people like about your work?
I'm not really sure what it is that people like about my work. I think my friends just have interesting personalities that show through photos and people are interested. Not only that but I think a lot of kids kinda connect with the shit we do. I guess a lot of kids connect with the type of lifestyle that I put into my photos. A lot of my photos are somewhat rebellious by nature; skateboarding, wheat pasting, etc. I guess kids like that shit.
What was the catalyst for starting your own brand - Now And Then?
When I was in middle school I started getting really into streetwear. I remember reading The Hundreds blog and thinking how cool it would be to a part of something like that. I loved all the cool graphics that brands like Johnny Cupcakes, Freshjive, and HUF were making and it got me really into t-shirt designs. A few years later when I was a sophomore in High School, I decided to start my own brand. I started making designs in my art class on photoshop. They were terrible, but I didn't really care and I printed them anyway. Selling tees out of the back of my hatchback in the school parking lot made me realize that I could actually make money doing this and I realized that designing clothes is what I really want to do as a living.
What are your biggest influences when it comes to designing new pieces?
My biggest influences for new pieces are usually movies, music and old photographs I find. For my summer collection I'm doing a tee inspired by GG Allin that I'm really excited for. I also really like doing designs based on things that in my mind will always be cool, things that are timeless. I feel like there's always some type of fad going on in streetwear and every brand is making pieces inspired by that fad. I just don't want to do that. I want my stuff to still be cool a few years down the road.
You're into art, photography and design - what advice would you give to someone who is afraid to follow their passions?
To someone who is afraid to follow their passions. Quit being a pussy and do what you want to do, because if you don't you'll regret it later. If you like doing something then do it all the time until you're awesome at it.
Favourite hangout spots in Denver?
I like to hang out at Writer Square, me and my friends would always skate there because they had these rad benches and then we just started kicking it there all the time. I also like The Market on Larimer, they got a cool patio and this really good sandwich with fried chicken and bacon on it. Oh and Leela's cafe, because they're open all night and there's mad hipster girls there.
And finally, where do you hope you'll be in five years?
In five years I'll be 25. Hopefully I'll be designing clothes full time in LA. I just want to have enough money to live comfortably without having to have some job that i hate doing. I just want to be my own boss and pick my own hours. Also hopefully I'll be driving a Benz wagon.