Interview with founder Armando Reyes | By F. Amanda Tugade | Photo by Derrick Mackenzie
Armando Reyes doesn’t consider himself an artist—or rather, a fashion designer. He’s just a car salesman from northern Los Angeles who has turned his hobby of sewing and knack for styling into a clothing business with a growing clientele. “I kind of like that—the juxtaposition, you know?” Reyes says about his day job and his passion project. “It’s a lot of opposites, a lot of clashing. When I show up to work on my day off, everybody’s like, ‘What the hell?’”
“I’ll just hear, ‘This guy…’” he laughs. “I like that. I like that I’ll still go to punk shows and get in the pit, and then, tomorrow at 9 a.m., I’m selling cars here.”
On Instagram and Etsy, Bedlam Affinity Co. boasts a catalog of custom shirts, crewnecks, and leather jackets. Every tear in a sleeve, uneven stitch, or crooked patch on an overdyed item is intentional. These pieces aren’t only made for wear; they’re a reflection of Reyes and his gratitude for the punk and DIY community, where he picked up on the concept of originality.
Those middle and high school days proved to be influential for Reyes, who started “dressing up like punks” with his friends, painting and drawing on his band shirts and thrift store threads. Little did he know that playing with those fabrics would ultimately lead him to debut his first creation for Bedlam: a Smiths-inspired vintage black leather jacket. Flip the jacket on its backside and you’ll see “How Soon Is Now?” smeared in baby blue paint. From there, Reyes began experimenting, taking in the rejects from his friends’ screen printing apparel piles and seeing what he could do with them.
Each carefully distressed and strategically damaged piece serves a purpose. Whether Reyes is paying tribute to Pixies or messing around with the Descendents’ mascot Milo, there’s a method to his madness. He makes sure to take his time—especially when completing custom orders—and enjoys seeing his works evolve and take on a life of their own.
Working with different textiles can be difficult. Some fabrics are too delicate for dyes, while others are so tough they have broken Reyes’ sewing needles. “I’ll hit a wall,” he admits. “Say I’m like, ‘OK, I really want this to look a certain way [with] a splatter or dye effect.’ Then, I’ll wash it, and it didn’t come out the way I thought it would. I’ll just put it aside, and then, I work on something else.”
Owning those “mistakes when I fuck something up” is what makes Bedlam unique, Reyes says. “That kind of fits the whole punk [and] DIY thing,” he notes. “I embrace imperfections, and sometimes, I don’t want it to look perfect or bought out of a store. I want someone to notice that, like, some dude made this, you know?”
As for learning the basics—like hemming a pair of pants or altering the size of a t-shirt—he credits his mother, who was a seamstress for years. His fondest memories include helping her make Halloween costumes for the children in their neighborhood. “I went to community college a little bit to take their fashion certificate class, and I went in there already knowing how to make clothing because my mom had taught me,” he recalls. “I liked doing it the way my mom taught me better than how [teachers] show you, like, ‘OK, take these measurements, and you can do this and that to make these pieces.’ That proved to be more difficult than winging it and fixing little mistakes and stuff.”
Reyes runs Bedlam mostly online and through social media alongside his recent recruit Thomas Massarotti. The 15-year age difference between them has brought in more music fans, who typically send requests for unique attire by way of DMs and emails. Every now and then, the pair make an appearance at a pop-up shop event or set up a booth at a local flea market.
“When I started, I had a dozen pieces online,” Reyes says, looking back at the last three years. “I wasn’t really confident in what I was doing, so a lot of times, I was wearing the stuff I was making. You know, I didn’t really care. I just made it to make it. Now, it’s cool to hear from people: ‘Hey, this is great! I like this. I like that.’”