Just outside the doors of Strata Clothing HQ located in downtown Jacksonville, a blossoming spring heat is beginning to take hold. A warm breeze works its way over the riverfront, slicing between buildings new and old, stirring up a tangible change to the air. As I make my way inside in search of Strata founders Jerry and Jason Rodriguez, it’s clear now that this is where the true transformation is being made: inside the belly of the beast.
The expansive warehouse is bustling, as each turn of my head reveals another worker appearing energized with purpose. A symphony of productivity fills the room as keyboards clatter, designs are discussed, and clothing racks are stocked with fresh apparel. It’s not an artificial, or mandated, sense of urgency like one might expect to see in a corporate office environment. Creativity is on the agenda; all eyes focused toward the next, new beginning.
For the first time in more than two years, Strata is launching a new line of clothing. Defying the traditional guidelines of seasonal fashion rollouts, the brand’s sole line will simply be titled, False Idols.
“Now the way that we’re designing, we agree on what we’re both going through in life and put all of that together to give to our writer [Hash Sesay],” says Jason of Strata’s 2019 line, a curated mixed-media concept with an emphasis on tailored cuts, visual art, and the written word; all in the service of fashion. “Then he writes a story that speaks to the customer. All of the pieces will be related back to that same story that we feel everyone can identify with in one way or another.”
For the Rodriguez brothers, these stories are a result of a synergy in their lives, created from influences found in the cultures of both continental U.S. coastlines and their family’s roots in Peru.
“We’re really family oriented and I think that’s why our team sees a company that’s growing and growing,” says Jason. “It makes [our team] happy because both families from the American and Peruvian side are working together to create this monster.”
If all goes as planned, the monster won’t be contained. After purchasing this downtown-adjacent warehouse in 2016, Jerry and Jason set their sights on utilizing their designs to make create something bigger than just a homegrown streetwear brand.
“We push family because our grandparents started from zero and became big clothing manufacturers in Peru,” says Jason. “For years we lived through their stories told by our mom and were inspired by their work ethic.”
Aside from the Rodriguez family’s deep roots founded in clothing production in Peru, one has to wonder if it’s the team’s ability to think big that has garnered their success. A global mindset has allowed Strata to borrow influences from coast to coast and across international waters to create a brand that brings more than fashion sensibility to Northeast Florida.
“This area has a lot of character and we wanted to put some roots down,” says Jerry. “Our main long-term goal is to create an entertainment district by slowly acquiring buildings. We went to a New Year’s party in Brooklyn that was in an abandoned warehouse, but [club-ready electronic music duo] Disclosure was the main act and that served as a lot of inspiration for us.”
For the duo, the bond between fashion, arts, and music is intertwined. Strata is working to foster a relationship between these mediums through local and international collaborations, including a planned May release with Miami’s Rolling Loud festival, a future partnership with Lollapalooza; along with signature pieces from local artist Nicole “Nico” Holderbaum. With a street-level aesthetic, limited releases and one-of-a-kind designs, these pieces make a statement of personal style beyond that are light years ahead of fast fashion.
“As we’ve grown older, where are are in life is completely different from when we originally started the brand,” Jerry explains of Strata’s relaunch. “We’ve matured and what we wear is a little more sophisticated so that the pieces can speak for themselves. The workmanship. The quality. That’s what sets us apart.”