Having an endless amount of projects on his plate, it is impressive how much Daniel DeSure has achieved. From running the streets of Los Angeles, to building a successful creative empire, he has managed to keep his vision true. DeSure’s love of individuality and community is strong, and this passion is most evidently exemplified through his work under Total Luxury Spa.
You are a hard google search my friend. Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? I wish I was harder to find! I think its a luxury not being able to find someones information online. Those days are over I’m afraid. I think my goal for 2024 is to get rid of most of my online presence unless its a straight forward interview. I grew up here in LA!
So you’ve spent most of your life in Los Angeles? Well no, actually I did live in New York for a couple of years in my mid-20s. New York is amazing, culturally speaking, the way you navigate the city. I always say that every city is like a living creature. It has its pulse, its own way of moving and communicating. New York's really cool, but to me, and people are going to kill me for saying this, but I feel like it has only one tone, and that tone is fast. It is definitely amazing in that way, especially in your 20s, but, I like that in LA you can dive in and turn it up or disappear into the mountains or desert and escape easily.
So I assume you were happy to get back to California? Yes! Los Angeles is special and it's my home. I always say that it doesn't really have a version of itself that it presents immediately. I think it is the reason a lot of people move here, spend a year, and then are like, I don't like LA. The city has a lot more to offer, and I think part of the beauty or the romance is that you get to navigate it yourself and discover those things for yourself. It's not put on a plate and presented to you.
I'll never forget one of the first times I went to New York, I got out of a taxi and ran into someone I knew. I had my bags with me and they were like, “Before you even go to drop your crap off, I'm going to meet these people at a bar, would you like to join?” I met a bunch of other people, and it turned into this basically like a three day bender with my bags. [laughs] It is a testament to New York and the way you can just jump into the river. It’s all happening right in front of you. However with Los Angeles, you have to discover it a little bit on your own and that's what I like.
How did you start uncovering Los Angeles? In terms of discovery, when I was younger, my friends and I would have this thing called ‘The Missioning’. We would go and break into abandoned buildings and go find some weird cult shit somewhere. The stranger the better. We were all about the history of the city, and re-examining that history through our discovery of it, less from an academic standpoint or anything like that, but more of just like kids running around the city. We'd heard about the Manson Caves and taken some crazy road trip out to go try to find it.
There are definitely a lot of crazy stories and people that have graced this city. Yeah! Manson might be the bigger one, but there are so many! Think about The Black Dahlia, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and The Source Family stuff. There are a million of those kinds of characters. The ones you might have heard of but there's a lot that never even made it into mainstream news that are these kinds of fringe LA folklore. I used to know this guy with no legs that would crawl and clean the Hollywood stars by hand. By the time he got to one end he would have to turn around and clean them again. He never stopped and the city would pay him.
Man so wild! Why do you think that is the case? Probably because for a long time there was the wild west mentality. A lot of things have been happening here under the radar, and it all had time to bubble up and manifest themselves. Other places being a little bit more dense, made it pretty easy to be on the authorities radar quickly. It's sort of like, we are at the end of the earth here in some sort of way. You get all this interesting transient culture at the end of the continent.
That is a very eloquent way of putting it. There's something about that even as a kid I remember being fascinated with. While running around the streets, you meet all these interesting people and characters and you realise that the city is actually made up of way more than what people think. It's funny because I just got back to LA from Europe and I just landed a few days ago and as the plane was coming in over LA at like six at night, I had the same feeling. I was like, "Fuck! LA is so good." There's nothing that really stands out, but to me it's just this feeling. Like regular earthquakes, we also have cultural earthquakes and LA is its own earthquake.
Do you still purposely put yourself out of your comfort zone? Of course! I actually really enjoy meeting new people. I'm definitely a people person, I get on with people. I’ve worked with a lot of different artists, especially since starting my design studio Commonwealth Projects and its given me the opportunity to work with a lot of interesting people.
Commonwealth Projects isn’t your only venture. Can you speak a bit more about your empire? [laughs] Where do I begin? I guess I can describe Commonwealth Projects as focusing on larger institutional and artist projects. The shortest project might be three or four months, whereas the longest might be a couple of years. It’s great, but there is an intense element of that that keeps me in the studio. However with something like my other company Total Luxury Spa, we started it because it's a fun side project where we could just make things without any outside influence. We could make a shirt that’s specific to a cause we believe in and put it out into the world and it’s this fun way of having a conversation with people all over the planet.
So would you say they compliment each other? Fulfil what the other doesn’t? For sure! Always being in the studio doesn’t allow for a certain type of organic free thinking or movement. I know that sounds negative, but it’ just a different way of working, of processing. The free thing is really important. And so with Total Luxury Spa we might throw a party, or a series of artists talks here in the studio, release a series of shirts and every time we would do it, the people that showed up were all local and I was like, "Where did all these people come from?" It was insane. All these incredible characters. And I realised at that moment that it felt really good, and I was learning a lot in the process.
Do you see Total Luxury Spa feels like it is developing into some sort of community support? I would say that’s important. Like how do we put people together? How do we use interesting collaborations? How do we use our privilege to help others less privileged? How do we point to issues that we feel strongly about, whether it be social or political or whatever they may be. How do you bring attention to things that might need more attention than they're currently getting?
Are you still doing these talks? We're actually going to open a programming space specifically for these talks, films and other programs. We haven't done one now for maybe the last year, but we're going to start it back up. Sometimes they would be really awkward and cool, it might be an architect with a scientist with an artist or something. They're really organic and the things that came out of them were really special.
What would you say differentiates Total Luxury Spa from Commonwealth Projects? I think Commonwealth in a lot of ways is much more buttoned up and it's much more of a mother studio in a way. Something that feels like the brain, a central place where things can come out of. Total Luxury Spa or another project I do called Tropics with the kids in the neighbourhood, all come out of Commonwealth Projects.
With so many ideas and concepts, do you have an ethos that runs through them all? That's a good question. I don't know how long ago it was, maybe like six or seven years ago, I was like, my world doesn't totally feel aligned. I feel like I'm doing these projects that can sometimes feel somewhat cold or I'm doing these projects that, I won't name any names, but they don’t care about what I care about. I thought if I'm spending my time doing this thing, how do I align things together a little bit more? We only want to work on projects that have similar or aligned ideas about the world and where it's headed, I guess you could say. So things like the community and issues that inner city communities deal with on a day-to-day basis are important in terms of what we stand for. Ways of giving back, ways of highlighting issues that might be around that not everyone is aware of, that we might feel like we can't do anything about.
It doesn't mean that every project is only about those things, but if we can figure out a way to incorporate parts of that thinking into projects we're doing then we hope to contribute to this crazy world in a way we feel happy about.
Does that mean as Total Luxury Spa is a more freeing project? Definitely. Its up to us what we want to do with it each day. There’s a team of people in the studio, and some of those people have been here from day one. They're much more involved in Spa specifically. Andrew Hogge, all the guys in the neighbourhood: Preston, Aundre, Thomas, Andre, Jair and Ryan. All these kids are also huge help and inspiration, they're here almost every day in different configurations. I put my blood, sweat and tears into it, but it's like anything else, it just takes a village and that village is what makes it special. I treat Total Luxury Spa the same way that I did with my projects back in the day, where we make a little bit of money on something, and put it towards things we care about.
How do you feel about the growing interest in your work with Total Luxury Spa? It’s cool because it helps push people and things we care about. It's a way of bringing more awareness. There's a bunch of things that I'd like to see it do still, and to be honest, I'd like to work on it all at once. [laughs] I have so many ideas. I feel like I’m constantly just a kid in the studio trying to do a million things at once.
Is being a book publisher one of those? I’m sitting in your studio full of books, and I know you have released a fair few yourself at this point. Books are really interesting because here we are in a time where everything is fleeting and everyone has access to everything, information, and culture and all these other things. I feel like nowadays everyone's called an art director or creative director because it's so easy to just pull images and pretend they represent something larger without knowing the history or where things came from. I love that books are a door into a world you can fall deeply into and learn the ins and outs of a specific subject. You can do that online too but I love the commitment of a book and how they’re like turning onto a street where the internet is a jungle. If you look at books, they are real things that change with time. They get beat up and they look different than when you first bought them, and I really like the way they look after they've been used and handled. And that they're also these things that you can dial up or dial down, meaning that there might only be an edition of ten of something or they may have information inside that doesn't live anywhere else.
It’s amazing about having this thing that's tangible, it has a certain smell, it has a certain feel to it. I didn't read my first book, to be totally honest, until I was older than most people and from that first one I just fell in love.
[laughs] How late? I think I was like 19 or 20? And from that moment on, literally like that first week I was obsessed, my mind was blown, and I just started collecting books after that.
Do you have an interest in music? I feel like it is a natural connection for what you do. Not at all. How do I say this nicely? There's the artistic side of making music that I find super fascinating because it's so foreign to me, and watching people do it, I'm always in awe, but I don't have that. Just to drop into that creative space, first of all to have the tools to know how to do it. Its just always impressed me. The flip side of it, like the music industry itself, has left a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve done a lot of creative directing for artists and nearly everything was more or less ruined by management or the label.
I can see that happening. My brother's a musician, and everything I've seen him go through in terms of like the business side of things is gut-wrenching. I don't know how someone could do it.
Do you find it strange that through Total Luxury Spa, you’re in the world of streetwear? I do, but we make our own rules and plant trees whenever we want, because of that, there's actually a ton of freedom. Yes it's a business, but I am not relying on it as my only source of income and because of that we can do what we want. We don't have to answer to anyone. I'm treating it more freely and I'm holding onto it in a less precious way. I think the streetwear world has turned into such an industry that there’s now all these politics built around it and that part of it makes me want to change it up.
Can you look back at all your work, and see an overall message? Maybe it's too soon to tell but I think so. Sometimes when talking about these more serious issues, they also don't always have to be treated as something very serious. You can create things around them that are maybe fun, based on myth or play around with a serious subject to gain interest but overall I feel like our mission is the same it's been from the beginning. I think globally we are so jaded and I feel like people are tired you have to show them what matters in a different way, because you just turn on the TV and it's all terrible. However people want honesty in ways that feel refreshing and people will pay attention once that happens and that's what we're interested in.