Interview: Pablo + Frida

Johan Vilchez and Danae Gamboa

About four months ago, I was speeding down the 110 North knowing I needed a sample printed in two days. We had a small meeting in Tokyo that required us to present an unreleased mock sweater. Problem was, we finished a hundred dollar sample knowing we had no way to print a graphic on it with zero turn around. After bombarding the yelp app with multiple screen printer requests in LA, I stumbled upon a local Direct to garment (DTG) shop named Pablo and Frida (No need to explain the obvious reference). Panicking, I called, ignoring the 7 am annoyance. No one picked up and I started manifesting excuses in my head as to why I didn’t have a mock sweater....

About 3 minutes later, I received a phone call from a man named Johan. He listened to my desperate plea through a choppy voicemail and invited me to come visit his office.

I walked in knowing nothing about DTG printing besides the idea that it couldn’t hold a candle to screen printing. I was welcomed by Johan and a friendly Danae Gamboa, swamped with a pile of fabric ready to be sewed. I was instantly drawn to their upbeat attitude and willingness to answer my 30 questions (It was honestly like 100). After producing a perfect sample in 12 hours, they sold me on the new innovations in DTG and the incredible capabilities of their talent. We formed a new friendship in a matter of weeks, helping me produce multiple samples for various freelance projects. I became that annoying customer who kept coming back. That being said, here is their story:

Johan Vilchez and Danae Gamboa both attended Cal State Fullerton with a common interest in art, illustration, and fashion. Johan worked for an advertising agency as a production artist after college but found the corporate life daunting. After a year or so, he decided random drop-ins at his alma mater to use the letter press was the best way to express his creativity. A curious student named Danae took notice and they instantly clicked. By click, we mean she was confused why this rando was sneaking on campus to use their letter press. *Cues hoodie and sunglasses. She was majoring and interested in printmaking while Johan was chasing his passion in working as a creative. Call it perfect timing I suppose. They eventually became friends and the rest is history for Pablo and Frida.

Well, sort of.

“I want it to be about community, I want it to be about us working together to build something.”

- Danae Gamboa

This is where the grind started for them. Through a friend’s garage, Johan funneled a steady clientele with quality DTG and a honest personality. It wasn't easy though. Both had serious doubts whether this could work. Johan worked as an art director for several brands and Danae was working full time, so an opportunity like this would be risky. On top of that, Johan had limited experience with DTG printing, creating much for trial and error. For those familiar with the apparel industry, you can only imagine the amount of frustration and fucked up proto samples that must have ensued. They burned through hundreds of prints, in an attempt to perfect their craft. Eventually they’ve managed to churn out quality pieces in both print and embroidery. Danae installed a new dimension to their tandem by incorporating cut and sew ability, creating custom garments and patches.

They literally do it all.

The versatility of their work paid off and they eventually opened their own space in the heart of LA.

The funny thing about this blog post is the idea of a conclusion doesn’t exist here. (Not that my writing had any structure to begin with). I am writing to you knowing that Johan and Danae are still grinding in their new space, chasing not riches, but a passion. Not once in our conversation did they mention anything about profit or gaining attention for their business. Danae said it best: “I want it to be about community, I want it to be about us working together to build something.”

Follow their journey:


IG: @pabloandfrida

4632 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, California

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