But Angelo apologized, nonetheless, not quite satisfied with what he’d done thus far in such a short time.
“Collection was done in two months,” he said.
That was January 2020. What a time to launch a new business! But 4S Designs is something special. Something totally new at the level of scale and ambition of 4S—a full collection with shoes made in-house and Italian-factory production and fabric development on par with any of the premiere European luxury houses—is practically unheard of. Especially from a US-based designer with a quiet social media presence and no apparent interest in chasing clout.
“There’s no elevator pitch for it,” Angelo said. “It’s not so simple. It’s very nuanced. It’s me. I’m a nut job.”
Like Hollywood, the fashion industry tends to revolve around a handful of established figures—like The Avengers, but for brands and designers instead of superheroes. Rather than betting big a few times a year on new ideas and unique voices, it constantly, relentlessly rearranges the same figures in different ways—churning out sequels and spin-offs to sell to eager fans in the form of collaborations, diffusion lines, and capsule collections. Angelo is proposing an alternative narrative, something entirely new that breaks from the usual formulas. It will come with greater challenges and great risk, but, helpfully, he has exactly the right background.
For nearly twenty years, before he started 4S at the end of 2019, Angelo worked for the New York brand Engineered Garments. There he did everything from sales to designing sneaker collaborations to casting and styling lookbook shoots. Working alongside EG’s famously meticulous designer Daiki Suzuki, and directly with the Garment District factories with whom EG shared an office building, Angelo helped develop one of the best American brands of the past twenty years. EG takes relatively straightforward concepts from classic American sportswear, militaria and uniforms, and retools them into something extraordinary. With 4S, Angelo is attempting a kind of inversion of that idea—he’s taking the relatively common aspects of European fashion and Americanizing them.
He came to America with his mother, uncle, and cousin as refugees from the Salvadoran Civil War when he was two. His mother carried him across the border with the help of a coyote, smuggler who takes migrants across the border. His father was a desaparecido—one of many anonymous, “disappeared” casualties of the war—and the home where they lived was bombed three days after they left. They first arrived in Texas, where they spent time with some family, before moving to New York, bouncing around staying with relatives and family members in the Bronx, Queens, and and Long Island. Urrutia’s mother worked a job or three, while Angelo grew old enough to start skipping school to explore the shops, art galleries, and museums in Manhattan.
He did other things, too. “I was doing things I should not have been doing,” he said during one of our many conversations. “And I had access to money, and because of that, I was able to explore things.” That led to an appreciation for the kind of clothes and gear that were previously off limits. Style became an essential part of his life—fashion from Ralph Lauren, expensive hiking boots from Paragon. ”For me, it was just like, trying to out-cool the next guy. It was a sport.”
As a result, Angelo’s taste is as expansive and catholic as anyone I know, and he has a vast trove of fashion knowledge to back it up. He can tell you every detail of how an Armani jacket is made, or about all of the micro-differences between every Yankees fitted ever produced. He wears Birkenstocks with Chrome Hearts buckles and dangly pearl brooches with sweatpants. Every time I hang out with Angelo I come away with a new drop of deep fashion intel.