The only labels that matter to the La Familia owner are Balenciaga, Off-White, Supreme, Vetements...
Words: Tommy Dennis | Photography: Andile Phewa
I'm so glad I put my seatbelt on. Kayde Psiroukis, better known as Vato Kayde, is roaring down Jan Smuts Ave in his BMW, drawing stares at every intersection. Attempting conversation is pointless as Travis Scott blasts out of the car causing slight tremors in my heart as the bass drops. Jan Smuts is not exactly an autobahn but we're accelerating like we've just been told that her parents aren't home and we should come over. The exhaust sounds like an AK-47 going off with each pedal push. I tell Kayde that his neighbours must hate him, to which he replies, "It's weird I've never received any complaints from them?"
Kayde, to put it mildly, cuts quite an intimidating figure. It's not only the face tattoos and the jewellery, which there is a lot of, but mainly his gear, which is everything hype. Nearly everything you see on your Instagram explore page or what Rocky is wearing, chances are Kayde has it. Nike x Off-White Collabs? Check. Nike React Element 87? Check. Nearly every Yeezy? Check, Check and Check. The list is endless. In preparation for the shoot, we asked if he could bring some of his sneakers downstairs and the whole effort took about half an hour. Despite his ostentatious lifestyle, Kayde is quite reserved and almost shy. Not standoffish or awkward, but there's a definite wariness around strangers. If you peel back the layers, you'll notice the foundation he's built on.
His house whilst still in the process of being set up (he recently moved in), is modest and somewhat under-decorated. It's uptown but not the mansion I was expecting. He has a pit bull and a marble table but the dog is friendly almost to the point of upending stereotypes about the breed (s/o Paco!) and the table has a PS4 controller and candles on it. The WIFI name is appropriately TRAP HOUSE but right now the house is more working man than Death Row Records. However, this working man is more of the Pablo Escobar variety with stacks of money laying around. I ask somewhat jokingly why he has so much cash around and his reply is a deadpan, "It's end of the month."
Having always been a busy guy, Kayde has been refining his hustle since his teens, working out of his mum's house and then gradually growing it from there with his partner Mish. He's 26 and has a store in possibly the trendiest strip in Joburg, selling goods that you couldn't get anywhere else in the country. Balenciaga, Off-White, Supreme, Palace, Vetements, the list goes on. La Familia is where rappers go when they need to be drenched in sauce for their music videos. It's also the location for monthly parties Kayde throws on First Thursdays, where Joburg's hypebeast crowd go to play. Conceptually it would be more than enough to party in a space that has Yeezy's in every colourway lining the walls, but Kayde and his crew put an enormous effort to curate the space differently each month. The latest party resembled a runway with hanging lights simultaneously brightening the space. He's also a DJ who you can find playing at Sumo and recently dropped his latest track with AKA and Gator 'Lost Hills'.
The store has both his mother and girlfriend helping out, hosts a full-time barber and a bar area. There's always something going on and Kayde has plans to evolve the space into something even bigger. It's an impressive collection of successes for a dude from the south who in his words has had to battle misconceptions, gatekeeping and robberies.
So how does a dude from Johannesburg's Winterfell get plugged into the cutthroat game of streetwear?
"We started La Familia at my mum's house back in the south. We gutted everything, put in a desk and that was our first store. Later we moved to a sweaty ass gym in Sandton. It was a small space but we made it work and it took us up another level. But I wanted more and started looking around. When we found this the rent was like ten times more than what we were paying, but we were, like, 'lets do it!'"
Along the way there have been some expensive lessons learnt. Owning a store in South Africa is fraught with danger and the streetwear space in particular has plenty of examples. Streetwear pioneers Loom were hit at both their Joburg and Cape Town stores, where the robberies got so intense that the fledgeling streetwear brand had to sadly close its doors. A few years back DipStreet in Braamfontein got hit and subsequently moved locales. La Familia, unfortunately, is no different and after they got cleaned out badly the effects are still being felt.
Stylewise Kayde is enamoured with the aesthetic of the West Coast cholo look, but a super luxe version. It's why he's called Vato and because of this he likes easy flowing looks and items he can relax in. It's all high-end and the tracksuit pants are $300 Palm Angels gear (Playboi Carti is a fan).
For an industry in its infancy, especially in a place like South Africa where the market for R10 000 sneakers isn't exactly burgeoning or being kept afloat by crazy rich Asians or Russian tourists, what does the future hold for a store like La Familia?
"A lot of people have come to us wanting to invest or even franchise but we don't wanna do that. We want to stay an independent stand-alone store. I don't want to sell out culturally, y'know? That kinda defeats the whole point. I'm happy with what we're doing and where we're at."