Congratulations! Interview with Recent FIDM Grad & Founder of Compound District, Frankie Guzman

From a young age, Frankie Guzman has had a passion for drawing and painting graffiti. This passion would eventually guide him into starting his own clothing line and earn him a degree in Graphic Design/Branding from FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

At the age of sixteen, Guzman was caught doing graffiti illegally and owed $10,000 in restitution fees in addition to completing fifty hours of community service. During his time completing community service he attended a non-profit organization called Arts for Action where he had the opportunity to intern for The Lab. “This ultimately inspired me to stay out of trouble and my love for clothing began,” says Guzman.

Since then, Frankie has showed his perseverance by launching Compound District in 2010 and graduating from FIDM’s extensive Graphic Design program in 2013. We recently caught up with Guzman and he shared the following interview with the Blog.

About the Designer

Tell us a little bit about your professional background before attending FIDM.
Before attending FIDM I didn’t have much professional background and had no idea where I was going to attend college. One thing I did know was that I loved to draw and paint graffiti. It’s all I would do in my spare time.

What made you decide to attend FIDM?

A FIDM representative came to my high school and gave a presentation. She explained everything FIDM provided. She talked about how art and fashion were the main focuses and it caught my attention. I ended up going on the campus tour and immediately fell in love with the thought of going there. Some of my favorite designers graduated from FIDM and while on the tour I dreamed of being a success story as well.

How did it feel to present your final graphic design portfolio?

When I presented my final portfolio it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could breath again. I never felt so accomplished in my life. It was some of the best work I have ever created and to have my work critiqued at portfolio day was a huge deal to me. All those sleepless nights and cups of coffee were definitely worth the outcome.

Tell us about your experience in FIDM’s Graphic Design Program.

My experience in the graphic design program was very difficult at first. Coming right out of high school where it’s slow and being put into a ten-week boot camp with projects from each class was a challenge. It is very fast paced but I learned to love it and accept it. Soon enough it became such an amazing experience. I learned so much from the projects we had to do. Look books and style guides are the ones that will stick with me forever.

How did you find your inspiration for the pieces in your graphic design portfolio?

Most of my inspiration came from what I love most, clothes. In every piece of my portfolio I tried to incorporate something from the industry such as high fashion and street wear. Some of my biggest inspirations were Valentino and Mega from BLACKSCALE. I did a ten-page report on Valentino and instantly fell in love with his mind. From something as simple as stripes or polka dots he would have the deepest meaning for it. It would make his clothes that much more meaningful. Michael “Mega” Yabut is the designer for my favorite street wear brand, BLACKSCALE. His vision on life and meaning of his brand are incredible. For example, black isn’t a color. Black is the absence of all color. Black absorbs all aspects of light. While light reveals, black conceals. This provides me a sense of potential and possibility. You have to have balance in life in order for things to work out. Just know for every negative thing in the world there’s also a positive as well. Besides his meaning and out view of life his clothes keep getting better and one day I hope to be on the rise like him.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?

I hope to work for a street wear line such as The Hundreds, BLACKSCALE or Stussy. I wish to learn as much as I can, network, and hopefully go to New York to pursue my dream in the industry.

Be sure to check out Guzman’s Graphic Design portfolio below! (Click the thumbnails to expand images)


About the Brand

Compound District Clothing

Compound District Clothing – Photographer: Nessa from Old Soul Photography – Model: FIDM Grad Lynn Lee Torres

Tell us a little about your brand, Compound District.

Compound District is a brand that my cousin and I started. The idea was brought up around November of 2010. We needed a lgo; we had no idea what we were doing. It was just called “Compound” and a after some time I decided to add “Distribution.” As time went on, Ria Lewerke, one of my favorite teachers and I, had a discussion to try something else That’s when I decided to change the name to Compound District and I couldn’t be happier.

How did you get started creating the brand? 

I was interning at a graphic design shop known as The Lab. They do screen-printing and it was something I always wanted to learn. The owner, Leo taught me me everything. As I got a little more comfortable with the process I started taking on jobs. After a year and a half of screen-printing I felt I had it down enough to start printing my own clothes. So I did. That period of time, printing had to be the hardest because I was also attending school. At the end of the day it has saved me a lot of money and I learned a skill that most people these days don’t have much patience for.

What inspired you to peruse this project?

When I was sixteen I was caught doing graffiti and ended up with fifty hours of community service and $10,000 in restitution fees. I was on probation for two years and through community service I attended a non-profit organization called Arts for Action. Through this program I ended up interning for The Lab. This ultimately inspired me to stay out of trouble and my love for clothing began. I had a lot of ideas and a love for clothing. I did not know what direction to aim it towards so when my cousin brought up the idea of a clothing line I decided to run with it.

Compound District Logo

Compound District Logo

How did you come up with the logo and what does it represent?

The logo I came up with for my brand is a lion that I illustrated. It represents being the strongest and being the king of the jungle, which are things that I hope to be one day in this industry. It represents strength, power, respect and cause fear of what I have coming out next. Like Bobby Hundreds once said, “You should be doing everything you can to piss off the industry.”

How does Compound District differ from other clothing brands?

A lot of brands like to incorporate themselves and their designs of where they’re from. Almost every mission statement is the same thing. “We’re a lifestyle brand from Southern California.” Im my opinion, when you look at their designs, you can’t tell where they’re from or the message they’re trying to express. I believe a lot of brands that are up and coming do it for the money and forget the love of clothes, the passion, and to dedicate your life to something that may or may not work. Taking that risk on my part is what I live for. I may reside in Southern California and be in Los Angeles most of the time, but my designs and ideas are what come to my mind and what I believe are best for my company. My inspiration is endless and if I think a certain design is good enough to be put out there then that is what I will do. You will be judged no matter what the outcome, so you might as well have some fun with it.

What are some of your short term and long term goals for the brand?

My short-term goals for my brand are to finish my look book for summer, fall, and winter so I can get my catalogue together. My long-term goals are to get my clothes into stores and online shops. Being able to take care of my parents and the rest of my family would mean everything to me. My parents are the two hardest working people I know. They keep me going. As long as I keep them proud of me then I am doing something right. My mom would always tell me, “If you’re going to work somewhere, own it. Be the boss. Don’t ever let someone tell you what to do. Be your own man.”

Be sure to visit the Compound District website by clicking here. 

Compound District Clothing

Compound District Clothing – Photographer: Nessa from Old Soul Photography – Model: FIDM Grad Lynn Lee Torres

Are you interested in Graphic Design? No other Graphic Design program has the same unique focus on the Fashion and Entertainment industries. Instructors are working professionals with exciting careers and industry connections. Click here to learn more information about how to get your career started today! 


Questions/comments? Email the editor, Mani O’Brien at

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Would you like to learn more about earning a Graphic Design degree or Digital Media degree from FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising? Click the link below…

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Author: James Peacock

James Peacock is a Digital Marketing Specialist at FIDM in Los Angeles, California. He received his A.A. in Graphic Design from FIDM and was hired as Social Media Assistant in 2013 by his alma mater in order to help grow the institution’s social media marketing efforts. James now combines two of his passions, telling stories and solving problems by managing data-driven marketing campaigns across multiple channels that ultimately result in a positive return on investment.

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