After a lease renewal fell through, Torrance Green (Pines) understood the gravity of how quickly Denver, and the Five Points neighborhood, in particular, was changing.
Denver has become an attractive new city since the early 2000s. Neighborhoods that have been a home for historically marginalized communities have been bearing the burden of the city’s gentrification. But Pines wants Adult Entertainment (AE), a streetwear brand he founded in 2015, to be a haven for the people who feel that barrier at its new space on 3535 Walnut St.
AE is more than a streetwear brand, though. “I’m not really interested in fashion, to be honest. Not as much as people would think. I like curating,” Pines explained. “The clothing is a byproduct of the bigger values we stand for. We are very adamant about standing up for Black and brown people. Especially with a lot of redlining and gentrification, there’s not a whole lot of representation for them in this particular area.”
Once billed as “the Harlem of the West,” Denver’s Five Points neighborhood is enriched with Black and brown culture and history — from people like the late Bruce Randolph who brought the community together through community organizing and soul food, to neighborhood icons like Neat Stuff, which closed earlier this year after over two decades in business.
By the early 2000s, redlining and gentrification had taken over the neighborhood. It displaced long-time local shops and residents with a new arts district and expensive real estate developments.
“In Colorado, there seems to be some unintentional gatekeeping on certain aesthetics and shops because you’re selling to your demographic but not necessarily bringing people in outside of that,” Pines said. “We have a reputation of what we represent, but we don’t choose who aligns or appeals to it — it’s our job to vet for all people in a safe space.”
Aside from streetwear, AE hosts regular events and parties where people are invited to network, celebrate creativity and have fun. The brand name has a literal meaning: amidst the daily grind of long hours and work, adult entertainment — whatever that may be to you — provides some escape.
“The feedback we’ve been getting from the events is like ‘old high school basement party’ vibes. It’s like going to a house party where you knew whose house it was and you knew it was a safe space where you felt vetted,” Pines said. “So many of us are part of that will of having to work the day job but fund the creative shit that we really want to do.”
Inclusivity is the pillar of AE’s values; they want whoever walks through the doors to feel welcomed. They advocate heavily for sex workers and the LGBTQ+ community and hope to partner with organizations like the Colorado Black Sex Workers Coalition in the future. They also plan to organize events with neighborhood venues like Tracks across the street.
“We’re not perfect, we’re willing to be accountable and heal in this space. And we need to embody the community by understanding what it means to be pro-Black, pro-brown and pro-sex work. We’re figuring out how we can nurture the pure, organic parts of ourselves that capitalism has crushed from day jobs,” said Katie Leonard, the communications lead of AE with a background in local activism. “In a neighborhood that has so much history, there’s a legacy of Black and brown businesses owners in this neighborhood that would be so proud of this space. “
Inclusion and community advocacy bleed into the brand’s designs, too. Aside from promiscuous nudges that embed pro-sex work, streetwear is typically non-binary and challenges gender fluidity in fashion.
Pines got started on the idea of AE when he met the brand’s current photographer, Justin Day. They became friends quickly after working to spearhead creative efforts for their former employer. The two bounced off each other’s ideas, refining and working on their own brand backstage.
“Once we separated from the company, our friendship was built really strong during that time and the creativity aspect was so seamless,” said Day. “Once we transitioned from that space, it all changed.”
As the idea grew, Pines connected with the local Denver musician, artist and founder of Average Records, Average Jonny. “We would link up all the time and talk creatively, so it just made sense for us to work together and it was really natural,” he said. “It feels more than being a part of a company, it feels more like a family because you know the people around you care about you.” He painted a mural for the brand’s early collection release, and eventually took on a graphic designer role, screen printing in-house designs and streamlining more efficient and DIY production for their streetwear.
“It’s a place to just be yourself. We don’t put any boundaries on anybody that walks through that door — it’s just home,” added Day.
To follow Adult Entertainment’s events and releases, visit their website
All photography by Hilal Bahcetepe.