Jeffrey Lara, creator and owner of The Key to Success clothing brand
Valor Academy High School

Artist spotlight: The key to success

Creator of The Key to Success clothing brand, Jeffrey Lara

As Los Angeles becomes a hub for creativity and expression, artists flock to this great city to have the opportunity to share their work. Some do it for fame, others for money; but local artist, Jeffrey Lara, creator of The Key To Success clothing brand, does it for himself as a growing individual.

I recently met with the Highland Park local to discuss his inspirations, motivations, and passion for creating his brand.

In order to understand the birth of the brand, one must know Lara’s past. Growing up in Highland Park during the 2000’s was no walk in the park. Lara describes being in middle school and knowing that people his age either joined a gang or became members of tagging crews.

Looking back on his childhood, Lara remembers his father telling him that the only thing he asked of him was that he never end up in jail or in a gang. As a student in junior high, he remembers skating with his friends at the Garvanza Skate Park as a way to “get away from it all.”

Wanting to fulfill his father’s wish, Lara knew that he would have to reject the norm of the time which was joining a gang or a tagging crew. This promise to himself and his father coupled with the motivation to be the first in his family to graduate high school led him to walk the graduation stage in 2014. As he was fulfilling his goal of being the first in his family to graduate from high school, he describes how he was a senior at Eagle Rock High School, simply trying to pass his graphic design class. He recalls having no intention of creating a brand or a name for himself amongst his peers, but quickly became fascinated with the art of screen printing.

Lara describes his initial experience with the production of clothes through screen printing, a process that he taught himself, as a way to pass the class. As he went on to create T-shirts for himself, he noticed that people began to take interest in his art. The interest expressed by his peers led him to realize that he could share his art with others – this is what he considers “the birth” of his brand – TKTS (The Key To Success).

This is not the only experience that has motivated him to continue with his passion of screen printing. Once Lara experienced what he feels was a near-death experience, he began to realize that he had to start making changes in his life that would result in making his parents proud of his work as an individual

Lara notes an experience in high school when his art began to inspire other artists in his school community to develop their own brands. He describes feeling both shocked and honored knowing that “he inspired someone to follow their passion as well.”

As his graduation date loomed around the corner, he couldn’t escape the question, “How am I going to continue to do what I love – screen printing?” He began to compete in screen-printing competitions, which in turn, rewarded him with cash prizes.

Lara went on to use money he had saved and the money from winning competitions to fund his hobby. He went on to create TKTS as a brand that he could use to express his passion for creativity and screen printing. He stands by the meaning of his brand – “positivity and motivation.”

Over the years, Highland Park has been subject to cultural and economic change as more coffee shops and art galleries fill up the streets. But one thing remains, Lara’s passion for art and the appreciation he has for its effects on his life. As a continuous inspiration, Lara hopes to grow as an artist and hopefully collaborate with other Highland Park artists. As he delves deeper into his art, his audience can only expect the benefits of his great dedication, talent, and passion.

He hopes to continue to work with other brands such as Vision Clothing, Soul Fresh Clothing and many more. He also plans to continue to stand as an inspiration to his generation and send the message that working hard towards your passions and goals can only help you grow as an individual.

In his case, Lara has grown as both an individual and an artist. He remains as an accomplished and growing artist of the constantly changing community he calls home– Highland Park.