Tam Duong Jr.
It’s a bright sunny October day, as Fernando Santos walks into his newly opened store in Oakland’s Laurel District. Santos, standing about 5 feet 6 inches tall with a medium frame and dark brown curly hair, is wearing one of his own Beast Oakland t-shirts, which are for sale throughout the store.
“I couldn’t be anymore proud, to be able to call this my own,” the founder of Beast Oakland said.
The store, which opened Oct. 12, is decorated with his own paintings: one of a pink flamingo wearing black sneakers with the Port of Oakland as the background. The right wall is spray painted yellow and black with the words Beast Oakland.
The left side has a few racks and black shelves with pullover sweaters and tees. The radio blasts hip-hop throughout the store.
After having success selling his t-shirts at festivals, on his website Beastoakland.com and on social media, Santos’ business has grown to the point where it demanded he bought his own store.
“I chose this spot, because it’s family-oriented calm, and it just felt right,” Santos said.
Beast Oakland is a brand that Santos created to show the pride, love, positivity, and unity of Oakland.
The logo is a ferocious crane modeled after those located in the Port of Oakland.
“The crane represents courage, strength, power, and is also an icon for the city,” Santos said.
The word beast came from the repetitive usage of other Oakland residents at the time of his start-up.
At the time, Santos heard a lot of people using the word.
“To me the word beast is a person that is exceptionally good at something or performs an activity aggressively,” Santos said.
In the world of sports the word beast is used a lot to refer to players’ performance, which means they played extremely well.
He also explained, “I was sick of seeing several Warrior fans with shirts that said The City. I know they started in San Francisco, but they been in Oakland for so long,” Santos added.
He wanted a shirt that was an answer to that, and that’s when he established Beast Oakland’s logo.
In early 2012 he began sketching designs for his line.
A few months later, he created a couple of batches of t-shirts for men, women and children with his new logo.
He started by selling shirts by word of mouth but expanded quickly through Facebook and Instagram.
There weren’t any investors involved or funders in the opening of his new store. “It was all money saved for two and a half years of selling Beast Oakland shirts,” Santos said.
In 2009, he was unemployed, had $400 saved, and for the first time he did what he always wanted to try: making his own t-shirts.
The first shirts were black with white print saying Rollin’ 100s and had two hands representing the way to say the streets located in the 100th and up avenues, in East Oakland.
Later he made several batches of similar shirts but representing other neighborhoods such as the 60s, 80s and 90s.
“The turf shirts were mostly popular in East Oakland, that’s when I knew I had to make something that targeted a bigger audience,” Santos said.
The brand was originally TSG, which stands for Thrill Seeking Gang, a former graffiti crew he had formed in high school.
He made a few designs with that logo but didn’t find it to be as successful. “The design was too broad, I don’t think people actually understood it,” said Santos.
The graffiti crew consisted of 20 males, in which only six or seven would go out tagging at a time, mostly on weekends.
“We would tag on anything that was empty; garbage cans, windows, walls, and bus benches on East 14th, San Leandro Boulevard, or Bancroft,” Santos said.
They would mostly tag either their crew’s name or their own street names. Santos’ crew name was Rush, which to this day is the name he’s still better known by.
After several different design attempts, he decided to design something that represented Oakland.
That’s when he designed the logo for Beast Oakland and made several batches of t-shirts in different colors.
“It was such a hitter, that people thought that was my brand, that’s when I just stuck with it, and knew this one was it,” Santos said.
Santos also provides behavioral support and supervision at Cox Academy, a K-5 school in East Oakland.
He helps out in art projects, including a few murals on the school walls.
“I enjoy working with the youth because they remind me of me,” Santos said.
As of now, his mother and sister have been helping him in his store when he’s not there.
In a year, he plans on hiring employees as his business starts expanding.
“I don’t have plans on opening other stores outside of Oakland, since it’s already a big enough market here,” Santos added.
Along with shirts, he also has tote bags, aprons, pins, hats, beanies, and in the near future he plans on adding sweatpants to his line.
Recently he collaborated with his sister Adriana Santos, known as Immigreat Designs, to make bow ties and zip pouches.
In the future, he wants to make his brand his full-time job, career and sponsor local youth sports leagues by paying either fees or equipment for families that can’t afford it.
He also wants to give time on helping the youth with art activities at school.
“My goal is to be well established, and not be recognized by the new brand, but by the brand itself, I just want a smooth sail,” said Santos.