Nino Llanera is Foot Action’s West Coast Brand Influencer and Co-Founder of The 5th Element Magazine, a hip hop fashion and lifestyle magazine. This wasn’t always his plan, however. Nino started his career as a nurse. We talk to him about moving from the medical profession to The 5th Element, how he got hooked up with Foot Action, and how the market is missing out by not offering stylish men’s clothing in extended sizes.
You never really planned to do any of the things you’re doing today, right? You were originally in nursing? I was in school as a biology major, and I thought I was going to go pre-med, but I realized that it was hard! Then I decided to try nursing, and I got into it, but realized that it wasn’t for me. Coming from a Philippine background, it’s like everyone is a nurse or expected to do something like that. My Grandparents were entrepreneurs; My Grandpa did woodworking and my Grandma was a dress maker, which is where I probably get it from.
I finally just decided to start living for myself instead of for other people.
How did you make the jump from nursing to The 5th Element Magazine? My frat brother Mark and I were in San Francisco visiting our friend Nina. We were sitting around in her living room thinking about what we were going to do with our lives, and he said “Lets open up a store!” We didn’t even know where we were going to get the money to do something like that. This was back in March of 2010. We started a blog and got some friends who were graphic designers and writers to help out, and we went from 20 people a day [visiting the site] to people from 120 countries!
What made us really blow up was when we got a tip that Jay-Z and Beyonce’s baby pic was going to be released. We had a source and we were one of the first 100 to put it up. After that, the calls and emails and interest started pouring in. Blue Ivy gave us our break!
How would you describe The 5th Element Magazine? We’re a fashion hiphop lifestyle magazine. We cover DJ, B-Boy, MC, Graffiti, and we believe the 5th pillar of hiphop is fashion. It all kinds of ties into how you look and how you feel.
You’re probably not what some people would expect when they think of a Foot Action Brand Influencer. What has that experience been like? Having the opportunity to see them rep someone who’s not your normal size model has been amazing. They sent me a message and said they would love for me to join Foot Action as a brand influencer for the West Coast. I did a campaign with them, and it grew from there.
What drives you to do all these things you’re doing? My family drives me. They instilled in me to try my best. Also, the fact that I’m not the norm, especially when it comes to acting and hosting. You wouldn’t expect to see a guy like me on the red carpet, or acting. I look up to Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’nique – they don’t want to just do one type of thing. I want to show people that I’m even more than what you see.
Tell us about your personal style My style is street, but clean and sophisticated, with some edge. I live between high fashion and streetwear. You can do so much with this kind of look, and we see more and more that many big guys aren’t scared to try and do things with style. I think your website proves that. I like to take risks with my style, but still make sure they’re on trend.
Where do you shop? I shop at Foot Action – they have sizes up to 4x and 5x, and a wider range of clothing; it’s not just a place to buy your sneakers. You can outfit yourself from head to toe. I shop Casual Male XL – they’re expensive, but if you go during their seasonal sales, you can get up to 70% off. JC Penney is on trend and offers big sizes as well. Even Walmart recently – I picked up a denim shirt. Where else? H&M – they stretch – thank god for joggers!
When you find something that fits you well, you tend to keep it for a long time. Do your research first, and you’ll be happier when you actually go out shopping.
Why do you think so many mainstream clothing brands don’t offer big and tall sizes? The market is missing it. The market thinks there’s no profit margin out there, but it’s huge – the big and tall companies are opening all over and expanding, so it’s obvious. If people in our industry start spreading the word, there would be big and tall sections everywhere. Why does forever 21 has a plus size store for women, but H&M doesn’t have one for dudes?
What’s next for you? I’m considering at moving to NYC and going to Parsons. I want to challenge myself and do something new. I’ve also got a book deal, and I’m looking at putting something out.