Category Archives: Design

MORE BOUNCE TO THE OUNCE

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In the era of the preview and early look, it was extra surprising to hear that a new edition of 12ozProphet is fully formed and primed for release. Coinciding with the relaunch of the website and forums (while the idea of a forum for streetwear is out — as the impending end of Hypebeast’s boards attests — in favour of the Reddit and private FB group chatter, graffiti still seems to work well in that format), plus a new store that debuts this week, we get Volume 2.5 in The Official Bootleg Series (contained again in “flavor-saver” packaging). Continue reading MORE BOUNCE TO THE OUNCE

GRAND OPENING, GRAND CLOSING

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Nike, Comme, McQueen and Canon in the same product mix? It’ll never catch on. The place will be lucky if it survives into the 21st century.

Fast-forward two decades.

It’s a fond farewell to Colette at the close of this year and it’s easy to forget just how mind-boggling their approach was when it opened those doors in 1997 — grander than just another sparse boutique, that styledesignartfood combination was something very different. There were influential stores globally long before colette, but it was one of the few to actively engage with the streetwear realm credibly and without condescension. Now, the idea of grabbing a drink, an import magazine, stationary as a souvenir, 35 pound t-shirt or an item of clothing worth thousands is a business model we’ve come to expect. On first visiting 213 rue Saint-Honoré, the exhibition section, book area, pre-stream edits of import DVDs and oddly democratic blend of high-end and my interests on the same rack opened my eyes to a lot of new things. It looked like the work of a discerning eye rather than just another blog reaction. Of course, in 2017, the rest of the world has caught up, and it’s easier than ever to grab the same selection in other key cities or online, but while a trip to colette hasn’t caused me to impulse buy of late that it did a few years back, it’s not fizzling out — in a quintessentially Gallic move, the Colette who put her name to the store is stepping down in December and without her, Colette goes too. A lot of stores studied the moves this Paris institution made, but few could steer it to the very end like Madame Roussaux and her daughter did.

T-SHIRT KINGS

Knowledge god Mr. Brendan Dunne of Sole Collector put me onto a little project that appeared on Nike Harajuku’s blog at the end of last month. Nike Basketball seem to have teamed with Shirt Kings (presumably PHADE is involved?) for a set of t-shirts. Having worked with Supreme and Stüssy a while back, the Nike project is an interesting evolution that legitimises their work after years of homaging Nike classics like the Air Force II in their art, and including an artist called NIKE in the team. The uninitiated might be baffled at the cartoonish graffiti art, but it’s important to reiterate the importance of their work in hip-hop fashion and streetwear in general. I conducted a very brief interview with PHADE for Stüssy in 2014 that’s reprinted below:

Taking a graphic identity from trains to torsos, this is a little story that needs to be told.

Anybody that ever appreciated a hand style or graffiti iconography on a t-shirt, probably owes the Shirt Kings a little something. Before Shirt Kings, there was graffiti on vests and jackets, but this was one of the earliest examples of a successful company, despite being a labor-intensive production line rather than mass-produced gear. There’s a soul to each flashy, eccentric one of one that can’t be commercially reproduced.

The forefather of the hip-hop brands (arguably the real street wear companies) that would boom in the 1990s — whether it was PNB Nation, Phat Farm, Too Black Guys, Triple 5 Soul, Cross Colors or FUBU — was a spot in Jamaica Queens’ Colosseum Mall run by Edwin “PHADE” Sacasa, Rafael “KASHEME” Avery and Clyde “NIKE” Harewood. PHADE had been putting in work on trains with legends like KASE 2 after a move from Brooklyn to the Bronx in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until he took his skills to cotton in 1984 that he realised graffiti on apparel could be a lucrative endeavour, “Seeing the reaction to my graffiti pictures in school gave me the confidence to know I had something.” The move from spray can to airbrush wasn’t too severe a transition, “It was the same just a little bit more detailed.

The Shirt Kings name coined in 1986, with the company making power moves in 1988. Flicking through the pages of Sacasa and KET’s book, ‘Shirt Kings: Pioneers of Hip Hop Fashion‘ (Dokument Press, 2013), it becomes apparent that this trio was onto something significant. Their custom creations became a status symbol for every key New York rapper of the late 1980s as well as a rolling cast of hustlers, cool kids and Queens characters. Heavy D, Nas, Jay-Z and LL Cool J felt its influence. Even if their work on cotton rarely crossed the water or went all state, a global audience was exposed to the Shirt Kings’ art on Audio Two’s ‘What More Can I Say?‘, Biz Markie’s ‘Pickin’ Boogers‘ and the Transformers piece on the ‘Red Alert Goes Berzerk‘ sleeve. The crew even managed to get their work onto Bill Cosby’s back.

In terms of style, each New York borough brought its own aesthetic — PHADE noticed those differences, “The styles were different — each borough was unique in style and fashion. Brooklyn was an athletic, tough look, Bronx was a more rugged Timberland hood style and Queens was a kind of combination of Bronx ruggedness and Brooklyn flash style.” That variation in looks from neighbourhood to neighbourhood created its own set of creative challenges, twinned with the sheer speed that trends moved at — Champion, Coca-Cola gear, Air Force IIs, MCM and Gucci all had their moment as status symbols and each artist needed to be versed in that imagery, “The work was evenly dispersed. A customer may have a preference in artist because of relationship, but otherwise we trained to be one. Art never goes out of style. Luckily we were all graduates of The High School Of Art and Design in Manhattan, NY — all capable of working in any field in graphics.

Like getting a tattoo, Shirt Kings customers would get an initial consultation, “The customer played a big part in the process — we just were vehicles used to bring their vision to life.” In terms of cost, that work didn’t come cheap, “A shirt was around 50 dollars, we provided the garments unless the customer had a special item of clothing they wanted painting.” The work wasn’t a one-wear affair either, “The shirts were washable and kept their color if heat set hot and hand washed in cold water.

Another pioneer of New York street style from the same era, legendary Harlem tailor Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day played a key role in Shirt Kings’ success when PHADE took the brand to another iconic indoor marketplace, “Dapper Dan is my mentor. When I had expanded to The Mart 125 across from The World Famous Apollo Theater, he came and said, ‘We need to work together — come on down to my spot.’ I asked him how much rent and he replied, ‘No worries.’ He took me all up and down the East Coast selling clothes.

Dan’s exaggerated amplifications of luxury logos and prints are present in some of the company’s images. With their brand represented heavily during a golden age for street culture and music, PHADE, KASHEME and NIKE would become celebrities, with an escalating client base that led to two-week waits for product. From cars to gooned-out Roger Rabbits and diminutive psycho Chucky as a b-boy with a bucket hat and pager, some commissions were odder than others — PHADE had his limits, “I don’t do demonic stuff or negative images, just fun and culture.

Jamaica, Queens was no stranger to dancehall’s flamboyant fashions either — rudeboy customers had some wild requests, “They seemed to be big on the pants as well as the jackets. They expressly wanted explicit art on their clothes with rhinestones and rips and glitter.

If you’re wondering about how the Cosby connection came about, Shawn Carter plays his part, alongside Theo Huxtable, “We were invited to a party and Jay-Z was showcasing with Jaz-O, I saw Malcolm (Jamal-Warner) downstairs, I had the picture book that I carried everywhere we went — I gave it to one of our young interns and he approached Malcolm. We all came over and took pictures and next thing we were at Malcolm’s house in Brooklyn ordering shirts.

Shirt Kings would spawn imitators, but PHADE doesn’t see it as a negative, “I wouldn’t call them imitations. It was youth in a culture using their gift to cause other creators to start thinking about making their own way in this culture.” While KASHEME passed away, both PHADE and NIKE are still painting and airbrushing. PHADE has put his energies into working with non-profit groups to teach youngsters to create their own artwork and develop their own skill set and sense of empowerment.

Despite breaking it down it in more local terms, Sacasa acknowledges that the business’s legacy is colossal, “Shirt Kings design creations were pivotal to the foundation of the science in branding between hip hop artists and a designer who was an aerosol artist in the NYC subway days teaching kids how to do legal art on a t-shirt.

GOLD STANDARD

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Books on athletic shoes are done to death. However, there’s always room for exceptions on the shelves and it was good to finally devour the contents of this particular one. A while back, before digital dominated, Nike commissioned some fascinating publications to coincide with campaigns. The world doesn’t need another bluffer’s guide to bestsellers with Q&As with the usual suspects. What it needs is untrodden informational terrain and Le Silver does the job. Written by Lodovico Pignatti Morano — editor of the flawless Ideas From Massimo Osti — the book is a 152 page anecdotal history of the Air Max 97’s role in Italy. I believe it’s culled from around 97 interviews and, curiously, despite its defiantly local nature, it’s published in English. Club kids, DJs, store managers, graffiti writers, rappers, stylists, editors, professional footballers, scooter boys and motorcyclists all break down the core appeal of Christian Tresser’s design between 1997 and 2003. Best of all is how the author retains the contradictions of any good origin story — there’s multiple accounts of different pioneers said to be the first to bring the shoe to Rome or Milan, some participants dismiss it as ugly, there’s tales of the shoe flopping initially before the sudden surge and plenty of corroborating tales regarding the impact that Georgio Armani putting it on the catwalk in early 1998 had locally. Very hardcore, very niche and beautifully designed by Munich’s Bureau Mirko Borsche, channeling that spirit of streamlined futurism that — according to some subjects — may well have driven the core appeal of this ostentatious entry into an already bold franchise. Incidentally, it also operates as a fairly comprehensive book on the popularity of the Air Max Classic/BW in Italy too. Well worth 22 Euros, even though that 16 Euro shipping fee is a little aggressive. Le Silver is the gold standard in shoe-related books. There are plenty more images of it and its contents right here.

REFILL

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The problem (or possible blessing) with being surrounded by something all the time is that you don’t see time flying. Things from the early 2000s seem, rather paradoxically, done to death and recent. But many of today’s consumers of the very things we obsessed over and the ones who’ll succeed us, were toddlers when magazines were a viable thing rather than a thing to lay on the table neatly for social media. Sydney’s Refill was a good publication that ran from 2003 to 2005 and was occasionally stocked at spots like London’s Magma for fifteen quid. Created by Matty Burton and Luca Ionescu, it ran for five issues before coming to a close, managing to document some things lesser spotted on 2017’s digital channels along the way. It evokes an era of chasing this and early adopter of most things Raif Adelberg’s hardback Made Magazine. Issues #3 and #4 of Refill are on issuu to browse in their entirety — I recall that BAPE edition causing a brief mania with 2004-era hype types because it came packaged with an ape head poster and badges of some kind, which makes up for the brevity of the actual interview in that cover feature. Nostalgic for features on Devilock? Step right in. The piece on Will Bankhead’s work, with bonus design work from Bankhead, Ben Drury, Christian Petersen, Fergadelic and Ed Gill, is fucking fantastic — Park Walk (created alongside Emmet Keane) from 1998 was a pretty pioneering Brit brand seemingly solely sold abroad, and the later, more widely distributed Answer line was incredible, making up a solid chapter in UK streetwear history that’s a good link between Silas and what the Slam City residents would sire next.

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UNDERWORLD CHAMPION

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Image taken by Cory Slifka for the DECKAID Tumblr

Chris Hall is many things — a director, the skater’s skater, antique dealer and the sports footwear connoisseur to end them all for starters, and his defiantly D.C. aesthetic and East Coast mentality helped drive the look of the region’s skateboard scene. Believe it or not, there was once a time when a tag, some drips and a graffiti character on a deck or tee seemed different and progressive (it’s worth noting that “underground” was genuinely applicable to the scene 24 years ago), and while that look is very much of its era, Chris’s 1993 Underworld Element Champion parody deck was remarkably ahead of its time. Right now, we’re almost at breaking point with homages to the legendary C branding, but this design manages to embody now and then. On that East Coast skate note, without Supreme, I doubt Champion would be enjoying its current renaissance. I noted almost unanimous derision and laughing Emojis by the ton when size? posted some Champion Reverse Weaves on their IG a few years back, but since those doing the mocking shed their Hollister and elasticated chinos for streetwear, a shot of that label is guaranteed likes. Chris has been on that look since day one and images of this board were elusive or particularly pixellated until he was photographed by Cory Slifka with it as a loan to the excellent DECKAID show that benefits youth-based charities. Very rare. Very good. Always early.

HARAJUKU 1997

I haven’t got a great deal to write today, but the LuckStaPosse YouTube account has a couple of gems in Japanese like a minute of UNDERCOVER’s A/W 97/98 show and this Harajuku 1997 footage of the folks gathering to buy some goro’s and some chats with UNDERCOVER and BAPE clad NOWHERE visitors is pretty interesting too. Remember when we used to marvel at a Tokyo streetwear consumer’s willingness to queue? We’re all at it now. The rumours of a goro’s webstore feel like the end of the last real-world only experience in this world.