I think I’m a couple of years late to the party with this one, but this section of Alex Turnbull’s interview with his friend Shawn Stüssy from a while back (though it looks like the kind of material that’ll make it into his forthcoming full-length documentary) is interesting. Continue reading BRAND ADVICE
Nothing much to report here right now because I’m fed up of the MacBook screen after transcribing two and a half hours of conversation. But here’s a couple of things I wrote for some friends who sell stuff — a short piece on the Stüssy Tribe for MR PORTER (that 1990 CUTiE spread above stays gold) and a bit on the Converse One Star (one of my favourite shoes ever — there’s something a bit longer written for another outlet on the same subject too) for size? Two subjects dear to my heart that crossed over with each other too (as evidenced in the UK newspaper supplement that showcased a couple of pairs on Shawn’s fireplace back in 1993).
In a world where the younger generations are coming through with the kind of things that seasoned TV talking heads would find themselves stuttering themselves into a seizure in a bid to pigeonhole there’s still a place for the veterans to make their mark. London has long been a hub where ideas and attitude have been exported to become movements of their own in new territories — the city’s relationship with Tokyo being a good example — or at least the spot where its own imports, like punk after its NYC birth, were given a packable, sellable shape. There’s an entire roll call of folks who built up that reputation (and Alex Turnbull’s impending Rise of the Streets film project should make some things a little clearer) including Michael Kopelman, who has been extremely gracious in providing opportunities for young creatives throughout the years too (he even also made a cameo in episode #1 of Gamesmaster back in 1992) and Barnzley. A northerner who relocated to London, Barnzley seems to be connected to every zeitgeist — he worked with Worlds End, BOY, i-D and Stüssy, helped build a market for bootleg designer logos on tees, pushed deadstock shoes through Acupuncture, popularised the smiley face on tees in the acid house era, sold enviable amounts of Seditionaries gear to Hiroshi and Jun, has the rag trade knowledge and an excellent record collection, and was key to the superb House Industries House33 line and store in Soho, the Terrorist brand and A Child of the Jago. For all punk’s celebration of chaos, he gets shit done, is big in Japan and doesn’t rest on his history.
Having exited the Jago, Barnzley’s latest project is Thunders, a store located on Commercial Street in east London, that stocks his own Crossed Swords line which has been a couple of years in the making. Part Seditionaries, part Engineered Garments, part unclassifiable, much of it’s made up north like the man himself, and it’s punk without the silly safety pins or unnecessary postcard rebel embellishments. Coats are made from natural fabrics, with the occasional vaguely kinky synthetic lining, a red corduroy pair of bondage pants are stripped down but softcore, with RIRI hardware at the crotch, while mohair makes an appearance as the knitwear fabric of choice and neons aren’t overbearing. The tees are good too — Tank Girl artist Rufus Dayglo has created a reinterpretation of the Jim French cowboys image from the oft-reproduced 1975 SEX tee with a well endowed Booga, Tokyo new wave and hip-hop legend Toshio Nakanishi aka. Tycoon To$h has supplied some artwork for shirts, and there’s Let It Rock style Chuck Berry designs too. It’s a lot of things, but at its core, it’s streetwear rooted in the original London streetwear lines, with Crossed Swords’ House Industries designed logo echoing the swashbuckling new romanticism of Worlds End’s branding.
Thunders’ lack of webstore (they’ll walk you through on Skype though and there’s a private Instagram account @T_h_u_n_d_e_r_s, so it’s not because of technophobia) is down to a weariness with excessive promotion that erodes any sense of encountering something underground and distills all mystique, but the Tokyo co-signs are already drifting across social media and Thunders looks to be expanding into music and much more in coming seasons. There’s two distinct tribes whenever I get into conversations regarding future plans — the ones constantly talking about what they’re thinking about doing and the ones who know that there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. Big up Barnzley.
Haven’t got too much to say right now, but you should definitely check out the DAZED piece on Jungle style to preempt the 4OD documentary in a couple of hours — that there was 22 minutes of a major TV channel dedicated to Britain’s hardcore scene last week was a minor miracle and my expectations are sky-high for this instalment. This YouTube video of a very interesting conversation with the mighty “Rock ‘n Roll anthropologist,” Penelope Spheeris (director of Wayne’s World) from the other week might be relevant to a handful of visitors here who agree with me that Suburbia and The Boys Next Door are classics and that these are two of the best parts of any documentaries ever. Her life story is remarkable.
I wrote a little piece for Stüssy Biannual #3 on the mighty PHADE of the Shirt Kings. I know that it’s the done thing to misuse the term ‘humbling’ in these situations (it wasn’t), but it was a real honour to be involved because I grew up staring at album covers with PHADE and co’s work on the sleeves in one way or another (word to Kid Capri) and wishing that I could own a Stüssy t-shirt. The thirteen year old me would probably spontaneously combust at the prospect of being able to merge the two things and it’s important to keep that in mind. T-shirts that reference sport footwear are mostly terrible, giving wearers over the age of 20 that Robin Williams Jack manchild steez (watch for those black/red Air Jordan Is though), but Frank the Butcher put me onto Chicago brand KSSK‘s Heaven’s Gate Nike Decade tee (was this the first blog to ever talk about that shoe/mass shoeicide via Ghettrocentricity’s oracle-like shoe knowledge? I think it was), with some old style copywriting that makes it the best cultural reference to trainers on a shirt that I’ve seen in a long, long time. Salutes to KSSK for that one.
There’s nothing wrong with clothing for the sake of clothing, but the whole concept of streetwear needs a little more behind it. Without any cultural foundations or actual patronage at street level it’s pretty much kidswear for adults, which is why there’s so many terrible items out there. Nowadays a brand co-signing a digital download is part of the plan and seeing Palace’s recent vinyl foray with Theo Parrish reminded me of the Stüssy record that Alex Turnbull and co were responsible for in 1991— this was a tie-in with the STUPID BIG OL’ MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL STUSSY TRIBE in Tokyo and Michael Kopelman informed be that this event was attended by Leigh Bowery and Michael Clark after a chance encounter during that trip and that the evening involved Afrika Islam bum rushing the stage during a performance by The Afros (whose album Kickin Afrolistics will be recognisable to any cheapskates who spent the early 1990s sifting through bargain buckets). The same bin dippers will recognise the name Jamalski from his BDP connections and the Ruffneck Reality album.
After a recent conversation on this subject, Alex kindly gave me a copy of the 1st Tribal Vinyl Gathering of the IST 12″, with Shawn’s handstyle on the label. This Dope Promotional Fly Copy isn’t an obscurity and is easily obtainable for not very much, but it’s an interesting part of the Stüssy story — there’s a link to one of the tracks with Tokyo attendee Jamalski here. I’m guessing that it this project was pretty Ronin-affiliated. It’s an interesting addition to some of Shawn Stüssy’s art direction on record covers from the same era — the 1990 Malcolm McLaren World Famous Supreme Team Show album (which blew my mind as a kid by connecting Stüssy to the British Airways commercial that used Operaa House) and the confusing incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite (were BAD the first group to homage Scarface with the No. 10, Upping Street cover?) that seemed to ditch the old band entirely, but got Sipho the Human Beatbox (RIP) involved and recruited Shawn for the artwork for 1991’s BAD II release, The Globe. It’s interesting that both Malcolm and Mick were Brits, reinforcing the Stüssy brand’s connection with the UK.
I’m busy on some other things, so here’s twenty Stüssy ads from between 1989 and 1991. Some are pretty familiar, but there’s a couple of lesser-seen ones in the mix. Please excuse my brevity today: my time management at the weekend is of a very, very poor quality. These ads remind me of a time when I would have cut off my little finger like a character from a Kinji Fukasaku film for a Stüssy sweatshirt. Anyway, normal service will resume again soon. Apologies for the low, low word count. I’ll make it up to you with other stuff and strange collaboration projects that are on the horizon.
Self-publicity time. Shouts to Nike and Not Actual Size for letting me write this Nike Free A-Z. Nice to get to work on a project that’s based on contemporary runners and technologies, plus it takes me back to reading the old Crooked Tongues Tobie Hatfield feature from 2004 and thinking that I’d quite like to write something along those lines one day. The downside? Because it’s 2013, it’s one of those new-fangled digital book simulations. My mum won’t believe that kind of thing constitutes real work because it’s “the internet.” Only tangible, tactile evidence that I do anything will ever suffice. Anyway, go flick through that as proof that not everything I write is full of cowardly subliminal shots and poorly punctuated anger. Apparently there was a launch for the campaign the other day and Steve Cram was there — somebody should have made him some black and yellow Cram Windrunners with a Free sole specially for his appearance. I now know more about the science of shoe technologies than I did in January of this year. It’s nice to work on projects relating to products I can safely say I mess with without sounding like a corporate stooge. Maybe a childhood spent memorising old Nike ads — while other kids were actually doing sports that the shoes were intended for — wasn’t entirely squandered.
As an antidote to the nausea of self-promotion, Criterion‘s YouTube channel has been uploading some nice videos for the 40th anniversary DVD and Blu-ray release of Badlands, including the first four minutes of the movie, just to remind you how flawless that use of a narration is. Martin Sheen’s Kit is the coolest serial killer in film history and Malick’s direction and Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography are a perfect partnership. This disturbing and poetic true-crime (though the names were changed) classic proves that you don’t need gimmicks to make a movie with style. And because this is a period piece, Badlands never dates – plus it inspired Bruuuuuce to record Nebraska. I’ll always be in debt to Alex Cox for putting me onto this film as a double bill with 1951’s The Prowler (James Ellroy’s favorite film) on BBC2’s Moviedrome – a meanness in this world portrayed with unsurpassed elegance. I can watch this time and time again – the rumoured 6-hour cut of Tree of Life? I’ll pass, thanks.
Stüssy are putting out a twice-yearly publication called Stüssy Biannual. Given their sheer volume of projects, global tribe connects and emphasis on photography, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. For years I hoarded infrequent Stüssy mook releases from Japan, but an English language equivalent would be very welcome. Dropping on Friday, Stüssy Biannual #1 features contributions from Kenneth Cappello, Shaniqwa Jarvis and plenty of other talented people. Now, how about a hardcover Stüssy book, covering the brand’s history?
I wanted to see a Mo’ Wax book of some kind too, but seeing as I’m still waiting for the MWA Glen E. Friedman poster to drop, I gave up hope of anything like that happening. But Urban Archaeology is an impending book and exhibition to celebrate Mo’ Wax’s 21st anniversary that’s going to be Kickstarter funded. My interest in this project outweighs the grim realisation of how many years have passed since 1992. There’s a new site too — www.mowax21.com. They should put a bulletin board on there and weird animated launch page with Major Force West on repeat to resurrect the Beggars Group online era for the label.