I was lucky to catch up with Lionel Vivier, Director of Sixpack France recently to discuss what it means to be described as a ‘post youth brand’, their new Spring/Summer collection and their artist collaborations.
Megan: For those who don’t know what Sixpack is about, give us a little background on how the brand came about?
The idea of opening a store in 1998 was dictated by a sheer envy to share our love of graffiti and music with as many people as possible. Running a business was the best way for us to meet people, but also to transpose our late teenagers dreams into a social and financial reality.
Among the forgotten or anonymous people that inspired me , Calvin Johnson from Beat Happening and his label K records have always been an example. They have given me the hope, that with little means and a lot of sincerity, one can seriously grab the attention of a public.
Graffiti also helped me defining the way I wanted to develop Sixpack France: being a radically underground driven action that targets the biggest audience from the overground.
I have always been a supporter of cross overs, I can feel as concerned about Weezer’s music than musical experimentations such as Muslimgauze or Dopplereffekt.
Megan: You describe yourselves as a post youth brand, how exactly would you explain that concept to people?
Lionel: I do not think it is a concept but rather a vision of who we are already. I am pretty interested in the phenomenon of emotional transformation, in the path from teenage, to youth, then to the so-called “adulthood”. We keep a childish, hallucinogenic look on what we do, we want to give ourselves the means to reach what we desire.
The brand is in a perpetual quest for its own identity and therefore advocates for the discovery of itself through all available means, among which , psychedelic vertigo, erotic dread and deep inner and outer exploration.
Megan: How have the designs changed over the past couple of years to meet this new way of thinking?
Lionel: At a certain point, the evolution of the brand indeed met the idea of “post youth”, while we had to clearly define the brand identity. During the past years, we have set up a place, a context, an environment in which we transpose our emotions and the symbols of our cultural heritage. I am seeking to keep a certain form of spontaneity, a sense of rhythm rooted in the graffiti scene, to define my needs in a glance. At the end, I need to find the right pace along with the seasons to articulate these emotions in time.
Nowadays there are to distinctive main lines:
The cut and sew range defends a simple, elegant and functional garment, that can be worn by a majority of people, independently of groups or generations. It is a garment that is reduced to what it formerly has to be: an extension of your skin. I like simple clothes, with little details. I refuse to overstate design and I try to stay away from those kinds of emotions, “overdesign” sounding somehow like emotional fraud to me.
I want our collections to express who we are, to be the result of our daily, of the conversations I have with my friends, talking about sex, cinema, music. I want them to be whichsoever manner to capture an instant, an authentic moment in time, like a cliché, a Polaroid.
Our tee shirt range finally comes to frame it with pictures. It’s like a painting: Cut and sew is the frame, the t shirt line being the central picture.
Megan: What were the ideas and themes behind the Spring/summer collection?
Lionel: It is always very exciting to tell the story underlying each collection. SS11 is the time we have decided to celebrate the product, to let it tell its story all by itself. We chose to make place by burning the whole rest. That is where the idea of dust comes from. Just like a historical detox, a rebirth. We were even briefly tempted to name the collection “Detox in Phoenix”.
I still find it amusing: we wanted to stop telling stories, and that is precisely what drove us to tell a new one.
Megan: Tell us about the artists you collaborate with, do they all in some way share the same post-youth philosophies?
Lionel: The way we get to collaborate with artists is not random, but rather driven by the underlying values of the brand. In the meantime, their work is contributing to sharpen the borders of our identity. Each season is a spot on one of the multiple faces of what Sixpack can be. We write the scenario, the artists are the interpretors. Once we have defined our ground values and the overall shape of the brand identity, it has naturally limited us to specific creative fields. There, we invite friends and people sharing our ideas; they bring as much as we give … It allows each of us to threaten our respective creativity comfort zones
Megan: How you make art accessible to people through your t-shirts collections?
Lionel: We give ourselves much more freedom on the t shirt line. It s a very exciting field of expression, we have fun showing our values, symbols and references in a much more frontal way.
Megan: So, where to from here?
Lionel: 1.Mature our language.
2. Release Paraone’s forthcoming album: “Slice and Soda”. It is a side project that was recorded in collaboration with Boston-based singer San Serac. I see it like a kind of protofunk that would have been influenced by Gang Of Four, Wire, Japan and Drexciya. It will be the first album that will be released under Sixpack France.
3. A tee shirt capsule with Jean Widmer, who was the director of visual communication at the centre Pompidou in the 70’s…
Otherwise we keep on making love at Sixpack France.
You can check out Sixpacks new collection and find out more about the company via their website, www.sixpack.fr
Photography: The Judge and DIY