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Mark Ward interview

I first met London-based designer Mark Ward at college, and I’ve been impressed (not to mention slightly jealous) to see how successful he’s been since graduating. With a client list that reads like a who’s who of the biggest brands in streetwear (Nike, Stussy, Medicom, New Balance, DC, New Era and Silly Thing just to name a few), he’s still managed to remain not only a nice chap but also refreshingly humble about what he does. Which is why it was unusual to see him thrust into the limelight recently, painting live at his solo show at London’s Nike Town store as part of the ongoing ‘Year of the Dunk’ celebrations (for which he was also commisioned to create a window display for famed sneaker store Foot Patrol). We sat down with Mark to find out a little more about the Nike commision, skateboarding, hamburgers and his recent move into freelance design…

Interview by Will.

Many people will have seen your work gracing Nike Town London and the windows of Foot Patrol. How did the Nike Dunk project come about?

Nike invited me to do it, as they felt my work and background fitted the brief. The whole "Be True" ethos had to stand, and I’m happy they chose me to do it.

What is it about your work that attracted Nike?

I guess my work is heavily influenced by American sports, probably due to it being a complete contrast of what I grew up around. People always want what they can’t have. I was never really into football etc. but when Channel 4 started showing American Football on TV, I was instantly hooked. I started studying all the logos and mascots. It opened up a world of imagery that was always out of reach for a kid growing up in England. Then I got into skating, and the graphics again also had a major hold over me. It was all the stuff we were told not to do in art class as a kid, and there were people doing it for product I was buying. I knew I had to get involved somehow…

 

Is this the first time you’ve painted live? How was the experience?

This is the first time I’ve officially painted live, but I”ve been painting in front of people before. To be honest I’m not 100% comfortable with it. It stops the creative process for me, and starts becoming more of an act. Viewers expect to see a finished image, while I have no room to make mistakes. When I work in private, I’ll draw something over and over again until I’m happy with it. That said, it’s cool that people take the time to watch you, even if it is a little unnerving.

I first met you at Central St Martins where you were studying advertising and graphic design. Does your advertising background help when you’re doing a promotional project like this?

My advertising background helps me with everything I do. It was a really intense course, where we had the majority of our ideas rejected. I learnt that ideas are the most important thing in the creative process. It taught me that you can’t just rely on style – it has to have some substance. But that train of thought has also troubled me. I really admire the work of people like Doze and Futura, but there is no obvious message in their work to me, even though it is visually rich and engaging. That makes me think that I’m being too influenced by advertising, but then that’s my background and my natural path to take.

 

I know you’re a skater, and I can see references to classic vintage skate graphics in the Dunk project and some of your other work. For me, I think it was skating that got me interested in design & clothing in the first place – do you think your skating background informs the way you create graphics?

Yeah definitely. Skating will always play a part in my work at some level. I was never that great on a board, and now I find I have less time to do it. Maybe that’s why I concentrated on the graphic side more, but I have many influences that boil down in my head and then spill out on the page. American culture is the main influence, with many offshoots that formed later on.

Does living in London have an effect on your work in graphics & streetwear? With the "Plates of Meat" custom AF1s you used a uniquely English concept even though both burgers & sneakers are primarily associated with the USA…

I really enjoy living in London now, but as a kid I always wanted to live in the States. They had everything I wanted. As much as I love it though, I can’t rely solely on America for influences, as we’ve all seen them before. I try to mix them with my English roots and my realization that America isn’t this amazing haven I had perceived as a kid. I try to stay true to my surroundings and make work that I can identify with, and that possibly shows a little of my identity. For instance some of my friends reckon I speak with a cockney accent, and the "Plates of Meat" customs were based around the cockney rhyming slang for "feet". Also it’s almost an anti-custom against airbrushed graffiti, and poking fun at the whole custom culture.

 

Apart from Nike, you’ve also worked with a range of well-known brands within streetwear. How have things changed for you now that you’ve made the move into working freelance?

Working freelance is great. It gives me room to choose who to work for, and the variety of projects keeps it fresh.


 

You’re well known for the designs you’ve done for Stussy. Now that you’re no longer working for them full-time, have you got any plans for future collaborations?

I’m actually working on some stuff right now for Stussy. It was just a natural progression for me to go freelance and be able to manage my own workload, but I really like working with those guys.

What’s next for you after the Nike exhibition, apart from going snowboarding tomorrow (you lucky bastard)?

I’ve got a show coming up this summer that I’m keeping myself busy with, and in between I’m working on a couple of projects right now that I’m not allowed to talk about. Sorry!

Cheers Mark, we’ll catch up with you again when you launch your exhibition this summer.

You can see more of Mark’s work at www.graphiknonsense.com. His exhibition at Nike Town London is running until 4th March so go and have a look if you’re in the city…

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Hong Kong Guide

Hong Kong has become a thriving centre of Streetwear, with access to some of the best brands in the world and a market with a huge passion for the culture. Recent years have seen the progress of local born labels also, leaving the city as a new major city within street culture. Our man Frank took us around Hong Kong to see the sights.

Check here for our other city guides of Barcelona and Singapore.

MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA

On Lan St, Central

It seems like HK has a shop for every single brand in the world, and this is no exception. Margiela can be hard to find in some parts of Asia but IT opened up HK’s very own Maison Margiela to showcase the talent and scope of the reclusive Belgian designer, with a beautiful and intricate fitout and design. Brilliant.

JUICE

Causeway Bay

HK brand Clot’s flagship store in Hong Kong, this 2nd floor store stocks some pretty cool product – Head Porter, PAM, Original Fake, and of course, Clot. You have to buzz yourself in via the small entrance downstairs, as it shares an entrance with a few other stores in the building. If you have a hard time finding it just look up and look for the 1000% be@rbricks in the window. For some reason the picture I took of the store didn’t show up, but it’s close to D-Mop’s J-01 store in Causeway Bay.

 

F.I.L. (VISVIM)

Wyndham St, Central

F.I.L., the Visvim store is located just around the corner from On Lan St. Typical of other F.I.L. stores like the ones in Japan it is very sterile and minimalist, with no music so you can focus on the product. Unlike what a lot of people told us there was a bit of product in there when we went in, but we could’ve been lucky. A must visit for all Visvim fans.

UNDERCOVER + SILLY THING

Gai Yip St, Chai Wan

I chose this picture to showcase this area because honestly, I just don’t want to ruin the surprise. Tucked away in an industrial corner of Hong Kong are two of the most beautifully decorated stores we have seen, ever. Undercover – Jun Takahashi’s brainchild, and Silly Thing – local HK label share retail spaces on this lonely stretch of road, opposite a port like area, much like what this picture shows. Look out for the store signs, because it might be the only giveaway to its location. It is very much worth the cab ride out there – about 80HKD or so from Central. A must see.

 

 

DOUBLEPARK (IT)

Multiple Locations

Doublepark is part of the massive retail conglomerate that is the IT group in Hong Kong. In this arm of the IT chain they sell the more mainstream streetwear – Zoo York, Stussy, XLarge, Fingercroxx, and more. Pictured is the one in Silvercord TST – one of the bigger ones in HK, with an "exit" and Xlarge monolabel store attached to it as well.

HONG KONG ISLAND TRAM

Various Stops, HK Island

Yeah, I get it, most locals think it’s just another form of transportation but if you get the chance you might want to get on one of the old historic trams on HK island and go for a little ride. At HKD$2 a ride to anywhere on the line it’s not exactly breaking the bank, and it’s worth the chuckles and full HK experience even if it is a somewhat bumpy ride.

 

"Small IT" and "Big IT"

Multiple locations

Nicknamed "small" and "big" IT, these are the namesake stores of the IT chain, identified by either lower case or upper case letters in the way they spell "I.T.". The smaller case IT stocks mid range brands like Freshjive and I think Beams, whereas the the upper case "big" IT stocks the higher end items like CDG, Raf Simons, APC and more.

 

ITAMAE SUSHI

Causeway Bay

A popular sushi joint in Causeway Bay – recommended to us by many locals in the area. Be warned though, there always seems to be a queue to get in outside.

DMOP

Multiple Locations

DMop is the other large street fashion retail giant in Hong Kong, stocking a different brand list to the IT chain. There’s a very large range of items, from high-fashion to streetwear to obscure Japanese and European brands, but it all works together and there was plenty of items in there that impressed us. Pictured is the store in Silvercord Tsim Sha Tsui, one of their larger ones. 

 

APC

TST + Causeway Bay

A monolabel store owned by the IT Chain, you guessed it, it’s a store dedicated to French brand APC. When we were in there there wasn’t that much denim as it was sale season, but a very nice selection of their shirting and jackets.

 

LOI YAN GAI

Mongkok

Yes, the infamous Mongkok night market. It’s got the big cheese factor but it might be worth walking down there and gawking at all the weird things on sale there. A good place to find a cheap bag if you’re out of room due to the stupendous amounts of shopping you’ve done in HK.

 

COMME DES GARCONS

On Lan St, Central

A joint project with IT, this is the Comme Des Garcons flagship HK store, located on the new hip On Lan St. On Lan has begun to turn into somewhat of the ‘high-end’ gathering point, with Maison Margiela next door, Mihara, BBC, and also the "HOODS" NBHD & w)taps store opening soon a couple of stores down. There’s a nice little art installation area at the very top of the store. You can’t miss the building – it is a gigantic block of white.

EXIT by doublepark

Tsim Sa Tsui

Hong Kong’s original Nike Tier 0 store, Exit represents a different tier of product higher than the normal doublepark fare, including ALIFE, Futura Lab, Swagger, Real Mad Hectic, and more. This Exit pictured is located behind a hotel, and can be quite easy to miss if not for the massive Nike Dunk ad on the side of it (pictured).

 

FRESHNESS BURGER

Causeway Bay, Tsim Sa Tsui

So this is a Japanese burger chain but our guy Brian from 852 took us to this joint as it’s his favourite local quick burger place. The criss-cut fries are to die for.  I would recommend the Menshi Burger or the Teriyaki burger. Careful though, it is pretty addictive…

FOOTSTEP

Tsim Sha Tsui

I remember Footstep from the last time I went to Hong Kong, about three years ago. Back then they were in a small mall in some dodgy corner of TST but now it seems like they’ve opened up a few other stores around the place. Good for NB, Vans, and a big Converse selection from memory.

 

REACH

Tsim Sha Tsui

At the top of a dizzingly step of stairs, Reach stocks local labels Subcrew and Dusty, both pretty big in Hong Kong. Subcrew produces most of the hats in the HK street scene, and are also pretty well known for their collaboration projects with some of the biggest names on the street. Pretty cool hat collection in REACH if you’re into the HK-style truckers.

 

LUCKY DESSERT

Causeway Bay

Famous for its local style desserts, this place is usually packed out during busy hours, with a typical HK queue waiting outside to get in. If it’s your thing, try the durian rice roll… I think that’s one of their most famous dishes. There’s also a few other nice things on the menu including Mango with dark glutinous rice, and a couple of sago dishes. Go on. Give it a go.

8FIVE2 STORE

Jaffe Road, United Success Commercial Centre, Causeway Bay

One of Hong Kong’s longest standing establishments and premiere skate stops, 8Five2 (the people behind the HK brand Know1edge) has been holding it down in town for longer than most people have been into streetwear. HK’s only Vans Syndicate account, that alone should be worth the hunt to find this store. Ask around a few locals if you can’t find it, they should be able to point it out.

 

Y3 STORE

Multiple Locations

Y3 – Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto’s brand in conjunction with Adidas is quite popular here in asia, so there’s a few monolabel stores (operated by the DMop chain) that sells the label exclusively.

DMOP & J-01

Causeway Bay

J-01 is DMop’s store that sells a higher-range of streetwear products. It is also their Adidas consortium store, and stocks denim from LVC, Evisu, amongst others. They’re ramping things up with J-01 in 2008 so I would expect some new brands and big changes in the store pretty soon. There’s also a big D-Mop store quite close by in Causeway Bay, with a newly opened Women’s section, carrying more Avant garde labels and fashion items as opposed to the normal streetwear fare.

 

NELSON ST (SNEAKER ST)

Mongkok

Hong Kong’s infamous Sneaker St, located in the heart of Mongkok. Rows and rows of stores selling sneakers, but mostly all selling the same thing so don’t worry about trying to find the best deal as most of them sell them at the same price, or only a fraction of a difference. Good to go for general release or asia-only release sneakers.

TSUI WAH RESTAURANT

Causeway Bay + Central

A local favourite, this is the place to go when you’re either done with drinks at Lam Kwai Fong or just after a quick bite to eat, HK style. I’d recommend the condensed milk bun, and apparently the chicken curry rice is pretty good there. It’s always busy, which probably shows its popularity amongst locals there.

 

 

BAPE

Central

Situated right next to a McDonalds and close to the Central MTR station, Bape continues to stand strong as one of HK’s landmark stores. Typical of Bape the interior is bright, colourful, and yes, insane. There’s a travelator underneath the faux floor with bape shoes traveling along it, and it is separated into two floors, with the kids & girls lines upstairs. You have to go, even if it’s for the rainbow lit stairs leading into the store.

 

BBC

On Lan St, Central

Gee whiz. The BBC/Ice Cream store on On Lan St has got to have one of the most insane fit-outs we’ve seen in quite some time. As you can see from the picture the entire outside of the store is themed as a gigantic rocket ship, and the interior is separated into different levels, with shoes on the bottom, and then denim, teeshirts, jackets, and caps respectively as you head upwards to the top, where it turns into an intergalactic theme at the peak. We liked the ice cream sandwich shaped couches. It’s worth the visit just to see the inside of the store, even if you’re not a fan of the brand.

 

LAM KWAI FONG

Central

Just in case you feel homesick and miss seeing gangs of drunk Europeans stumbling around from pub to pub, have no fear. Just head to Lam Kwai Fong, HK’s ‘club street’. Packed with bars, clubs, and ale houses it is a favourite for ex-pats and locals alike to meet up for a drink….. or ten. Stop at the Central MTR station and walk "in-land" and up the hill, you can’t miss it.

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