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Wood Wood Interview

Woodwood is without a doubt one of the most forward moving brands in Street Fashion today, with their latest collection released this week, with their lookbook available to view and also some items available online, and also their involvement in the Highmath exhibition and latest Arkitip issue, we decided to catch up with Karl of the Danish brand to find out a little more about the company make such strong moves. This recent collection featured within this interview is one of my favourite yet from the brand and also my pick as one of the best collections for this coming season.

Tell us about the beginnings of the brand, did the store of brand come first? and what was the initial philosophy behind starting? who was involved?

Magnus, Brian and myself have known each other since we were children. When we started this up in 2002 we honestly didn’t have the smallest idea of what we were doing. As many others do we went to New York and got very inspired by the legendary Alife store, the people behind it and the whole vibe around limited products thing that was just taking off at the time. I remember I took photo’s of kids sleeping outside the Supreme store just waiting to go in and spend money on these things. With us we had a bag of screen printed t-shirt designs we had done, and we went into some stores and asked if it would be possible to sell them and the people were stoked about our style and a new door suddenly opened up. Then we had a client in New York, our first client ever and there I think we knew what we wanted to create.

 

 

The store carries a large array of brands, and your own brand manages to also find a line between fashion and streetwear, how do you see the two linking together? do you see them as different cultures?

The Wood Wood brand was actually meant to reflect all the brands in the store, not just the clothing, but the books, toys and artwork. In doing so we think we found a genuine niche between street and fashion.

The scene in europe is very different to the states, in your experience what do you feel are the biggest differences and the driving factors behind the differences?

I think its very important for us that we until now we haven’t had a design manual or well thought out business plan. We have been taiking advantage of having the opportunity to do both edgy and romantic pieces for the girls and more streety thing for the boys or vice versa. As Europeans are great travellers I think we are well aware of trends in music, design and art from all over the world and by reflecting all these impressions, and using them randomly accross various projects we are capable to reveal a new form of nergy or style.

 

Wood Wood has been involved in a few big colaborations over the years, what have been some of your favourite?

Basically I’m happy about all the collabs we have done so far. Piece by piece we got the most out of each product but ofcourse it meant a great deal for us to be part of the Adicolor project. At the time it was a result of 3 years hard work and to be recognized and invited among so many important peoplethat we admired and looked up to ourselves obviously was a big thing. Coming from Denmark, no one had done that beforeus so we got almost too much exposier with national TV and other crazy stuff… most important for us is to work with the people we like. We just worked together with Scott from Arkitip on the exhibition Highmath in Berlin, which he curated. Highmath will show work from Evan Hecox, Kaws, Ed Templeton, Geoff McFetridge and many other. We have designed Artikip issue no. 44 which also serves as the catalogue.

Tell us about the upcoming shoe you have designed with New Balance?

We wanted to make a shoe with nice colours, just a shoe you would want to rock on a daily basis. Nothing fancy or crazy, and the NB670 seemed perfect for that mood and those colours and materials.

 

Can you tell us about your cycling team?

The team based on former professional Danish profile riders who all have made great achievements in Belgium Classics, Tour De France and other pro tour races. Together with other former A-class riders and people from the community the team meets up at 9am in the Gladsaxe in the outskirts of Copenhagen to ride for a few hours. Normally there will be a few sprints and usually it ends with Caffe Latte and killer stories about old battles and chases of the past. A good story can never be told enough times, I sometimes ride with the team so Brian and I made the design with references to the 80’s legendary team Cafe Columbia, which one of the riders used to ride for. Actually we did it because we wanted to comment on the hyped trend of biking and fixed gear bikes in particular. We wanted to create and show something that had a real value for us. Biking is the second most important thing to me after my kids and I was born into the tradition with my brother being former pro’s and my father riding class-A in Denmark. In every trend you always try to find the source or its origin at a certain time, and by doing this we evealed some of the true values of cycling and presented some of Denmarks proudest riders of the 80’s and 90’s.

As designers where do you find most your inspiration?

Whatever we find to be natural to be inspired off. I can’t say there is a certain source of inspiration to the collection although the silhoutte of the styles may have been defined, we still try to open new doors. In our graohics we are always very attracted by contrasts in various forms and sayings, black and white never goes out of fashion.

How do you feel Wood Wood the clothing brand has progressed, do you think you’ve gotten better as time has passed, where do you see the line heading?

Right now we are trying to get hold of this big snowball that is rolling faster and faster and getting bigger and bigger. As the whole thing has progressed relatively fast there is a lot of things we need to work on to get better and more effective. I think that we have hit the right vain of what we are doing, and it seems like people like what we are trying to pull. The collection itself is getting very interesting I think, and a bit more edgy and a bit more playfull.

What’s next for you guys?

We are in progress of new and very interesting projects, unfortunatly I can’t reveal the plans here.

You can view the latest Wood Wood collection here at their site and even buy online. Expect to see more from the discussed Highmath exhibition over the coming days. Thanks to Karl and the Wood Wood crew for their time.

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BBB Diary Part 2

Here’s the second installment in our round-up of the best offerings at Bread & Butter. On the final day of the show the entire Streetwear section seemed a little the worse for wear following the previous night’s events, which included the Addict, Patta and 24 Kilates party where the Patta soundsystem wreaked havoc in Barcelona’s most upscale neighbourhood and several revellers ended up falling into the swimming pool by mistake. Thursday evening also saw Nash Money‘s phenomenal show with Trust Nobody – stay tuned as we will be bringing you full coverage from the show along with commentary from Nash himself shortly…

One of the most impressive clothing ranges on show came from the French brand Sixpack, with a collection that includes a range of designs from guest artists amongst other products. Close attention to detail is visible from the swing-tags to the prints – for the logo-based designs, for instance, the Sixpack symbol has been reworked into intricate geometrical prints instead of the usual simple logo chest print.

 

Analog‘s upcoming range combines highly technical jackets with witty concepts. One jacket features all the technical bells and whistles you could hope for in a snowboarding jacket, with a sublimated print creating the optical illusion of a plaid flannel shirt complete with pockets, buttons and a sweatshirt hood. Another jacket has x-rayed items apparently stashed in its many pockets, while a reversible hoody from team rider Trevor Andrew is all black on one side and printed with gold watches all over the other so you can flip from discreet to flamboyant on a whim.

 

Analog’s sister brand Gravis had some surprises in store too, including the unveiling of their new logo, bleached denim chukkas and a collaborative bag designed with The Hundreds. Their Expedition pack consists of several shoe models reworked to keep your feet dry when relaxing on mountain holidays, with waterproof leather, flannel and seams, grippy soles to keep your balance in the snow and a dash of ’40s hiking style in the tongue label artwork.

 

Obey had just received the samples of their upcoming official collaborations with seminal rap group Public Enemy. Apart from t-shirts, the collaboration also extends to jewellery and hats featuring the famous Public Enemy logo. The Obey accessories line is expanding too, with more jewellery and a range of fixed-gear-related items with cog motifs including pendants, belt buckles and cycling hats.

 

Other interesting offerings at the show included some seriously flashy sneaker lace locks from Homeroom that come packaged in a miniature flight case…

… a range of footwear from Clae in bright colours and luxurious materials…

… and, strangely, some great hunting jackets from gun manufacturer Beretta in woodland camo Gore-Tex.

 

The last year has seen a lot of concerns voiced about the Streetwear industry and the direction it’s headed in, but if Bread & Butter is anything to go by then there is definitely life in the old dog yet. The Streetwear area was consistently buzzing with activity, while the high fashion sections of the show often seemed deserted – then again, that may be to do with the booth decor of some of the more fashion-oriented areas:

See you next year…

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Jeff Staple: The Remix

Some people believe that catching a break is the key to success, but to Jeff Staple working your tail off to create that break is actually the key.  Jeff is the brains and motivation behind his break, what started off as a small tee shirt business is now a multi-dimensional design/retail empire that produces flawless creations perfect for today’s consumers. 

Along with becoming a hugely influential figure within Streetwear and its niche cultures, Jeff keeps pushing design into new frontiers solidifying himself as a visionaire. Today, Staple Design attracts big name clients, Reed Space is in Tokyo and NYC, Staple Clothing is burning up the street; all in all Jeff Ng aka Jeff Staple is the hardest working man in the industry and his Company growth shows. We caught up with Mr. Staple to learn more about Jeff, his company, and the future; with some exciting insight on upcoming releases including a much coveted collaboration with Levis… Its an exciting time for the NY based designer, innovator, icon, and entrepreneur.  Interview by Matthew Ross

SXH: How was it working with Levis? 

STAPLE: First of all, when Levi’s invited me to do a project with them, it was really an honor. I mean, I can’t recall a time in my life where I WASN’T wearing Levi’s, you know? So the opportunity to do something with them was very exciting. Levi’s is a huge company but sometimes working with large companies can be slow and cumbersome. But working with Levi’s was pretty organized and efficient. 

SXH: When you brainstormed for the tenth anniversary celebrations was Levis a given?  What are they doing right now that makes them an A+ candidate to work with?   

STAPLE: When I mapped out the 10th Anniversary collaborations, none of the collaborations were a given. I personally asked each person or company for the opportunity and if it made sense then we worked together on something. Levi’s was sort of a long shot of course. But I’m really happy they agreed. Levi’s practically invented denim. They could close up shop right now and still be one of the important brands of all time. But recently, the stuff they have done with Fenom FLU and Devon Aoki on the womens side has been really good. They continue to innovate when they are one of the few brands in this world that can rest on their laurels. 

SXH:  When you think of Levis what it comes to mind?  And when you put Staple X Levis together what does that say?  Do you think there is difference in opinion regarding Levis between the US and Japanese markets? 

STAPLE: There’s definitely a HUGE difference. In The States, Levi’s is often regarded as an old brand that is no longer relevant. With newer, trendy brands chomping at the bit. These newer brands exist in Japan too of course, but Levi’s has managed to maintain a high brand image over there. People have no problem dropping over $300 on a pair of Levi’s. I think its because of some of the brand extensions I mentioned above that have helped foster this. Also their retail environments are much better over there than here.

That’s not really a big deal. That often happens when different regions of the same company do something cool and innovative. The thing that boggles my mind with Levi’s USA in particular, is that they PROHIBIT the cool stuff from entering this country. I’ve often tried to represent Fenom or FLU in Reed Space only to hae it met with opposition from Levi’s USA. I cannot understand why they would react this way. The only explanation I can muster is that they’re hating. For example, if Staple Australia was making some really dope shit, I, as the head of Staple, would want to see that stuff available to everyone in the world. Mind you, this isn’t a case of Levi’s Japan not wanting Fenom or FLU available anywhere else…that I could understand. This is Levi’s US prohibiting other regions to carry it. Really…just boggles my mind. 

 

SXH: How has Levis (est. 1853) managed to maintain its strength in a now saturated denim market? 

STAPLE: Levi’s does its best when its sticking to its roots. When it stays authentic. You can see when Levi’s strays off course and it shows. So while there are lots of trendy companies that come and take a bite out of their share, Levi’s will always remain a staple of the industry (pun intended.)   

SXH: I have been speaking to a lot of people in the industry (Established industry types like yourself) who at this point in the game are getting really tired of a lot of the goings on… Could/would you feel comfortable at this time to sound off on some of the issues, problems, jokes, etc. (please don’t hold back)… 

STAPLE: I don’t really think there is a problem. I mean, we’re talking about fashion here. People’s lives are not at stake. I think a lot of  people in the industry are annoyed at the recent influx of new jacks. And yes, it’s a law of averages right? The more people you have in one room, the more chances there will be wackness in that room. But so what? To me, the cream will always rise to the top and the crap will fall away naturally. I personally welcome fresh blood into the industry. It inspires me and shifts the balance of power. And it forces me to continue to innovate and move forward. I never want to be that old fogey in the corner that complains how its not like the good ‘ol days anymore. 

SXH: The state of the world today is a bit… fuzzy right now (best way I can put it), what is your opinion of the US in regards to the world?  Could you speak on the state of the economy (possibility of a recession, devaluation of the dollar and its effect on Staple, Reed, and you personally).  Are you concerned that the retail sector is headed for rough waters?  What is your stance on the War?  How do you think the worldviews the US and how do you think the average US citizen views the world? 

STAPLE: For better or for worse, I didn’t go to business school and I don’t have an econ major. So while I can understand that the US economy is struggling, I still bet on my heart rather than my wallet. Again, sometimes, this can get me into trouble. When I opened Reed Space for example, it was in December of 2002, a year after 9/11. Shops were closing up left and right, we just missed the holiday shopping rush, it was a bad winter all around. Probably the worse time to open a store. But we thrived in that condition…somehow. I followed my heart and my gut.

As far as US relations, I must say when I travel abroad, I am almost ashamed to be an American right now. We are being represented by a leader that mocks the power of his authority. And because he represents all of us Americans, we pay for his actions. It’s like a company. I’m the founder and president of this company. If I’m an asshole and a dick, you will probably assume that all of my staff are assholes also. It’s a trickle down effect. When I’m abroad and people ask me where I’m from now, I usually say downtown Manhattan. I’m hoping the mental picture of NYC overpowers their disdain for America as a whole. And typically it does. People think NYC is like a separate entity from the rest of the US. There’s some truth in that also. 

SXH: If you had to set aside the 3 most valuable possessions in your life what would they be and why do they such meaning?

STAPLE: Well you asked possessions, so I’m not including people on this list. Just objects:

A Chinese calligraphy painting that my grandfather made for me.

My laptop. People can’t believe that I run my entire company off of one laptop. I don’t have a main computer I use at the office. I just use one laptop. If I lose that, I lose everything.

My keys. They allow access to everything in my life.

 

SXH: If the reading public does not already know, Jeff is a champion traveler.  With reference to all your travels… has there ever been a time that you were genuinely scared?  Was there a time that you just wanted to drop everything in NY and move to the specific local of the moment?  Is there a location that you will never travel back to even at gunpoint?  Also when you travel what are your essentials, and what are some travel tips that would help the novice traveler like myself? 

STAPLE: Yes, last year there was an incident where I was asked by the flight crew to beat down and detain a drunk man beating his wife. I got pretty "jack bauer" on him and it was definitely scary. I documented the entire thing, minute-by-minute on my blog you should check it out when you want a good read. (check it out here)

There was a time when I seriously thought about moving to Tokyo. I had an apartment lined up and everything. At the last minute, I decided to stay in NYC and I’m happy with my decision. I’m still fortunate enough to be in Tokyo at least 6 times a year, if not more and I like it this way much better. NYC is the only place for me.

I like to travel light. One tip I have for the novice traveler is to be as nimble as possible going thru security. I think about this even as I’m deciding what to wear on the flight. Avoid shoes you have to lace up and tie. Avoid metal on your clothes. I can’t stand being behind someone in security line who doesn’t understand the concept of "no metal thru the detector." Its takes like 5 times thru the machine for them to realize it. On my flight from Australia recently, a women went thru the metal detector and it went off. She had a steak knife in her pocket! A kitchen sized steak knife! WTF?

Another tip is to choose an airline carrier now and stick with them. The benefits you receive by racking up miles with one carrier are invaluable. I use OneWorld which includes American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. I can basically get anywhere in the world and I can use all their first class lounges and priority check-ins. If you commit to one airline, its not too hard to start getting benefits. (You can also add to this by signing up with a credit card that treats dollars as miles. So the next time you buy Pigeon Dunks, you can add 2000 miles to your account!) 

 

SXH: We also know you’re a great promoter of Apple products (and if Apple is reading so am I)… two questions: what product would you love Apple to come out with? What apple product would you love to collab on? 

STAPLE: Apple should come out with an apparel collection…especially outerwear. Steve, give me a ring…I’m ready.

SXH: By the time this is published it will be a new year.  January 1 brings the tradition of resolutions… what are yours?  What were some resolutions in the past that you have stuck to? And what are some resolutions that you broke within the first week? How do you usually celebrate New Years and was it any different this year?

STAPLE: In 2008, one of my resolutions is to go out more and be social. I’m kind of a loner and I like to work a lot, so I don’t go out so often. But I don’t know…maybe as I’m getting older, I feel a need to observe what’s going on. It scares me because sometimes, I’ll go to a party and I will be completely confused about everything—the music, the fashion, the social interactions. I feel like an alien sometimes. Also, every time I go out, something positive usually happens. I run into an old friend or meet new acquaintances that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

In 1993, I stopped drinking completely and have been dry since. I also gave up eating pork that same year. I am very happy about cutting those 2 things out of my life. I tried cutting beef and chicken out of my diet but I haven’t been successful at that yet. Have you tried Kobe beef in Japan? Ugh, that’s gonna be a hard one. 

SXH: What does family mean to Jeff Staple?  Could you address that from both a personal and professional standpoint?

STAPLE: Professionally, I don’t mix family and business at all. I think it’s a bad idea. Personally, I am very close to my mother and she’s like a cool friend. She’s not like a typical "mom". Our relationship is really cool. 

SXH: Do you think we have become a society too needy of unnecessary possessions… or is this consumerism good for society?  Do you think society is on a downfall or upswing; can you give examples of why you think this?  And if you feel there is a downfall issue is there any hope or any way to mend these issues? 

STAPLE: I don’t think you can generalize about society as a whole. For every rapper that’s putting diamonds on his rims, there’s a guy going vegan and switching to all organic products. I think the real issue that most people have is a false sense of happiness. I see people confused at things that make them happy versus things that are SUPPOSED to make them happy. There’s a big difference. And consumed products may or may not be part of that equation. I’m not saying that the LV handbag is bad for you. I’m not saying its going to solve your problems. I’m just saying that people need to look in the mirror longer. And harder. And ask if how they are living is making them happy. 

SXH: What is your business philosophy? Do you reinvest all your profits back into Staple to grow the brand or do you diversify?  What kind of structure is Staple, is it a Corp, an LLC, etc. and why did you set it up the way you did?  How much of the business decisions did you learn out of a book, how many learned from friends and family, and how many of the lessons were learned on the job? 

STAPLE: I’m just a designer that got lucky. But luck only gets you so far. From there, common sense helps a lot. From a business standpoint, I had to learn everything on my own…by making my own mistakes. Sure, I had people giving me advice here and there, but I still had to make my final decision and live with that decision. I recently started to read business books but I find that they don’t apply to my world. So I might read a book and only 1 or 2 chapters can pertain to what I do. Again, I listen to my gut a lot. More and more, I find that this works for me. Because at the of the day, even if my gut told me to do the incorrect thing, I still don’t regret the decision. 

 

SXH: How is the running going?  (Reference to a Darren Hudson post) Yeah I read it… For anyone a little hazy regarding To Darrin Hudson: that is Jeff’s personal blog (that is also fed through Honeyee.com).  I know by know you’re probably sick of answering this question but very briefly who is Darren Hudson? (Sorry this is my only generic question)

STAPLE: Ahh..running might be another resolution that I have to work on. Haha. Darrin was my high school buddy who I had sneaker battles with back in the day. We were the only two kids in our high school that were THAT crazy into kicks. It’s poetic because everyone thought we were weird back then, but now look at the world. We were influencers back then, man! (If only I bought stock in Nike! Shit!) I lost touch with Darrin and I dedicated my blog to him. The blog was a way for me to catalog all my sneakers (which I have been doing a horrible job on). I found people were much more interested to show the relationships that led to the sneakers, rather than the sneakers themselves. And happily, Darrin discovered the blog and we’ve reunited. It’s pretty cool. He’s a teacher in Florida now. Another profession we have in common. 

SXH:  Your obsession with Ping Pong and Kit Kats are well documented. What other obsessions do you have?  And are any of them past the point of help? 

STAPLE: I’m obsessed with meeting people. Sitting down to a good meal with a cool person is something I never want to give up and its one of the most enjoyable things about my life. I sometimes think that it might be the strongest sources of inspiration for me. 

SXH:  When you’re not traveling, working on projects, what does Jeff Staple do during his down time?

STAPLE : For the most part, I’m never not working. If I’m on vacation, or just hanging out with my friends, there’s always a part of me that’s "on". With that said, I do need to turn off at times. But I can’t lay on a beach or do something relaxing. Because my mind then drifts back to work automatically. So to get my mind off work, I have to do something that requires 101% of my mental concentration. For example, snowboarding. If you think about a project while you are riding, you will likely eat shit very soon. Basketball is another. If you don’t like getting dunked on, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about techpacks while playing defense. DJing is another great love. Again, can’t think about deadlines while you’re mixing a beat unless you want a room full of angry drunks staring at you.

SXH: How do you think color affects the market? I mean do you choose your colors due to seasonal trends, moods, to effectuate feelings or, "just because it looks good"? 

STAPLE: In terms of colors, I do what I’m feeling at the moment. So for example, in Spring 2008, all our tees only come in black and white. A lot of our customers asked how come we’re not doing teals, aquas and pinks like everyone else. I can’t really answer them. I just do what  I feel is right, even if it seems completely wrong at the time. 

SXH: What artists do you admire? IE your walk into the MOMA, Uffizi, MOT, etc… what artists are you going to make sure to see… And what about their work inspires you?  What is the next frontier for Art? Medium? Focus? Mood? 

STAPLE: I never really go to museums or galleries. I don’t get inspired from other people’s art. I appreciate them. I appreciate the labor and process that went into it. But I rarely find art as an inspiration source. 

 

SXH: If you were trapped on an island what one thing would you bring (and boat has been answered already) and why?

STAPLE: A person I really enjoy spending time with.

SXH:  Whom have you met that to this day you still can’t believe you were in their presence?  And what was the experience like?  Did the meeting happen as though you imagined it to be?  

STAPLE: Tibor Kalman is one my design heros. I studied him greatly in school and I met him a few weeks before he passed away. When I met him, he was already in a wheelchair and we were in the dairy/cheese aisle of a grocery store. It was so anti-climactic. Exactly as Tibor would have wanted it. 

SXH:  2007 Review Questions…

Best News Story: I read this headline in BusinessWeek Magazine this year: "NIKE LIMITS QUANTITIES OF SHOES TO INCREASE BUZZ" (Whoa fellas..who leaked that one to you? It’s 2007.)

Best Gadget: Nike+ and the iPhone (which still needs lots of improvement)

Best Staple X Product (Sorry only get one): Yonehara Book/Catalog

Best Country Traveled in ’07: Baldface, Canada

Best Hotel of ’07: Four Seasons, Hong Kong

Best Meal of ’07: Masa, New York City (thanks Julia!)

Best e-mail video of 2007: Thankfully, my Spam filter gets these before I do.

Best Movie: Juno

Best Jeff Staple Interview: hahah…funny question. The one in Antenna mag was pretty good. Even though they spelled my company name wrong in the headline.

Best Piece of wisdom you can give our readers for ’08: Try fasting just one week this year. It will change your life forever.

SXH:  Do you practice Yoga or some form of meditation… I only ask you because it seems as though you have such a demanding lifestyle and I know you are not self medicating so I was wondering how you achieve such inner harmony and balance? You always seem so relaxed how does one achieve the Jeff Staple Zen? 

STAPLE: I think I was born this way. My mom recently told me that as a child I NEVER cried. She actually only remembered one time where my crying was a problem. It was at a loud party with lots of people and music. But the second we left the party, I was fine. When I was scared, I wouldn’t go into a fit. I would simply point to the thing that was frightening me and say the word "scary".

But more recently, the stress levels and demands of what I do are so high its tough to keep perspective. I’ve some close to losing my life a few times. (couple of weeks ago in fact!) and that I think that helps me to put things in perspective. I highly recommend almost dying. It makes the world a much better place to live in. 

 

SXH: Out of all the work you have done in the last 10 years what are you most proud of, and what are embarrassed to admit you were a part of?  What award/recognition was the most meaningful? 

STAPLE: I am most proud of the team I have assembled at Staple and Reed Space. I have a great group working with me and I would never be able to accomplish even 20% of what I do without them. You can be the most gifted and talented person in the world. But if you’re not making money while you’re sleeping, you’re not a business.

I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of anything I’ve done in the past. Everything is a lesson learned at worst.

With the awards, it’s tough to say. Each one I get is really an honor and special to me. It’s funny when I get some form of recognition because to me, I’m really just going my job. So it’s odd to me that another person would say, "We want to give you this award for doing your job." 

SXH: If you could eat lunch with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and why? 

STAPLE: I wouldn’t mind having lunch with Ralph Lauren. I think what’s he created is incredible and I could even achieve .01% of what he has done, it would be an accomplishment. 

SXH:  If Hollywood were to make the Jeff Staple movie who would play you?  And who plays Nico?  

STAPLE: I think Nico should play both of us…like how Eddie Murphy played everyone in Coming To America. Haha…

SXH: Do you have any regrets? Any fears? Any qualities you would like to change?

STAPLE: No real regrets. I am happy with what’s happened to me so far. Even though some decisions may have been questionable by some people, I feel like everything happens for a reason.

I know there are probably some things that I should change about myself; nobody’s perfect,  but I also realize that I am the way I am for a reason. If I change one tiny thing, it would probably cause a ripple effect and change something else. 

SXH: What other nuggets can you share with the SLAM! Readers regarding what’s in store for you and Staple Inc.?????

STAPLE: One of the things that bothers me the most about this "blog-generation" is early leaks. I find a lot of times, all the buzz is on the leaked information, and then when the thing itself is actually released, nobody talks about it. So I try and only speak about things when they are ready to be released.

SXH:  What kind of legacy do you personally want to leave?  The same question for Staple Inc.?

STAPLE: The motto for Staple is "A positive social contagion." If you break that down and really analyze this, then you’ll have the answer.

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realmad HECTIC January 2nd Release

Following a recent release from there colourful winter collection from realmad HECTIC and all the success of the ‘Three the Hard Way’ collaboration with New …

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Chris Law: CT to ADI…

In the world of design, we as consumers flock to products that are impeccably designed.  We desire the aesthetically fly, and can tell when there is a certain attention to detail that sets a product apart from all the other mediocrity. Sometimes these designers, the "authors of cool" are left off the information pages… Well not today! World say hello to C-Law…. Chris Law is a lead Designer for Adidas Coastal, Adidas Skateboarding, and ex-founding member of the world renowned sneaker website Crooked Tongues (1999-2007). 

Chris has worked with the best of the best: from Adidas,Addict, New Balance, Puma, Stüssy, Recon, New Era, Endeavor Snowboards, Wellbred, and industry personalities such as BJ Betts, Aaron Horkey, Michael Sieben, and Ian Brown.  He has been associated with Lewis Sterling, Addict, Crooked Tongues, CliqueNMove, and Bond International. Chris Law aka C-Law is not just an "author of cool," he is a gospel… Interview by Matthew Ross.

SXH:  Working with Adidas must have been a total blast.  The finish product looks amazing.  How did the process go? From picking the models?  Choosing the colors/Materials?  Production??? ETC???  Also, what were some of the failed sample ideas?  Also were did you draw inspiration?

C-LAW: Well, yeah it was/is good, love it. Ben (Pruess) asked me a year ago now would I like to do my own range for Adidas that would be a large scale release, not the small boutique style of releases that I’d worked on previously. Of course I was well happy about it, straight away my brain was going spaz thinking what I could do. There were however certain restrictions on what I could do, which were I had to select from a certain range of shoes, the shoes would be at a certain price point, so I couldn’t go mad on high end luxury materials, and the collection had to feature the a.d.i.d.a.s (All Day I dream About Sneakers) strapline, fair enough, let’s do this.

I started out just by doing the colourways, but really wanted to have a decent input into the materials as well, so I flew over from London to Herzo to the Gerrman HQ to work with Erman Aykurt on choosing the materials within the set FOB (…). I wanted to use classic materials that I love, suedes with mesh vamps especially (no creasy toes).

Some of the colourways are inspired by classic Adidas colourways like the ZX600 has the Fairway green with the lemon peel, one of the Attitudes was inspired by the SE Racing PK Ripper Camo.

 

There wasn’t any failed samples, just a couple of colourways that got changed (I have them still) and we were in the process of re-issueing the Avenger, which is a old late 80s fave shoe of mine, but that never happened unfortunately. There are a few things that I would change now If I could, and there are definitely other models I would have chosen given the chance, but over all I’m pretty happy with the results. 

 

SXH:  How was it working with Crooked Tongues?  Where do you see CT’s presence in the market?

C-LAW: It was cool, I was there right from the beginning with Russ and Chris (Diggers With Gratitude), then came people like Kahma (Clique N Move / TMI), A-Cyde (Nike / TMI), No Remorse (Tenderloin) and then you have the second generation of lads who run it now like Charlie and Gary – top blokes. My role was that of all the design for the site, along with Spinemagazine and all the other Unorthodox Styles projects. I was Creative Director, so when we came to do all the Co-Labs, I would lead the designs, although we all gave input.

SXH: For all that don’t know C-Law was the genius behind the Green/White/Gray colorway on the original Crooked Tongues 576.  What was your inspiration behind the design and what ideas did you scrap to get to that one?

C-LAW: That one was there from the start pretty much, there were other shoes that got dropped and we ended up with the 4 that came out. When we worked on that project we were pretty restricted to what the lads had in the factory at the time, it was a question of take the train to Penrith (near Scotland) spend the day walking up and down the aisles of leather roles and just doing it on the spot, very hands on with print outs of CADS and just writing on them what we wanted.

 

SXH: Looking at the US and Uk markets what similarities do you see and what differences?

 

C-LAW:  There is a big difference in taste I would say for sure, what UK heads like, some US heads wouldn’t, although we tend to like what the US likes apart from all the newer basketball styles and Jordan 6,4,5’s. The UK has a strong following for the 3–Stripes way beyond the hip-hop connection, that definitely sets us apart, and it’s not some sleek euro style either, It surprises me how much US heads don’t actually know about UK culture, streetwear history and style.

 

SXH: Why do you think that the trainer is so essential for the UK market but nothing more then another model in the US?

 

C-LAW: We had ‘Trainer’ culture before we had hip-hop, during the late 70s, the lads that would follow the footballteams into Europe would take trains around Europe hitting small towns and racking the shops of all these crazy Adidas models that no one had ever seen in the UK, it became a big thing and is still celebrated to day. It’s part of what once was (and to some in the know, still is) what we called ‘Casual’ culture.

Once hip hop came along during 82ish the styles blended together and became what it is today for the mainstream I guess, even though there is a massive difference in style now to those that lean the hardline Casual way compared to the hip hop/streetwear style way.

SXH:  What is your opinion on Designer trainers?  You have companies like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hogan, etc. producing $400 plus trainers,

do you see these as valuable within the market or nothing more then high priced copies? And are they of value in the market?

C-LAW: Not interested one bit.

SXH:  If you could sit down with anyone though out history and have lunch who would it be any why?  And what questions would you have for them?

C-LAW: My grandparents that I never met would be cool, that would be my first wish, aside from that. Bruce Lee, Cliff Burton and of course Adi Dassler…

SXH:   Do you think that the urban streetwear industry is a fad or does it have such a following to call it a permanent fashion staple, and if so where do you see it going?

C-LAW: I think Urban wear and Streetwear are two different things that cross over, that’s a difficult question, because if you aint wearing a uniform, a straight up suit and tie or dress like a 50 year old who couldn’t give a toss, then in some way you are wearing Streetwear, so it’s very hard to define the term.

I think it’s about being an original in your own way, putting together what you like, there are always going to be trends and sheep, but I feel that if your happy with your style, then your laughing.

 

  

SXH:   Do you think, “Men are the new women,” if so why?

C-LAW: Hmm, dunno about that one, fellas that have always wanted to be ahead of the game have always dressed well right back to MOD, I just think it’s a mindstate your either a dresser, or someone who just ‘wears’ clothes.

SXH:  What trend’s do you love, which do you hate, and which do you see on frontier?

C-LAW: I’m not massive on trends, I try to avoid them nowadays, I mainly wear black (I aint a goth) with standard shit that I like, I like my jeans to fit a certain way, be a certain width at the hem, I lace my shoes a certain way (religiously), I like techy jackets, a good fitting hat and sometimes a good graphic tee. As for what trends are on the frontier, I dunno I’d like to see one of the major cities turn shit around, get back to be less of the global looks and more homegrown.

 

SXH:  What are some of your favorite British insults and how often do you use them?

 

C-LAW: My friend BJ (Betts) love this saying this well old geezer once said to Gary at Crooked, he said, as they were loading up a van “You’ll get fuck all shit in that fuckin cunt” – amazing! No one swears better than the English, especially the cockneys.

I do tend to swear a lot, especially in meetings when I get all passionate about shit and amped up.

Top words: Spanker (edit of wanker), slag, nonce, clart and twat.

SXH:  Why is CT better then NT?

C-LAW: To be honest, I’ve never really spent any decent time on NT, so I can’t judge it, I’m just not into loads of people showing me 20 pairs of multiples of ugly Jordan’s.

 

 

 

SXH: What is a normal day for you?

C-LAW: Now that I work for Adidas (I was offered a job over in Portland just after I had done the range), it depends on what time of the season it is. It could be colouring up CADS, doing new model designs, overlooking apparel design, range planning, chatting shit with Mo and Klein or going home for a ‘beans on toast’ lunch with the kids. I cant really say much on what I do, as all that I have done so far hasn’t seen light of day yet as we work so far in advance, I tend to get involved with the more ‘heads’ stuff too that will be coming out in the US and some stuff that comes out from Germany.

SXH:  You were involved with CT for sometime, and given it was really the first sneaker website, how do you feel things have changed since you first became involved?

 

C-LAW: When we started it, we did it out of love, there weren’t that many boutiques about around 1999/2000, so we were sort of there at the start of what it is now. Things have changed so much, the thing I think that ruins it now for me though is that everything is so worldwide now, every store has the same exact stuff, you don’t get excited about traveling to spots anymore as it’s the same, unless your hitting some mom and pops places, that’s always a treat, although they’ve all been pretty much rinsed by locals in the know.

SXH:  CT has managed to keep its credibility in a sneaker world full of hate through staying true to its mission statement as such, what are your personal feelings of the way the sneaker culture as evolved?

 

C-LAW: It seems now that anyone with extra cash can rack up a good shelf stack now, it’s a bit plastic sometimes when you see what people show off, too many hype sheep followers and not enough individual tastes.

SXH:  You’ve designed a number of shoes throughout your time, what have been your favorites and what do you consider as the most important aspect of designing a shoe? Also what design (if any) are you ashamed to admit came from your genius.

 

C-LAW: My faves are these ones I’ve just done they’ve got my name on it, the first New Balances will always be cool as that was our first go (although we did do a CT Blazer way back in the beginning – well photoreals anyway- that fell though). The CT New Balances with Bees artwork were cool, although the boxes are probably better than the shoes. The CT Adicolor was a good idea with the changeable tongues as that was what the original Adicolor idea was meant to be – personal customization. Although they f’d up with the damn things squeaking (Stick some masking tape on the underside of the eyestay). The CT Clydes came out nice (I’ve got some special one offs I did that are mental – a Beat Street Clyde in yellow, pink and black and an Al Naafiysh ‘The Sole’ pair of States. I’m proud of all of them, they all sold very well, so I can’t complain.

SXH:  Its not just shoes you design? What are your favorite products to work on?

 

C-LAW: Jackets without a doubt are my second love and bikes, I have 3 20”ers, 2 24”ers and 1 26”er (BMX’s), I love to do more Co-Labs with Bike companies. I’d love to own my own garage specializing in restoring and upgrading vintage Minis Coopers (the car, and not the BMW fake), I’ve had quite a few, they are a passion for me, I can get well geeked out on them.

 

SXH:  How did you first get involved in graphic design?

 

C-LAW: I left school at 15 with shit qualifications, did shit jobs for 5 years, met a girl (now my wife) who inspired me and was into graff who talked me into going to college to learn design and typography. I blagged my way in with her portfolio and some black books, ended up putting myself through 6 years at college and university. Along the way I paid my dues by doing a lot of flyer work for chump change for hip hop clubs in the mid 90s, Graphotism and whilst I was at college I worked with Chris (CT) in Bond where we met Russ who set up and owns CT, from there I ended up here. 

SXH:  Which designers/artists inspired you as you were growing?

C-LAW: I grew up being inspired by the likes of Seen, Doze and Skeme, those were my earliest inspirations for art so to say, along with Jack Kirby and some comic book stuff, oh and the fella that did all of the Maiden covers. Through the years I’ve grown to like all sorts of design by many different people across many different medias.

SXH:  What do you think are the main differences between street culture in the UK and America or Japan?

C-LAW: hmm, that’s long.

SXH: Try and answer as many questions as possible?

SXH: Favorite Sneaker Manufacturer?

///

 

SXH: Top five favorite kicks? (Specific models and colorways)

1) Adidas Superstar in it’s 80s form – white with grey stripes

2) Adidas Campus in it’s 80s form – burgundy with white stripes

3) Adidas APS – original colourway

4) Adidas ZX800 – original colourway

5) Adidas Mexicana – Mexicana colourway

 

SXH: Non-Adidas shoes:

1) Puma Suede (the one shoe I have the most of) Money Green and White

2) Nike Air Max 90 in its OG colourway

3) Vans Old Skool – black and white

4) Puma Navratalova – All white

5) Nike Air Mada – Original Colourway

SXH:  Favorite English Premier League Team?

C-LAW: Arsenal– generations deep, grandparents, cousins

SXH: Beer or Ale?

C-LAW: Red Stripe

SXH: Favorite English Tourist Trap?

 

C-LAW: The original Intrepid Fox Pub, or Bond’s Bench RIP

 

 

SXH: Jordan III or Air Max 87?

 

C-LAW: 87, I own zero Jordan’s, although I don’t mind 1-5

SXH: Favorite Websites?

 

C-LAW: Apart from this site and all the usual blog spots, I only look at a few… Stonerrock.com, Vintagebmx.com, Radbmx.co.uk, ebay and youtube are about my only bookmarks.

SXH: What would be your ultimate sneaker collab and how what would it look like?

 

C-LAW: I’ve just started it, cant say no more.

SXH: What is your favorite Vintage/ and new Adi?

 

C-LAW: Vintage would be my 80’s Campus/ New Adi would be PT Training.

SXH: What do you think about how Adi does it campaigns: Adicolor, Consortium, etc?

 

C-LAW: I think they can be good, but they can be troublesome also, as those that like the top layers hate the bottom layers, you just gotta take and pick what suits you and ignore the rest that’s for your average Dave on road. 

SXH: What does Adidas mean to you?

 

C-LAW: A clever German fella with some serious passion, a heritage that is 2nd to none, the original street/sportswear crossover brand, an amazing history of street culture and street savy pioneer’s adoption that works on many levels.  Me and Dave Swooshhwhite and Bothan SpySwoosh love to argue this shit out with me, went something like this… :”Come on we had Run DMC, Bob Marley and The WHO. Nike had Elton John, Elton Fuckin John!” Hello fellas, x! Don’t get me wrong I’m not a Nike hater, far from it.  A few visits to Scheinfled’s (Adidas) archive has let me see first hand where this all comes from, who was the original, respect where respect is due

  

 

SXH: Of course Run DMC was a big part of Adidas’ success, were you a fan, and what other music acts did you grow up on?

 

C-LAW: I turned 13 in 1984, I was well into bboying and early hip hop culture, massively. Prior to that I loved the Jam and the Specials, but when I was an early teen it was all about breakin and lacing your shoes right, that mentality has stayed with me to this day, although my music taste goes way beyond hip hop. I did growing up listening to Run for sure, and when LL dropped Radio, that was killer for me too. I’m a massive fan of Electro, bboy hip hop and funk.

I did sway from hip hop the moment Sir Mixalot dropped ‘Square Dance Rap’, that shit was horse, I always liked the riffs on ‘King Of Rock’ and when in my last year at school someone lent me Kill ‘Em All,  I loved the sound, it blew me away, I saw Slayer on the Reign In Pain ’87 tour (not a bad first gig) and so I’m a massive metal, NYHC, L.A. Punk and Stoner Rock fan (I wont list everything – take all day). Anything that has got balls and means shit I like, I cant stand dance/club music though, fuck that crap, does my head in, plastic!

SXH: Is there any rumor that A.D.I.D.A.S. Stands for ALL DAY I DREAM ABOUT SNEAKERS?

C-LAW:  Nar! And let’s set this straight it’s addydass – not adeeedus. Adi Das… ler.

SXH: I myself played Football (soccer for our American Audiences) my whole life.  I basically lived in Copa Modials and World Cups… For anyone who does not know, that model of football boot has not changed in like 30 years… How has it stood the test of time? And what does Adidas football mean to you?

C-LAW:  Football and Adidas is just that, no boots look better than Copa Modials, as a kid in the late 70s – early 80s it was all about Adidas and football, it’s like the game’s official outfit, the only thing I wished was the England’s team could’ve have worn it… We had shitty Umbro.

SXH: Any inside info on upcoming product?

C-LAW: Nope 

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Interview with Shaun Roberts

Slam got to chance to talk recently with director Shaun Roberts in Melbourne where he was promoting the Australian release of his 2006 DVD ‘The Run Up’(screening this Saturday at Fed Square). Clocking in at four hours, The Run Up, which Shaun made in conjunction with Upper Playground (he’d worked previously with UP producing ‘Dithers’), is a landmark release. It’s an artistic who’s who of street culture today. We got taking about the film, the people and stories behind it, before moving on to the relationship between art and mass commercial media. It’s an interesting, wide ranging discussion, with a peek over the horizon at some of Shaun’s future solo works, including a new project with Upper Playground that’s planned for the coming year.

The Run Up goes for 4 hours. It’s a massive undertaking with a definitive scope. When did you know that you had enough- that it was finally complete?

About halfway through the process we finished shooting like all the cats that were either based in LA or the West Coast, or people who worked elsewhere who came to show at Upper Playground’s Fifty24SF Gallery. People like Mr Jago, Will Barras. They’re out of London but they came out to San Francisco to show, so we took the opportunity to interview them right there. About halfway through the production we thought, ‘Hmmm, we still don’t have enough’. We always had the standard of ‘Dithers’ there to kind of meet and surpass. We definitely had to surpass it at least in production quality but hopefully in volume too. So, Upper Playground reached out to a filmmaker in NY. His name is Joey Garfield, and he’s pretty accomplished. He was part of the Barnstormers Collective back in the day, and he had a lot of great connections to New York artists and cats. So we said, ‘Hey lets bring Joey on and make it a lot more people’. I mean we had Futura and that already, ‘But Joey can get us like Doze Green and Jose Parla and Maya Hayuk’. And they’re all kind of his friends from Barnstormers. So it was perfect. ‘Cool, cool, cool, we’ll bring him on as a co producer, co-director type’. I was all gun-ho and enthusiastic and like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it‘. Until I realised, ‘Oh wait a minute, he’s just going to send me raw tape so I’m going to have to build all this stuff by myself’. Caught up in the moment, but I think it was a really good thing in the long run. Like I said, I’m a masochist. I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it’. And it was great. I’m really proud of the stuff.

When you look back at it, putting aside that a lot of these artists know each other and that’s how it all stuck, what do you pull out as being the things that unify all these different people? What is it about all of these very individual people that actually makes them fit and compliment each other within the same film?

That’s exactly it. They’re very individual people. But also I think they all had their start in some form on the street. Be it like Estevan who still shoots street photography and stuff like that. You know? Or Swoon works on the streets. So I think there’s that, but also there’s this overall spirit of being kind of rebellious or breaking the mould or being original or not following anybody that everyone exhibits in the film. And that’s what we really loved about it when we were looking for the people. And some are pure legends. Like Futura. Who wouldn’t want to interview Lenny, you know? Who wouldn’t want to interview Doze or hang out with him for a few days. So some were no brainers. Some were very compelling; their work was extremely compelling. It was a balance between the two. We tried to get legendary artists who were kind of the big-draw names. But also artists who are still coming up. The mix is good. It’s like any good group show. You have a good draw, big name for the marquee. Bit then you surprise people with all these other great artists that may not be as well known. But now they’re crazy known. Almost all the people on the disc now are pretty well known. I credit Upper Playground; Matt the Executive Producer. He’s got such a good sense of who’ll be the next best thing, or who’se got really interesting work. It’s been an education for me, ever since I started doing Dithers which was five years ago.

 

Were there any names you heard during the filming of this production that you didn’t get a chance to get round too? Any up and coming names that you had your eye on who just missed out?

For sure. The whole time we were down and producing in LA we were like, ‘We got to get Saber’. We never got Saber in time. So that was a real pity. I’ve been trying to chase Banksy down the whole time, but who can get Banksy?� That would have been my dream if we could get an interview with him. So there are those things. Neckface- we were going to do a collaboration interview with Neckface and… not Dalek… the other guy! I’m slipping! But yeah, Neck was another guy we were interested in but it kind of fell through.

Here’s kind of a lesser-known person. Very interesting, and we had shot the interview but the story just didn’t have the right cohesion, so I’m super apologetic every time I think about her. She’s a writer out from LA called Tribe, Lady Tribe. She does DJ stuff too. She goes by DJ Lady Tribe. She was referred to us by Estevan Oriole and Mr Cartoon as being, ‘Oh, she gets up, she’s hardcore’. And she was really interesting but we just couldn’t get a cohesive story together. So unfortunately we didn’t meet the mark. I didn’t meet the mark. Her interview was fine, I just couldn’t… sometimes it just doesn’t happen you know? And we didn’t just want some shit to go to press, so we cut it. And it was unfortunate that Tribe, a five foot two something girl… very tiny. Petite. She’s up there doing rooftops and climbing scaffolding. Amazing shots. If you look her up, Google her, she’s up there. But yeah she had a compelling story too, being like arrested, and threatened with getting deported…good stories.

Did any of the stories surprise you? Were any of the artists, even those who you thought you knew a bit about because they’re up there, make you think twice? Who came out and made you think about them in a completely new light?

Well one of my favourites was Herbert Baglione. Herbert’s amazing. Like I didn’t know anything about his work when I was first introduced to him. He’s like a kindred spirit. We hung out and there’s this slight language barrier, because he speaks Portugese, mostly, out of Sao Paulo, so.. He just seems like an old soul. Very calm. Very deep. And I think it shows in the clip, like, I put my heart and soul into that piece anad really liked it. It was just such a refreshing surprise to see an artist with zero ego- most of these people have zero ego- but very humble and completely focussed on what he’s doing. Shutting out all the trappings and politicking, the, ‘Will they like my stuff?’ or whatever. He’s just doing it to do it. He’s compelled to do it.

 

What were the things you learnt?� You talked about being inspired or opened up by the way he did his thing. When you see all these people, doing it, living the way they want to, did you come across a moment when something said or something you saw changed the way you approach your own art?

Change my attitude?

Your attitude to what you do, or reset goals…

You know what’s really cool, it’s like, all the little beautiful nuggets of wisdom that all these artists dropped on us when we were producing this or while I was editing this, every single bit, it didn’t really surprise me…. Actually, what surprised me was that everything they said just reaffirmed that� it’s about being compelled to make things, or having the passion or determination, or the persistence… There’s always this constant theme. Everybody says, ‘Be persistent’, you know? If you really love what you do, it doesn’t matter what people think about it or anything. Just persist. If you have that thing inside you that just compels you to make things, to work, then keep going. And so everything, as I was editing it, listening to all the beautiful things they were saying, it just reaffirmed. It inspired me.

I remember this one cut out from the edit. It was unfortunate, but there was just nowhere to put it in. Like someday, five years on, if we ever do a deluxe version with super-bonus-extras, I’ll put all this stuff in because there’s this amazing thing that Ryan McGinness said, and at first I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of harsh!’ because it’s so blunt and so true. He said, “People always ask me, ‘How do I be an artist’, or ‘Should I become an artist, should I go to art school…’, and Ryan says, ‘If you have to ask that of yourself, well don’t’. It’s probably going to be a horrible way of life for you if you think about it. Because for all artists, you don’t have to ask that. You just do it. Otherwise it’s uncomfortable if you’re not doing anything. ‘Don’t be an artist if you have to ask’, which I first thought was kind of harsh, but it’s true.

 

 

When did you know that you waned to be an artist?

Well, it’s very nice that you should say that… I don’t know if I’m an ‘artist’ artist. I just do things.

But it’s a creative way of life that you lead.

Ok, yeah, I definitely agree with that. When did I decide? Probably some time in high school. I went to an International School in Bangkok, and I wasn’t very social back then. I kept to myself. Very introverted. My kind of outlet was to do airbrushing. Very influenced back then by H.R. Giger, Alien designs and all that. And Giger was kind of this modern, surrealist guy. ‘What’s up with surrealism?’ So I got into Dali, started my little art history personal education from then on. And the art room for me was always a retreat. Could throw on some Aphex Twin, zone out and paint. I dropped the painting after a while, and was really into computing too. I decided to go to art school just on a whim. Back then, even when I was nine years old, I didn’t know that I wanted to be an artist and lead a creative lifestyle, I just knew that I didn’t want to be anything else! I didn’t know that art was a career path. It was so murky for me. Yeah, you just do it, you know? And it’s distilled down now: It’s not really film making, it’s not really photography; it’s not really any of those mediums that I do. It’s more just making images, telling stories, no matter how you do it. Visually. With audio. Aurally, or anything like that. Didn’t expect to be an artist… just happy I love what I do now. Happy I’ve found that kind of hunger, and I hope I’ll always be hungry…

What are you hungry for now?

Pictures. Compelling images. Adequate images that communicate.

Adequate images? What’s an inadequate image?

Everything you see on television, mostly. Corporate imagery. Inadequate.

And why is that?

It’s manipulative, and usually very base in terms of its message. One layer only. There’s no kind of thinking process that’s demanded from the viewer. So you kind of become a vegetable and only receive. That’s what I love so much about street art: It demands interaction. It demands your eye to read, to decode, to appreciate, to take time. So I’m slowly transitioning from video to still photography a lot more now. Not that I’ve abandoned video at all, because I love motion picture, it’s its own language. I’ve just been interested a lot more in the language of still images, because it forces you to tell stories in singular moments in time, and try to tell as much or half as much information in that frame as a one minute clip.

 

Do you think that’s a dying skill? The ability to say more with less.

Attention spans are dying. Maybe creators are compelled to serve that demand to make money or something like that. So like, ‘Fast cut music videos are hot or in demand so I’ll make more of that’.

Could it possibly be just a case where people have seen so much? People’s appreciation of art history today, in terms of being familiar with artistic images, is probably greater now than in any stage in human history. Even though they may be desensitised by a lot of what they see, digital media has allowed them to see so much more than any generation before them could.

I think people in our generation, or our age group, peer group, with the net and everything… you can pursue you own interests. Half of me wants to be all idealistic and think like, ‘Oh well, maybe attention spans are extending, and mass media are loosening their grip on our consciousness’. That’s one side of me that thinks that. The other side of me thinks, ‘Jesus Christ, there’s a lot of stupid shit out there!’

That’s only because there’s a lot of stupid people out there!

Maybe, I mean, the dreamer in me says, ‘No that’s not true, there ought to be a better way, maybe they just haven’t seen it or something like that’. Anyway, it’s not for me to judge. I’m interested in still photography. I’m interested in stretching people’s imaginations and attention spans and patience. That’s what I’e been really interested about. And I’m hoping I’m seeing a trend. One thing that really inspired me, I got a chance to go to see in San Francisco the premiere of Brian Eno’s ’77 Million Paintings’. It’s this generative artwork that he makes, and it’s generative sound mixed with generative visuals, and it goes on forever because the permutations are so multiple, the multitude of permutations are so great that ever time you watch it it’s different. It screens, but it has no set beginning or end time. It’s always changing, it’s this organic motion picture piece. But you go in there, and the thing looks static. ‘What the fuck? It’s supposed to be moving pictures and stuff?’ But you sit there for a while, and you realise that your consciousness and your eyes start to adjust to the speed and the work actually is teaching you to be more patient. And as that happens you see these changes coming much, much faster. It’s all coming in real time at a normal pace. It doesn’t change up tempo or anything. But your consciousness slows down to receive that… the pace of it all, to soak it all in. I love it! And it’s a total stoner piece, they have pillows on the floor, there’s no seating and stuff. That got me thinking. It’s like reading a book versus watching the television in terms of delivering story, telling a story.

Do you think that the internet in a way is a step back to that more static media plane? In the sense that much of it is word based. It’s not like TV where people chatter and images are shot at you from a bazooka. Even though there’s online video, animation, colour and movement, most online content involves literally flipping through pages. Sort of a return to the written word.

Perhaps. It’s a really interesting paradox I think. I think about this a lot. Yes you have that kind of demand on your patience if you’re reading a good article or a good blog post. But then again, have you been to Digg.com? Have you read the comments on that stuff? Yes it goes back to a word place, and yes you can take your time, and yes there are places on the net for that type of discussion or uptake of information. But, it’s the same type of signal to noise ratio. It’s so out of whack on the internet because there’s so much noise and so little signal out there. So I compare that to broadcast and TV. At least internet users have a choice…

And it’s largely a free choice, costwise.

That’s right. At least it’s not pushed in your face. You have to ask for it. You have to go to Digg. If you wanted to go to the McDonald’s website you can do that too. I don’t know why, but you can.

In a way television’s a choice too. After all, you’ve got to choose when or if you want to turn it on.

You do, but I don’t feel it’s as much choice. So yeah, it’s just different. I’m no expert as you can tell. But I find it way more interesting than television. And it’s funny, because� I had aspirations to be this or that filmmaker when I was younger, that’s before I came to America to study art….

And when was that?

1999 was when it started. And after about three years of living there I became sadly extremely cynical and jaded in a way. About media. And about the Hollywood system. Television and celebrity and all that. It’s so much noise to me. I don’t know why. I don’t know what turned in me, but that need to work in Hollywood or a big studio died. Doesn’t interest me at all.

 

Thinking of it this way, more on a one-to-one level. When you talk about noise and meaningless messages, how many of people’s daily social interactions are truly meaningful? How many have real deep substance, rather than just being the reverberation of our own internal noise, be that noise anxiety, fear, pride, or just looking good; self-aggrandisement. It seems to me that perhaps the media just amplifies this, the background noise that’s always part of the way we live?

Perhaps. Yeah, that’s a good point. But how come there are those extraordinary cases where artists do their own thing? What compels Swoon to post her pieces?

Maybe it’s because they are an extraordinary case.

Perhaps they are, but that’s what interests me. That’s what gives me hope. And I wish that more people took more risks and went outdoors and turned off their TVs and made their own thing.

And it’s good to have something like The Run Up, or any document where artists can actually speak for themselves, and you can see that they’re living in the same world with the same problems, and relating to people in ways that we too can adopt. And that’s inspiring.

Yeah. And the thing that I was really psyched about doing The Run Up- it’s completely all in their own words. There’s no narration, there’s no off camera guy going, ‘And he’s worked in this studio for 20 years…’

Anything other then their words is just noise. It’s unnecessary elaboration.

Yeah. It’s straight, direct, hopefully communicative. My job on that was to accentuate everybody’s personality or to bring out the emotional content in their work in some way.� But I’m not there. I don’t want to have any hand or authorship in this. It’s not about me. I’m happy that my name’s on the cover with Joey’s, it’s kind of like ‘oh cool, validation. We did that!’. But it’s not a Shaun Roberts Joey Garfield kind of thing. It’s by us. But it’s all about them. I love that, and that’s how it should be. I want everyone’s voices to be distinct. And that’s why we chose the vignette structure. Suits DVD anyway. Hard to screen all at once, but that’s a conscious decision.

 

So what else are you working on? Triple Wide- what’s your involvement in that, and what’s the result?

Triple Wide is something I came up with two friends of mine, Alexander Tarrant and Jason Bass, better known as ‘JB’ of JB Classics. Started this little collective together when we initially won an award for a DVD we put in an Adobe design competition. They flew us to NY and we thought, ‘Oh shit! Let’s do some networking, let’s do some business cards’… so yeah, that’s how Triple Wide came about. Everyone did their own thing but I kept the name alive. Jason and I collaborate together on the JB Classics viral videos to promote his sneakers, and we do that under Triple Wide, and I freelance under that… it’s an everything goes thing. Motion graphics, we come up with ideas, installations, projections, anything I want to do.

Also working on a lot of still photography. Hopefully having a solo show in San Francisco of my still photography in late January, early February sometime in ’08. So I’m really excited about that. Babylon Falling’s going to present it. Won’t be at the store but in a gallery in the area.

I’ve also been working with Babylon Falling, this local revolutionary… well, not revolutionary… It’s� a very good bookstore. Anyway, I’m sure Sean the owner has a line for it, we’ll let him figure it out. Always a mouthful to describe his store. But I’m working with them to do a series of artist studio visits, and it’s kind of like The Run Up, but only in still photography and audio. I’m really interested in doing that, because what surprises me is that it’s as immersive as watching a video piece sometimes, you know, if crafted correctly. I’ve really enjoyed creating sound design and stuff like that and all those editing tricks and techniques that I’ve learnt doing The Run Up directly apply to doing these slideshows. And these are available online exclusively through the Babylon Falling website.

 

Other than that there’s so many things going on. I’m here in Melbourne, but I was in Cambodia recently shooting. I’m working on a photo essay there. One thing that struck me the most about Cambodia is that there are so many children there. Everywhere you look on the streets there are babies or children under four yours old. And I came to find out that that’s a direct social reaction to all the killing and all the war that was caused by the Khmer Rouge ten or so years ago. So I’m working on a photo essay on the children after the fall. There’s like, an amazing innocent quality to them. They’re poor as hell, but they’re happy, innocent, like real kids. In contrast to what Western culture imposes on our kids these days. Like they need Barbie dolls, GI Joes… I’m kind of out of touch! But like we need frickin’ vinyl toys, you know? But, I saw kids there literally making castles out of mud. And like, wow, happiness is so relative over there.

So I’m working on three simultaneous photo essays that I’m putting out. The big thing next year is that I’ll be working nearly full time for Upper Playground on their online video wing. I’ll be co-producing a lot of their stories for that. This is just coming out now, there’s been no press or publicity for it. It’s going to happen, and it’s called ‘Walrus TV’, and hopefully it will see me flying around the world making Run Up type stories, but not just on artists. We want to do politics, music, anything of general interest. There’s going to be a lot of stuff, because I’m not going to be the sole producer. My side of the stuff is going to be more journalistic, investigative. Hopefully people will be interested in that. Not that we won’t have kind on interestingly Jackass-ish stunts available. Watch Jeremy Fish get kicked in the balls! Not really, just kidding Jeremy. Yeah, it’s going to be really exciting. Don’t quote me, but we’re looking to launch in July. There’s going to be a hell of a lot of work, starting production in earnest in March.

Check out Shaun’s studio tour slideshows for Babylon Falling here. You can also visit his flickr site to get more of a taste of his photographic work. If you’re in Melbourne Saturday, Dec 22, be sure to check out a special public screening of selected exerpts from the Run Up at Fed Square. DJ’s are Sneaker Freaker’s own Mafia and Hans DC who start from 6pm.

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Shaniqwa Jarvis // Photographer

By Chris Gibbs One night I was out drinking on the lower east side.  All the usual suspects were there, I then noticed Shaniqwa Jarvis …

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