I’m busy this week and I can’t think of much interesting to put up here, so I haven’t bothered updating this blog. The only thing that’s captured my imagination was the Patagonia Special Edition Down Sweater, which I hadn’t seen in the flesh since the coloured zipper editions hit the internet three years ago. With a shell so thin that the European goose down is visible through the 10-denier grey nylon, it’s a perfect link to classic moments in Patagonia history where pure performance yielded apparel that borders on avant-garde in its appearance. This creation also looks a little like a creation sewn from loosely packed splits or a wearable teabag, but unlike the garish fastening of some earlier editions, that black fastening keeps it wearable too. It’s good to see the innovation that Eddie Bauer helped usher in made visible here in the quest to strip down insulation to its absolute essence. After Supreme’s The North Face’s Nupste creation printed on the fur effect, this one goes further with the weirdness to create something that’s far more feather than coat than ever before. I respect the purity of this creation.
Underground cultures don’t get much more literal than a dip into the archives of the thing that keeps London moving. The Roundel by London Underground project is a particularly considered approach to the history of the tube to coincide with its 150th anniversary, with Andrew Bunney, Slam Jam’s Giovanni De Marchi and DK Woon doing good things. Often cursed by its customers, but a subterranean world of its own, the whole system has a history that’s full of eccentricities and overlooked geniuses creating colour schemes, their own letterforms, mascots and logos. This collection feels like a (more official) extension of the British Remains brand and what might sound dull is a well thought out collection of clothing using London Underground images — we’re not talking “Keep calm and…” whimsy here — workwear gets literal but subversive, shirts get strange alphabets in punk sloganeering prints, MA-1 jackets hark to a history of skins and other subcultures in the capital with tube map back prints or linings that carry the District Line pattern introduced in the late 1970s and used on carriage seats. There’s even a full marl grey tracksuit bearing the griffin logo used on London Transport catering back in the day. The Roundel (the actual name for the London Underground sign) collection is London culture celebrated the right way, amplifying things so familiar we long ceased to pay attention and dusting off some inadvertently odd imagery along the way — Mr. Bunney has a knack for research and an eye for the authentic, but somehow there’s an air of subversion to it all. There’s also a collaboration with a sportswear brand on a couple of shoes that London loves, plus an Bunney-edited book of Derek Ridgers’ photographs (a key reference point throughout the collection — even in other photographers’ work) called 78-87 London Youth. The current wave of British subcultural nostalgics should gravitate towards Roundel by London Underground, but the trainspotters and graffiti guys — who fetishise all that’s train related with some serious parallels between both camps — might go crazy for it too. Fair play to London Underground for backing something that commemorates a real side of the city rather than an HSBC welcome ad campaign at Heathrow representation. After all, if it wasn’t rough around the edges in terms of content, it wouldn’t be an accurate depiction of tube life. Keep an eye on Roundel-London.com for more information over the next few weeks (cheers for DK for the only pictures here that don’t look like they were taken by an idiot who can’t work an iPhone)…
A lot of brands could benefit from walking before they run and while I always want to celebrate homegrown organisations here, I rarely get the sense that there’s anything behind the brand to differentiate it from the rest when I get emails about new lines. That’s because I’m still judging things by the standards that Gimme 5, maharishi and Slam City set (and there’s a whole book — or at least a booklet — to be written on Duffer’s contribution and legacy). Shouts to Trapstar, Grind London and Y’OH (currently on hiatus) for creating brands with a sense of substance and none of the thirst that deads a brand from the offset — every brand I ever loved as a kid didn’t even seem to want my business and that was appealing to me. it still appeals.
Personable, transparent, super-social, heavily PR’d wannabe Supremes miss the point of why Supreme built foundations that can sustain waves of hype that could kill a lesser brand — crucially they have a skate heritage. If you’re making streetwear for streetwear’s sake without any subculture at the core other than a quick blog buck from the slew of British sites who’ll post any old shit then you’d better be making the best tees, hats and sweats ever. Most aren’t. Having said that, the blokes behind brands like Hype are almost certainly richer than the people behind interesting product, so credibility as we knew it back in the day might be an archaic concept.
Palace is interesting in that it’s rooted in the same spirit as Slam City spinoffs like Silas (given the folks involved, it’s practically a sequel), but it seems to have hit multiple audiences without compromising, as that triangle is on nearly every moodboard and presentation I’ve seen in the last year in one way or another. Shouts to Gareth and Lev for that one — jaded old farts like me love what they’ve created and so does that lucrative 16-19 year old consumer that brands are baffled by right now. I still think that the handful of alpha kids who know have an innate understanding of whether a brand is begging it by trying to bamboozle them with Tumblr-sourced skulls and galaxy patterns or whether a brand — or the folks who run it — have a certain subcultural provenance. Maybe I’m deluded.
To see Palace rise from a collective putting out book reviews, tees and clips to something that brands —from high street to high-end lines — want a bit of in a few years is phenomenal. If Relax ran the classic (shouts to Mr. Chris Law) October 2002 Slam City feature now, that diagram (above) would probably only be slightly different (for starters, TONITE, Aries and Palace would be there). It’s unhealthy to live with two feet in he past, but I think it’s always good to get retrospective in order to understand why Slam is such an important part of our culture and it’s an institution that’s key to appreciating the importance of skateboarding as a central force in creating a market for daft printed tees in this grey climate of ours.
The Palace Christmas Pop-Off opens this Friday at 100 Shoreditch High Street (an address that seems to place it within the Ace Hotel space) and the flyer promises nothing but awesome things rather than just garms, hardware and shoes — “a new silver board that makes you skate faster”, “hyper-printing techniques” we haven’t seen before and bobble hats, plus the new Palace Reebok project are all going to be there. This will be popular.
Can I lapse into promotion mode for a minute? It’s good to get my name in magazines I actually read and after the INVENTORY Nike online piece from a couple of months ago, the print piece is in the new issue (which has great chats with Shin from Neighborhood, gloriously reckless soundbites from A.P.C’s Jean and plenty of detailed material talk with Paul “Jacket Ninja” Harvey) — an article with chats with Mark Parker and two VPs that I conducted during my last trip to Beaverton with some phenomenal photography by Dave Potes. It was interesting to see just how fastidious Simon, Ryan and the crew are in getting the magazine together and it was great to get the opportunity to geek out over a few thousand words, rather than the usual two hundred word PR pieces. I was excited to get the opportunity to write a little something for 032c on HTM for the new issue, but I’m keen to reiterate that Jonathan Olivares wrote the article and I wrote a shorter supplement as a supplement to it — I wouldn’t want to be stealing credit for Jonathan’s great work, because it’s one of the best articles on Nike I’ve read in recent years. Still, as a big fan of Joerg Koch’s vision, getting my name in there was an ambition fulfilled. Especially as someone who never went out with any aim of being a journo.
I know that it’s something that did the rounds a couple of weeks back, but I still find myself returning to We Are Shining’s The Wheel video — Acyde, Morgan Zarate and Carl Addy killed it here. Friends making music can be a problem (with plenty of white lies told when prodded for a reaction) but I’ve been listening to a zip file of Shining recordings regularly for a couple of years and The Wheel feels like the evolution of that — controlled chaos and a migraine for muso WordPress pigeonholers. Addy’s visuals match the madness and the mode of delivering it on a USB after a Soho viewing session in it entirety as well as GIFs and Instagram/Vine friendly chapters was interesting, with attendees urged to upload it ourselves in the event that copyright issues from that relentless montage meant that it was pulled from YouTube. As of this moment it’s still standing and you should give it 3 minutes and twenty-eight seconds of your day.
Sleep deprivation means I can’t think of anything worth mentioning here beyond this video. I remember reading about the Q&A taking place at NYC’s Parsons school of design last year on the Facebook page launched for the release of Ideas From Massimo Osti, but I never realised that it was on YouTube. With Esquire/Arena‘s Nick Sullivan, Daniela Facchinato Osti and some good archive footage of the god himself at the start, it’s worth using 52 minutes of your life up watching this. I hope there’s a feature-length Osti documentary one day, but this is a good start and a solid supplement to last year’s double headshot of big books. As big jacket season truly arriving on these shores, this is a good incitement to put down a grand on something with a fancy dye process.
I’m out of town for a while, so this is a weak blog update. I only just realised that the Passengers segment on Biggie Smalls from 1995 has been uploaded on YouTube, despite it being there since August. For years this was inexplicably absent from the internet and just as The Word‘s Onyx Throw Ya Gunz made an appearance fairly recently after being little more than a gradually eroding memory for 19 years, it’s back. Not only was the UK the place where Biggie got his first magazine cover, the following year, Channel 4 transmitted nearly fifteen minutes of his daily operations on a Friday night as part of Passengers, the patchy but entertaining yoof magazine show that also included pieces like James Lebon profiling Shyhiem during his Rugged Child days. You get Chris Wallace’s mum talking about his Polo pieces as a kid, some studio static with some concealed firearms, great footage of Faith smoking lots of weed, some live footage and a young Lil Kim (credited as Little Kim). Classic material. Naturally, like most long-unseen things of this ilk, this was elevated to a D.A. Pennebaker level of insight in my mind during its absence, but significantly less in-depth now I’ve finally watched it again. Shouts to jimbeanthelegend1982 for that upload.
Edit: The original uploader, iom seventynine hasn’t got his full dues here — go check his YouTube channel for other UK TV gems like Company Flow on Jo Whiley’s show and Bushwick Bill on Badass TV…
The debt I owe to The Face for at least providing me, the reader, with the perception of being in the loop is immeasurable and it’s something that completely changed how magazines looked, from costly tomes to free supplements. While a Rolling Stone or New Yorker style digital archive would be tremendous (and I wish Vice would do the same for i-D), a book on its rise, reign and slide is a good idea and with Paul Gorman — the man behind the excellent Reasons to Be Cheerful, Mr Freedom and the classic The Look: Adventures In Pop & Rock Fashion — writing it, Legacy: The Story of The Face (Thames & Hudson) is going to be a necessity when it arrives in 2015. As a hint of what’s coming, the talk of it being made with the participation of founder Nick Logan (to whom any appreciator of perfect print owes a significant debt) is previewed in Gorman’s conversation with Logan in the 20th anniversary issue of Arena Homme Plus. To commemorate two decades in the business and having the credibility capital and creativity to outlive its parent publication, that issue really delivers — provided that you can deal with the abundance of male nudity that it defiantly throws in the mix, it engages in some champion shit talking, with shots fired in i-D and Morrissey’s direction, Jean Touitou giving a typically good interview (complete with comedy accents), MA-1s, my friend Gary Aspden’s essay on the misappropriation of sportswear and the rise of the real deal, plus some other things. There’s a lot of substance between the glossy stuff and pics of dicks (innuendo unintended but inevitable).
Shouts to Long Live Southbank, Hold Tight films and all involved (Ben Powell really nails it with every comment he makes to the camera) for Long Live Southbank: The Bigger Picture, a measured response to the famed undercroft’s threat. As the Southbank Centre celebrates the 40th anniversary of this skate spot by deciding to shut it down entirely, this puts the case across for its preservation with contributions from famous faces and the activists and volunteers putting in work to try and keep it alive. No stick it to the man ranting and no hysterical retaliation.
In a world where we want to talk about past triumphs and educate from indoors, nobody in power wants to understand the psychology of skating. There’s nothing like promoting creativity by stamping it out in its purest form and nothing breeds apathy like people in charge dismissing creative activism as small-mindedness. I’m inclined to think that those 64,000 petition signatures would have hit 100,000+ if everybody rocking a five panel cap and weed leaf patterns on their socks in the city had signed it.