Category Archives: Design

THAI FOOD

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There are plenty of better things to be doing instead of reading this blog. You could watch the first three parts of Noisey’s There Will Be Quiet — The Story of Judge documentary, or you could read Paul Gorman’s blog and get excited about the fact he’s following up a retrospective of The Face with a biography of Malcolm McLaren that releases next year. A few interesting Futura 2000 oddities have emerged on YouTube too — after seeing his work on the opening credits of Spike Lee’s 1983 film school debut, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop I wondered what other film projects he’d worked on. Dale Cooper from Mo Wax Please (who also upped this RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ interview) uploaded the painted opening credits of 1983’s In the King of Prussia — a film by Emile de Antonio (who co-directed the excellent Underground about the Weathermen Underground Organisation) that depicts the trial of the admirably ballsy “Plowshares Eight” in a hastily shot, ultra-real way using the real participants and the real court transcripts. I have no idea what the provenance of this short video, entitled “Thaifood in Thailand” and uploaded by BUILDESTROY, was — is it part of something bigger? Was it a short shot for TV? But with a 1990-era Futura, Daze, Doze and Toxic, plus a handful of soundbites on the state of the scene 25 years ago.

OI! MUSIC & DAMAGE

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These are strange times. I’ve got love for Hov, but the bad start for Tidal is nothing compared to his adoption of the banter-brigade’s beloved Hype brand while ‘Ye is wearing Soloist — he’s gone from getting his grown man on to getting his sport science student on. The only thing odder is Hus Kingpin’s video entirely dedicated to being SuperDry down that shouts out the “orange label.” Even Canibus —who busted out some distinctly Warsaw nightclub garms a few years back — once proclaimed “With no fear like them clothes white boys be wearing,” back in 1998. And what are these brands if not a No Fear for a new generation?

I’m impressed with what my friend Thibault Choay has been creating for his fine CLASSIC imprint. With a company name like that, the pressure to create greatness comes pre-loaded, but the CHIAROSCURO book project is pretty damned good. To create a graffiti book that doesn’t slip into the trappings of earnest graf book formulas is an achievement, but the subject of this book, Parisian tattooist and former writer Cokney, is an interesting character. For starters, he’s a huge fan of Cockney Rejects and has a case over his head that comes complete with a 228,000 Euro fine. Two years after they started planning this project with writer and curator Hugo Vitrani, they’ve completed this two-volume set — the Scuro book is the light side, a collection of photos from the artist’s perspective taken from undeveloped film given back to Cokney by the police in a good cop moment. To my knowledge, at least until the publication and launch of the exhibition at Sang Bleu last week Cokney hadn’t seen the imagery yet — a deliberate action to homage the pre-digital days of waiting for imagery to develop, and the inevitable unfiltered flaws in the mix. That photography is accompanied by the artist’s own texts.

Light comes with a darkness and the black book is synonymous with graffiti, and, at fear of sounding like Nigel Tufnel, it’s really, really black, with a lot of ink used to give it the Chiaro section the requisite matter-of-fact look. As well as photos, Cokney has access to a lot of his police files, and case N° 1203264038’s evidence against the writer — in the form of images, cleaning quotes and complaints — opens up the age-old art/vandalism debate. but gives an unorthodox perspective — through legal eyes, the critics of the piece — to the work that contrasts and complements the white chapter. There’s some translations in the book too, and it completes a real labour-of-love. It’ll be online soon via the CLASSIC site, priced at 45 Euros and limited to 500 copies.

Thibault kindly invited me to take part in a CHIAROSCURO themed Know-Wave show last Thursday alongside Cokney and Hugo where we talked about topics loosely pertaining to the book, fumbled after a sudden decision to find a Goldie track and played a Booba record loudly.

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TINKER

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Being a Brit, the American college and high school sports star thing is perplexing. That’s not to say that an athlete at any school I went to wouldn’t get the girls, but PE teachers in charge weren’t being held aloft by excitable parents or being drenched by buckets of Lucozade being tipped over their heads post inter-school cross-country event. Beyond the eccentric televised nature of the Oxford/Cambridge boat race, I’m not sure that too many would be rushing to Ladbrokes if the University of Bath played Loughborough, or that a coach for some ex-poly could be so deified that they could probably commit a hit and run in their university town with immunity. In America it’s different. They have scholarships, big stadiums, big pay packets for coaches. They have All-American trophies, which sound amazing, even though I don’t even know what they actually are. I always knew that Tinker Hatfield was an athlete in high school and university (every athletic shoe designer on Nike campus appears to be capable of running an ultra marathon before work), but I never realised exactly how highly he was regarded in his day. When he told us at a Nike Q&A in Paris that a lot of people assumed he was black, because of his speed and name, he alluded to a certain status in Oregon as a teenager, but a June 1971 Eugene Register-Guard piece describes Hatfield Jr. as, “…perhaps the finest all-round track athlete produced in Oregon…” Tinker was taking four golds in track meets and, by all accounts, was no slouch in football either. The amount of sport section headlines on him during his high school days alone — pre University of Oregon — is impressive. Long before people were looking up to him for his shoe design savvy (something that has been rolled out on a grander scale than say, 12 years ago, when a core band of nerds would start banging on about Jordan XIs and Safaris at the mention of the year, his name was being mentioned in revered tones.

All this, and he designed the Huarache too. Tinker Hatfield is quite the overachiever.

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BRICKS & HEATED WORDS

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You may have noticed a predilection towards rap magazines here before, and finding a stack of 20-year old publications a few weeks back I thought I’d lost had me feeling a little nostalgic for the days when WH Smiths had at least a few homegrown publications of worth on the shelf. Mainly because, with my Medusa touch, I managed to make every single UK rap magazine I’ve ever written for fold within a few months of publishing my work. Hip-hop magazines are a hard sell when you can log on and get something more up to date or catch something long form on Unkut or Complex.com, but there’s room for something created with care that captures the current state of the industry. Those with a long memory will recall an underrated British ‘zine called The Downlow that ran for four or so years (1992-1996) with an over designed, occasionally unintelligible layout with a ton of electronic typefaces that recalled David Carson’s work on Ray Gun around the same time or Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft’s FUSE. It favoured words over pictures. 1992’s BLAG (which is, admirably, still standing) and 1995’s shortly-lived True (which switched to Trace after True folded) united hip-hop culture with style well, bringing some spirit seen in America’s Vibe and The Fader. I’m interested to see BRICK, a new British hip-hop publication, in the flesh — especially after enjoying the second issue of another London-based project, Viper. Founded and creatively directed by photographer Hayley Louisa Brown, designed by POST — and edited by RWD’s Grant Brydon, the careful approach to the all important look — complete with custom typefaces — is both evocative of the more sincere locally created mags of old and hip-hop’s current aesthetic (despite, bar honourable exceptions, a dip in the quality of album cover art during the last decade). Neil Bedford’s shots of Supreme-hating, Cobain swag jacking stoner Wiz Khalifa for one of BRICK’s cover stories made the Daily Mail (we’ve come a long way since that Snoop “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUTDaily Star cover) and hopefully that attention will turn into sales. Shouts to the team for making it happen. Go check out this fine It’s Nice That feature on the making of issue #1 and visit the official site here.

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On the subject of rap and typography, the Heated Words crew are studiously examining the history and legacy of the mysterious but influential b-boy font seen on Dynamic Rockers, RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, Mick Jones, Biz Markie, Malcolm McLaren and Joe Strummer that defined 1982-era hip-hop style. Supreme have used a replica of this classic heat pressed typeface several times and Alex Olsen’s Bianca Chandon recently homaged a Paradise Garage tee with it on from back in the day. It’s integral to UK street style too — imported by intrepid tourists who hit up the Albee Square Mall to get a custom creation and the Heated Words: Initial Research exhibition to set off the project opens on the 27th of this month for a couple of weeks at London’s House of Vans. Videos, photographs by Martha Cooper, Mike Laye, Michael Markos and several others, old ads and some of the clothing in question. If you like some of the nonsense I link to here, you’re liable to really enjoy this one.

While we’re talking old magazines and Neville Brody, this Gilded Words piece is great: Jamie Morgan talking about a contact sheet from a classic Buffalo shoot for with Felix Howard for the March 1985 issue of The Face and the moment when every person started calling themselves a stylist.

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LOCKED



Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that CT obituary to spread like it did, but I’m glad people are taking an interest in that company’s history. It deserves to be in the spotlight for its contribution to the culture. In the meantime, I’ve been amusing myself by watching archaic Foot Locker ads, like the 1981 one where the mighty John Goodman wanders into the store pre-fame and asks for every single brand possible (this was two years his role as working class Joe eating Egg McMuffin in a 1983 McDonalds ad) and the bizarre brand loyalty spot above from 1983 in all its white-toothed cinematic glory. Then there’s the 1987 depiction of a colourful, dystopian future where some kind of zero-gravity robot-lobster claw game is the #1 spectator sport shown during a Superbowl XX1 ad break. Because of YouTube, the baritone part of 1988’s Come to the Stripes still gets sung by me during any prolonged conversation about FL’s current contents. This 1989 Australian effort merges American style pop rock with an Aussie voiceover talking about bargain aerobic tights, plus a locker full of Nike rarities like the Air Pressure, as well as some classic trainers. In the early 1990s, it gets a little too stylised and Paula Abdul on us — thankfully, no matter how slick your ads get, you can’t stop the back room buffoonery and fotojack72 was on hand to upload videos of him and his buddies acting a fool while working at his local Foot Locker in 1991, complete with this Harmony Korine-esque footage of a man dancing to Check the Technique by Gang Starr while clutching a red shoe.

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Huck is a great magazine. That it seems to sell well enough to stay in print is a miracle — after all, most conversations about British magazines dwelling on radical culture, photography and creativity are rooted in past tense, because they have a tendency to disappear one day. The Church of London’s work is always superb and after the What I Love About Movies book via Little White Lies, Huck are dropping some artistic motivation in Paddle Against the Flow — a well priced compilation of quotes to memorise and quote as your own until you get called out for it. If you can’t trust advice from Spike Jonze, Kim Gordon and Dave Eggers, who can you trust? Paddle Against the Flow drops next month.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE

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I hate to be that guy talking about month-old projects — especially when they were out last year — but I haven’t seen this Nike ACG newspaper online anywhere. People seemed pretty interested in the exhibit stuff from 1948. While the wrong image was used for the mighty Zoom Tallac, the archive section of this publication is pretty good. Steering from the same old early 1990s’ pieces, it was a response to a list of truly important ACG pieces from a pure performance angle as well as a sales standpoint. Ultra tech stuff like the Storm F.I.T. Tech Jacket from 1996, the Air Teocalli XCR from 2002, with its more breathable GORE-TEX and snowshoe binding compatibility, and 2004’s CommJacket (which was sold alongside the more minimal CommVest) with the built-in radio for rescue operations are all worthy of a moment in the spotlight. When this division of Nike was operating as its own business unit (like Jordan Brand) they got very serious with the innovations. I can’t promise that I won’t talk about All Conditions Gear again here very soon. In the meantime, this publication was available at NikeLab locations fairly recently, so you can probably still pick one up.

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PUMP-UP ARTIFACTS

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A few things have caught my attention over the last few days. All eyes should be on Paris right now, but the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City is where the innovation really lies. This year it’s all about North Face’s evolution of their existing avalanche tech — the Modulator ABS attachment for your rucksack that deploys an air bag — and strange hybrid Meta-Rocker boots from HOKA ONE ONE that would probably generate excited paragraphs if they hit the catwalk. Everybody’s grasping at decidedly non-retro wearable technologies these days, but NuDown’s use of air as insulation, with a handheld, stowable pump to increase or decrease the garments padding to determine your personal warmth has resulted in a collection of pump-up climate controlled outerwear. I had no idea that inflation insulation was even a thing, but reviews on serious equipment sites have been positive. The current Squaw Peak jacket looks a bit fashion in its utilitarian eccentricity, but the 2015 offerings like
the Mt. Tallac Jacket and Mt. Whitney Vest look a little more accessible in their line art — heat-sealed shells that bulk up when the going gets tough? Very interesting. The fact these come equipped with RECCO’s electronic communication system is proof that they’re not made for a Starbucks outing. It isn’t the first air coat I’ve seen (didn’t Final Home create something similar and, as Matt Kyte pointed out to me, Acronym did something similar with GORE-TEX Airvantage thermal adaption), but it’s a joy to see such defiantly progressive things being put to work in some extreme conditions.

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I have no idea what Future Artifacts is, but it launches soon, is based in London, will probably involve printed matter, exhibitions and a physical store. Plus it’s a REAL GOLD and Ditto Press collaborations. Their pleasantly vague website has excellent 8-bit looking A’s and R’s too, which helps.

While we’re talking type, the prospect of a project that investigates the origins and cultural status of that mysterious b-boy typeface that’s not quite old English, not quite gothic, just iconic and always appealing on a shirt or sweat, is an appealing prospect. Heated Words is all about finally answering some questions that everyone who ever paused a VHS or stared at that Biz twelve for a long time as a reaction to the olde world, yet strangely right for the time lettering on display. The site to support Heated Words is in its infant stages, but that Charlie Ahearn Doin’ Time in Times Square film is an absolutely essential watch.

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Alex Olson’s Bianca Chandon line revels in a certain gloss meets grime, near-mythical old-NYC house and disco aesthetic — as was anticipated after the talk of Fire Island photo books during a Transworld interview — and I’ve been impressed by the quality of the gear. Of course, wearing some of this iconography could earn you a G-check if you get caught slipping with these logos and names on your back so it’s well worth doing your homework (not least because the topics are fascinating moments in underground culture). At the moment, everything is getting a collaborative capsule collection created to cash-in on the Supreme wave, but Bianca Chandon’s Larry Levan pieces are smartly done — air brush art captures the era of his decade-long reign at the club and the legend’s own choice of garments, another shirt lists some Paradise Garage classic remixed by him and theres even a Larry Levan pro-model too. It’s a throwback to an influential amyl-scented, Peech Boys and T-Connection soundtracked world. Two other Paradise Garage veterans, David DePino, and Joey Llanos, were involved to consult on graphics and the charity where a portion of proceeds would go (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). Nicely played on Bianca Chandon’s part, rather than simply re-appropriating without renumeration — a depressing aspect of the current appetite for parodies and homages.

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