In a world where the younger generations are coming through with the kind of things that seasoned TV talking heads would find themselves stuttering themselves into a seizure in a bid to pigeonhole there’s still a place for the veterans to make their mark. London has long been a hub where ideas and attitude have been exported to become movements of their own in new territories — the city’s relationship with Tokyo being a good example — or at least the spot where its own imports, like punk after its NYC birth, were given a packable, sellable shape. There’s an entire roll call of folks who built up that reputation (and Alex Turnbull’s impending Rise of the Streets film project should make some things a little clearer) including Michael Kopelman, who has been extremely gracious in providing opportunities for young creatives throughout the years too (he even also made a cameo in episode #1 of Gamesmaster back in 1992) and Barnzley. A northerner who relocated to London, Barnzley seems to be connected to every zeitgeist — he worked with Worlds End, BOY, i-D and Stüssy, helped build a market for bootleg designer logos on tees, pushed deadstock shoes through Acupuncture, popularised the smiley face on tees in the acid house era, sold enviable amounts of Seditionaries gear to Hiroshi and Jun, has the rag trade knowledge and an excellent record collection, and was key to the superb House Industries House33 line and store in Soho, the Terrorist brand and A Child of the Jago. For all punk’s celebration of chaos, he gets shit done, is big in Japan and doesn’t rest on his history.
Having exited the Jago, Barnzley’s latest project is Thunders, a store located on Commercial Street in east London, that stocks his own Crossed Swords line which has been a couple of years in the making. Part Seditionaries, part Engineered Garments, part unclassifiable, much of it’s made up north like the man himself, and it’s punk without the silly safety pins or unnecessary postcard rebel embellishments. Coats are made from natural fabrics, with the occasional vaguely kinky synthetic lining, a red corduroy pair of bondage pants are stripped down but softcore, with RIRI hardware at the crotch, while mohair makes an appearance as the knitwear fabric of choice and neons aren’t overbearing. The tees are good too — Tank Girl artist Rufus Dayglo has created a reinterpretation of the Jim French cowboys image from the oft-reproduced 1975 SEX tee with a well endowed Booga, Tokyo new wave and hip-hop legend Toshio Nakanishi aka. Tycoon To$h has supplied some artwork for shirts, and there’s Let It Rock style Chuck Berry designs too. It’s a lot of things, but at its core, it’s streetwear rooted in the original London streetwear lines, with Crossed Swords’ House Industries designed logo echoing the swashbuckling new romanticism of Worlds End’s branding.
Thunders’ lack of webstore (they’ll walk you through on Skype though and there’s a private Instagram account @T_h_u_n_d_e_r_s, so it’s not because of technophobia) is down to a weariness with excessive promotion that erodes any sense of encountering something underground and distills all mystique, but the Tokyo co-signs are already drifting across social media and Thunders looks to be expanding into music and much more in coming seasons. There’s two distinct tribes whenever I get into conversations regarding future plans — the ones constantly talking about what they’re thinking about doing and the ones who know that there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. Big up Barnzley.