Tag Archives: Mo’Wax

MO’WAX FOOTWEAR

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I’m such a company man. Actually, I’ve got love for Mo’Wax, Matt Sleep and Jack Purcells, plus I wrote the press release for this project. So the anti copy-paste law is OVERRULED. I got a good Q&A out of this too, which may or may not end up on this blog. I’ve been after those stingray mids since I saw a pair on Acyde’s Instagram. As friend and family projects go, the detail on this one is crazy.

“From its debut in 1992, the London-based Mo’Wax organisation was the pioneering meeting point for an array of subcultures to merge organically – multiple musical styles met art, with painstaking attention-to-detail when it came to design. Founder James Lavelle brought his obsessions behind the sonic side to the forefront with photography, sleeve art, toys, books, exhibitions, sought-after streetwear and a connection to the collectible all celebrating the hunt for the next thing.

Coinciding with this summer’s London-based Urban Archaeology exhibition and tie-in book, Lavelle and Converse created these appropriately limited edition sneakers based on the notion of taking a collage of influences and re-appropriating them like music samples. The Jack Purcell made sense as the base model, because it’s Lavelle’s personal choice, “The sneakers that I wear the most are Jack Purcells. So I was keen to be able to work with Converse in a contemporary way, representing me as a person right now.

“The detail was really, really important. Just new ways and new technologies and things that hadn’t necessarily been done before – the idea was to create something that had the Mo’Wax feel. I really wanted to create a sneaker that would stand out in its own right but wasn’t gimmicky, or over the top and garish. It would fit in with where I am now and not necessarily where I was 15 years ago.”

The Converse Jack Purcell Mo’Wax Ox has a unique white debossed leather upper, while the mid-top version is embellished with premium stingray effect leather. Both re-workings of this staple masterpiece bring an appropriately obsessive level of detail to this silhouette, despite its apparent simplicity. Custom “Build & Destroy” logos on the familiar moulded rubber toecaps and classic Ben Drury/James Lavelle Mo’Wax camo screen-print graphics on a cotton base, with metallic gold logos, are used for the sockliners and heel stay.

For Lavelle, the end goal was subtlety, “How can we get the Mo’Wax design aesthetic into something really subtle? It was about keeping certain themes going, like having Mo’Wax on the sole of the feet or on the tips of the laces or on the insole or on the little heel strip on the back — there’s this sort of Mo’Wax touch. But the stingray was just to try and apply something that would hopefully look pretty cool.

A semi-transparent, ice blue version of the familiar smile and heel license plate, a semi-transparent ice blue outsole with the Mo’Wax logo cut between the left and right foot, and branding that even extends to the ice blue lace aglets all capture the spirit of the label. Naturally, packaging is paramount and the box design also channels that emphasis.

That boundary-blurring vision that brought skateboarding, artists, DJs, fashion and filmmakers into the same space is echoed in the Converse Jack Purcell’s ability to resonate with any style. Strictly for a chosen handful of Mo’Wax affiliates, this commemorative project adds to the mythology of the company that help define the way culture is curated and presented.”

(Speaking to James, I got to clear up the mystery of the Mo’Wax x Nike CD — with music by Richard File — from early 1997 too: given the nature of that project, no samples were allowed, which made it difficult — he conceded that it was a strange project and explained that it was one facilitated via an external agency).

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CONTACTS

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The Mo’Wax Urban Architecture exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall wasn’t quite as grand as I expected (newcomers to the label should pick up the book for some background), but the densely packed cabinets should make the visit worthwhile if you’re interested in early 1990s hip-hop and it’s connections to London and Tokyo. While all eyes might be on the canvases, these displays are full of elements omitted from the tie-in publication — James Lavelle’s business card hoarding seems to have paid off. I hadn’t even thought about Yankee Peddler since the mid 1990s, when he had the ads in toy magazines that promised a veritable emporium of action figures and made me wish I owned a fax machine so I could get a catalogue. That Major Force card gives me Patrick Bateman levels of envy too. I’m not sure how many casual browsers passing through the Festival Hall would care about this kind of thing, but I certainly appreciated it. Shit, I’d gladly pay to visit a show that was entirely 1985-1999 hip-hop business cards and if you’re similarly geeky, go check it out before it finishes later next week.

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The only marketing I’m interesting in right now is these urgent adverts from 1995 pirate radio stations like Shockin 90.0 and Dream FM 107.6. Defunct Kingston clubs, tape packs, and things that only Brits of a certain generation will be able to comprehend, are just part of the announcements recorded here. This beats your carefully mapped communication strategy.





Port magazine‘s cover story on Ralph Lauren by Donald Morrison makes the most of a rare opportunity and it’s refreshingly free of the sycophancy that I would have brought to it (though the celebrity soundbites are full of superlatives). I was trying to fathom the influence on Mo’Wax the other day, which was influenced by Stüssy and the Beastie Boys, who were presumably influenced by the Clash who may well have taken inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s work. It’s tough to pinpoint a solitary influence in things I love, but I know one thing: Lauren’s company is the brand that every streetwear brand wishes it was, even if most of us are chasing the little pony rather than aspiring to ride a horse on a ranch somewhere. Nobody sells a lifestyle like this guy. The world density map of stores is a nice touch (there’s 474,951 square feet of Ralph Lauren stores in the States) too.

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WAX ON

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A long time ago, before George Lucas killed Boba Fett’s cool by revealing that he was going to be a bloke from Shortland Street, there was Mo’Wax.

As a teenager I used to hoard all the mentions from magazines because the label fired my imagination and created its own money hemorrhaging universe based on a collision of everything I liked. James Lavelle created something very special, but the scattering of releases and eventual demise due to label politics — I bore witness to the speculation over its future on the Mo’Wax bulletin board where Futura would sometimes appear like a genie when summoned — and finances meant that there was no moment to really study the scale of what Mo’Wax created, let alone join the dots to quantify the direct influence that the label had on contemporary culture, whether it’s the popular acceptance of limited edition urgency, genre-hopping without allegations of selling out or contemporary art and photography’s role as it relates to music. Best of all, it was British.

With Mo’Wax you could grab the action figure and related BAPE tee (and it was Lavelle’s choice of attire that introduced me to A Bathing Ape and gave me a fast education in unattainable Japanese street wear back in the mid 1990s). From promo tapes to vinyl, I’ve stacked up a lot of Mo’Wax music I’ll probably never listen to again, but I owe the label a lot, because it cemented the foundations of a world that gave me a career. This blog definitely wouldn’t exist without it.

But beyond the sketches of an industry where lines intertwined, Mo’Wax fired my imagination by introducing me to elements of design that I hadn’t been exposed to. I probably won’t break out any Palm Skin Productions on iTunes any time soon, but the attention that Ben Drury and Will Bankhead lavished on the packaging, design and photography for Mo’Wax is timeless. That makes Urban Archaology: Twenty-One Years of Mo’Wax a great art book and snapshot of a decade of interesting work from a seminal imprint. Those articles I hoarded from Jockey Slut and Phat are included in the 256-pages, but there’s a few unseen interviews (including a fairly lucid 1995 chat with Rammellzee during a trip to Burger King) and new features too, as well as a collection of Q&As at the book’s close that ask Sk8thing, James Jebbia, Jonathan Glazer (lest we forget that Mo’Wax played a role in his career), Howie B and several more affiliates what the label meant to them.

Moving chronologically, there’s sketches, prototypes and proofs along the way, though a few dates seem a little off — I’m sure MWA projects like the excellent Dysfunctional book and the Gonz Priests dropped later than 1997, but it’s understandable that some details might be clouded. After all, Mo.Wax did a lot during it’s lifetime (and the MWRIZ001 code on this publication indicates that it’s not over). The attention-to-detail on the sleeves and promo creations detailed on each page are done justice by Drury’s art direction throughout Urban Archaeology. It even had me digging out my copy of the David Axelrod album and Liquid Liquid compilations — both passion pieces — as well as the Now Thing CD (which gathered dancehall instrumentals that bordered on grime sonically — a sound that Mo’Wax wouldn’t embrace) for that Reas artwork. For those who fiend for the things we can’t have — a compulsion in which Lavelle played enabler — a 1996 pair of sample camo Mo’Wax Clarks Desert Treks, some Mo’Wax Arts Vans from 2001 and a pitch for Mo’Wax lego, plus what looks like the near-mythical (among nerds) Prunes Headz Headz Headz 7″ that was meant to be a club flyer with Futura art back in 1995.

Cloth on a cover, embossing and fold-out pages are all easy ways to win me over, but the deeper stuff is intact here too. From interviews with former Mo’Wax artists I’d been privy to just over a decade ago, things were a lot less jubilant and participation on something like this would be unlikely. You can read between the lines on some of the aforementioned Q&As, but it’s mostly a celebratory affair and it bodes well for the Southbank exhibition that opens next week. I wanted to see clusters of Drury’s logos that were concealed on the backs of sleeves, the sticker packs and, just to prove that I didn’t dream it up (edit: I didn’t), the t-shirt collection from around 1998 that included the headphone cord print, but Urban Architecture isn’t intended to be exhaustive. If you’re reading this, then you probably need this on your shelf or in your obligatory stack of cool guy non-fiction and you can buy it at spots like Goodhood right now.

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WAX

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2014 is the anniversary of everything. 20th birthdays, 21st birthdays, 27th birthdays — if we’re not mourning stuff, we’re commemorating it. That’s no bad thing — the current climate has created openings for fitting tributes to some niche stuff I never thought I’d see a proper celebration for. You can sit and sob about Essex boys rolling up the sleeves on brands you’ve liked for ages, but you should appreciate the opportunities to hear some untold stories as a result. There’s a few documentaries in the making that cover some more obscure tales relating to brands and the minds behind them (as mentioned in the last post), but as somebody still waiting for the Mo’Wax Arts Glen E. Friedman poster after 16 long years, it’s good to see that the Kickstarter fuelled anniversary project is really happening, with the exhibition running for over a week this coming June and the Rizzoli Urban Archaeology: Twenty-One Years of Mo’Wax book dropping in September (which looks pretty substantial in this shot). I won’t pretend that I’ve made much effort to dig out my old Mo’Wax records in recent years (beyond some old favourites and Now Thing is still overlooked) but the imprint taught me a hell of a lot about joining dots between cultures and the cash-burning ambition of the whole thing was more of an inspiration to me than it was a cautionary tale. James Lavelle and the team brought a lot to the UK. It’s also nice to hear that some old issues have been resolved to ensure that the Mo’Wax story will be told a little more comprehensively (though I still think Mr. Zaid Mudhaffer’s unpublished article on the label is one of the best things ever written on the subject).