Tell us who you are and where you are from. Can you describe to us what you do for a living?
My name is Bobby Engvall, I'm originally from CT. I'm a designer and illustrator living in New York.
Can you share with us how you got your start designing along with a major personal or career milestone that lead to where you are today?
I've been interested in art and design since I was a kid, I was always drawing, painting, or sewing trying to make clothes for me and my friends.
What really got me into design as a career was a school project. We had to shadow someone who had a job we were interested in, so I reached out to Burton Snowboards and was lucky enough to shadow their in-house design team for a day. They showed me all the crazy product development labs, design boards, and it seemed like they just made cool shit all day. After that I thought, oh I can draw snowboard graphics and get paid? I'll do that.
You have a wide range of work experience from advertising agencies to freelance art direction/graphic work for others. What are the major differences working in-house vs working for yourself? Which do you prefer?
In-house and self-employed are very different but I think both are super valuable. You learn a lot of how the industry runs and how to present work from being in-house which is incredibly useful.
Working for yourself you have to be on it with your creative process and time management or you will burn yourself out real quick. I've been working for myself for the past 2 years, it's definitely stressful at times because it's only you. There's no project manager making sure the work is on time, no account person presenting work, it's just you. That part can seem overwhelming but it's been a lot of fun and you get creative freedom you might not get if you are in-house.
You’re known for creating characters, which feels very much like a Bobby Engvall signature (Ie: Heaven by Marc Jacobs, Converse, Bape, Atmos, Golf) What inspires this style and aesthetic of work?
I think a lot of what I make comes from what I wanted to do when I first started making t-shirts and graphics as a kid. I wanted to make shirts that I would buy in a shop but I didn't have the skill or knowledge to do so at the time. I was always inspired by artists like Mark Mckee and Sean Cliver. Its little details in the lines I was always obsessed with. The thick to thin brush stroke or like the proportions of the characters they would draw, something about it felt kind of effortless. Now I'm just trying to make work I'm excited about it and would be hyped to see in the world.
Do you ever worry or get concerned that other designers might bite your style/aesthetic of work and if so, how do you do cope with these moments now that social media is essentially a public portfolio for designers.
I don't really stress about people biting my work at all. I think if someone is so hyped on something I made that they want to copy it, that's kind of cool. Hopefully they can gain something from it and figure out their own voice at some point. Everyone bites styles when they are just learning, it's probably how I learned to draw in the first place.
Are there any designers/artists that you you look up to growing up outside of NYC and going to school for design at SVA?
Growing up in the woods in CT, I wasn't exposed to a ton of art that really inspired me at the time. I was into a lot of the same stuff I think a lot of people my age were into. Graffiti, t-shirts, skate and snowboard graphics. That's what really made me hyped at that age. I remember getting one of those college packets trying to sell me on going to SVA and it had bad graffiti over some old family photo and I thought 'yeah this feels right'. Once I moved to NY I was exposed to so much more and that really opened my eyes to art and design in a big way.
You just gotta roll with the punches and try and make something that makes you or other people excited.
Fashion, sneakers, music and press are all areas you’ve dabbled in. Is there a project you would love to work on that you haven’t touched in the past?
Once I do a snowboard I can retire.
A lot of creatives have mentioned they have gone thru a mental fog this past year with the pandemic and all the social issues we’ve experienced these past few months. How have you managed to stay motivated and focused on your projects?
This year has been tough for everyone. There were a solid couple months where making anything felt like a chore for sure. I think the biggest thing for my work this year is just balance. You have to balance work and trying to see people in a safe way. Balance relaxing and staying informed with everything that's going on, it's tough. There is so much happening every day you feel insane at times. You just gotta roll with the punches and try and make something that makes you or other people excited. That's the goal.
Can you give us an introduction and a bit of background about yourself and where you’re from? What’s your connection to the brand, Magic Castles?
Good Morning. Chris Stoker here currently parked up in London and originating North East of England. If London is Kings Landing then where I’m from is more akin to Winterfell if that helps paint a picture.
I’ve been working in ’the industry’ now for over 20 years in some capacity or other but am probably most associated for my 13 or so years working with Folk which is where I first came into contact with and met Yuri & Andy who I’d be reunited with a couple of years down the line when they formed Lite Year. I currently work in more of a free-floating capacity as a brand consultant with various people as and when I’m needed. This has allowed me the freedom to work on other projects, one of which is the new brand Magic Castles of which I’m a founding member and also my on-going music sidelines such as Not An Animal Records, Charlie Nobody & Ess O Ess.
Where does the name Magic Castles come from and the origin story for the brand?
The original idea came from another of the founders, Cathal Mcateer. It's hard to put into words but to try and sum it up in a concise way it's a bit of an imaginary utopia or psychedelic theme park where you can do and be what you want without the shackles of reality. We never really wanted to have a paragraph that explains exactly what we are (much to the disdain of anyone I talk to that works in marketing), as we’re then pigeon-holed so we opted instead for something more ethereal to give people an insight but allow us room to maneuver.
The passage below perhaps explains it a little better than I can which is the first part of an ongoing story that will be added to with each drop and the words will feed directly into the collection and visual content.
There are many rooms, none with a key, the doors are always open. Wander and wonder and get lost along the way. Pied Pipers off the beaten track, a never-ending band of misfits. Pear drops rain marshmallow clouds. Fruit Machine Reels, reel. A hall of mirrors smile.
We provide a backdrop, the rest you make your own. For the most part, the brand is inspired my music and is an expression of the good times that brought the team together - having spent a lot of time dancing and enjoying ourselves, which itself is always a catalyst for inspiration. There is a monthly radio broadcast on Soho Radio with myself and some other hosts on rotation and special guests as well as parties, although they’re obviously on hold at the minute. In addition to this, we're teaming up with various charities, artists & musicians for events and collaborations to join the dots and build a community that's a little less focused simply on fashion.
The clothing is just one facet of a bigger picture.
Music has always played an important role in fashion. For someone that has had deep involvement in both for years, how do you approach the work in both spaces/industries? Is fashion and music similar/different?
Music is a very personal thing for some so it's not really for me to say whether they’re similar or different or where music fits into fashion. For some, it's simply a soundtrack and for others more of a lifestyle. Fashion aside I think that music finds its way into most industries in some shape or form. For my part, the fashion side of things was the day job and music more a passion and hobby. As the music projects started to take shape and be more successful and demanded more of my time, the two worlds started to butt heads a little, which is part of the reason I decided to go freelance and be more in control of my time.
With Magic Castles, I’m starting to see more synergy between what used to be two separate parts of my life, quite literally night and day. The radio show is also giving me a creative outlet that is not so focused on late nights, parties and dance floors so I can share things in a different way.
Magic Castles pulls from a lot of technicolor psych-vibes particularly from the early 90’s rave scene. What is it about this particular era and subculture that inspires Magic Castles as a brand?
It was never really the intention to say that the brand or the collections are inspired by psychedelia or the rave scene but those things seem to naturally shine through, I guess because both elements have been factors in our lives for the longest time. It's only recently we’ve had our wings clipped and are seeing a forced hiatus from the dance floor that brought so many of us together.
There is no denying there is a lot of brands on a similar journey at the minute but it’s no surprise when psychedelic's are seeing some time in the limelight for the better. We’re certainly not trying to put our flag in the sand to say that’s all that we’re about as there is a lot more that shapes the collections and brand ethos.
The more people spreading a positive message the better, I think. Everyone will have their own handwriting and way of delivering it. There’s a huge awakening at the minute to the more positive sides to psychedelic exploration and quite rightly so when it's been frowned upon and suppressed for so many years.
There is great usage of youthful prints and vibrant colors unique in Magic Castles that we haven’t seen in a while. Can you walk us thru the creative process and what that looks like?
There’s a bit of a team effort with myself, Cathal & Sophie where anyone can take the lead, or step to the side and advise…. this is free as we are very assured on what we want to do… It's Sophie the designer who will ultimately bring it all together though.
We’ve also been working with a graphic artist called Kate Gibb who’s quite well known for her work with the Chemical Brothers and created a lot of the artwork that’s recognizable to their releases. We’ll give her a bit of a brief and she’ll produce some artwork which we’ll then take elements of it to create some all-over prints which find their way onto shirts and shorts. Then some of the words from the poem above may find their way onto garments as well as anything else that pops up along the way. It’s also still quite early days and we’re only about to show our 3rd drop so the process is still exploring new avenues at every stage and will continue to so. We want the brand to remain fluid so we don’t find ourselves in a prison of our own making as can sometimes happen.
For someone’s occupation to be heavily involved in the music nightlife scene in London, how do you feel about the growing interest in radio shows/music channels? Coming out of the pandemic (hopefully soon), do you think the music scene in London will change significantly?
I think people getting turned on to music in any form can only be a positive thing. As with everything the more that's out there the more it's diluted but then that leaves it down to the individual to find what works for them. It's a never-ending journey I suppose which is why it's important to build a community for your output.
You can’t resonate with everyone but there are plenty of people to go around and if you're honest in your delivery people will find you.
As for London who’s to say. It's changed so much since I first started putting parties on, it's almost unrecognizable but at the same time I'm a lot older now so am perhaps not as tuned in to everything that's happening as I once was. I’ve got faith in it finding a way, I like to think of some positives coming from the current situation. However, many rules and obstacles you put in place, there’s always someone who wants to throw a party and invariably always a crowd of people who’ll follow them into battle which takes it back to that tribal mentality where you’re onto something special.
As soon as London went into lock down there were parties popping up in the woods and mashes and on canal barges with hundreds of people in the East where I live. It’s like that game, Whack A Mole. For every party that gets shut down another will pop up somewhere. In some ways I’ve enjoyed having the time off this year from all of that. I must admit I’m looking forward to a really good party and blow out when normal service resumes.
DJ'ing and working in fashion have allowed you to travel quite a bit. Anywhere in particular you’re interested in heading back to post Covid world?
Japan was always a firm favorite. I really loved playing in Kiev and look forward to going back there as soon as I can although I’m battening down the hatches for winter hibernation now so will pop my head above the turrets when its spring again.
We caught up with Geoff and Reuben, the duo behind And Austin.
Tell us where you’re from and where you currently reside. How did this partnership form?
Geoff: I am from Petaluma, California. We have known each other for about 10 years and met in San Francisco when Reuben was living and working there. I had worked for a few companies doing product development and technical design and decided that it was time to apply some of that knowledge to designing some things for myself.
Reuben: I'm originally from Los Angeles, CA and just moved back after spending the last 5 years in New York. Prior to that I was living in San Francisco, which is where I met Geoff while I was working at MAAS & Stacks.
Throughout the years we had worked on developing a few clothing styles here and there mostly for fun, but in 2019 Geoff had put together a great small collection for SS20 and wanted to show during market. At the time I was working for Fiftytwo showroom and Robert Geller, but I had some extra space so I was able to have And Austin show alongside him. To our surprise we had received good feedback and a few orders so we decided to go all in on the brand for FW20.
Where does the name And Austin come from? Can you tell us the inspiration behind the brand?
Geoff: “And” represents that designing clothing for myself was always an after thought and “Austin” is my middle name. Early on before I had any experience I found myself enamored with vintage Americana as well as post WWII Military garments. It sounds a bit cheesy to say but I enjoy creating something that will be wearable well into the future. Clothing that doesn’t have a time stamp on it that might not be recognizably from a particular era.
Reuben: The name has a few different meanings for us, but most importantly it was always about putting the clothing first. “And” representing being secondary or after the product and “Austin” referring to Geoff’s middle name which is more of an indirect acknowledgement to the designer.
The inspiration and vision is primarily Geoff. I act more as an editor, merchandiser and storyteller to help communicate his concept.
There’s a lot of incredible fabric usage and technicality in the range. What does the process look like when deciding which to select when developing a line.
Geoff: Materials are always selected before the initial designs are drawn up. Then the materials are applied to design concepts but the materials themselves are the driving force behind the clothing.
Reuben: Like Geoff said, it’s really about finding the fabrics first. We’re very fortunate to have access to some amazing fabrics that are almost entirely sourced from Japan. But something we always like to keep in mind is having a balance of technical and fine materials.
What are some challenges launching a new brand unique to post Covid-19 world?
Geoff: Covid-19 definitely made it more difficult to produce here in Los Angeles. Problems such as the factories shutting down when they did, as well as some of them losing work force due to having to keep people more spaced out in the process. Luckily one of the factories we work with does very regular Covid testing as well as keeps a small team in a larger space that allows people to not be so close together.
Reuben: Obviously there are a lot of challenges like Geoff had mentioned, but honestly for me there’s a lot of excitement in starting a new brand right now. The industry is in a position where it has to change and I’m glad that we have the opportunity to hopefully be a part of a better system. The current retail climate also makes every decision we make super important when it comes to designing a product people want to spend their money on. So although there’s a lot more room to fail, the pressure just pushes us to do our best and make much more thoughtful decisions.
How is a brand established/rooted in Los Angeles influenced by climate and culture, affect the direction of the collection and range of products that are developed?
Geoff: Los Angeles doesn’t really provide any inspiration in the design and direction of the company. It’s really more so about creating things that will get better with time and wear. Definitely interested in designing more clothing for climates unlike California and the west coast. I love the snow and cold temperatures and would love to design pieces that are more geared toward that.
Reuben: I’m not sure that Los Angeles itself really influences the products aesthetically. But as a brand based in LA and that makes everything here, we are greatly inspired by our community and the support we receive. In regards to the range of products, it’s always about balance and making sure each garment can stand on its own but also compliment each other within the collection.
Your brand is a diversion from the recent brands that have swept popularity in men’s fashion in the past few years especially brands that share your same hometown. Were you both aware that you guys were creating something different than your peers in the industry?
Geoff: I appreciate you saying that. We are concerned with making clothes that aren’t dominated by current trends and have a timeless outlook that could be worn well into the future. Good things get better with time and that’s a strong focus for a lot of the clothing we make.
Reuben: Well I knew we were creating something different just from how small the collection is. Truthfully it’s partially due to necessity since we don’t have an endless budget, but from my experience I was also tired of working with massive collections. It was always the same process of cutting styles to make it palatable for buyers and then a small percentage of it would actually be bought and produced. So in the end there was always so much waste. We wanted to eliminate as much of that as possible and make a perfectly balanced collection. I don’t think it’s quite there yet but it’s always the goal to give the customer very considered and thoughtful clothing and I never thought that was possible with hundreds of styles.
Does And Austin design with a customer in mind? Who is the And Austin Customer?
Geoff: We hope to design with a customer in mind that appreciates the subtleties; whether that be the feel of a fabric, the finite shape or stitch detail. We also hope there is some familiarity in the silhouettes / shapes we do but maybe that’s contrasted by an unfamiliar selection of material.
Reuben: The customer I’ve always envisioned is someone who appreciates well-made clothing and has an open mind. Kind of a broad answer, but as we know introducing a new brand at not the lowest price point is a challenge. We don’t have a huge marketing budget and celebrity endorsements so we rely on organic growth, support from our community and the hope that our customer will appreciate the clothing purely for what it is.
Describe to us the And Austin extended universe? What does that look like in reference to the things you both nerd out on?
Geoff: The universe just needs to have some good coffee and music ha. My mood / desire to design is propelled a lot by music. I enjoy a lot of the jazz and rock n roll fusion that came out of the UK in the 60’s and 70’s.
Reuben: I actually studied graphic design in college and it’s something I still nerd out on. It wasn’t the career path for me but those Sallie Mae loans are going to good use when it comes to helping develop our brands identity.
Elijah Anderson / Space Hose
Tell us about yourself, where you’re located and your occupation. Where does the moniker Space Hose come from?
My name is Elijah Anderson and I’m currently living in Brooklyn, NY. Right now, I’m mainly doing freelance illustration and graphic work, but I’ll do art handling gigs or other random side jobs whenever it makes sense.
Spacehose came from an MF Doom song I was obsessed with a long time ago titled "Space Ho's". Really don't know why it stuck. Lol.
We learned that you’re a self-taught artist and drawing was something that you did on the side. At what point did you decide you could transition into a career as an artist? (Hobby to making a living).
I didn’t really start taking it seriously until about two years ago, when I saw a bit more consistent work coming in, but I’ve taken random jobs here and there (murals, drawings for friends, etc.) pretty much since high school. I’m still not positive if this is exactly what I want to be doing for work long term, but I am definitely enjoying it right now, and am very grateful to be able to do it.
We were instantly drawn to the simplicity of your art work. Often conveying broad ideas and combining them with elements of: emotion, humor, and everyday life. Where does your process start? Do you have a finished product in mind? Or does it take shape as you go?
My process is kind of changing all the time, project to project. Sometimes it starts with a reference, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it starts with an end goal in mind (often these are work-related, but I also do have urges to get a specific thing out once in a while as well). Lots of times I have no clue what I am trying to do. Doodling plays a very big role in my process, and I think my favorite work always comes from just doodling until something happens. I do often have a certain style in mind though, and this usually depends on what I’m into at a certain time in terms of inspo, references, etc. Once in a while a funny word or common saying will come up and I try to make a drawing out of it too.
Your work seems like it would benefit from interacting with the outside world, walking around NYC, and taking it all in etc. How has the pandemic changed or affected your process? Has it made you look at things differently? Any clever work arounds or new points of inspiration?
I think it’s really just made me more grateful to have an outlet. I’m not sure how much my work itself has changed, I have definitely made drawings pertaining to our current political/social climate, but those things seem to have always influenced my work. There’s been a large sense of community (in addition to the grief, sadness, and uncertainty) that has definitely inspired me, and I’m sure that has made its way into my work a little bit as well.
You’ve developed a project with your partner, Sophia Callahan, called Good Earth; which we are huge fans of. Good Earth focuses on deeper, spiritual concepts of the mind, body, time and life. You’ve both lent your talents to social causes like: the NAACP, ACLU, and for the benefit of the Australian wildfire relief. We admire this so much about you both. With Lite Year we're constantly reminding ourselves that during these strange and stressful times that it’s not a sprint but a marathon.
Thank you so much, I’m so happy we are able to make work together and use it for a good cause when we can :,)
This year (2020) has seemingly provided a much needed albeit unappealing opportunity for societal and self-reflection. As someone who’s work is enriched by daily interactions and social commentary, how have you managed to deal with the strain and exhaustion this year has provided all of us?
I’ve made sure to at least try to spend as much time on myself as I am on my artwork. In the beginning of the pandemic, I think a lot of people, including myself, were feeling this weird pressure to take advantage of this new found time and get a million projects done, etc. This feeling really started to overwhelm me and I had to take a step back to remember that my life is worth a lot more than my output, and that was something I needed to tell myself a long time ago. That being said, making things is always a nice, and as we saw these past few months, sometimes the only way we can deal with something that is way out of our control. I’m so thankful I’m able to use art as an outlet when things are not going well, and also when they are.
It is not uncommon for someone to become disenfranchised with their own craft, when spending hours on end looking at it. Where do you look to or what keeps you engaged in your art?
This is one of my biggest fears, and I think it’s actually had a pretty big effect on my work as well. I always have to switch up what I’m doing, because I’m so worried I’m going to lock myself into one thing, a certain style or something. I don’t ever want to be known for one thing, or only be able to make one kind of drawing. I like to keep myself open to new avenues, styles, mediums, etc. so I can try to keep myself and my audience engaged. This is difficult at times, I often find myself wishing I did have a more locked in approach to everything, but for now I like to stay open for exploration to keep myself from becoming disenfranchised.
Is there a piece of foundational advice you might share with the younger you? Or other up and coming creatives that admire your work?
This has been said a million times, and for good reason, but if you love something, and you cannot fight the urge to do it, and you think about it whenever you aren’t doing it, and it drives you absolutely crazy sometimes, and it makes you insanely happy sometimes, and you can’t imagine your life without it, NEVER STOP DOING IT. No matter what happens, no matter what ever comes of it, no matter how good you think you are or how much recognition you get, at the end of the day, if you love doing it, you have to keep doing it, because if everything just disappeared one day, you will still have that thing that you love and nothing can ever take that away.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Stop comparing yourself to others on the internet.
Be conscious of what you are putting in your body.
Fight for those less fortunate than you!!!!
Fight for those less fortunate than you!!!!
Adam Gianotti / Druthers NYC
Tell us about yourself, where you’re located, and occupation.
I'm a designer and producer from NYC. Born in the Bronx, lived all over New York, New Jersey, Europe and Asia. Currently living in Chinatown for the last 8 years with my wife, Melissa Ng. I have my hands in a few trades. First and foremost, the founder/design director of a sustainable fashion label called Druthers NYC.
On the side, I help design and produce retail stores, pop-ups, product and special projects for a number of brands. I'm also an apprentice to Swiss carpenter, Andrin Widmer. Andrin is a great friend and one of the best furniture builders out there. It has been super fun learning a new trade in the design space.
Come to think of it, I learned a lot of my design talents from Kimou Meyer over the years (also Swiss) - a lot of good came out of that country in the 80's. In my free time, I'm always working on my cooking and photography - I've had a lot of fun traveling to our factories over the years shooting the workers and facilities.
The best form of sustainability is great quality.
You have 20+ years on your resume, working with various brands behind the scenes in different capacities- ZooYork, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Fool’s Gold Records, Aime Leon Dore, among others - what inspired you to start your own business and develop Druthers?
The main thing was my belief in design for a purpose, not design for the sake of design. With Druthers, I started it with a group of friends many years ago. Very quickly, I felt the lack of focus on great quality basics. There was great stuff out there in the market available with our retailers, but not much. For example, you had a nice beanie or sock by Junya, Norse, or White Mountaineering, but it wasn't the focus. Those were all RTW collections first and foremost with accessories and basics as just SKU additions to the collection.
I thought we could start a clothing brand by first figuring out how to design and build a great assortment of basics and then add on from there. Basically, having a raison d'etre by filling that gap in the market. Then came the quick realization that the brand needed to not only embrace sustainably made products and fair-trade style craftsmanship, but go further and try to continue to push the supply chain in that direction to give other brands more accessibility to sustainability in the future - simple supply & demand style. Et voila, a new brand concept was created...
Another part of the inspiration was just an inherent, and maybe masochistic, need to be an entrepreneur.
I started my design career in 1996 as the owner of Syintific Skateboards with Dust la Rock. Dust and I both also worked at Echo UNLTD. at the time up until the early 2000's. We've always had the need to rough it out with our own business. Dust went on to start Fool's Gold Records with the fam, I went to work for Grotesk at ZooYork. Best times of my life were back then, so it seems only right to keep doing what makes me happy - owning my own business and working on projects with people I look up to and respect.
I can't do the day to day at a fashion design house - the Ralph and Nike years taught me that. Working now in the arts, helping special projects with friends, and continuing the design and build process of Druthers has helped keep me interested still. Additionally, the woodshop apprenticeship has been an amazing contrast to that day to day.
At the moment, I'm still inspired because things stay fresh, interesting, always changing. Today, I'm working on fabric development in Portugal, tomorrow, I'm building out a store in Soho with Andrin. Next week, I'm in Osaka discovering new sustainable yarns and making them into beanies. This change and dichotomy with work is important to me.
Druthers was one of the brands to address sustainability within fashion early on back in 2014. The apparel industry is the 2nd leading cause of waste, why do you feel that it’s taking the industry so long to catch on to do the same?
Thank you for saying that and yes, I agree. There wasn't much out there back then. Patagonia and a few brands have always tried to do a good job at this, but it's few and far between. To your point about the supply back then, I remember working in Tokyo for months every year, trying to commence our product development. You'd ask for organic cotton or recycled yarns and it was a comedic afternoon to follow. There were like 3 cards available in limited colors back in 2013-14.
Now we have volumes of yarn books here at the office! That's why I think a big part of being a brand right now is to be pushing the supply chain. Demand begets supply, so by pushing this along, with some other conscious brands out there, we will get closer to a point where some of the larger brands will be able to use some sort of sustainability in their production as well, and therefore drop some of the non-sustainable supplies. The world wouldn't ever be able to go fully sustainable, not in the near future at least. These processes are not synonymous with large scale business or huge production runs. Sustainability is inherently smaller. But the more the better.
The apparel industry is the second most damaging industry to the planet. Kind of makes sense though since there's probably about 8 billion people in the world and everyone needs clothes...So I think what's taking the fashion industry so long to catch on is because true sustainability is not as profitable, and these brands are first and foremost businesses. Kids out there will buy a Supreme t-shirt if it's organic or not. So why pay more for a product and lower your margins as a business when you don't have to? Especially when that wasn't your intention or part of your mission statement to begin with.
It's not as relevant as the food industry since you aren't ingesting your clothing. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, as much as people talk about sustainability, they are still going to buy Nike's and iPhones, no matter how toxic the sneaker is to make or the silver extraction was for your phone
You explained it really well to us in the past that often times, clothing labels will promote “eco-friendly” or “environmentally conscious” but may not necessarily be the case 100% of time. For those that do not have a production/design background, can you walk us thru the best approach to creating the best version of a product while staying true to what “sustainable” really means?
Yes, it's true that a lot of brands out there flaunt sustainability as a means to gain sales. It's also great for ecological progress so it's not a bad thing to flaunt. The thing is, I agree with "eco-friendly" and "environmentally conscious", but laugh at the whole dead stock and 0 impact thing. Some people take it a bit too far. This is a great segue into my main thesis about sustainability. The best form of sustainability is great quality.
Let's be honest. Producing clothing is not sustainable. Period. If we are going to make something, let's make it the best quality we can so it lasts super long, and design it with purpose so people want to wear it for years to come. Next, make it organic and next, make it recycled or biodegradable. That's sustainability. Making trend-based cheap fast-fashion shit that's organic doesn't mean it's sustainable.
Sure, you aren't using as many chemicals by going organic, so it's technically more sustainable, but what's the point if we have to re-buy the product every year because it's made with profit in mind and not quality? Also, this “Zero-Impact” fashion concept is bullshit. Nothing is “Zero-Impact”. Maybe walking barefoot is “Zero-Impact” on the planet?
We all have read the articles on the shipping & transport industry, iPhone production, how toxic it is to extract energy and bullion from the earth to make our technology, animal cruelty in fashion and food; what sunscreen does to the oceans…so advertising that you are “Zero-Impact” or heading to “Zero-Impact” while being a product manufacturing business seems laughable, when going to the beach isn't even “Zero-Impact”.
As for upcycling or deadstock production, in fashion it's a double-edged sword. Sure, using pre-existing rolls of fabric instead of producing from scratch seems like a good idea, but that assumes that the business you purchased it from isn't a business. Do you think if Reformation went to a jobber and scooped up all of their deadstock the jobber would just call it quits? No of course not! He/She would look to replenish the deadstock somehow to stay in business. In fact, they might raise their inventories next season to anticipate the sudden demand increase. In this case, the company upcycling isn't owning the supply chain and can't really effect the change.
To me, the best solution is making the best quality product you can and not lying about it as a form of advertising. Built to last. That has to be the first premise in sustainability. My father has a Frigidaire in his garage from the 80's! The new refrigerators are eco-friendly but break every 5 years! They cost more to fix than to just buy a new one. How is it any better to save energy but waste 10x in materials over 3 decades saving the energy?
Unfortunately, the proverbial chewing gum that doesn't lose its flavor isn't a great business model. But it's definitely most sustainable if the product actually sustains a long time. And then yes, make it with non-toxic dyes, and organic cotton long staple yarns, and yarns that are recycled from trash or that are biodegradable, and produced without pesticides, etc. This helps the supply chain and the planet.
Druthers does its best to produce our products with the highest % of sustainable yarns we can and support growers and factories doing the same. We also use non sustainable yarns though too, if it supports a higher quality end product. It's important to create a balance so that the design is there but the functionality and longevity of the product isn't compromised.
For instance, we mix spandex and biodegradable nylon in our briefs, beanies, and socks for retention value and to help make the product last longer. Spandex isn't a sustainable yarn but it helps the length of the product's life-cycle so it's important to make that decision. Biodegradable nylon is better than non-biodegradable, but it still has to be filamented into yarn which uses energy, right?
In these cases, using non-sustainable yarns can be more ancillary than harmful over a long time period. The issue is that I work in the clothing industry, so I design and make clothes. I didn't go to school to be a doctor... so I'm stuck making a product which is in and of itself adding to the global consumption problem. Unfortunately, it's what I do for a living, but fortunately, I try my best to keep pushing the envelope on what yarns we can use and how to better the design, supply chain, factories, and longevity of the product we give you.
There’s a lot involved in development and production. You work with various factories around the world. How do you decide what gets produced in Osaka, Tokyo, Portugal, USA. Is there a thought process involved in location with garment production?
This one is a lot simpler. Druthers does it's best to work with the best quality craftsmen in the world. We decided to make socks in Tokyo because that's where we found the best makers and yarns. Hats went to Osaka because of the same reason. Sweater knits are made in the USA. CMT and the rest varies based on the vendor. We've done cut and sew products in Japan, NYC, Saigon, and Portugal. Unfortunately, the garment district in NY is dying down after the zoning law changed, but there are still super good, clean, fair trade facilities in amazing parts of the world that have great craftsmanship. I think we will always be searching for great makers.
Covid-19 has taken a hit on New Yorkers with many long-time residents leaving the city. As a Bronx-born native who’s seen the highs and lows of the city, how do you feel about the exodus recently and how does that effect the creative community that’s left behind?
I think it's a yin and yang. No ups without downs etc. A lot of people are leaving and unfortunately a lot of businesses are too. Some great spots are closing, and some bad ones. But I'm a firm believer that just like in the past, we will see things normalize again, and then catalyze.
We were saying internally back in March-April, that the pandemic would accelerate the inevitable. Meaning that if a trend was in place, such as shopping online, this year would push it forward. If an antiquated chain of stores was barely making ends meet, this would be the nail in their proverbial coffin. So far, that is proving to be true but I think the upside with this pandemic, while closing so many doors, opens the window for newness to come in its place.
New people will move into NYC to take the place of the ones that left for the suburbs and new, great businesses will start to pop up again to take the place of the ones that closed. This is how it's always been and will continue to be, it's just that now the pandemic is accelerating this trend and adding big volume to the numbers. That means eventually there will be a big volume of newness!
If you had a 2020 re-do what would it look like?
Nothing here. No looking back or regretting the past. Any gains should be shared and enjoyed with the ones you love. Any mistakes are learning opportunities and reasons to change for the better. If I never learned from all the mistakes I made in the past, I'd be dumb as the day is long.
Definitely looking forward to 2021 though! Wishing the best for everyone out there right now. Keep fighting through it.
Tell us about yourself, where you are currently based and your occupation.
My name is Kevin Emerson, I grew up in western Massachusetts. I’ve spent time around the country, but most of the last decade was spent in New York City. I’m currently in Los Angeles making art and working with clothes.
How did you get your start in tie dye and what inspires your creative process when deciding the items you work with? (ie: Canvas, apparel, home goods.)
I grew up around it, Western Mass is a pretty chilled out place. My father wore and still regularly wears tie dye shirts. My sister is 10 years my senior and has always been a Dead Head and Phish fan. It was in the house for sure. I did some random dye stuff at Summer camp when I was a kid but didn’t really get into doing it until I was an adult. I couldn’t find anyone to dye for a project I was helping with a few years back, so I ended up taking it on. It makes me happy. I like working with different things and exploring ideas on different garments as well as drawing and painting them out. There isn’t a specific or consistent formula or routine I follow with ideas.
Retail was how we both got our start in this industry. You've brought up your background working in high fashion retail which has led you to where you are today. Can you walk us thru your journey on becoming one of the most well-known tie dye artists?
Over the years I’ve worked quite a few retail jobs, high and low end. I’ve probably worked almost every possible retail position and have quite a bit of back end and logistical experience. I’ve always loved clothing, in a big way, beyond what I will put on myself. I appreciate and am a fan of so much more than I would ever personally wear and I think that’s important. It wasn’t until I was selling ready-to-wear and handbags that I realized that I had the interest and patience to learn more in this direction. I didn’t fully realize that all that retail experience alongside gallery work and studio assisting was prepping me for what I’d end up doing, which is still somewhat vague. The only way I’ve gotten anywhere with tie-dye work is trust. Trust from people who let me dye their stuff at first, trusting myself to do a good job on things and trusting that the love I put into it is felt. I still dye everything myself, or with help from my partner Ronnie.
One of the biggest challenges in our industry is struggling to balance artistic integrity and commercialization of products. What are your thoughts on artists merging in the fashion world as someone that has experience in both creative spaces?
Yeah, it’s tough. If you strictly make your own stuff, that’s great and you can have full control over everything. But if you’re working with somebody else, specifically a big brand, there’s certain things that need to be considered and negotiated. It can work either way, just make sure it makes sense for you.
LQQK Studios, Peter Sutherland, Tony Tafuro are all talented artists you’ve worked with in the past… If you had a dream project and collaborator, who would it be? What would you love to create?
That’s family. I love them all for life. I want to work on things that feel right and hopefully make people happy. My dream project right now is voting Trump out of office and the collaborators are everybody.
NYC has been a huge part of your journey…what made you head out west to LA and what do you miss most about NY? What do you look forward to about living in LA?
It was in the plan to spend this coming winter in LA, we’ve been claiming it since last winter, our plan was just expedited. We were going to extend our apartment and studio leases which were up in June, but didn’t, we cruised early. I miss NY, miss my friends. But I’m happy out here right now, excited to work with people that are out here that I’ve loved from afar. I’ll be back and forth as much as possible. There are places in-between coasts I’d love to spend more time in as well, I wish I could live everywhere.
Can you start off by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit of background on the work that you do?
Hi hi, my name is Amiee and I'm an Australian living in LA. I moved here 2 and a half years ago and have spent that time styling, making art, props, and ceramic sculptures.
I love to make pieces or create worlds that have a sense of humor. I seem to gravitate towards anything shiny or sparkly.
I made my first disco ball basketball a few years back, no particular reason, I just thought the world needed one!
You’re a jack of all trades/multi disciplinary artist working across various mediums - art direction, prop design, wardrobe styling. How did you fall into the different jobs that you’ve had in the past considering that each project is so different? Do you have a preference?
Back in Australia I studied Visual Merchandising and worked in the field for 17 years, it was a very "jack of all trades" type of career.
I was either designing a store, concepting window displays, using a power tool, dressing mannequins or a lot of the time picking up clothes off the floor.
Every day was different and there were so many different creative elements to the job. It's really helped me with being flexible in art direction, prop design, and wardrobe styling. I love working across all of them!
We are obsessed with the disco basketballs. What inspired you to create these fun designs and how did the Hypebeast/NBA partnership come to fruition?
I made my first disco ball basketball a few years back, no particular reason, I just thought the world needed one!
I usually think of an idea in the shower and then work out a way to make it happen....that's how the first mirror ball basketball happened.
I've worked with Hypebeast in the past and they asked me to come up with some ideas for an event they were hosting with TNT and the NBA. I proposed custom made basketballs referencing the teams that were playing for the event... Lakers and Clippers
They loved the idea. This meant I had to work out a way to deliver what I had promised and that's how the first crystal basketballs happened!
From our conversations in the past, you mentioned you love pop culture references and incorporating some of those inspirations back into art direction or some of your one-off ceramic pieces you’ve created. What are the initial thought processes involved before you decide to commit to a concept considering each project takes so much time to execute?
My thought process for ceramics is seeing useful objects and then recreating them so they become un-useful. Once I get an idea in my head I become incredibly annoying and it's all I can think about and talk about. (it drives my boyfriend insane)
I love the process of working out how I am going to create something that I have never done before. Planning a piece is just as exciting for me as it is creating it.
How has Covid-19 affected your creative process? Has this shifted the way you work or think about the future ideas you want to work on?
It's been tough! My ceramic studio shut down, most of production shut down so it left a lot of spare time at home. In the beginning I didn't really feel like creating anything, it didn't feel right.
After about a month of too many home margaritas and not making anything I started to get the itch again and started plotting 9 foot basketball net installations and decided to put all of my energy into making basketballs.
The whole process has really confirmed that I need to be creating. It makes me very happy :)
Wardrobe styling and prop design requires all hands on deck whether its assistants on set, designers, photographers, etc. If there’s one dream collaborator you’d love to work with, who would it be and why?
The last job I did before the Covid shutdown was actually my dream job/collaboration.
I did the set design for an amazing collaboration between Vans and The Simpsons. I am a HUGE Simpsons fan and I got to build the Simpsons living room and make it come to life.
It was a pretty incredible experience for me!
Phil Schade / 1733
What does the name 1733 stand for and how did you get your start designing / making bags?
1733 is the address number of the house I grew up in Center City, Philadelphia. My parents bought it shortly before I was born and still live there today. It’s a narrow row home on a small block that they (both architects) have continued to renovate and update throughout their time living there. And even though I haven’t lived there in 15 years and my bedroom was changed into an office shortly after I graduated college, I think it will always feel like my home. When picking a name for this brand I latched onto 1733 and it continually reminds me of where I came from, which influences my aesthetic tastes to this day.
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering I ended up in IT consulting. I missed working with my hands and began to teach myself how to sew. As I built up a larger portfolio of work I decided to share it under the 1733 name. Bags were a part of those early experiments and as I became a better sewer and designer it became clear that this was an area where I could really be creative and make the kind of work I didn’t see being produced elsewhere.
The bags you create tend to utilize a mix of fabrics. What have been some of the more difficult fabrics you’ve had to work with as well your favorite?
Leather is the most difficult medium I work with. It can’t be cut well with scissors, the hides are irregularly shaped, you have to work around blemishes, it stretches unpredictably, and it’s unforgiving when sewing. I try to limit how much I use it for those reasons but it has a lot of benefits (durability, unique look, upscale tactility) and some customers really desire it. Many of the different variants of Dyneema Composite Fabric are difficult to work with as well from a cutting and sewing perspective but, again, it performs extremely well and people want that. The bulk of my bags are made from Dimension Polyant X-Pac laminate fabrics and classic woven Cordura nylons, these fabrics are easy to work with, perform great, are available in wide color ranges and are easily accessible for a small shop like mine.
Can you walk us through the process from start to finish on creating a bag for 1733?
I do all my pattern making manually on poster board, and build samples and prototypes through an iterative process. This ensures that the parts of the bag fit together right and I am able to incorporate the functionality I want into an attractive shape. I use my pattern pieces and a variety of cutting tools to cut the material (sometimes using multiple layers, depending how many units of the bag I am making). I also cut trim pieces like webbing and zippers in the early stages of production. Sewing a bag involves making mini-assemblies of the different panels that make it up and then putting together those panels into larger and larger parts until the bag is ready to be closed up. Throughout this process I am performing quality control to make sure there are no loose threads or any damage to the fabric. Typically my bags are assembled inside out until the final sewing operations are completed, and then I flip the whole thing out to see the finished product. Finishing touches in the form of zipper pulls or accessory straps are made and added in the final stages.
What do you enjoy most about the process, is it the design side of it or the manual labor?
Truly I enjoy both equally, they provide a nice balance of different types of problem solving. Sewing a new design that I’ve been thinking about and drawing for months is extremely rewarding as a form of creative expression. But also figuring out the most efficient way to make a batch of that bag and sewing each step 10 or 50 times in a row allows me to feel really attached to the products I am putting out into the world.
But also figuring out the most efficient way to make a batch of that bag and sewing each step 10 or 50 times in a row allows me to feel really attached to the products I am putting out into the world.
In addition to selling your bags through your online store, you also sell to a few select retailers both domestically and internationally. How do you decide on which retailers to partner with?
I try to pick retailers that have a strong and unique point of view and appreciate what it is that I am making. I think it could be easy for someone to glance at my bags and not get what separates them from other brands. A little closer look, and a willingness to dig into my process will justify longer lead times and higher prices. I believe that is why I’ve had some success in the Japanese market, where there is a great appreciation for craftsmanship. I’ve been lucky to find some retailers that really get it and that energizes me to push myself and my designs to create special retailer specific collections. A great example of this is the 3 exclusive collections I’ve done with Hudson, NY retailer Meridian (@meridian.vision)
Outside of creating bags I saw on your site you created a pillow as well as a small run of portable and durable chairs. As your brand continues to grow, do you see yourself continuing to work on and offer similar items?
I love having products that people can appreciate in ways other than just carrying them—I like making things that are artful and that you’ll want to use a lot and keep around. Making 1733 homegoods helps establish a little more of an intimate connection to my customers, since these are more permanent, one-of-a-kind pieces. I also like to use my homegoods line to do more experimental work and collaborate with other artists, which is an important part of the brand—our chair show series and the pillows were made using painted fabric by William J. O’Brien and bring art into the everyday. The chairs will always be a part of 1733 as they fit the inside / outside and form / function scales I am always trying to balance so well…I am also trying to incorporate more clothing products into the brand so I can share other aspects of my design tastes with people.
Gustavo Eandi / Uxe Mentale
Tell us about who you are, where you’re currently located and what your occupation is.
My name is Gustavo Eandi. I was born in Mar del Plata (38°00′S 57°33′O), Argentina, where I am currently based with my wife and son. I am a graphic artist working on graphic design, editorial design, illustration and fashion.
Can you walk us through your creative process and how you pull inspiration into your final work / deadlines?
The creative process varies according to the project as well as how many projects I am involved in at the time.
I try to work on one project at a time but sometimes I may have up to 3 projects simultaneously. Ideally, I have a limit because the energy that each project takes is a lot, and my work days are long. I spend one day thinking, drawing by hand if necessary but I also work with Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator to throw out the first ideas. I also look through my archive (on paper or digital) in search of clues. What emerges from that first day is usually not definitive, but crucial. For works that carry a certain complexity, it’s convenient for me to let those ideas “rest” for about a day and then see them in perspective. That helps to take away vices and obviousness. Sometimes I solve the job the day after…but ideally (if the deadline allows it) I prefer to repeat that "rest" process a few more times.
In these stages of "detaching" from the image to see them in perspective, sometimes the client is involved (asking them for first impressions) but mainly I check those sketches with my relatives. Inspiration appears slowly but clearly in the work process. Spending days thinking about it, being aware of everything that appears or happens to me outside my studio and take it back with me the next day.
I could say the work itself is my strongest source of inspiration.
Affinity and admiration. Friendship and admiration. Sometimes money.
How do you decide on what type of projects you select, given that you’ve worked on a various range of projects with clients such as NTS, BONE SODA, BRAIN DEAD and Tame Impala?
Affinity and admiration. Friendship and admiration. Sometimes money.
If you could go back to the younger version of yourself / start of your career, what advice would you give yourself knowing the ups and down of a competitive industry?
I don’t think I could give advice to anybody…my younger self included. I still have a lot of learning to do. The one thing I do know is I love this type of work..I really enjoy it. If you love your work and you have the chance to dedicate your time doing it, that’s a lot to be thankful for. Enjoy it, don’t run.
You've done a fair amount of work for the record label, Stones Throw Records. Do you remember the first commissioned job you did for the label and how your relationship with them has grown over the years?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of my first job with Stones Throw Records and Jeff Jank, (Artistic Director for Stones Throw Records).
The first job Jeff and I worked on together was for the vinyl edition release of Madlib’s Medicine Show #1: Before The Verdict.
Prior to my first job with Stones Throw Records, I had submitted a drawing of the rapper MF DOOM to a Stones Throw email address, along with a link to my Flickr page. The response I received was from Jeff asking if I wanted to submit some drawings for the Madlib album series they were beginning to work on. This ended up being the Madlib Medicine Show and the albums were released monthly (13 in total), of which 4 or 5 I worked on. From that moment on every year we’ve worked together on one or a few albums together.
I could say the work itself is my strongest source of inspiration.
I read somewhere that you grew up skateboarding and immersed yourself in the skating culture at a young age. When you first got your start as a designer / illustrator was skate culture a big inspiration for you when designing and is it still till this day?
During the early 90s in Argentina, skate culture was small (like me at the time) and in Mar del Plata it was very restricted. My friends attended a catholic school and did not skate…also the boards were very expensive. So my first interaction was not with a skateboard, but with the graphics from skate magazines that I purchased downtown at newspaper kiosks. Magazines like Thrasher and Transworld and their advertisements for Girl and Shorty’s (with Rosa Esperanza Gonzalez) but mainly a skate magazine from Basque Country (north of Spain) magazine called Tres60 Skate, written in Spanish. (this drawing from my show “Discipline” in 2013 is based on a page from that magazine). I remember the change from flat nose to double-kick in that magazine. The 80’s becoming the 90’s.
Tres60 Skate was short-lived (it’s last issue was #17, with only a few pages but epic)…then Big Brother appeared (on this side of the Atlantic), continuing and increasing that impudence, with politically incorrect content, almost porn for my age.
All this happened during my youth from when I was 10 years old, up until I was 16. So yes, it had and and still has a great impact on my work, my aesthetics and my interests.
During these times of sheltering in place, do you find yourself still being productive and creating work as you normally would or has it become more of challenge to produce new work?
It's becoming very difficult to be productive…but I don't feel bad about it. Most of what we visually consume is affected by this situation. Personally I am not interested in the content being generated at this time. There is a general analysis of everything. Analysis of what we "are", but mainly what we “will be" (!) I don't feel like being part of that analysis. I don't think it's time to think about it. We have to be aware, yes, but try to pass it as lightly as possible, so as not to lose our head.
When working on a new project do you have your go to songs / albums you prefer listening to while working or are you more of a mixtape / playlist type of guy?
I usually listen to NTS whilst working... My favorite shows are the ones from Carla Dal Forno, Beatrice Dillon, Helm, Freedom To Spend, The Trilogy Tapes, and especially the one from Mark Leckey.
I recommend a great guest show from my friend (and Uxe Mentale collaborator) Aylu, from last march: Intempestivas.