When the bat phone rings and SK8THING’s on the end of the line it’s one of those calls you sit up in your seat, empty your eardrums, clear your throat and pay attention to.
Those familiar with Mr ‘thing will know him as the man behind some serious ‘streetwear’ activity, playing a leading role in the foundation laying of brands like BAPE®, Billionaire Boys Club/Ice Cream and more. Those less familiar will still know of his artistry; his graphics for BBC and BAPE® have been fundamental in the sky-rocketing success of the brands as they’ve become prolific the world-over. So much so that when i-D online popped for a quick convo with Sk8 last week, he whipped out his iPhone to show us a snap taken by photojournalists on the frontline of the London riots the previous evening, with the leader of the troop, fist raised, clad in a BAPE® varsity jacket. “It’s fake” Sk8 was happy to insist.
Background setting aside, now for the juicy stuff: as he made a rare trip from Tokyo to London, i-D online was offered the extra-special, extra-exclusive opportunity to speak to the masked magician about his next big thing and blow it wide-open for your delectation. Coming at us from a triumvirate of major clothing design talents, SK8THING has been joined by longterm collaborators Hishi and Toby Feltwell on new brand C.E. Discussing the working relationship SK8THING explains, “Having worked on BAPE® and BBC together we’re really tight and a lot of the inspiration comes from the relationship itself and the discussions we have”. With the trio continuing their involvement with other brands Toby discusses the particular attraction of breaking away from the pack, ”The idea started because the working process we share is really fun! With Ape or BBC each of our responsibilities differ in every case, but to do something where there’s no client and no history involved means we can start from scratch and work on a different level.”
Reflecting on the feeling of “alchemy” that surrounded the early days and drops of BAPE®, with consumers marvelling at the pieces that were hitting the shelves, Toby explains, “I don’t want to be undiplomatic but this heritage, vintage, workwear revival is relevant for now but it’s totally ubiquitous and there’s no need for anyone to really make any more of it. We wanted to work out what’s on the other side of that, not from a trend or marketing perspective but to be creative and do something new.” As the trio worked from their Tokyo studio, SK8THING was aware of the pressure to conform and the conservatism that’s taking hold in the style stakes explaining, “doing something in opposition to that feels like the healthy way for us to approach the collection and hopefully things can develop from there.”
Oppose and not conform they have indeed done. Thumbing through the first collection, the brand presents a refreshingly bold benchmark; a perspex, collared and pocketed jacket hangs alongside some dead daring graphic tees and a whole bunch of shirting with SK8THING’s signature penwork all over it. On specific references Toby explains, “We’d seen the Enter the Void trailer and that got us started on this sci-fi path, looking at Phillip K. Dick books and that kind of thing. Matrix is kind of cheesey seeming now but that thinking is definitely there.” And we reckon a dose of something bright, shiny and futuristic is just what we need!
What we’re seeing is a new-age of sartorial splendour, motivated by a want to shake things up and administer an injection of wearable, future fashion into the market. As for the future of the future we ask Sk8? “I have no plans, I’m here in London right now and I’m really satisfied. It’s gonna be good…” And ‘my oh my’ do we believe him. Let’s face it if anyone can make it hip, make it hot and make it happen these chaps can, so here’s to the future and C.E taking hold of the streets. SK8THING strikes again!
Text: Sean Baker
Photography: George Harvey