In 2001, high school drop-out, downtown NYC down and outer, Aaron Bondaroff kick-pushed himself on a journey to create a one man brand. Throw forward ten years and one of modern art’s finest fairy godfathers has landed on London soil.
After leaving school, A-Ron landed feet first in NY’s Supreme shop-floor. Splitting his time between the store and the sidewalks of the city’s downtown district he quickly established himself amongst a burgeoning creative community which would prove the launch pad for Brand Bondaroff! In the ten years since, A-Ron has developed far and wide beyond aNYthing’s cap and tees roots. As co-founder of successful collective OHWOW, Mister B champions some of the USA’s most exciting modern artistic talents. With OHWOW outposts in L.A. and the Big Apple and the aNYthing store keeping him busy downtown too, A-Ron can often be found hop-scotching from East to West Coast. But this week he made a detour to London’s shores. In between launching the FW11 aNYthing collection and championing OHWOW wonder-boy Lucien Smith as he opens his first solo exhibition, i-D online grabbed a second to sit down, look back and glance forward…
Let’s talk about how things started and the brand you set out to create ten years ago… In the beginning I wanted to create something that meant I didn’t have to do a job. To tell you the truth it started with me just wanting to make objects and from my experience working at Supreme, what was most obvious was making clothes. Also coming from a strong creative community, I knew I could give them clothes and have them represent the brand. There was never a business model, it was just a case of going with the flow and back then myself and a lot of the people I was surrounded by were just excited to make things happen. We didn’t spend time nurturing things, we were just excited to kick the door down. Then gradually it became less about fashion and more the marketing and branding of it. Now as a clothing brand, for aNYthing to be the fingers on the hand of what I do in life, I’m satisfied.
Where once the clothing was at the centre, now it’s just one of many aspects of what you do? Yeah, it’s just one of many things that I have under my belt. Take Physical Therapy, who is a DJ that I like, who we’ve used as a model for the aNYthing look book and we’re also releasing a CD with him. He’s here in London to perform at Lucien’s party tonight and at the aNYthing launch tomorrow. With the clothing line I’m able to take some of the younger talents, give them an introduction and then if and when they’re ready, bring them over to the other projects. I kind of use it as a training ground.
How different would it be if you were to start everything over? I would still create something that would make enough noise to get attention, but New York has definitely changed and I’m kind of glad I got in before that whole blogging, internet thing happened and everything becoming so accessible. There was still a mystique around what I was doing because there wasn’t that much information. Now you can’t hide anything, and I think the fact that I could keep things hidden helped the product. Whatever your craft is, it has to be a bit tighter now as it’s so open.
What do you think of outputs like DIS magazine? Is that a creative use of the internet that you think can have a positive impact? Yeah, those kids are doing something that’s cool and they’re having fun with it which I think is important.
With the OHWOW gallery now opened up in L.A, where are you spending most of your time? I’m kind of like a nomad, always finding different places to get work done which is how I used to do it, hanging out on the streets, running into so many different people. I have the bookshop in the West Village, I stop in there and hangout, then I go to the aNYthing store where I can check in and then by the Supreme office, I’m always on the go. I’m just navigating through life, through cities, through communities and just getting the best information straight-up on. I’ll be in L.A for like three weeks hanging out and I’m back in New York for one day and I’ll see the same stuff, but it’s just a different thing there, it’s much more spread out. I thought I’d be able to go to Los Angeles and bring all the different pockets together, but it’s not going to be that easy, slowly I’m figuring it out though. Having the gallery there is like a central point to try and get everyone under one roof.
It’s rare to see people willing to give their time to fostering creative talent in the way you have done. It’s such a competitive market that people normally find they have to focus on their own success rather than others’… For me, I’ve always been unselfish. I like the community aspect, the collective, the collaboration. I think it’s kind of fun and exciting. I like to identify people’s strengths. I like to have a part in history that happens naturally and by working with people. I also like to see them take-off and know that I was there at a certain point, at the beginning stages, the most scary stages when they were putting things out for the first time.
Can you explain a little about your relationship with Lucien? Lucien is an artist who emailed me about interning when he first arrived in NY when he was 17. He also emailed artist and friend of mine Dan Colen who picked him up, started working with him and recognised his talent… Dan kind of nurtured him on art, I talked to him about how to handle himself on the streets and how to hustle. With OHWOW, I think it’s really important that we work with the younger generation and so working with Lucien is a part of that. Now he’s having his first solo show here in London and we’ll see how that goes. He’s smart, he’s talented and he’ll learn a lot more about his voice and his art and what he wants to put out there.
What do you think you’ll be doing ten years from now, around aNYthing’s twentieth birthday? I always use that ‘twenty years’ in conversation when talking with an artist, a musician or whoever, I ask “Will this thing hold-up in twenty years?”. I think at that point, I will have more platforms to put things out there. Maybe here in London, it’s great to move around and be inspired by different things and this city has been really good to get the creative ideas flowing. Now Supreme have kicked down the door here, who knows what’s going to happen!
Needle in the Hay by Lucien Smith is open from 6th October to 3rd November at the Ritter/Zammet Gallery, E1. aNYthing’s FW11 launch takes place at Foot Patrol, Friday 7th October, from 6PM – 9PM featuring DJ Physical Therapy.
Text: Sean Baker
Photography: Justin Borbely