16 Jul 2020
“Feels great, haha. I work full time at Spotify and for a year or two, I’ve been doing more projects independently. At Spotify, I work on all the different brands that fall under the umbrella. From artist initiatives to brand work and everything in between."
“I enjoy the combination. Spotify is a huge brand with big budgets and a big influence, so the work I do there is very global and can be seen by millions. But because it’s such a huge company, it can also be more of a challenge. It’s a Swedish company, and there is a lot of corporate stuff you have to go through before you can get things done sometimes. In that sense, I prefer to work on my own, or with a small team. Nothing against Spotify, but at the end of the day it’s just more rewarding when you do it on your own. But I like the balance in my work life right now.”
“To be honest, most of the time I don’t even hear the music that I’m making the artwork for. Sometimes it’s a couple of tracks or snippets as a preview, but I never hear the full project. It’s less about music and more about bringing a concept to life. With Bon Iver for example, it wasn’t really the story in the music itself, but more about talking to the artists and hearing what this project is about for them. They have the music, then they have the artwork, and then the website—those are three separate things. The whole Bon Iver project was all about collaboration. i,i stands for a collaborative spirit. So I tried to recreate that idea of togetherness and connectivity on the website."
“The Bon Iver product was made with data, so that was cool. But music is something human. It’s so visceral and emotional. I try to look at those qualities rather than numbers when I make something. In the end, I hope my work just enhances the experience a little.”
“I worked together with Spike Jordan, and we talked about Gunna’s alter-ego WUNNA (which is the name of the album). Gunna is a Gemini, so the idea was to create a doll version of his alter-ego and have it float into space in front of his actual astrological chart that we had an astrologist made for him.”
“I didn’t know that haha. I think that’s a good sign though. A lot of brand campaigns are just skipped past because they feel impersonal or because people just don’t care. People are more invested in artists than in brands, and when you make artwork as we made for WUNNA, those reactions come with the work. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s actually a great reaction for me. It might be weird to them, but that’s kind of the point. You always want to make something that catches people off guard a little bit.”
“Absolutely. I’m very aware of not being boxed in. I don’t want to be just the Atlanta hip-hop guy. If I was just doing cover artworks or photography there would be more pressure to have a certain look. But for me, in terms of style, it’s more about ideas and the creative process of combining multiple things you haven’t seen before. I love trying different things.”
“As a white man, there is definitely an added responsibility that I’ve always felt, but now even more so. I’ve always tried to be on the right side of things. People of our generation grew up inspired by Black culture: music, fashion, art. The least I can do from my position, with my skill and energy, is to give back to a community that inspired me so much. One way that I hope to do so is through mentorship and investing in talent. Creating opportunities for young designers that may not have benefited from the chances and privilege that I’ve had. Having gone to one of the best art schools in the US and studying design from some of the greats was definitely a privilege. But we need to break that system and think about who’s getting the opportunities both in education and in the industry. You also don’t need to go to the best art school to do what I do.”
“It’s very important for me to engage. I’m not an activist, but I try to influence the people and brands around me to hopefully change something. I have so many white people around me who don’t have black friends and they still don’t understand. And all these brands that are “for the culture” should do better as well. Nike can make a nice commercial about this, but their whole board is white. It’s not just a police thing, it’s everywhere.”
“I think that COVID-19 will forever change how we live. But this, more importantly, will change how we as a society treat each other.”
“I read this book called Sensemaking, by Christian Madsbjerg. I finished it right when COVID-19 started, so it might not be super relevant now, but I still think it’s interesting. He divides data into thick data and thin data. Thin data is: “young people brush their teeth for 10 mins.” With thick data, you attach historical, socio-economic, or cultural connotations to that. Companies now are using big data without understanding histories or cultures. That’s how you get products or services that forget a little about humanity.”
13 Oct 2020
“I started in 2000, after university, in industrial design. So, something completely different. After industrial design, I was working in an advertising agency. It was there where I started to work with a sport brand and at a certain point they said, ‘why don’t you join our team, we may need a creative guy, or someone with a bit of a different vision of our product’. Yeah, that's how I started. The team was Napajiri which is a well known sportswear mountain brand. I had the chance to work directly with the founder of this brand, a kind of visionary guy, comparable nowadays with the guy from Patagonia. So, he was really into nature and developing sustainable products for hiking, citywear, urbanwear and this iconic brand became really famous later."
“Yeah, Italy, Turkey, France, and now I’m in Holland. Basically, in the companies where I worked it was international people around me. So, there wasn’t a big difference. The big difference was in the approach of the market and approach of the brands. Italians are really conservative in terms of developing products and in terms of trying different ways of approaching the market. Just experimenting. They prefer to go deep into the specialization of something. That's why you have high quality specific products, high quality producers of trousers, specific producers of jackets. Turkey was a massive market because they were producers. So, they were focusing on quantities with quite good qualities but based on time and price. But in Holland they are more visionary. Dutch people know the market really well, and they know what the market wants and they’re really driven by that. But if they have a concept they stick to the concept really strongly and I like that. It's a kind of evolution of their soul. ”
“From a culture point of view, I really like the style of life that you have here in Holland. I can go downstairs in my pyjamas go to the supermarket and nobody cares. There is a kind of freedom of expression and people don’t look at you. I like that you can live your life and nobody is talking about you. But also I love to do everything by bike. There is no traffic. It’s an international city. I love the city, plus I have a Dutch girlfriend and two kids, so that also keeps me here."
“When I was working with Napajiri and worked with Marco Trapella, he was like a mentor for me. That first experience was the most important, especially with a really interesting person close to me, who easily and naturally teaches you something every day.
Another moment was when I started a brand called ‘Jail Wear’. It was a project where I created work inside a prison. It was me and an associate team of people: a psychologist, technical people, administration people and we brought sewing machines into a prison close to Milano and employed prisoners for the production of clothing. The clothing was really cool, it was a kind of streetwear brand with jail wear influence. In Italy, but mostly all around Europe, in prison you need to have a uniform. Basically every country had its own uniform. In each uniform there was rich detailing that I used to create this brand. For example, stripes because in prison they create visibility and show which area of the prison you belong, buttons to adjust the uniform on your body because there were only 2 sizes of uniforms, no invisible pockets because everything should always be visible for the guards, etc. So, we took that detailing and we mixed it with hoodies and sweatpants and we taught the prisoners to sew it. Product-wise, it was a really incredible experience. Human-wise, it was even better because I met people who have incredible stories and people who will probably spend their lives there. It was a way to look at design from an ethical and social point of view.
Another one is when I came in contact with Elio Fiorucci. He was the denim god in Italy. The one who invented lycra in denim and created the first skinny jeans for women. In the early 80s, Fiorucci was always inside the factory of Andy Warhol; there are pictures of him at Studio 54. He's a classic Italian guy from a good family and he went to New York and was fascinated and interested in pop culture. In Milano, he was, for all Italians, a pop icon. He used to have a store in the 80s in the center of Milano called the Fiorucci store. It was famous all around the world for a few things, one was Madonna at the age of 18, before she was ‘Madonna’, performed DJ sets in the store. This guy in the 80s in Italy, not London, was bringing a DJ girl and playing music during the shopping day on weekends. He also invited Keith Haring to create a massive mural on the wall of the store which is now a monument and still there today. So, I got to work with this guy for a school project because I also taught at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milano. So, I had an idea for a course in denim and then I spent a few hours with him. He was a really sweet person and told me a lot of nice stories. Also, we talked about pop culture which was in a way the first marketing culture that we know in fashion.”
“Yeah. That was also another amazing experience. I proposed my workshop in army wear. I have a collection. I always collect pieces and it's mostly workwear and army wear. I went deep into discovering things like why a pocket is good for the army and how to design army wear, not from a fighting point of view, but just for a functional and ergonomic point of view. I really went deep and I always use these references, even in my job today. So, I did 2 year courses there and it was a massive experience. First of all, for the first time I understood I had something to share. Sometimes you get so busy just going from one project to another that you forget that you’re still growing and this is still your passion. It's amazing to work with young kids who are there because they want to learn and they want to show you that they know more than you and it's a challenge. It was humbling. It was super fun. I started with a story of the uniforms and the technical part. I let them select different countries and they started to design their own collection based on what we studied together. Some of these students I’m still in contact with today and some I have worked with.”
“Don’t be afraid to do something different than what you think you want to do. I’ll explain. Sometimes a young designer thinks they know what they want to do, for example, shoes for women. So, they find jobs or learn to do shoes for women, but then they end up on projects for basketball. Even though it’s not what they want to do, they should still put passion into it. Be flexible with what is happening in your life but always do it with a lot of passion.Try to study everything, even if it's something you don’t like. Always be curious.”
“Basically, menswear. So I can wear what I collect. Army, workwear, sometimes sportswear items, gore tex jackets, old hiking or sailor pieces. Back in the day, a lot of experimentation was really in sportswear. Sailing and hiking were the two big schools where waterproof zip was developed for the first time, vulcanized shoes were developed for the first time, a lot of new tricks that you find in normal fashion today which at the time were considered at the top of technical execution. I collect those kinds of pieces. I also like clean design like a raincoat which, in my vision, has the perfect size of pocket and doesn’t have any elements it doesn’t need. I don’t like saying minimalist, it's not minimalist, it’s more like pure design. If I find something new, it needs to be a piece of art. I like to collect more pieces from back in the day because I like artistic tailoring executions. It should be an icon. For example, the Burberry trench is an icon. Nike Jordan 1 is an icon. I like to add those pieces to my collection.”
“Yeah, this is related to what we were just talking about. An obsession to collect pieces in a certain way. It’s my passion to collect pieces with pure execution and be sustainable. Sustainable and collectable. A person who inspired me a lot and a person who I’ve collaborated with is Maurizio Donadi. A few years ago he started a project, Atelier & Repairs, where basically he’s using old stock and transforming it into a new collection. He’s always saying, “The only sustainable fashion is the fashion that doesn’t produce.” I like that concept and I started a project quite similar where I look locally and around the world for vintage warehouses and buy dead stock products. Products that have been produced but never sold and are now just trash. I buy dead stock related to my classic vision of menswear – classic chambray shirts, classic painter jackets, and those kinds of things. I select pieces and if they’re missing something I repair it and put my brand on it. The name is Primary Archive because it’s an archive of basic primary pieces, classic shirts, classic trousers.”
“Yeah, it's quite interesting. It's always exciting for anyone to start a brand and be facing every part of it – the website, the communication, the look, how you shoot the pictures, where you get the clothing, how you twist the clothing.”
“I don’t know if this is the future but I’m really fascinated by local brands. I see a lot of young kids, younger designers with really incredible talent and then I see that there’s no space in the big industry and I see that the big industry is struggling. I really wish that, like in Amsterdam, there are more of those local brands. They don’t need to be super big but they need to be persistent in their product. So, I wish to see and I think the future of fashion will be interesting if every city has its own local brands. So, kind of local products and different shades and selections of products. Less big brands. That would be really cool.”
“Yeah, because of this situation of being at home and working from home, I have a kid that’s 5 years old and I know this is a little bit cheesy, but when I have to finish work and take care of him at the same time, I try to involve him in an activity related to what I'm doing. What I find fascinating and what I’m just discovering now is his vision. The white blank sheet that kids have so when they see something they always have simple questions that inspire you and let you see things differently. So, I’m kind of inspired by working with my son.”