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Mikel

12 Jul 2020

Text by Mikel

ØLÅF Citizens: Olaf Hussein

12 Jul 2020

People around him would probably describe him as “quite the character.” Olaf Hussein is always on, always distracted, but somehow manages to get things done that others don’t. In this episode of Citizens, we talk with the Founder and Creative Director of his namesake label, owner of this platform: Olaf Hussein.


Olaf, I know you as someone who’s always doing everything at once, where do you find time to relax?

“I do, and I don’t. As the owner of the company, I am actually never not working but I always make sure that I make the most of my downtime."

 

Is it possible for you to relax?

“Not right now, I am always on my toes waiting to take the next leap. Doing nothing makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong as I am convinced that being stagnant means no progress. I’m always hard on myself to do better or to do more. I blame it on my ego. I have yet to find an answer to that.”

 

 

Is there a goal you’re working towards?

“I would love to be the new G-Star. Not aesthetically, but the size and international name they’ve built is unprecedented in the Netherlands. I aspire to reach similar status."

 

Where does this drive come from, you think?

“Growing up I was told that only hard work gets you far in life. Nothing else. My family and I moved from Somalia to a small village in the Netherlands and I had to adapt rather quickly. With how the education system is set up here, I knew that I didn’t want anyone else to determine my future for me like the majority of the kids that I grew up with. I needed to prove to myself and my family that the move was worth it.”

What sparked your interest in owning your own fashion business?

“Growing up I have worked part-time in various fashion retail stores. I vividly remember the day I realized that I had all the tools to create my own brand. Keep in mind, this is pre-internet and the only resources you had were the ones you heard via friends or saw with your own eyes. I was obsessed with everything and anything to do with fashion.”

 

 

I think you know more than just fashion.

“Yes, my actual studies had nothing to do with fashion. In fact, I graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a master degree in Communication Science. During my studies I was working part-time at a shop called 1store in Amsterdam, where I came in contact with the VP of Menswear at Tommy Hilfiger. I had a good connection with him so upon graduating I applied for a job at the Marketing department. He advised that design would be a better fit than marketing knowing a bit of my background. I ended up working there for almost 3 years. ”

 

You started Olaf Hussein in 2014 as a denim brand. Right now, the brand seems to be have evolved to something more than just a local denim brand. What changed?

“When I started the company the market was already saturated with commercial denim brands with heavy vintage influence. I wanted to bring to the market something more modern and different. Within the last decade the market had shifted from being denim focused to a mix and match of different fabrics. We also realized that to gain a bigger audience you need recognizable graphics. It so happens to be that graphics work better in non-denim products.”

 

Is that also why you don’t like to be categorized as streetwear?

“Streetwear is such a generalized term now. I am under the influence that it means something else than what I stand for as it is so vague.”

 

ØLÅF QuickSnap Disposable Camera.

 

But you do make caps and hoodies.

“Yeah, but nowadays that doesn’t necessarily make it streetwear, does it?. It all depends on how you execute it.”

 

Besides the shift from denim to “non-streetwear”, the last year has brought some other changes for you and the company with a new store, website, co-owner, and platform. What was that like for you?

“Hard! I’m very difficult to work with. When I have an idea ( even in the middle of the night), I often want it executed immediately. I often forget that not everyone’s brain is on work mode, even in their sleep. I am fortunate to have a dedicated team and business partner who still enjoys working with me (hahah let's hope this is still true).”

 

Sunflower sketches.

 

Fashion is an industry that is known to be extremely fast paced, how do you keep up?

“I make sure my internal battery is charged (mind and body) at all times making sure that I don’t lose sight of the end goal and whatever it takes to get there.”

 

You just released a collaboration with Ace & Tate that sold out immediately. When is a collaboration successful in your eyes?

“It is a good collaboration if both parties are able to utilize their strengths to create a cohesive product. It is fun to see unexpected combinations come together.”

First ØLÅF face.
Why did you start with that monthly newsletter?

“I was in talks with someone from Het Parool, a local Dutch newspaper, about having a monthly column discussing relevant topics. That didn’t happen, so we decided to do it on our own platform instead.”

 

What were the reactions so far?

“Surprisingly awesome! It sparked interesting conversations between the consumer and myself and it even allowed us to built a personal relationship with our audience.”

Part of the team.
What has inspired you lately?

“PEOPLE aka CITIZENS. With everything that is going on in the world, people from all different ages and backgrounds are coming together for equality and fighting for a better future.”

Tiffany Chung

15 Jun 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CITIZENS: TYLER ADAMS

15 Jun 2021

Tyler Adams is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas. In this edition of Citizens, the LA native tells us about his early creative beginnings and shows us that there is more than one way into the industry.

 

Hey Tyler, you wear several hats. Put these three things in order of importance to you: photography, creative directing, casting.

“Oh wow, okay so photography is definitely the most important because it's what led me into the other avenues of my creativity. After that would be casting and then creative directing. Uh, wait, no. But that's hard to be honest because when I first started shooting, I was doing all these things in my personal work. I wanted to create images, but I wasn’t seeing the type of people that I wanted to shoot, so I started casting for myself. I didn’t have budgets to go to a showroom and pull clothes, so I was either putting together things that friends or the talent were bringing or even pulling out of my closet and putting that together. So, all of it is kind of important to a degree in order to make art. But I guess photography is the most important because that’s how I got into all the other things."

 

Why did you gravitate to photography in the first place?

“It was kind of an innate thing. I say that I've been shooting since I was 5. Growing up, my grandma had an old school Polaroid 600, and I would just run around with it, create, and shoot things. It's always been something that was there and that just started my fascination with it. I've always been a visual kid."

 

Tyler in Mexico.

 

What would you say makes a great photograph?

“Great’ I feel can be subjective. I think perspective is very important, not so much composition, but I mean like my personal chase. Like what I may think is a great image may not be a great image to you. You may be into colors or compositions or location, but all of that has to do with your perspective and what makes the most sense to you or what you move to personally."

 

Do you have a favorite photograph?

“Yes. Actually, I do. My favorite photograph of all time – I get so excited thinking about it – is Richard Avedon’s portrait of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In New York, it's a picture of him on the basketball court. He's tall and lanky. His posture and everything is so elegant and beautiful. It's the freshest thing. I've tried to recreate the essence of it in my own work a couple times."

 

So, do you prefer to photograph people?

“Professionally, I do shoot a lot of people, like fashion portraiture. But I still have some weird tether to wanting to photograph cityscapes, different vignettes of buildings, or graphics and shapes. I usually try to make them both kind of work together in my work – people, spaces, and architecture."

 

Drake Jazz by Tyler Adams.

 

You've worked with a lot of brands. Any favorites?

“That’s a tricky one. I don't want to play favorites but if I had to choose...Opening Ceremony was one of my first big fashion clients. Just being a fan of the brand, that was like one that I really wanted to work with. I shot with them for a while, I did some social and editorial stuff. Then, they let me shoot fashion weeks and I worked on a couple of their shows. So, that may be my favorite one because that got me to where I am today."

 

Was it hard breaking into the industry?

“Oh my god, yes. My friend and I laugh about it now. Photography has changed. It's mind-blowing how different photography and the whole industry is now versus what it was like 6 to 10 years ago. At the time when I was in college, the mindset was that you went to school, you built your book, you took your book and you moved to New York. It wasn't until you worked in New York that you would pop off and actually get to work. But out of college it was like you assisted somebody for years and then at some point you move from being 30th assistant to 1st assistant before having your break or whoever you are assisting being like, ‘I have a job that I don't want to do, you can do it’, and then that's you’re beginning. I didn’t go that route because I was like if this is what it's going to take for me to put food on the table, it’s going to take a while. But I didn't want to move outside of my creativity.

SO I started helping a really close friend of mine who was an upcoming stylist. She occasionally needed help and I feel like that’s what changed it for me because being on set in that capacity is different from being a photographer's assistant. When you assist a photographer, they don't want you to speak to the client. But everybody else has a different relationship, when you're with the stylist and those people for 8 hours on set, you actually get to know people by name. It allowed me to build relationships and be like, ‘oh you know I'm helping the stylist, but I actually shoot.’ Photography assistants can’t do that. They can’t say, ‘yeah check out my work’ because it feels like he's trying to take the photographer’s clients."

 

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 1/2.

Opening Ceremony by Tyler Adams 2/2.

 

 

What’s your most memorable shoot?

“My second time in Paris was pretty memorable and cool for me because the first time I went to Paris I didn't shoot which I was bummed out about. I always try making an effort when I go somewhere new or somewhere different to actually create work in those spaces. So, I was with Kendall, and we shot in the Tuileries Garden. There was a carnival, and he just grabbed his skateboard, and we were just chilling. It was an evening in June, so the light was amazing, the weather was nice, it was a good time."

 

When you cast people for a shoot, do you keep diversity and representation in mind?

“Always. That's the first thing. When I was starting out there wasn’t any. Even now, if clients ask for diversity, there aren't a lot of options of people who look like me or people who come from the areas I come from. In general, I'm usually trying to extend opportunities and bring more people in, to experience being on set and working, or being in front of the camera. The cool thing about today is that you don’t have to look like a runway model to book a campaign or to get work."

 

TStyling for Highsnobiety Magazine.

Styling for Exit Magazine.

 

 

What do you do when you're not working?

“Not working? I don't know what that is. Ha. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but I feel like my work isn't necessarily work all the time. I'm usually at home or I go to the beach, I go for drives and look at architecture, I see my friends every now and then."

 

Instagram filters. Like ’em, hate ’em, or no opinion?

“I don't use them in my work, but for stories and selfies they’re super fun. I don't get tripped up by that shit, they’re fun. Also, Instagram is a tool. If you have a business or if you’re an artist, it’s a quick way to get going."

 

Complexcon photo with Pharrell.

Maison jumpman. paris, 2019.

 

 

Do you see things in black and white or shades of grey?

“Wow, that's deep. Definitely shades of grey. I think that two things can be true at the same time, it's never as cut and dry as things may appear."

 

What's the last song you listened to?

“Introverted Intuition by Lance Skiiiwalker."

 

Name one thing in your closet you can't live without.

“Damn, I can't live without any of it. I'm not a hoarder and I don't have a crazy amount of things, so none of them can go. I do have this pair of cargo pants that are always in the rotation, and I wear a lot of shoes. I’m a shoe person.">

 

Young Tyler.

 

Can you name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you?

“My mom is really inspirational. She encouraged my creativity and to do the things that I wanted to do. She wasn’t trying to get me to be the person that she wanted me to be. Instead, she gave me the tools to be who I am and to develop the things that make me happy. I haven't been to Tokyo. Tokyo inspires me from a distance. I feel like they live in the future. It's 2021 here, but it's like 2025 there: technology-wise, lifestyle, and how they lay out their space. Being a digital kid, it just always felt like that was the future and everything is cooler there. It’s just a city that looks cool, there's a different light there. It just feels cool, clean, peaceful, and modern. The thing that inspires me is architecture. That's where I get most of my inspiration from now. It makes me happy. I like how people think about the allocation of space, how people interact with space, and how cities are laid out. All that stuff is super inspiring and drives me crazy. I go through a rabbit hole of architecture and design and when my day is over that's usually where I'm at. "