This already is the third issue of Energy Transmission. So, I’m doing this for three month now. We’re sort of closing the first season of my ‘sletter’ now. In this monthly newsletter I explore the question “what is the culture of tomorrow?” together with those who are close to the fire. I have conversations with people I crossed paths with, or who’s work inspires me and pair it with stuff we both think is worth checking out.
This month: Simon Brown(@simon_____brown)
Now we are moving from LA over Paris to London, a definitive European hub of street culture and home to Graphic Designer turned Fashion Artist Simon Brown. “Can I have an & in my username?” was the first major question that I associate with Simon and to this day plays a major role in his practise. We first crossed paths through the idea of face covering, because I was working on my side project Indizguize while he was working on projects which evolved into what is now his first major capsule collection. The extensive design experience of the Tottenham-based creative culminated last week into a limited run of wearables from his Brand AndAndAnd. So, despite working and collaborating with the likes of Virgil Abloh or Rem Koolhaas, this guy has a lot of stories to share. I’m very happy to keep in contact for years and even starting to collaborate as well. Always a great inspiration!
“Hello, my name is Simon Brown. I am the founder of &&& and the work I produce as a graphic designer has been ob the boundaries of culture and communication since I started my design practice almost 20 years ago.” So he works in pretty much the same realm I do. Starting to work in media or marketing he got to know early on how powerful graphic design really can be. It can define ‘culture’. He helped people with their visual identities and how they appear to the world and now transforms this from doing it for other people to doing it for himself. Ultimately to produce graphic wearables.
Currently, Simon is working on a re-development of what ‘&&&’ stands for. Before, it was fundamentally a graphic design agency and now it is producing products of its own. “It isn’t Haut Couture house products or an atelier, it’s a graphic designer’s take on wearables that reflect my interpretation and the people that are part of that, who I refer to as &bassadors. Their interpretation of the world.” His idea was and will always be to bring forward young creative talent. “I’ve just dropped the teaser video, where the team ranges from a female music producer to some young up and coming students as producers to another young guy as model.” Doing stuff together always is super cool!
After my talk to Cecile last month, I assumed that this collaboration and talking with young people is also Simon’s main source of inspiration. But he said this brilliant sentence: “The source of inspiration is the interpretation of the world and that only can come about from a broad brush stoke of input into your life.” As Simon works with people coming from Germany, America, Korea and London, this makes his brush stroke pretty broad. It’s the input from people all over the world. Find out about new things constantly. Speaking of which, “to be honest, I crawl Instagram. Like really crawl it. I don’t consume it, I’m constantly sourcing out stuff.” This is what I tend to call focused usage of Instagram. Down the rabbit hole but with a goal.
Jumping from Instagram to the current state of streetwear culture, we talked about how there is now such a mix within this culture called “streetwear” that you can not nail it down into one genre really. “From pottery, to music, through to boots, to Futura – I was blown away by the mix. And now due to Covid, it allowed people to focus on the part of the ‘culture’ that they’re really interested in. And I think the definition of ‘culture’ still needs to be defined.” That what also happened to Simon himself. He sat back, took a pause and learned how to needle stitch a unique piece. So this pandemic made the graphic designer pick up a needle, go back to the basics and learn how to craft the pieces he wants to put out. That is such a major example of how the world changed: people refining and refinding their craft really.
Coming from refining how people produce their goods, Simon told me about this explosion in streetwear about sustainability. “The default thinking when making a brand was to look overseas for cheap production. Now, and partly thanks to Covid, people immediately think of very local ways on how to produce what they want to achieve. No matter the cost or the idea, the product has to be better for the planet, for the people.” But when talking about the drainage of the earth, Simon became pretty pessimistic, because humanity might never gonna be able to turn this to zero. “That’s the scary part. Everytime you consume any digital content also has an impact.” Yet, people are looking for new ways to fight overproduction and overconsumption. As Simon stated right “Hype alone around a product when it’s just a logo on a tee is not the way. The stuff needs a purpose.”
“I don’t even know whether that is sustainability, but I reduced the waste from 4 carrier bags to this small amount that fits in my hands.” What Simon explains here is that every single piece of wastage, anything that is sufficient for the production process need to be thought about again. Like, how can you use this piece of material? What can I do with the material or paper samples? This is what Simon calls a major step in his process, which he will share within a new publication, a process paper. “Try and design your wastage from the beginning. Take in a lot more time to think about what you’re gonna make in the first place and how you’re gonna make it. That’s the kind of sustainability: how can I make the very most out of the materials I have? There’s too much valuable stuff trapped in a bin. Make it part of the story!”
Second Hand Bicycle
“This thing caught my attention because it could get me to work and back. And that is about the most exciting thing I recently purchased.” I had to learn that Simon of course is more on the creator than on the consumer side of things. So his most exciting product is a practical and functioning one that combines his thrive to be outdoors more, to consume less and to reuse old products. “I am a 100% not a big consumer.”
Getting a piece of my design on a material
“The best thing that I have bought is getting a piece of my graphic design put onto a piece of material, like a silk. That has been the best thing I have bought ever in life. It transformed from being a flat piece of paper to suddenly having some texture and flow to it. That’s just amazing!”
A ton of compost
“So, during Covid I decided to have my own vegetables, so I needed a vegetable patch, so I bought a ton worth of compost. A massive pile and got it delivered. Then I grew an Orange tree from some Oranges that I bought in a supermarket, some peas and some other stuff.” This has to be, hands down, the best list: a bike, a piece of material and some earth.
“I think the culture of tomorrow is always, for me, about continuously relearning. And to get a feedback loop where you always strive to be the best you can be. Constantly relearning and challenging yourself. During my last project I tried out 10 different hats. I have learned and relearned what is new and what I thought was new. I talked to different people. There is no one right answer to anything in life. The culture of tomorrow is what you make of today.”
Every month, after the interview section, I share with you some things I found on the Internet or in streets, that infused me with good vibes. These are my new energy sources:
Seeing this come to live and drop last Thursday really fueled me with energy. Simon’s capsule collection is not the usual print on a tee stuff, but a very thoughtful interpretation of three multifaceted headwear pieces, a Banaclava, a reversible hat, and a graphic bandana, that all question our attitudes to identity and individuality. The pieces let you reinvent yourself everyday. Plus, they are all individually numbered and hand-stitched in the London atelier. Go grab some while they’re avaible!
As many people would state it, North Hollywood is the ‘spiritual successor to Mid90s’. And yeah, that pretty much sums it up. It got the same vibe to it and I felt the same nostalgia, the same good energies while watching this one. At it’s core it is a coming of age story of a skater in the suburbs. He wants to go pro while also managing relationships with his dad, best friends and girls. The look, the music, the style and Ryder McLaughlin in the leading role outplaying Vince Vaughn as his dad was a sheer pleasure to watch. And watch out for Illegal Civ has to offer as “the first teen movie studio”. After watching the film, go to their YouTube and watch their latest skate flick ‘GODSPEED’ as well. It’s just so good!
The LA based artist Wes Lang is kind of the missing link of my obsession for Kanye West and the Grateful Dead. He designed some gorgeous covers and merchandise for both of them. As for Kanye the colorful longsleeves always intrigued me and to this day are kind of a grail to me. When it comes to the Grateful Dead I’ve been listening a lot to their Spring 1990 box. Maybe because this was the time I was born and the covers says “so glad you made it” – I always felt that. But it’s also the art and style of Wes Lang that I really adore. He will publish a new book at Rizzoli coming in September and it’s definitely worth to pick up. Lang’s work really gave me energy to rethink this month.
Have a great one - sending good vibes to you all!