"I feel like people should just enjoy clothes for what they are. It's just garments to put on your back to protect you from the elements," says (Angelo) Urrutia about the duality of his designs. "But ultimately, it kind of is communication — what you want to say about yourself, what you want people to know about you or not know about you."
4SDesigns (a play on "four seasons" that nods to the inherent functionality of the garments) is Urrutia’s new label that was launched (in 2020) at two small events — one at Paris Fashion Week, and one small soirée in New York City held at The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge, an ironically divey bar in the Garment District that also functioned as a watering hole for Urrutia when he worked at Nepenthes' offices nearby.
"You just made me think of something that I've been trying to phrase this whole time I've been introducing my collection," says Urrutia. "I really hate the word luxury. If it's precious, like a 'luxury item,' you don't want to ruin it ... Life's too short to put something on a shelf. I want to enjoy it, you know? I want to fuck it up."
Robin Van Der Kaa_ Why did you finally grab all these things together and decide to start a company yourself?
Errolson Hugh_ That was out of frustration mostly. We were in Munich at the time and we were doing freelance design work for a number of companies – a lot of snowboarding, actually. We were seeing all the technology for the outerwear, which was already heavily ingrained in snowboarding. You needed the tech to do this sport. So we saw that and learned how to make it and how to design with it and we figured, "Why don’t we have this in our everyday clothes?" We proposed that idea to everyone we were working with, because we obviously didn’t have any money. All of them said, “No thanks. You’re crazy.” So we figured we’d just do it ourselves.
Robin_ Do you feel like you’re reaching the limits of what you can achieve this far into the whole ACRONYM project?
Errolson_ It’s an ongoing process. I think particularly with ACRONYM as a brand, the image it has is a lot bigger than the actual infrastructure that’s behind it. There’s friction in that, because people just think we can do more than we actually can. Because of how little we actually use the existing systems in the industry, we’re somewhat out in the wild. This means we have the freedom to do things you can’t get away with at any other company, but at the same time there are challenges any other company will not face. You can’t have one without the other. Every single season, every piece that we produce is kind of a miracle; because it’s so unlikely it would all work.
Robin_ Are you looking to change that?
Errolson_ Yes. I definitely want that to change, but we’re also very aware of how tied together what we do is with how we do it. The freelance design agency makes us aware of how other companies work. What we learned over the years is that the infrastructure of the company determines the product. Owning our own production facility has advantages and disadvantages — the same thing for your own dyeing facility or your own retail chain for example, which we don’t. All of those things influence how decisions are made and affect the product that gets delivered. The product that people love and expect from us is intrinsically tied to the way we’ve done it. That type of infrastructure is not something you can grow quickly. If we want to grow, it’s not just a matter of typing in a bigger number on the order sheet. We actually have to think, “Ok, we need to hire an X number of people, we need to buy those machines, where do these machines go? Do we have enough floor space?” ACRONYM is also not the type of product where in the space of a season we can train another factory to produce it. There’s thousands of little tiny details and consequentially thousands ways to fuck it up. If one detail is half a centimeter too low, the whole jacket doesn’t work and collapses onto itself. But when it does, and everything is there and everything has been caught, then it’s magic. The synergy is there. It’s like a sports car. The complexity is the pay-off, but it’s also the problem.
Robin_ You’re not making things easy on yourself.
Errolson_ No. The whole point of ACRONYM when we started was, "let’s try and establish a way of doing things where we don’t have to compromise on the product." From day one the price structure or merchandising plan was never a part of the process. We don’t have a sales manager. There’s no forecasting. It’s all product-driven. We see the limits of the way we do things everyday. It’s an uphill battle. If you look at the first product we made in 2002 – the box set containing a jacket, a bag and some other stuff – it’s basically the same thing we’re still doing now. The bag that was in the set is still the best-selling product we have, and the same goes for a version of that first jacket.
Robin_ Does that mean you’re just 15 years ahead of everyone else?
Errolson_ Well, either that or we’re just too stupid to quit.
Robin_ I think we got our headline there.
Errolson_ Well, we did our homework, we did something we believed in and we worked on something that’s good and did the things we wanted to do. If you insist long enough, other people will start believing it as well, as long as it actually delivers and does what you say it does.
Jarrett_ Can you give me a brief history of what you did before forming C.E?
Toby Feltwell_ I grew up in Bedford, which was 50 miles north of London. I was a skateboarder, I listened to music, and I was into clothes a bit, and I used to hang around Slam City Skates. After I finished at London University I didn't know what to do so my friend Will Bankhead suggested that I might work at Mo' Waxx Records. It became a proper job, and while I was there I became friends with NIGO who was associated with the label. I met Shin somewhere along the way because he was working at Bathing Ape. NIGO was always trying to get me to come and work for him, but I wasn't that keen to move to Japan initially because I liked living in London. I eventually decided to study Law at Night School, and did that for four years. At one point NIGO was like "Don't just wait there and join a law firm, come to Japan." I moved to Japan and spent a lot of time with Shin. We met Pharrell together and started BBC. I was basically working for NIGO as his legal counsel. I helped open the BBC store in Tokyo, and then came the inevitable down slope of BAPE. Eventually NIGO had to sell BAPE which was kind of tragic, but I was glad that I was around to help him. Me and Shin wanted to carry on working in a way that we developed over the years working together at BBC, so we started C.E while we were still at BAPE.
Jarrett_ What about you Shin?
Sk8thing_ I started GoodEnough in 1990 with Hiroshi Fujiwara. Started A Bathing Ape in 1993 with NIGO. Started working on BBC in 2003, and in 2011 started C.E with Toby and Hishi. That's it.
Jarrett_ What are your respective titles?
Toby_ Dunno...owner? Co-owner?
Sk8thing_ Toby's the CEO.
Toby_ Yeah...that's actually accurate.
Jarrett_ What do you each do for C.E?
Sk8thing_ Toby comes up with the ideas, and then I make the graphics.
Jarrett_ It starts with Toby's idea, and then you make the graphics?
Jarrett_ Could C.E exist without either one of you?
Toby_ It's the process of how we work together that made us want to start C.E. Instead of having a goal we want to achieve, it was more that we liked the process of working together, and whatever becomes created from that is unique to us. There's an element of randomness...I can't decide exactly what it's going to be.
Jarrett_ Yeah you can. You're Co-CEO.
Toby_ When you're dealing with creative work, you need randomness. Happy accidents. If you're working together in a group, then inevitably people do stuff which isn't what you were thinking about. I like it, and that's the part of it that we find enjoyable.
Jarrett_ You don't have the traditional roles where Shin is the creative guy, and Toby is the business guy?
EFFECTOREFFECTOR®（エフェクター）は、アイウェアセレクトショップのオプティカルテーラー クレイドルのオリジナル・ブランドとして2005年にスタートしたジャパニーズ・アイウェア・ブランドです。"Rock On The Eyewear."をコンセプトに、男らしく骨太なフレームワークが最大の特徴です。 ベーシックな中に東京らしい感性を取り入れながら、ハンド・メイド・イン・ジャパンにもこだわり、日本の眼鏡生産地で職人の仕上げによるしっかりとしたディテールも大切にしています。 ベーシックなモデル名のほとんどは、ギターなどに使われるエフェクターの名称に由来。ロック・カルチャーやアイコンをベースにしながら、ビートニク・カルチャー、カリスマアイコンなどをイメージソースにしたプロダクトも生まれており、そのオリジナリティはクリエイターやファッション・カルチャー方面からも支持されています。
David Fischer_ IRAK NY is already around since the mid 90's. What was it at the time, how did it all start?
EARSNOT_ As a shoplifting crew of graffiti writing degenerates. Me just stealing anything I wanted cause I'm nice like that! Me Rehab and Kent driving going OT to rack for a couple of days. Looking for loot n gear spots.
David_ Tell us something about the members, founders of IRAK NY?
EARSNOT_ I just did.
David_ Tell us, how did the crew develop into a clothing line? What were the drivers of that evolvement?
EARSNOT_ A lot of people are throwing that NY or NYC into their brand name, trying to cling to an image, etc. Fuck that. We've been IRAK NY, before making gear ever even crossed our minds. As a brand, yeah we're emerging, and we're "new" but we've been around for years, and most people that like our shit know that and respect it.
David_ What stands behind the clothing of IRAK NY? What is the brand philosophy?
EARSNOT_ Fuck that question that’s bullshit. NEXT!
Bags to use everyday.
For the past 20 years, RAMIDUS (formerly known as Head Porter) has continued their search for the "standard" bag from their Harajuku base. Relaunched in Oct 2019 to create a "new standard" for future generations.
Noah Johnson_ Why don’t you have any sponsors right now?
Jerry Hsu_ I was interested in not being sponsored. I’ve been sponsored all my life, I’ve been a pro skater for like 20 years, since I was 16, so I got kinda burnt. I was riding for Chocolate Skateboards and I didn’t really feel like that was where I belonged, and didn’t want to just sit there and not participate but then get a check, too. So I told them I was done, and they were like, Okay, cool. And I never really tried to get another board sponsor. And then my shoe sponsor just sort of unceremoniously let me go, and I was like, okay. That’s cool. Fine. That was hard because all my income—half by choice and half not by choice—just evaporated. But luckily I had started Sci-Fi already, so it was filling the gap that skating was providing income-wise. And now I’m just free to do all my creative stuff and I don’t need to worry about skating. But I’m still skating. I just have more choices now. I get to do what I want.
Noah_ After the career you’ve had, it must be nice to have that kind of freedom.
Jerry_ Yeah, I’ve done a lot in skating. I’d given so much of my life to it and it’s great. It gave me everything. Like, my whole life. I was curious as to what it would be like to focus on other things.
Noah_ So Sci-Fi Fantasy didn’t come out necessity because you didn’t have any sponsors, it was already up and running by that point?
Jerry_ It was only out of necessity in a creative way, because I was kinda bummed out. I needed something and other parts of my creative life were at a standstill.
Noah_ It seems to me we’re in the middle of a mini renaissance of skater-owned brands that have a unique perspective and don’t easily fit the model for what a skate brand is. Do you feel like the timing for Sci-Fi has been good?
Jerry_ Back in the day, when someone would start a company, the M.O. was like: get some cash together, some investors or whatever, go to a distribution company or a place that already does this thing, then they put up half, and basically you’re a little bit in debt to a larger entity that is a part of the system. And a lot of people were taken advantage of because of that system. Like Ed Templeton, for example, he doesn’t really own Toy Machine, which is a tragedy. That system is antiquated now. With Sci-Fi, of course I used my notoriety as a skateboarder, but I just spent like $300 and started an Instagram. People online were starting to notice it, and then people on the street would be like, what is that? That’s how I marketed it. I see a lot of companies are like, “Ok, dropping spring 2025!” and all this dramatic preparation, and I wanted to do the opposite. Just make a few things and sneak it into photos. Anyways, to answer your question, it’s really about accessibility and the internet and how much people want new stuff. It’s insane. This company has made me realize how much shit people wanna buy. It's fucking crazy. But yeah, the old platform, those gatekeepers are dead. You don’t have to fuck with them anymore. You can just create an instagram and you have a company. It’s pretty awesome. It also creates a lot of crap, because everyone’s trying to do something and theres a lot of static out there. But if you have a good idea and you have taste and kinda know what you’re doing, just a little bit, you can do pretty good.
Noah_ What are your feelings about growing and expanding? Any interest in making boards and putting together a team?
Jerry_ I do have plans for Sci-Fi, but at the same time, I like how much freedom there is. I decide when growth happens or doesn’t happen. I like that it’s small and I like that it’s rare. I’m not trying to blow it out, because that’s always been something at companies that really bugs me. Like every company I’ve ever skated for, they answer to this higher corporate power, so there’s just this constant demand from people who only see numbers. All that forced expansion creates an environment and culture where creativity and pushing any kind of limits comes second to the dollar. Which is very annoying to me because my ideas were rejected because of this system. And I don’t have that anymore. I can literally put anything on anything and I can do small numbers. That was another thing that was annoying—I’d say, “Can we just make 50 of these?” and it was like, “No, we have to make 50 billion of em.” I don’t want to do that. I just want to make something that’s special. So I’m kinda cagey to the idea of making Sci-fi this huge thing. I like that it’s personal. But that’s not to say I won’t do more. I have a lot of ideas for the future. It’s just going at its own pace.
Noah_ And you’ve been able to remain independent?
Jerry_ All the investment that’s gone in Sci-fi has been my own. I’m the only person in charge. I don’t have to answer to anybody.
"I've always been confident about what I like. I've never felt that I truly fit in anywhere. My work is a representation of the kind of world that I want to live in," says (Earn) Chen. "These spaces are also my refuge. Thankfully, some people get it."
And by "some", he really means generations. When he opened multi-label store Ambush in the late '90s, he was one of the first to introduce cult streetwear brands such as Recon, Goodenough and Gimme Five to Singapore. Applying old-world sensibilities to new world discoveries, Chen effortlessly navigates the complexities of cultures and generations.
"I am here to make sure that they don't have to repeat the same mistakes I did. For some time, I sidetracked from what I wanted to do. I became another person and wasn't happy," says Chen, who lets his young friends use his office as a space to create. "The youth culture has given much to me, so I want to give back to the community."