SURF'S UP TO BLUE SKY THINKING - Kenzine, the Kenzo official blog

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Born in Wales, Dean Mayo Davies lives and works in London. He is the editor of HERO Magazine and its newly-launched sister title, HEROINE, and was previously fashion features editor of Dazed and Confused and deputy editor of i-D.

 

Dean compiled the Washington State playlist for us you see here, made up of his favourite underground and emerging artists from Seattle and Olympia, mainly. The region, rich in musical heritage from garage to grunge to Riot Grrl is known for expressing its punk voice with rowdy rock dynamics, as you’ll hear in the tracklisting here. Turn it up loud, rattle the speakers.

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Night Beats – Hidden Circle
A deep slice of Psych from current album ‘Sonic Bloom’, the cassette of which is out through Burger Records, the West Coast label killing it right now.

 

The UFO Club – Wolfman
Howwwwwwwl! The UFO Club is a collaboration between The Black Angels' Christian Bland and Night Beats' Lee Blackwell, named after the short-lived 1960s underground London club.

 

Naomi Punk – Firehose Face
Huge, brilliant crashing racket from the Olympia group signed to NY’s Captured Tracks.

 

Prom Body – Guttuggering
From the just-released album ‘Naughty by Natural’ on Seattle/Arizona label Temple of Cairo.

 

La Luz – Big Big Blood
The all-girl group give us masked psychos, creepy dolls and axe-wielding executioners in this video.

 

Acapulco Lips – So Long
A 2013 slice of 60’s garage from their S/T debut, available through their Bandcamp.

 

Stickers – Outlet
Recommended listening, the band’s debut LP ‘Swollen’ was released last month.

 

Dude York – The Lake
Favourite track by the three-piece.

 

So Pitted – Holding The Void
Driving bassline, harmonious ‘ahs’ and a shouty chorus make for a classic quiet/LOUD Seattle recipe.

 

The Pharmacy – It’s Over
Active since 2002, this band backed Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson on US Tour in 2005 and evolved their sound to create tracks like ‘It’s Over’.
 

Uniforms have a strong place in menswear, from military garb of the forces and paramilitary to utili-ty wear of trade dressing, synonymous with factories, mechanics and people getting their hands dirty. Take jeans as an example, the building block of what we wear everyday was designed for cowboys and miners, before being co-opted by teenagers i.e. famously James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, then, after the shock of it all, worn by everyone else. 

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The Pacific Northwest is a climate of workers, with agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining amongst heavily physical professions working with the great outdoors. In the past, this also included aluminum smelting. With a strong presence of Spanish and Native American cultures, the region is desirably noble and progressive. The hippie movement began in California and the Pacific Northwest and environmentalism is prominent. Musically some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century have emerged, including Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Elliott Smith. In 2008 Sam Adams was the first openly gay individual to represent a city of Portland's size in the United States, whilst in Silverton, Stu Rasmussen was elected the first transgender mayor in U.S. history.

 

In taking pieces of clothing from the Pacific Northwest like safety boots, work jackets or industrial accessories and putting a KENZO spin on it all for Fall/Winter 2014 menswear, Carol and Humberto pay tribute to this mix of tradition and open mindedness.

Here, familiar zip-up blousons are reimagined in plush kangaroo fur; sleeveless down jackets for throwing on in windy cities, in wool and mohair, worn with nylon jogging pants. ‘Tool creatures’ are pinned to knitwear as brooches and worn around wrists as bracelets, craft colliding with mechanics and industrial machinery. In pops of yellow, red, purple, green and electrified windowpane check, everyday life is transformed into something new. At night, moonlight landscapes illuminate outer-wear.

Just as jeans were worn by blue collar heroes driving our everyday before being co-opted by youth, so was work wear in the 90s, with dungarees, overalls, carpenter pants and work jackets sported by everyone from skaters to TLC.

“Work wear's boxy silhouette also segues naturally from the oversized, hip hop styles that have influenced young men's and women's fashion in recent years, and the urban guerrilla look, which is loosely connected to last year's fashion phenomenon, grungewear,” said the Seattle Times in 1993, also commenting that workwear was an “unlikely fit… proving a big hit with urban teenagers”. What might have seemed an unlikely fit at the time, however, correlates with pop culture past in the way teenagers have co-opted familiar, unprecious clothing to give it new meaning.

A Fall/Winter 14 knit from the new collection says: KENZO ALL HOURS, CLOSED NEVER. That’s true of the way we live today; always open, always active, always connected. The need for some-thing casual, useful, simple and unpretentious is obvious. That’s workwear.

“Blue sky thinking” are words that big business turned into a cliché of creativity. But look at the phrase another way and it might be an appropriate summary to describe California attitude. This disposition has fueled 20th century youth culture, the West Coast gift not only to itself but the world – sport, art and music are united in lifestyle panorama, spawning teenage tribes.

 

Carol and Humberto pay homage to CA, their home state, for the Spring/Summer collection, from beach towns on the Pacific Ocean to underground music. Tidal, fluid, beach nonchalance with hand-drawn prints reflected their view of life where surf is so ingrained in the culture you don’t talk about it – because nearly everyone does it.
 

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It was land Baron Henry Huntington who brought board riding to the sunshine state in 1907 after witnessing Hawaiian boys rolling on the crest of waves on vacation. Arriving at Redondo Beach, it would grow to become the first contemporary West Coast subculture, give music a new sound, surf rock, in the 60s. This youth liberation heralded its own language and style, where (later) you could align yourself to whatever board company you fancied through baggy, logoed tee-shirts.

 

From surfing you naturally get skateboarding, born out of an urge to make concrete-covered-land (and empty pools) as gnarly as clipping waves in the sea. So exciting it had to be photographed and with the dawn of VHS camcorders, filmed for skate videos. Bang! With that its fashion was immortalized – and referenced – as a lifestyle, spawning more and more new street wear labels and providing fashion with an enduring fixation.


Musically, if you think of California, you’ll probably arrive at hardcore and rap. Thank Los Angeles’ South Bay and Orange County for the former, and Watts and Compton for the latter. Hardcore in particular built a vocabulary with its graphic sleeves, going on to influencing fine art. Though CA’s first generation of artists inaugurated themselves in the 50s and 60s, with the legendary Ferus gallery, a time LA is said to have been the most rock ’n’ roll city in the US for its emergence of exper-imental new music.


Now, a potted history of subculture in California needs time, research and a lengthy thesis. But what you’ll hopefully get is that everything is interlinked, from surf to style to sound. And in a state where the car is king and youth travel, it spreads (high five for getting a driving license at sixteen).

Lifestyle is the word, a place where one thing informs another. That’s why it’s such an exciting breeding ground for expression, and has been for over the last 50 years. Plus the sun always shines – that, at the very least, is why surf’s up.