VOICE IS YOUR WEAPON

DIABOLICK opened its doors in BCN with one principle objective, to create a brand sincere to the spirit of ‘old school’ and all this phrase embraces.

Ah I love this shop. For me it represents a quite movement of small brands establishing their market and embracing there individuality, and slowly growing. While there are many people creating clothing on the back of image of ‘street culture’ there are few that genuinely understand it. Diabolik Store does. This is displayed by all the collaborations that goes on in this place and projects that they are involved in.

The intention of the shop is to have a space that has a strong background with, music/art/street culture. The architecture of space is inviting and informal. Different levels, stairs leading up and down in to different areas, invites you to have a good mooch at products and the cool murals, for as long as you like. i-am like this, it embraces the ‘experience’ that brands can give you, it encourages you to return.

Downstairs the space becomes shop and gallery. Every 2 months an ‘artist Vs Diabolik’. The motive of the ‘battle’ (drawing battle if you like), to project a new image that sits alongside Diabolik. Not change Diabolik image but opens it up, questions what Diabolik is, can be. Therefore keeping the space and hence brand versatile.

Some original labeling, with pictogram’s, links not only the clothes to the music but show the diversity of Diabolik music connections. Looks damn good too! i-am favourite is the Reggae comb.

Other collaborations with urban magazines, Lamomo, Staf (great layout design), LeCool, Relevant (this is a little gem of a mag unfolding I predict!) centre Diabolik in a BCN movement I feel. Sure there’s always been creative stuff happening in this city but all these guys seem to be on the same course of improving themselves while remaining true to their identity, and that brings me back to what ‘street culture’ really is.

It pretty cool what can be achieved when collaborating together and Diabolik latest concept UFO (Urban fashion Object) which shows it first collection this Jan 09, ( the likes of designers My Jok, Carp111 and Marcos Caberera to name a few) is sure to be a leading brand in years to come.

BORN A NINJA

Contraflow is a gathering of people doing their stuff for the love of it. ‘Hiphoppinelectro Rockinginbreaks… n…beats dubsteppingbuttshaking goodvibe inreggeahouse funkdiscosouljazz afrolatinbrazillian classics’…just good music and in my view good music=good people, washed down with a few beers totals to some good ideas and creative experimentation being put into practice.

I seemed to be walking about with a crumpled flyer in my hand for some days before I actually read it! I knew it was a winner though, that Ninja logo equals nice parties guaranteed. Ahhh memories of the good old days, people doing shit for the love of it before the marketing game jumped in. Contraflow is a Ninja Tune party for all you Ninjas out there. My definition of a Ninja is someone who never stops creative grazing. By that I mean is always mooching about checking out nice stuff whether it’s considered cool or not, and putting their artistic plans into action. A lot of people can talk about stuff not many people put it into practice. You are either born a Ninja or not. Ninja’s don’t like to be labled, their known for not being fully known and this aloofness is very attractive to me. You don’t always know what you gonna get, but you know it will be good.

So good infact everytime I have ventured off to a Contraflow party Ive got pleasantly distracted by good music, random conversations, interactive graffiti and nice visuals, oh and maybe the beer may have contributed a little to! Hence my abstract (arty eh!) photos on view here! In my experience creative people need space. Space to play in.The more space the better!

The spaces of Contraflow parties vary, indoor to outdoors, under tents, or on the beach. The indoor space at Poble Nou feels like a giant youth centre, but with booze… great! The lighting/graphic visuals create the interior decoration. I think ‘lighting’ as an area of design has just grown so much within the last few years. Light fascinates me, the way it can subconsciously tap in to us, and so subtle or dramatically change our environment. Light, has always been used for practical reasons but is now being used more and more as the core decoration to environments. For instance, the countdown in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics to styled fairy lights available in Habitat. The only other medium that deeply taps in to our subconscious like light, is music.

Which all remains for me to say, Global Souljah you are my first true internet friendship I have formed ja ja! and I look forward to having a face to face normal conversation with you one day, conversation anyhow, whether it will be normal remains to be seen! Keep up the good work… work hard, party hard!

A HEDGEHOG IN A LAND OF FOXES

Marti Guixe, most commercially known for his collaboration with the brand Camper and Rei Kawakubo, founder of fashion label Comme des Garcons share an artful strength. These are designers which create their own independent environments and put their ideas in them.

Described as ‘a hedgehog* in a land of foxes’, Marti Guixe is a creator of fantastic ideas. ‘Ideas’ the soul seed to an initial brief and a skill that cannot be taught. This natural ability of independent thinking sieves the many designers apart from the great designers. What i-am like about him is his blatant honestly, for all to see, for example ‘If you don’t need it don’t buy it’ slogans displayed on camper shopping bags. Designers like Marti have an unique thought process and this in itself then becomes part of the design. Humble scribbled ‘idea’ drawings, to final interior/product concepts.

i-am are intrigued with his constant reference to food. Many projects revolve around this theme, one particular i-am favourite is the edible wall, (image shown above), where you go and eat the space your in!!

Why the ‘food theme’ becomes reoccurring in his work? Well, I put it down to him being Catalan. From living here in Spain for the last year I believe the Spanish have their priorities of eating spot on. Regardless of an office deadline, huge volume of work, the Spanish stop to eat! Guixe attempts to put things into perspective.” I have considered that I will buy perhaps two chairs in my lifetime, but I buy food three times a day”.

This brings me to the point of putting things (objects, brands) into to perspective. A perspective, what is that? It is how we view a brand, and it is how the designer wants us to view it. We are often carefully steered into a perception of a brand. Marti Guixe and Rei Kawakubo give us a new perspective by demostrating how they view their ideas not how we are told to view. ‘Shop design, interior design, catwalk design, Rei is often called the designer’s designer’.

She founded the label Comme des Garcons, which means ‘Like Boys’ in Tokyo in 1969. A slow growing company, now annually amassing 75 million pounds her priority has always been creativity. ‘Finding the right balance between the creative and the commercial has always been my work. The two are not necessary opposed’. Her collaborations are wide and varied, from Speedo to the up and coming H&M collection (in UK stores Nov 13th) to connect with the new fashion generation and get a wider audience to experiment with creative fashion. Her concept of Guerrilla Comme shops, which appear and disappear as fast as the seasons have secured her reputataion as a successful rebel, and leave us asking how we can express identiy stronger.

Her concept and direction of Dover Street Market (In London UK), brings together her vision where ‘various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos: the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision.”

‘I enjoy seeing all the customers coming to DSM dressed in their strong, good looking and individual way. I would like for DSM to be the place where fashion becomes fascinating.”

Reki Kawakubo and Marti Guiex bring to brands their perception of beauty and ideals, regardless of trends. That is admirable, that is lasting and why their work, works!

*’hedgehog in a land of foxes’ illustration by Ganton

Revamp

Revamp

As featured on the ‘i-am’ Experience Fix blog, the eco-fashion company Revamp has been featured in the latest innovation report from research company GDR Creative Intelligence.

Revamp sources emerging design talent to create trendy, sustainable and environmentally-friendly garments and accessories from clothes donated to Cancer Research UK charity shop outlets. Check out the earlier Experience Fix posting on Revamp to find out more about ‘i-am’s recent logo and identity work with this pioneering brand.

Visit the GDR website: www.gdruk.com or download GDR’s Revamp Case Study HERE.

Shop for Revamp fashion and accessories online at www.revampfashion.co.uk or from the Cancer Research store at 24 Marylebone High Street, London W1 (Baker St. / Bond St. tubes)

HOME SWEET HOME

The brand Camper is looking at ‘what has always been from another angle’. In Casa Camper, the Camper hotel, time passes more slowly and one breathes a Mediterranean air.

Instantly I seemed to have adopted Campers brand attitude to look at things differently so I’m going to start describing from the inside of this hotel and work myself out, (secretly I already feel like I don’t want to leave the place!) First impressions are that of a comfortable waiting room, long metal benches, remind me of airport lounges. I mean that to be a compliment. While airport lounges still have a long way to be aesthetically pleasing, Casa camper seems to have combined the utilities of a lounge, (space/ergonomic materials) with the comfort and informality of a home. i-am love Camper. Camper have a special twist to all the work they produce and a deep respect for their Mediterranean roots. This combination, magic and heritage, gives the brand scope to explore, branch out into the many areas of branding. Branding today is becoming a world of ideas. Camper have build their own world and Casa Camper invites us to experience this world and way of thinking.

Sleek double seated benches back from the reception area onto a dining area. Food is available at all times in the hotel. There is a self serve kitchen, canteen, open 24 hrs and you are able to eat where you like. i-am love this informal approach, that you are able to walk around with your food, like in your own home! The interior is a contrast of industrial furniture with traditional images, photos of old shop fronts in BCN. There are maps everywhere…great i-am love maps. This is so you not only know where you are but can plan your next BCN adventure!

Up the shaded lit stairs you are greeted with a spectacular terrace. Guest are encouraged to use the stairs I am told, thats ok I think, I wanna be part of Camper. I like what I see and feel good following their brand statement, ‘The walking Society’. This area gives the guest a way of feeling and living Mediterranean. Another home from home touch which i-am love is the herb garden and tomatoes growing in the corner!

The whole hotel is dimly lit. Its dark, but gives a refreshing feeling, especially needed from the humidity outside in the Summer. The deep red and green colours of the interior walls work relaxing colour therapy on you. The hotel has a small number of rooms and a nice Camper concept to go with them. Not only do you get you bedroom but across the corridor you have you own private living room. Ah so Spanish, relaxation always on there mind…MC hammock time!

The bedroom side of the building backs on to a wall. Space is a luxury in BCN and as a result town planning seems all over the place! But that is BCN charm and because of this the cities architecture holds clever surprises, ideas to utilize spaces. So while the bedrooms hold no view they have cleverly created a vertical garden, a wall of huge pot plants. The living areas have a small balcony to watch on the street below. i-am also loved the eye chart in the bathrooms, for you to read while doing your toilet business!

‘Design means basically three things for Camper. The desire to integrate and function into its products:ethics and aesthetics. Imagining better solutions, incorporating available technology to make these products more useful, more responsible, so that they improve people health and quality of life.’

Some subtle design touches i-am noticed while mooching about, the robot top coat hanger in reception and collection of strange objects found in the building before the hotel was built. These objects are displayed in glass cabinets in the reception area. Reminded me of the London Paul Smith headquarters, where his collection of inspiration objects have been cased in wooden /glass cabinets, becoming the interior decoration of the reception area.

Camper collaborate with over 40 world class designers (I was interested to discover Neville Brody was one of them). Marti Guixe a Catalan designer has applied his radicalism, wit, and handwriting superbly to Casa Camper. Described as ‘a hedgehog in a land of foxes’ this man sits perfectly with the brand and hence has created a strong partnership on many projects. If you do nothing else today but look at his website, that is enough!

And that brings me back to the start, the outside, where I could almost miss the entrance to the door of the hotel but that’s what I like instantly about it. It was there but not screaming in your face look and me, just a splash of red, some shoes quietly, mischievously poking under, saying look over here!

Camper as a brand have remained humble despite their deserved global success. ‘Design does not solve all company problems, but it does contribute its bit to what we call a cultural and human approach to business activity’. They encourage branding to ‘keep walking through the world with imagination’ and if you do need to stop and relax along the way, i-am highly recommend Casa Camper.

SOAP RAINBOW

Sweet smells, Delicious colours, and a product you can enjoy everyday! Soap shop Sabater Hnos. Fabrica de Jabones.

Keeping in the neighbourhood, tucked around the corner from Plaza de St Felip Neri is a sweet smelling soap shop Sabater Hnos. Fabrica de Jabones.

This soap shop couldn’t be more individual if it tried. If it were a person I would describe them as, elegant, educated, and dogmatic. Elegant, because of the simple layout, almost barn like, using all the old Spanish features and painting them deep cool colours. Educated, because the shapes of the soap reference periods of art, reminding me of tiles designed by architect, Alvar Aalto, and Rennie Mackintosh, designs, paintings (particularly the logo). The colours are pigments you only find in specialized paint shops. Dogmatic, because this space states this is my style, way of looking at a brand/product, and I will not compromise because I am different! Infact it is rather a nice way of looking at approaching a brand, imagining if it were a person, what qualities would you want it to hold.

Independent brands like Sabater Hnos. Fabrica de Jabones are so valuable to the market. They create original ideas with an everyday product. While they may be small in quantity they are high in quality. While they may be over looked, simply missed by the masses, they are greatly appreciated by those who discover them. This is shop encompasses true BCN style…A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Some i-am favourite eye catches. The BCN tiles gift set, (the design as seen on the street tiles of BCN!) and hundreds and thousands soap scoop box. The packaging of produce was all in cardboard, humble and cost effective. Another nice touch was the logo, stamped on bags, again, cost effective and also a nice contrast with the glossier packaging.

HIDDEN OASIS

Plaza de Sant Felip Neri is a peaceful space hidden in the Gothic Quarter for the locals or unsuspecting tourist, to discover.

Or to be more precise, Plaza de Sant Felip Neri is a peaceful space for the locals to hide from the tourists! You won’t find this plaza written up in any guide book and because of its privacy it make an idyllic spot. The name lends itself to that of the The Hotel Neri (situated round the corner). The hotel bar, overflows into the courtyard, an ideal place for a quiet drink. Quietness is somewhat of a luxury in the bustling BCN.

The Gothic Quarter is an area of BCN. Here can be found Roman architecture from 2000 years ago, mansions, Church’s, fresco’s. The narrow, windy streets let you loose all sense of direction and feel like you really are discovering a slice of underground Barcelona. While this Plaza holds hard memories of Franco’s dictatorship ironically, the space now is tranquil and incredibly pretty. Dappled in sunlight it is a favoured spot with the locals to sit and relax. I feel to, an appropriate spot to pause to remember Spanish history.

To think that its only 32 years ago, in 1975 that Franco’s reign ended. Quite remarkable how this city has developed, and, how it has preserved it’s identity. The 1992 Olympics marked the beginning of a long process of urban renewal, a city reborn. Quite remarkable how identity, whether referring to a brand, personality, country is so powerful. i-am as designers have a great responsibility to create new identity while preserving old ones.