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TITLE meets Alex James from PLEASURES

December 12, 2019 16:24

PLEASURES is a Los Angeles streetwear brand founded by Alex James in 2015 that takes inspiration from grunge, metal and punk music. On the 21st of November they celebrated a release party of the Pro Leather shoe in collaboration with Converse here in Berlin and I had the pleasure (pun intended) to have a conversation with Alex James about the shoe, pissing on walls at concerts, and the immense influence of Rage Against The Machine..

How did you first get into fashion?
Ever since being a kid it fascinated me how clothing looked and how it represented your personality. It started off with vintage clothing because new things were always too expensive. As a brand, we try to focus on keeping our products affordable. We just grew up as regular dudes without any money, but wanted to look cool too so we really try to keep our brand prices down so that design doesn’t have to be expensive. When the internet came along I was able to see more of what was available in the world. Growing up I got my first break from a friend who started a brand and I started working for him. Then it just took off from there. I started working for other brands too and kind of learned what works and what doesn’t work when making clothes. Then started my own brand in 2015 and now it’s been over four years.

Our brand really originated out of boredom. Both of our girlfriends were living in other places so we had a lot of free time back then. In LA it’s really easy to kind of get lost in the partying scene, so instead of partying we decided to put our focus on something else. PLEASURES really started off on my couch, when we were having a normal conversation and somehow came to the crazy conclusion that we should start a brand. We launched it June sixth, 2015 at a pop-up shop with some other local artists and brands. The shop really took off and we figured that this could really be something.

Celebrities like A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Kylie Jenner, The Weeknd, Playboi Carti, Miguel, and even Dior’s artistic director Kim Jones have been seen wearing your clothes. Did you expect PLEASURES to blow up the way it did?

No, not at all. We just wanted to do this as a fun side project and then we started realizing that people we really gravitating towards it because it was something completely different and unique. It wasn’t like anything else that was out on the market. We figured that when something is working you just have to keep pushing or else it’s not going to go anywhere and so we kept it moving.

How would you say you express yourself through your style?

The way I dress really depends on feeling. If I wake up and feel like shit I’ll just throw on some sweats and something casual. If I’m feeling good, then I definitely dress differently. I think that’s the way most people dress. I just dress exactly the way I feel and that feeling is what I try to express through my clothes.

Do sneakers play a part in your self-expression?

Yes definitely. I grew up wearing Jordans, Docs and Converse and it’s awesome that we get to work with all these brands and that they’re recognizing our work and recognize that we can bring something new to the table.

It first started off with a tote bag that we did back in the day which is made out of the same material that mailing companies use for their bags. We decided to take this material to the next level for the shoe and encased it in plastic with little holes to let the foot breathe. We’re really proud of how it came out.

What’s the story behind the “stop lying to yourself” typography on the shoe?

It’s really about how everybody has this fake facade on social media for which they pretend to be happy when in reality, people are depressed, unexcited, and maybe even struggling with some inner demons. So if people on the street look down on the shoe and see the message I hope it acts as a wake-up call that lets people reflect on their lives and social media usage. There are actually a lot of hidden messages on the shoe, it’s a statement about us and our brand that we want to put out there.

Do you have one favorite pair of sneakers that mean a lot to you?

When i was playing basketball the Jordan 11 Space Jam shoe was one that I would always wear because I thought they were so cool. I got cut off the basketball team which sucked, but at least I still had the shoe. *laughs*

I grew up wearing a lot of Chuck Taylors too, they’re just a shoe that I’ve probably worn since birth, they’re in my DNA.

What’s does your creative process look like when you’re designing?

When we’re designing it’s basically just the three of us, me Vlad and our graphic designer. We just talk about what we want to make and where we want to go, what we’re thinking. Now we’re also making things beyond clothes, like ceramics and more lifestyle based products.

It starts off with an idea, then we move to the colors, depending on the seasons. I think our design process is pretty normal from there on.

Generally, what inspires you most in everyday life and while you’re designing?

I would say music inspires me most. Music is a catalyst. As soon as we get into the office there has to be some type of music playing. I think without music none of us would be living. Music is definitely a driver behind my life, the brand, and everyone around me.

What track do you think describes this shoe?

Maybe something from Morrissey. The shoe is just a culmination of various ideas. The idea of this shoe is basically like this room. There’s just a bunch of stickers and posters on the wall and it’s a mess, but it works. It’s like in club bathrooms where people just write a bunch of shit on the walls.

To me, they’re kind of a Rage Against The Machine shoes, like I can totally see myself rocking out to one of their songs in these.

That’s a huge compliment thank you. I love Rage Against The Machine. I don’t know if you heard, but they’re coming back together and they’re doing a bunch of shows next year.

Who is your favorite artist dead or alive?

That’s a really difficult question. Me and the other guys were actually just talking about Rage Against The Machine at dinner, so it’s really funny that you mentioned them. I really fuck with them because they make great music and I agree with their political standpoint and what they represent about being an American nowadays. They’re getting back together because they feel like they need to make a change. Shit’s fucked up right now in America and they want to go against that. I think my top three dead or alive would have to be Rage Against the Machine, Oasis, and Morrissey.

You got a lot of backlash when you put Kurt Cobain’s suicide note on a t-shirt. What was your intention with this, and do you think the backlash was fair?

Obviously, Kurt was just a huge inspiration in my life. I was too young to see Nirvana back in the day, but I grew up listening to them. It was just something

Generally, you draw a lot of inspiration for your clothes from the punk scene. What drew you to the punk scene in the first place?

I grew up around the suburbs of New Jersey and had accessibility to go to New York and experience all this crazy stuff. I would just tell my mom, yo mom I’m going to a friend’s house, but actually go into the city and go to all these different venues to experience all types of different music. Music I knew, music I didn’t know. I think I started going to shows when I was like 11 or 12. Seeing people just creating on energy was so cool. I remember being in a venue that was so full that you couldn’t get into the bathroom so people would just piss on the wall, it was madness. That’s just something I’ll never forget. This feeling of just being able to do whatever you want inspires me to this day.

What do you think is fashion’s job in today’s society? Is it to provoke? Is it to express yourself?

I think personally our job as a brand is to educate. That’s why we like working with bands, different artists, and graphic designers from all across the globe. We really do it all to just educate people about our international community. We want to connect people with the same interests, like music for example. Yesterday we had an event with Converse out in London and people were just raving, and moshing, and completely going crazy. That energy was something else.

Our magazine’s concept is True Identity. Meaning the True Identity of a brand or a person. What do you understand under True Identity and what do you think your True Identity is?

Interesting question. I think True Identity really stems from who we are as people. At the end of the day, we’re not these elaborate designers. We’re just guys that really enjoy what we do. We like clothes and we like putting our ideas and messages out there. I think that’s really what it’s all about. To me, True Identity is basically your passion, and in my case those passions are clothes, education, and music.

How do you want PLEASURES to evolve in the upcoming years? Are you going to stick to the streetwear punk heritage of it or do you see it moving in other directions as well?

We actually just released our first piece of furniture, which was really cool. We designed some chairs with the Joy Division Unknown Pleasures album art on them which was dope because it had never been done before. I think we want to try doing more housewares, like ceramics and utensils or even more furniture. Things that people can actually use day to day. Generally, we want to move into more of a lifestyle direction, while obviously still sticking to making clothes as well. The punk heritage is integral to us so we’re going to stay with that for sure. It’s cool because we don’t need to limit ourselves to just clothes, we can do whatever we want. It’s our platform, it’s our voice, and our brand and that freedom gives us so many opportunities to expand on.

Okay so last question. Do you have a message for younger generations that you’d like to spread?

Yeah, I would say don’t pay any attention to what other people are doing and do what you want. Even if you think something's been done before you can put your own twist to it because you always have something unique to offer that nobody else has.

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The employees in the boutiques, in the design studio and in the backstage area at fashion shows wear white lab coats, as was common in the ateliers of the great couturiers, e.g. Christian Dior, and is still common today. The fashion shows for the high-priced fashion sometimes took place in the context of the Paris Prêt-à-porter shows in unconventional locations, up to shabby surroundings (construction site, metro station, dining room of the Salvation Army etc.). The boutiques are kept in plain white and gray. Margiela originally selected unspectacular locations such as a residential area in Tokyo and did not publish the addresses of the boutiques in order to require the customer to make an effort to find the store at all. The first Margiela store opened in Tokyo in 2000 and the first European boutique was inaugurated in Brussels in 2002. In 2008, a boutique opened in a basement on the edge of Munich's Maximilianstrasse. This was followed by participation in numerous exhibitions, including "Radical Fashion", which was shown in 2001 at the V&A Museum in London. In 2010 there were 36 own stores worldwide.  In 2015 there were over 50 stores worldwide, including boutiques, that only carry the MM6 collection.

The company followed a very restrictive communication policy. The designer can neither be photographed nor interviewed. Only his creations should speak for themselves and the designs should be perceived as the overall performance of the team. That's why the team always shows up in white doctor's coats after the fashion shows - nobody should stand out.

By recycling old fashion, separating, recoloring, reversing seams and zippers, both the origin and the artificial of the art of tailoring are shown. Margiela puts together what doesn't belong together: by hand, jeans turn into skirts, old army socks become pullovers. Baptized by the press as deconstructivism, this current is defined by an abrupt collision of different materials, which at first glance appear inharmonic in the sense of conventional viewing habits. Margiela herself rejects the term "deconstructivism". He resurrected clothes in a new form, he told ELLE in 1991.

Margiela was the unofficial 7th member of "Antwerp 6", a generation of fashion designers who all completed their training at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1980-1981 and shaped the "style of the Belgians". However, it does not belong to the actual group, but it became known in a similar period.

The Japanese "Street Magazine" dedicated two special editions to "Maison Martin Margiela", which were published in book form in 1999. Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga) is a big fan of Maison Martin Margiela.

In July 2014, fashion critic Suzy Menkes exposed Matthieu Blazy via Instagram as Head of Design, after which he deleted his Instagram account and changed his profile in a career network. He left the company on October 1, 2014.

To this day, Margiela pieces, especially in the fashion industry and all fashion lovers, belong to the sanctuaries in every repertoire and archive. Getting vintage pieces from other designers may be possible, but Maison Martin Marginal Archives are a real hunt and that says it all about this art.