Capsule collection : Olow X Supakitch
2016 already. Here we are, how time flies. We ready ourselves, with a smile, to blow out the candles for our 10th birthday. Ten years of beautiful encounters, extraordinary adventures, a hundred or so artistic collaborations… What better way to mark this pretty special moment than to invite to the party an artist originally from Bagnolet, who took his first steps only a few meters away from where it all began? A friend, self-taught like us, who shares our same values and the same thirst for freedom…
Our capsule collection that we created for the occasion, OLOW X SUPAKITCH, is fresh and bold, a feeling we would like to keep alive for the next 10 years… In the program, four limited edition pieces designed by the artist especially for Olow.
Can you tell us about your artistic career, from your beginnings in Montpellier to now?
I did my first graffiti when I was 12. I discovered hip-hop culture in Montpellier, but also Bagnolet because I was born there and it’s also where I spent my holidays, at my grandmother’s. I’d see all this graffiti near the ring road and down in the metro, I brought it all back with me and started to do some in Montpellier.
Did you have an artistic education?
No, I did a kind of professional baccalaureate but I taught myself everything. I then met Koralie who advised me to paint on canvases. I used to think it was something old people did, but I ended up but doing some and it was actually really cool. We began to do exhibitions, and my work got more detailed; I was moving away from graffiti a little. So, I went from walls to canvases, to clothes, to billboards, and from using a spray canto a paintbrush. I discovered that there was so much I could do and that you could create a true personality for yourself instead of staying in the graffiti codes. There, you could address your work to everyone.
You have a really recognisable artistic personality. When did you develop this identity?
That’s what I’ve always been after, since the beginning. I wanted to find myself ever since I started painting. That’s true to hip-hop culture too; you have to get out of the ghetto at some point… And for that to happen, you have to create an identity for yourself and be recognisable on every street corner.
What influenced you most?
At the beginning, I’d take inspiration from Japanese and American cultures quite a bit; geographically speaking, I was in the middle and tried to combine both. In the end, I find I get inspiration from every day life mostly: my travels, the people I meet, my experiences…
You do have a certain “speciality”, if we can call it that. Birds, feathers… You have a very strong artistic universe.
Yea totally, I go through stages. I tried to paint music for a while with my “Listen to My Picture” project, from paying homage to a song I liked to the vinyl as an object. Then, after that, I began to create my own vocabulary and develop graphic melodies with it. I was really into flowers not so long ago… But it’s true that I’ve been using feathers for more than 15 years now. Birdscame shortly after.
What do these elements represent to you?
Firstly, it’s a quest for aestheticism; something beautiful, which speaks to me. A bird sees life from a different perspective, from up above in the sky. They see us down here from a distance. The wild aspect of a bird and its feathers also interest me because they symbolise freedom, the essence of what every artist is after. Live freely or die… I like the poetry that emanates from it.
You went to New York in 2008; can you tell us an anecdote from that trip?
Before that, I did loads of exhibitions and loads of walls all over Europe. And then, yes, came the United States… Being an artist in New York is awesome. The city is extremely inspiring and I think it really helped reveal who I am. One day, after meeting with Caroline Karenine, I received a parcel: tattoo machines. She showed me how to use them; she knew I loved tattoos and that I wanted to learn. She returned to France, left me there with those two machines and her needles, and I started to practice in my studio in New York. I made myself a little corner and it developed into something quite big thanks to my meeting with Bleu Noir.
As it happens, how did that meeting with Bleu Noir go?
DC Shoes were doing an exhibition called Burning Ink at Bleu Noir; they got me to come to France so that I could tattoo my drawings there. After that, Bleu Noir invited me round to do guest appearances and so, from New York, I regularly got requests to do tattoos in Paris. I would take a week off, buy a plane ticket and go tattoo my stuff there. When we moved back to Paris, it became more and more regular. Now, we’re a true team.
Have you got one of your own tattoos on yourself?
Yes, a bird that I drew, a few other things and also my second tattoo I got done in my workshop in Brooklyn. I’d painted the background of a canvas and whilst it was drying, I got really bored, I had my gear with me and I tried. I hated it. It’s really weird to hurt yourself: what a funny idea.
After that journey to the States, back to Bagnolet, then -what is your main activity nowadays?
It’s really 50/50 between my painting and my tattoo work. One helps the other evolve. It gives me even more possibilities to reinvent myself and move forward with my work. It’s important for me to be natural, true and sincere in what I’m going to show.
You’ve been in Biarritz for the past two weeks – why?
I took my first trip to Biarritz to surf there when I was 16 and I always told myself “I want to settle down here when I’m older”. So, I never wanted to move here before that because, in my head, it was synonymous with my life ending. I put it off again and again and in the end… We said fuck it! With Koralie, we told ourselves it was really stupid to wait until then to go live in Biarritz.
For our 10th birthday, you shot the lookbook of our collaboration in South Africa. Tell us a bit about that experience.
We were stunned: incredible landscapes, really kind people, an unbelievable quality of life… We were able to do a few good deeds as well and combine our holidays with the discovery of a country and people with all its differences and difficulties.
Can you tell us what your project was over there?
Through Boris Frantz’ and his father’s association, the idea was to bring a bit of colour to one of the townships’ orphanage. We did a painting over there for ill children, often orphaned or who lived through atrocities. They’re all between 20 months and 8 years old and we tried to bring them what we could. We made it a little more colourful, we spent some time with them, and we gave them some Posca pens and some colouring books… Quite an experience. You realise how gratifying it is to be altruistic and empathic. Something that everybody should learn to develop because you enrich yourself a hundred times more when you help those in need. There’s no need to write million dollar cheques, it can be a lot simpler than that.
Were your children there too?
Yes, they did some colouring, played with the other kids, it was incredibly enriching for them as well. Life, travels or holidays aren’t just about stuffing yourself with Nutella pancakes by the beach…
Is there a piece you’re particularly proud of in this collaboration?
I love them all because they’re all so different. I’m really happy with the result. Each peace represents an aspect of my work. The flowers on the shorts, the t-shirt that has that tattoo/ skateboard culture feel, etc. I really enjoyed being able to work with different fabrics and different embroidery stitches, whether it be with the shirt or the coach jacket. The bird on the shirt was the one we used in our painting for the Whops festival in Toulouse, and I also turned it into a sculpture with LaFaabrik, which will come out in June with a big opening at Bleu Noir to mark the occasion.
There are some really ballsy pieces, don’t you think?
That was the idea, yes. I honestly created this collection like one I would want to buy for myself. With Mat, we really wanted each piece to have its own personality, for it to be committed. We didn’t want to create yet another t-shirt with a drawing stuck on it. I also had to transcribe my world through it. Thank you for giving me this opportunity because you really had to stick with me through it all!
In order to celebrate, we’re organizing an opening at our Parisian shop on the 26th October at 7pm. You’ll be able to discover our look book, shot by Boris Frantz in Cape Town (South Africa), but first and foremost our fresh and original pieces, holding a fresh beer in your hand! For the occasion, Docteur Vince will be spinning records and refreshments will be provided by BapBap and their Parisian beers. Our pieces will be available to purchase exclusively in the shop the night of the opening, or from the 27th October on our e-shop.