LDN Indies: championing and highlighting fellow independent businesses in London.
For the second instalment of our LDN Indies series, I chatted to long-time TOWER collaborators, Kuki. We first met at the Crepe City sneaker festival in March 2017 and since then have regularly worked together on creating content. See below our conversation and some shots taken with Nico and Eden ft TOWER footwear.
How do you guys know each other?
Nico: I’ve known Eden since we were in secondary school, since 11 but better friends at 14/15. We gravitated towards each other when we began taking art classes together. We were art geeks. We went our separate ways for uni at different cities, did our bits then came back to London.
Eden: Yeah, that was where our bond began, through creativity. We loved going to galleries, museums.
How did Kuki start? What were the first conversations like?
Nico: We were both working decent graduate jobs but felt a little bored doing repetitive design work, so we were like let’s get out, go to museums and be part of the arts culture a bit more. We went to a gallery and then on to a pop-up skate shop next door. We looked at the stuff and we just couldn’t see what they were trying to tell us, it didn’t communicate well to us. Like, why should we spend our money with them? We put our heads together and thought we could do something. maybe something better.
Eden: Yeah, we saw a gap to kind of make a brand that would appeal to our demographic, but also have ethics, a meaning and a story. You know all these brands that someone is telling us that you’re supposed to be into, it’s just got the hype around it but in reality it’s just someone slapping a logo on a Gildan t-shirt.
…Is there a particular brand you’re talking about?
Eden: No, it’s not the brand you’re thinking of. That brand I have respect for! It just hit home to us that people get a buzz on this genre of street style but to do it in a way that meant something to us.
Nico: Yeah, we just brainstormed. We got down to the core parts, the identity, and the name. It’s the story.
Ft the Palladium x Christopher Raeburn Baggy Safety Pack & the Calvin Klein Jean Marvin in white.
So going back to what you said about going to galleries, being influenced by art from a young age. Do you think it’s helped that you grew up in London? How different would Kuki be if you didn’t grow up here?
Nico: So being in London for me is the best and worst thing. We have the maddest, most extravagant city, the weirdest people. And loads of opportunity, with good infrastructure around us.
Eden: Yeah, I think London is definitely the type of city where you can really find yourself, you’ll always find the thing that you’re into. Whether its anime or rock music. Like the Kuki person, it can be anyone.
You started with making clothes, where do you see yourself going with that and how have the clothes you’ve designed developed since making that first tee?
Nico: The clothes for me aren’t about fashion, it's showing an alliance to a culture. The fashion for us isn’t at the forefront. It’s a thought process.
Eden: We really went from being a street-wear brand to advertising ourselves as a creative design house. We do music videos, photo-shoots, graphics, logos, stickers.
Nico: We now have our own mobile game. We were bored and wanted to do something different, so we made our own game. You can get it now, it’s available!
Nico: 5-star reviews! But yeah, we’re just experimenting. We’re best friends, we won’t say no to each other’s stupid ideas.
Yeah, how does being best friends help or hinder the process?
Eden: We’re like an old married couple. You learn to compromise and you learn to bring out the best in each other. We both have different skill sets that we need. I definitely needed a partner to do this I couldn’t have done this on my own.
Nico: I think in the beginning as two best friends you have to assert authority and divide up roles. What are you each best at?
Eden: Especially when you’re both creative. Creativity is so subjective. I’m much flashier, whereas Nico is much more minimalistic. We do have to try and find the happy medium.
Ft the Calvin Klein Jean Marvin in white.
How many design changes does one big item go through until you’re both happy with it? Let’s say the red puffer? That’s quite a statement piece for this collection.
Nico: So that print came from Eden’s laptop skin 3 years ago. Eden straight away went for red and black. That print has been fed into our work quite a lot.
Eden: The whole collection is about being suspended at school and based around Dennis the Menace. We used to love Beano. We aim to bring a different story to every collection.
And how to you think of the stories? They’re quite niche themes. I remember you did a baby pink and blue thing a little while ago?
Eden: Yeah, so that was an Easter time drop and the colours fed into that pink/ blues, boys/ girls thing. All our clothes are unisex, so we wanted to make a collection where the guys clothes were pink and the girls wears blue.
How do you think your Instagram following impacts on your decision making? Do you ever test things out with the crowd?
Nico: We do what we want. I feel old fashioned and really believe if we only had the old ways of working – TV, billboards, we could still make it. Now it’s hazy. I do social media for a job, a business. You can’t take it too seriously though, you can’t let it control your life.
Eden: People ask what the Instagram pattern is, there is no pattern. Some stuff you think won't land will land and some stuff you think will do really well just doesn’t. You can’t predict what people want.
When we first met I remember we discussed the influence Japanese culture has on Kuki. Does that still remain?
Nico: We were always just inspired by the culture from Japan, the lifestyle. Japan has the largest amount of people over 100 years old there. That’s mad. It’s interesting to understand why. Our inspiration didn’t even come from design that much.
Eden: Yeah, and definitely the discipline and family orientated part of Japan. But as a creative you definitely can’t ignore Japanese design and street wear.
Ft the Dr. Martens Jadon boot & the Fila Silva
Do you feel that being two young creatives means you may have more to prove to other people? You haven't worked for other people that long, or worked in the industry that long.
Eden: I have something to prove to my dad! And my family. That’s definitely the biggest weight on my shoulders, my family aren’t creative. I come home with pink hair or blue hair and my mum literally thinks I’m crazy.
Nico: Yeah, 100%! I have a very similar setup, our parents encourage us to be creative...as a hobby! We went from good jobs to working or arse off and sacrificing.
Eden: Yeah, you’ve definitely got to do this for the love.
So what would your advice be to other independent companies?
Nico: Do it if you’re crazy and if you’ve got the love for it.
Eden: Yeah, keep it as a hobby until you can understand how you can grow your business.
Ft the Dr. Martens Jadon boot & the Fila Silva
Do you have any thoughts on the shoes or the brands you’ve worn today?
Nico: I’m like a back to basics guy with my footwear. Classic styles, converse, DM’s, Vans, Timbs. Old school stuff. I don’t buy loud colours, I wear black, white. I need something hardwearing, that can be fucked up. Workwear stuff. Timberlands, they were made for walking through, woods?
Eden: TIMBER. LANDS. Well done Nico!
What about you Eden?
Eden: Ah, sneakers. I love sneakers. Fila has definitely grown on me, and as a brand, I rate them. I can’t get away from Nike. I love flashy stuff, I love crazy stuff. The issue with footwear is that people stay so safe, I’d love something mental.
What would you say is mental?
Eden: See-through Dr. Martens’ with flashing soles!
Nico: Give the people what they want!