Posted on 31 Jan By Visionarism
Being constantly different and innovative is a tough task for anyone involved in fashion, and even more so in the streetwear industry. At a time where there is more money than ever to be spent on clothing, the consumer has plenty of choice in terms of labels. No Brand Apparel’s founders Fats and Che, who are running the production of many well established brands in the streetwear scene, have decided to unveil their own clothing line. You can see their new collection, named “Optical Illusion” below.
Aiming at expressing their creativity as well as showing what they can offer in terms of production, it seems that No Brand Apparel has a well thought plan. We sat down with the duo, father and son, to find out more about them…
Fats, as you are the main man behind No Brand Apparel, can you tell us about yourself and your background?
Fats: The main man, hah…I guess so the buck stops with me as they say.
My name is Fats Shariff, and I run a clothing production company specialising in knitted jersey fabrics…but I have been involved in many things over the years of being in this industry. I have also gained a little notoriety as a photographer going by the name of Fatsarazzi. I used to and guess still do have a large following…but it seems more people know me in the US and Japan for all my photo work and blogging etc. I used to blog for all, Hypebeast, Slamxhype, Cexwork, and my own Fatsarazzi…I was even called the Blogfather at one point. That cracked me up. Blogging again on the No Brand Apparel (NBA) site now…and have to say, I am really enjoying it again.
In my time, I have been involved with Gimme 5, where I was handling production and design along Michael Koppelman for GoodenoughUK and Very Ape. That was a good time. We had Stussy in house along with Supreme, Haze, Hysteric Glamour and Judy Blame to name a few. Gimme 5 was an epicenter of everything that we call streetwear today. Everyone who was a player in the industry walked through those doors. And the main thing…it was a hell of a lot more fun back then.
From there I moved on and worked for YMC and Maharishi as production consultant and manager…and in ’96, I set up my own production company with my wife, Factor of 3. No Brand Apparel is basically a new carnation of Factor of 3. Back then we worked with the likes of Silas and Maria, Addict and even did some Specials for Acronym…that was fun.
It was during that time that Fatsarazzi was born. Through all my travels with work and hanging with Futura and Stash, I built a whole library of pictures that no one was seeing. Stash told me to get my images out there and it was Acyde who seconded that and boom started a Mac Website and the rest is…uh history…
No Brand Apparel was born 6 years ago now, and we have worked with a host of people since then, high street and street…in our time we have worked with Palace, we worked with them since their infancy till beginning of this year where they wished a change of direction and we had to say thanks and good bye, but that is business and I am a great believer of ‘Nothing is forever’. But we are not a one horse…we continue to work with the mighty Patta, as well as continuing to be part of what is new. Here I have to give credit to my son Che, who has introduced me to a whole group of young entrepreneurs who are really making some changes.
What led you to the industry you work in?
Fats: I started out by working for my parents on my days off from Uni…I went to St Martin’s to do a foundation..but I dropped out after one term, didn’t quite like it and was enjoying working for my parents who had a wholesale and production business in London’s Garment Trade. At first window displays, then production…selling collections…designing collections. I did a lot of things back then. Those 3 days a week turned out to be 10 years. But that was my BA, and MA in clothing and production. This industry and its mechanics are in my blood. I just know how it works.
For young entrepreneurs who are trying to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry, what would you say are the main qualities to build a strong reputation?
Fats: Leave you ego at the door. Be yourself and be straight. Do all that you say you will. Ask questions and do not be afraid to say you don’t know something. Take on criticism and listen to advice, you don’t have to take it on board, but there is always something good in hearing another opinion. And please, don’t over design product.
These are very strong statements, what’s your opinion on this as a young entrepreneur Che?
Che: Fats nailed this, I don’t have anywhere near as much experience but as a young person in the fashion industry I can tell you its hard.
I feel like the fashion industry is full of more and more young people, designers, models, photographers, and that makes it much harder for generally talented people who want to progress in the industry.
The main qualities in my opinion as Fats said is to be yourself, find your own style and handwriting, keep consistent, committed and work hard.
You are now presenting your new concept: the No Brand Apparel clothing line, can you tell us what was the idea behind it and how it came to you?
Fats: Well I have always dabbled at my own label, we did Fof3 T’s back in the Day…Fatsarazzi collection in Japan…but the time felt right. I hired my son Che, who just has talent…and I am not being a proud father, the young man is good and I wanted to snap him up before someone else did. You know, train the young man up so if and when he wants to step, he will be a major asset to any one. Anyway, I digress…ok perhaps a little pride there. But on the real, Che was also brought in to help develop a label of our own. Something low key that will also be a platform to show what we do for production. Che is the Creative Director of the brand and I take my lead from him. I back up on the production side of things and work to give the vision life. Like I, we do for any client but this one…for us. We wanted to make something small, keep it limited…Of course at some point if it gets bigger I am not going to complain at all. At the end of the day we are all in business to make money.
But it is something that is evolving all the time and we do have a certain luxury with our suppliers where they are willing to help us grow this label organically. We have some flexibility on design and can react from Drop to Drop to suit our vision. Like I said…evolving.
Che: When Fats told me about the No Brand Apparel own brand I thought it was a great idea, we have access to all the resources and as we do production for these various brands I thought it only made sense.
The brand has a very simple structure with several small capsule collections/drops throughout the year, we are just trying to make clothes that we like and showcase all the different production techniques we have. If people want to get their wallets out and show their support along the way then that’s great.
Like you mentioned, you manufacture and work with some of the biggest streetwear names out there; did you get inspired by what they do when you created your own line?
Fats: It is hard not to, but also a challenge to make your product differ. Each of our clients differs in their vision and graphic appeal, and we see, but we are on our own path with what we want to do. We have been very graphic with the 1st drop concentrating on the logo and we are evolving that on Drop 2… Plus we had some fun with the tee we did as a collab with Crepe City. I think the essence for us is to have fun with what we do, and if it is not fun, it is not us. Che and I bounce ideas on the drops all the time, and in some cases we have totally 180’ed on what we wanted to do. We chat and something else comes to mind that works better. It is always an ongoing process. Like an artist it is never fully quite done.
Che: Of course, it is hard not to. When you see such a range of graphics and artworks every day and work with some super creative people you cant help but be inspired.
I ty to keep everything we do as original as possible but these days nothing is new or original. At NBA we always get each other’s opinions and work on something that we think works, we are trying not to be to repetitive with our graphics and designs but also trying to be consistent.
Talking about trying to be different, what is the creative process behind each product you design?
Fats: I think if I could put into words what it is we actually do, it would not be our process. But I guess like most we try to create a theme for each drop, whether it be shape lead or graphic lead. There has to be a theme to it… it cannot be something random, everything needs to tie together. Obvious I know…but that’s it, the rest of it is alchemy hah.
Che: For me I carry a note book in my bag everywhere, anytime I see something inspiring I make a note and come back to it. I end up working on a range of different graphics and play around, then you stumble across something that works, that’s how I end up coming up with some of the themes and concepts for the capsules.
The Monochrome theme is easy, that’s a no brainer, and this next drop has an Optical Illusion theme. I have always been a fan of simple black and white geometric optical illusions and we just started playing around with colours and patterns and here we are.
According to you both who know the industry inside out, what are the most relevant streetwear brands at the moment?
Fats: Well, lets see… Supreme – they are the pinnacle really. Stussy – still have to bow to them and their consistency. Patta – pure Hip Hop and love the way they work. Palace – you can’t deny their place in the industry, and if anything have made a few stand up and work on their game. Noah – new’ish, at the higher end of the spend, but still there is something going on there for sure. That catholic girls sweat, come on, wicked! Basement – the new breed and for me the most inspiring. These fellas are doing big things and very honoured to be part of.
Che: Well Supreme of course, they have been running the game for a long time and I don’t see them falling off anytime soon. Patta, I have been a fan for years. I have always admired how no matter what, they don’t bend to trends or follow brands. They have their own style and approach; these guys have been around, they know what they are doing. Now with the London store, I see that logo all over the place! The Basement of course, even though The Basement is young, its members are clued up and know the industry. These guys have made big waves in 2016 and I feel like its only the start, these guys aren’t playing.
Nike, even though these days Adidas has the kids queuing round the block, Nike is still the one. Of course people have been wearing Nike trainers for years but these days that full basic Nike tracksuit is uniform, especially this time of year and especially in the UK and US.
Vlone, I don’t own any myself and couldn’t really see myself wearing Vlone but I do think what they do is sick. The concept is dope and the marketing is great, one of if not the most successful of these “lux” streetwear brands.
What is your opinion on the European streetwear scene, and more specifically in London?
Fats: If I am honest, I am the wrong person to ask this hah. I am at that point where I have seen it before and it is a new carnation now. It’s same but different, the figures are different, there is much more money involved, and a lot of money quickly if you have the zeitgeist with you. That’s the bit that gets me, the amount of funds on the table. And this consumer that will sit and sit, and wait for that door to open and get that piece. I think what annoys me the most about it, is that we cannot really judge how it really lies, as there a lot of resellers out there, ebayer’s out there to make the coin from the needy and the losers who couldn’t get that piece…so very hard to judge the real state of the industry in the UK, but if we are looking at it financially…All is good.
Che: I think that right now, especially in London, there is a very strong streetwear scene. I think it is getting increasingly younger and younger and as Fats said there is a lot more money on the table, and money to be made.
Since Supreme opened its doors in London, it marked the start of the change. Supreme started to condition people to the point where standing in a queue round the block for several hours is the standard, reaching a store to queue hours before it opens is standard. I think that people now want to have that product on the release day and will do whatever it takes to get it. Regardless of thinking about online availability or the fact that there may be a restock days later. I remember when I was working at Footpatrol, on Thursday I would see people flooding the streets of Soho to get that week’s supreme drop. Half the people already had changed into their fresh purchase and where out taking photos for the gram so everyone knew they had that product on that day, the other half had their new purchase for sale online already for three times the price.
In my opinion there is still money in the industry; people who are into the product will go that extra mile. This industry is dominated by the big brands.
We see more and more “luxury” streetwear brands, what are your thoughts on that? Do you think it is still authentic to what the street culture represents?
Fats: I believe it is a bit of ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ I believe they definitely have their place. I have already mentioned Noah, then we have Virgil’s Off White. These all have some association tied to it, and by that I mean, who are the Creative’s behind it all, what they do, who they are, their friends and associates…the living culture that they create. It makes it all valid and different from the streetwear of the past, a step in the evolution of consumer and creative.
Che: These brands seem to be the ones that are making money, it’s not my style but it’s clearly working for them. Perfect examples are Vlone and Off-White.
I think streetwear changes over the years, and this is the new “uniform” of the street. This is 2017 streetwear.
I heard that Harvey Nichols will be one of your future stockists, any other stores you would like to see your brand in?
Fats: We are not looking for many retail relationships. Being honest, I want all of the margin hah. I like what Harvey Nichols is doing and it is also a new customer for us, the HN consumer. So I am very interested about how we do there. But as for other stores, if I could cherry pick…I would like a store in Paris, and have a couple in mind and still working on…DSM in NYC, I am just wishing there, but also perhaps a store in Tokyo, but not decided yet. All our retail partnerships would be part of our marketing; it is not a financial driven choice…
Che: I think that for us working with retailers would be more of a marketing tool than anything.
There are a handful of stores that we like and that we would like to work with but I would rather be more selective and try and keep more focus directly on the brand.
I feel that we are much more likely to do a store exclusive capsule or special than make more permanent retail relationships but you never know, we are just starting out and will see how it goes.
Any upcoming project for you or the brand you would like to share with us and our readers?
Fats: You know what…I am going to leave that to Che.
Che: Well we have just started the new year and we have some new bits already. We have a lot of things planned for 2017, working with some great people like Visionarism. We are going to have fun this year!
For more information, visit www.nobrandapparel.co.uk and follow @nobrandapparel on Instagram.
Product shots by @nobrandapparel. Interview shots by @Visionarism