The 20-year-old Londoner spent last year straddling the art, skate and fashion spheres. As 2018 begins, here’s why Blondey McCoy’s career is the perfect blueprint for millennials wanting to make it big.
Today, anybody can be somebody if they really want to. Thanks to social media, the possible routes to earning creative respect are endless. But while most of the prolific young idols of the past half-decade seem to have been formed with the backing of million dollar music labels, or through a finely curated social media presence, a few still make their mark on the world by being themselves, creating art and having an impact they can take full credit for.
Blondey McCoy is one of them. At 20 years old, his brilliant rise from high school drop out to British youth cultural icon is something we should all be taking notes on. The trick, it seems, is to be polymathic; indefinable and willing to try your hand at whatever comes your way — with the right intentions, of course. In the age of sponsored content and straining fights for a creative’s longevity, it couldn’t be easier to pick out the legit artists from the ones who’re trying their hands at new things with the aim of having more fans in mind. Maybe it’s Blondey’s maturity and levelheadedness that makes us think his many ventures into the art and fashion worlds are rooted in passion rather than a mindless curiosity; whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it well.
The way he was brought up bears similarities to those of many other young skate scene kids, the ones who look up to him now. Raised in the South West London suburb of New Malden, he sauntered through school life. He found more interest away from school in the skateboarding communities forming by London’s South Bank, and left at the age of 15 with a handful of GCSEs (an academic qualification awarded to pupils in secondary education in England and Wales). Fast forward five years, and he kicked off 2017 by heading back to his old classroom: this time, to lecture pupils on his ascent to the upper echelons of art and culture.
2017 might’ve been a shitty year for some of us, but Blondey’s unfurled like a brilliant blueprint that young creatives could only dream of emulating. He was already a star on the streetwear scene with his skating brand Thames—which lead him to collaborating with Fred Perry and Palace —but his venture into the world of high fashion was almost accidental. At a dinner one evening in March, he met photographer David Bailey out of the blue, who cast him in a campaign for Valentino he was shooting two days later. Other brands followed: later in the year, the storied British fashion house Burberry handpicked him to head up a trench coat campaign lensed by photographer of the moment Alasdair McLellan, and would ring him up again later in the year with another deal on the cards.
Meanwhile, Blondey was still busy making modern art alongside his fashion and skating projects. It's an easy medium to sniff at, and it’s even harder for the artist to be taken seriously when its not their sole venture. But Blondey’s willingness to use the medium as a way of expressing his experiences as a Gen Z Londoner—surrounded by British culture, drugs, nostalgia and mental health issues—has earned him the respect of art legends aplenty.
Blondey first met Damien Hirst in spring 2017, as he attended the launch of Damien’s monumental Venice exhibition "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable". Although the grandiosity of that exhibition is a far cry physically from the more modest works Blondey makes, the two found common ground. Later that summer, Blondey’s fifth solo exhibition "Us and Chem" played host to his first piece made in collaboration with the iconic, wildly influential modern artist. It was titled Beautiful Chemical Imbalance.
"Us and Chem" was the most thorough insight into Blondey’s style we’d witnessed to date: a series of ambiguous objects and relics printed onto mirrors, the viewer simultaneously confronts the work and sees themselves in it. What appears as a random assortment of fickle objects—teacups, cigarette packets, fish food—come together to create something evocative and weighted with meaning, often dealing with the theme of family and dependency. As of January 1, 2018, Blondey’s been sober for a year: his art often articulates his past.
To Blondey, fashion and art appear to be intersectional, and as the year came to an end, he was asked by the creative director of Burberry, Christopher Bailey, to create murals in honor of the brand’s "Here We Are" exhibition. Now, Blondey’s canvas, once limited to the size of a wall-mounted mirror, was several storeys high, emblazoned across buildings in London and New York.
The creative collaboration can be a poisonous territory now — especially if it feels forced. When you see reality TV stars trying to flog some haircare product, or a pop star as the new face of a fashion brand, you have to ask yourself exactly where money comes into play, and whether or not that outweighs the person’s loyalty to the brand itself.
For Blondey though, his association with companies like Burberry or Palace seem rooted in something deeper: he’s a prolific skateboarder, so the latter makes sense, and his cocksure London upbringing makes him the perfect kid to front the famed British fashion house. Unlike many collabs, his feel organic, and his fingerprints are all over them.
His journey into the consciousness of streetwear and culture consumers has been a lengthy and illustrious one—he first covered British fashion magazine i-D some four years ago now—but 2017 felt like a seismic, eventful, perhaps even life changing chapter in Blondey’s story.
2018 promises much of the same: a new Thames collab is on the horizon, art shows—at least one—are in the works, and a bunch of skateboarding projects are inevitable too, keeping him tied to the sport that made us aware of his talents in the first place.
Inadvertently, he’s become an idol: a staple of London’s creative scene who symbolises how the next generation will make their names. In a time where laziness gets so many so far, the sheer graft of Blondey McCoy in 2017 earned him his status as a London cultural juggernaut. If anything, he’s teaching people his age–and many older than him–what good can come from following your gut and refusing to stick to your lane. Not bad for a boy who’s barely entered his twenties, right?
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