After recently showcasing the SS18 lookbook of his own fashion imprint Thames, Blondey McCoy is now under the spotlight once more in a new interview with lifestyle purveyor END. With McCoy’s career as a perfect blueprint for millennials wanting to make it big, and with a few things that we can learn from him, this conversation delves into a few other topics such as his brand's beginnings, showcasing pieces from his archive, his thoughts on his recent collabs with Fred Perry, Stephen Webster and Damien Hirst, his take on the appropriation of skateboarding culture and style, and more.
...on Thames’ beginnings.
BM: "It was in 2012 I started making Thames branded artwork. At the age of 14, my influences were so disparate and all over the place that my artwork didn’t have a defining style. I figured the solution was to put a name to it, like signing a work but very obviously so that it all fits together."
...on choosing the name Thames and his plan for the label.
BM: "Thames was the only possible name because all I ever did at that point was skate Southbank, and the river divided my school from there so I spent all my time looking over it from one side or another. I wasn’t consciously creating a brand, it was just a way of keeping everything under one lid and because I was so obsessed with the skateboarding world I started making works which essentially looked better on t-shirts and stickers than on a wall. I was gradually and unknowingly building a brand."
...on his thoughts if there is a definite divide between what makes good art to hang and good art to wear.
BM: "Well, believe it or not, some people often don’t consider any kind of art an ‘art’ at all... Whatever medium best carries the message, all art provokes and instils your belief in things: the intricate artwork of a banknote makes you believe it’s worth money; Cadbury’s use purple foil wrappers to entice children… and it works; a Francis Bacon painting might make you think of violent sex. It’s all the same to me... I’m obsessed with the idea that something always means one thing somewhere and another elsewhere. Like cats being gods in Egypt, but lunch in China, and cows vice versa in England and India...
I’m sure it would be exhausting to only create work from the deepest, darkest corners of your subconscious. Very often something doesn’t have to mean the world to you, it just looks good. Choosing to mass produce that and share it all over the world on a t-shirt, rather than waiting for a gallery to hang the original on a wall sandwiched between two strangers’ work for a thousand people to see is just a modern way of presenting work."
...on knowing what sells.
BM: "When I started doing Thames properly with Palace they had much more of a clue about what sells (and what looks great but won’t sell). We started with 24 pieces per season, but I used to have so many graphics at the ready when the time came to hand them over and I wanted every item to feature a different artwork. Merchandising and range plans taught me to recognize the importance of sticking to a specific theme and editing stuff down. Less can be more in that sense."
...on his relationship with Palace.
BM: "My relationship with Palace started when I was about 14, just from skating at Southbank. At the time people like Chewy and Rory and Karim were there every day and it was just a case of right place at the right time and they wanted to give me boards. I was doing Thames then, but it was just a shirt here or some stickers there."
...on working with Palace.
BM: "I suppose it legitimized Thames as a brand. It takes a lot to run a company properly, even coming up with a certain number of graphics per season and art directing the lookbooks, let alone reach out to shops about stocking it or keep on top of press around it. There was also no financial pressure, Palace was already doing so well at that point and they just liked what I was doing and wanted to help Thames realize it’s potential by letting me focus on the art. That shirt is still one of my favorite things we’ve ever done, probably because it has that memory attached. I’m eternally grateful for everything Palace has done and is doing for me."
...on skateboarding and if it's linked to creativity.
BM: "Absolutely. Skateboarding taught me self-confidence and not to need people’s approval to be who you want. Perhaps a little too much. A hundred skaters can do the same trick, but they all do it differently. I always find that amazing. It’s cliched to say, but there are skaters who look more fluid falling off their board than others who are doing the most technically advanced, horrific tricks and robotically making them every time. I think British skateboarding has often been a case of style over substance when compared to American skateboarding."
...on his thoughts if skating has given him the mindset that it’s okay to fail.
BM: "I would sooner say that it’s given me the mindset that persistence is everything. Skateboarding is one massive game of trial and error and even if you’re naturally gifted you will fail 99% of the time and break bones. But that’s what makes the 1% of attempts you roll away from rewarding enough to keep at it and bring that trick up to scratch. There is a real work ethic attached. I suppose more importantly it just taught me not to seek constant validation from people and to set my own standards, which is pretty paradoxical to youth culture now with social media and whatever – but that’s another can of worms."
...on fashion’s appropriation of skateboarding culture and style.
BM: "It’s boring. Skateboarding isn’t a subculture anymore – at least not in America. It’s as normal a thing to do there as playing football is in the UK. I think culture clashes are what make the world bearable. Variety is what keeps things interesting and we can't go setting double standards as supposedly liberal people. Everything’s up for grabs if you ask me... but I basically think everyone should do whatever the fuck they want."
...on his collaborations with Fred Perry, jewelry designer Stephen Webster, and his thoughts about collaborations in general.
BM: "I suppose my collaborations have been quite high profile, but they’ve never been commercially driven or born of a desire to be deemed cool within a new market. I’ve never wanted to whack my logo next to someone else’s for the sake of selling double the amount of product. I have always worn polo shirts from Fred Perry so when I wanted to make Thames polos and they were reaching out, it was an obvious yes. I’ve always wanted to see Thames’ name in gold but had I not befriended Stephen – a jeweller – it wouldn’t have happened as a collaboration. I think a great collaboration is about creating something authentic that neither brand could have made on their own."
...on his collaboration with Damien Hirst and if he thinks they work well together.
BM: "He creates art for himself and not for anyone else. It’s that skateboarders mentality again. ‘Treasures’ was just dubbed ‘the worst show of the century’ or something ridiculous like that, but he believes in it and is genuinely proud of it as he should be! People hate that he is, but he’s funny and he doesn’t care about them. I’m not funny, but I don’t care if people hate my work either."
...on his thoughts about success as an artist.
BM: "I think it can be detrimental to an artists vision to measure success in terms of popularity or sales. Damien summed it up better than I ever could in Venice before his big comeback show. Everyone was asking ‘are you worried about whether it will be successful or not?’ to which he said ‘of course not, I love it so it already is a triumph.’ And I love that. I think any work that the artist can look back on and say they created it for themselves and they genuinely love it – even if no-one else does – is a success... Being busy and doing work is what keeps me happy and sane and successfully being both of those things is success enough for me."
For additional details, be sure to read the full interview on END.
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