A decade ago we could count on one hand the number of times designers ventured out into the realm of digital fashion — now, we can’t get enough of it.
With the burst of NFTs, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology, ‘phygital’ fashion has taken the industry by storm. Just take a look at the runways and collections from this year’s fashion weeks! NYFW saw Tommy Hilfiger present a completely digital show, PUMA Futrograde will launch an NFT drop alongside its Spring 23 collection and Balenciaga has started accepting crypto-payment in certain US stores.
With the opportunity to be even more creative, push boundaries, and bridge the gap between virtual reality and our world, it’s safe to say that many designers are shifting their brand identities and output to keep up with the rapid pace at which digital fashion is growing. One of these creatives is John Richmond.
With his eponymous label John Richmond, the British designer collaborated in his early years with brands such as Armani and Fiorucci, not to mention he’s dressed the likes of Madonna, Kim K, Lady Gaga, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie thanks to his undying love of punk, rock and dance music and how he connects that to fashion as a whole. Places like Blitz and Taboo in London, Danceteria in NYC, and Plastic in Milan were stomping grounds for some of Richmond’s biggest musical and artistic inspirations. From logo patches and paint splatters to dark graphics and gender-fluid silhouettes, his pieces encapsulate this ability to shift and change but build upon a rich musical history that is unwaveringly bold.
In February, the brand unveiled its very first NFT collaboration with cryptocurrency Shiba Inu (SHIB) which kickstarted its ever-growing interest in the digital realm — and we’ve seen this continue alongside their Milan Fashion Week show at the Piazza Affari where the label reaffirmed its punk-rock soul and Club Richmond atmosphere.
While he builds on this momentum, we decided to sit down with the rock n’ roll lover to find out more about how punk mentality has seeped into his practice, and what he sees on the horizon for the future of fashion with technology in mind.
So, let’s go back to the beginning. What does the John Richmond brand stand for? What message are you trying to convey?
John Richmond has always had one foot in the street and an ear to the radio. This sounds like a normal statement now but when I started my career street fashion was a term that didn't really exist. I created the slogan ‘Destroy, Disorientate, Disorder’ at the beginning of my career; to me, it was a sign of positivity. I wanted to challenge pre-conceived ideas, bend the rules, make people think, break down barriers and be all-inclusive.
What inspires you most?
A constant progression and desire to move forward.
Punk mentality bears many similarities to what you’ve said above — it’s all about shifting the status quo, and it’s no surprise that fashion has gone into this new digital realm. Do you think this is why you decided to enter the NFT scape, to try something completely different?
Punk wasn’t about breaking boundaries it was simply a period of cleansing — getting rid of the old mentalities so there was a platform to start building again. The metaverse / NFT world has that same feel as when punk first started: “out with the old and in with the new”. It has an energy and excitement that I felt when I was 16 years old; an anybody can do it attitude. I personally like change and anything that causes that has to be positive.
How do you conceptualize the worlds of music and fashion intertwining?
I got into fashion through music. The music came first. My formative years were the 70s. Glam rock, Rock music, Northern Soul in the early 70s, David Bowie, T-Rex, you name it. Each genre was very much driven by a code of dressing and was attached to a certain fashion style each with its own rules.
In 76, Punk arrived and it all changed. An anti-style appeared where the dress code was as important as the music. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, etc. I loved the music but I enjoyed the style even more — in some cases I liked bands more for the way they dressed. This became my DNA, my vocabulary to draw inspiration from. I didn’t know fashion in its classic sense; to me, fashion was what David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, and Johnny Rotten were wearing.
Your partnership with Shiba Inu is groundbreaking for the brand; how did this come about?
Shiba was one of those chance meetings. Someone knew someone who knew someone, and it was just such a good fit.
The Shiba project started a while ago. It was supposed to be launched this MFW but it grew, morphed, and changed, so rather than rush to get something out for the sake of it, we slowed the process and decided to wait. This created a bit of a vacuum where I had put the show collection, so instead, I made a small capsule that captures a more hedonistic look — getting dressed to impress, party, and let go.
Do you think we are losing our connection with tangible and physical crafts by focusing on technological advancements, or can both work symbiotically?
The world is changing from analog to digital on every level. Consequently, yes, we’re losing some skills from the old world but learning those from the new. It’s like a pendulum that will find its balance eventually. For me, to be able to jump from different formats like physical to digital, and not repeat the same each season is a liberating thought and prospect.
What do you see for the future of fashion with worlds like NFT and Web3 becoming even more prominent?
The metaverse, NFTs, and fashion in its physical historical sense will just become one. There are no rules which is what makes it so interesting. Creatively it’s a blank canvas; the only rule is ‘make it interesting and desirable.’Every day is a clean sheet of paper.
What do you think comes next for John Richmond as a brand?
I’m not interested in what I’ve done but in what I’m going to do. Inspiration is everything and everywhere around you. Soak it up like a sponge and give it an occasional squeeze to see what comes out. Commercially, many projects are on the horizon — new shops, licenses, etc. Creatively it’s an exciting time; there are no rules anymore.
Find out more and shop the latest John Richmond collection here.