After parting ways with luxury brand Brioni after just one season last year, Justin O’Shea announced he will launch his own menswear brand, and now the time has come for SSS World Corp to debut its first collection in Paris to a tightly-edited circle of industry insiders and friends. In a Highnsnobiety exclusive, we tapped 032c’s Thom Bettridge to sit down with O’Shea to talk about the process and production behind his first feat, his new-found aesthetic direction, blending the codes of streetwear with tailoring as well as his carefully honed vision for the future.
The title from your first collection is “Aloha from Hell.” What does that mean?
I have a thing for colorfully printed shirts. It’s the kind of thing you find in vintage stores and when you are in public, more often than not, it’s great to have stuff that no one else has. I’m not the vintage-y sort of guy, so I always like the idea of having something that is a complete contrast. People don’t want to follow the rules in fashion as much, anymore. It’s very free and everyone is fighting in this space for their own individuality. I can’t think in this straight line, because, in my case, the ideas aren’t coming from an educated place. It just seems like a cool thing. With “Aloha from Hell,” we were talking a lot about surfing for a while, since a few of my friends are very keen surfers. At the same time, the people that I was with were very dark, very metal. “Aloha from Hell” is tiki vibes in a black, demonic way. When me and Benny [Robinson], who created the prints, were talking about it, it just came up. We were like: “That’s a great name for a collection. How funny would it be to have this demon surfer. Like, a devil surfing.” Oh, and of course the devil surfer has to be smoking weed. Chill vibes.
Sort of like when the first atomic bombs were tested near Hawaii.
Yeah, that’s where the atomic palms came from. Beautiful palm trees with the mushroom cloud in the background. With the character of this devil-demon surfer, we wanted to make him friendly. I think that’s where it becomes fine, because we’re not demonic dudes and we didn’t want to take it to a place of extreme darkness.
Speaking of darkness, do you see room for a metal look or ideology in mainstream fashion?
I think there’s always a place for metal. Metal is a timeless look. There is not one person in the history of the world that has ever looked bad wearing all black. You never look out of place. You can be in the most fancy place or the most casual place and you’ll always fit in. But modern fashion says it’s too simplistic because there’s no dragons or snakes everywhere. Whereas, it is everyone’s fallback look.
So that’s like: Metal minimal.
Exactly. And for SSS, we just pimped it up. People want to see authenticity from a brand. If you don’t have that, people don’t really want to buy into it. With SSS, it’s the mixture of our collective worlds that define the aesthetics of the brand. Why can’t streetwear and tailoring sit next to each other? At the moment, it’s price point that divides the two. And that is the whole point of SSS. People associate streetwear with casualness and suits with boring regulations, but that’s not the modern man – young or old. We don’t believe that money gives you status. Style gives you status. We want to give people the opportunity to buy into this, without price points dictating their style. It’s exclusivity through individuality.
What kind of splash do you have planned for your collection launch on Saturday?
We chose Paris because we thought that if we’re going to do it, we might as well just go to town and do it properly. It’s a celebration. We asked ourselves: What would happen during the day, normally? We’re going to go out to L’Avenue for lunch, then we’re going to go drink at the Ritz at the Hemingway Bar, and then we’re going to have dinner at Caviar Kaspia. Considering that everyone really likes the stuff that our clique normally does in Paris, why don’t we just make that the show? If we’re all going to be hanging out at these places and everyone in our group is in fashion in some way – whether they’re buyers, other designers, journalists, editors, magazine owners, musicians, or actors – let’s combine it.
Let’s just make it all part of one thing and have fun.
I don’t think we can get the message across in ten minutes, which is how long the show would be. And do we really want to be a ten-minute window in someone’s day? Not particularly. Let’s do something which is more enjoyable where we all get to hang out together. It allows more people into the world, and if we’re trying to tell a story, captivating someone for ten minutes is not that easy. Whereas, if you sit together for a two-hour lunch in a beautiful place in Paris, then you really do understand it – or at least you have a good time. We’re very serious about it though. The brand is not about the 20 looks on the catwalk. It’s about our lifestyle, the way we like to live, and it’s the balance of high and low.
You’re proposing something totally different. You have this logo that reminds me of a skate company, you have suits, you have t-shirts. It’s a whole new categoric combination of clothing.
Yeah, exactly. We want people to look at SSS and go: “It’s a lifestyle. I want to be in that lifestyle or at least know what I’m buying into because I love the same things.” Modern fashion isn’t about what you’re wearing, it’s about why you’re wearing it. Joerg [Koch] and Maria [Koch], all the guys in the team and Benny, we want the same thing. We want everything in our lives to mean something. That doesn’t imply that the t-shirt that we’re wearing needs to be put on a pedestal and kept locked up in a glass box, but we know what’s out there and we want to make the choice.
SSS World Corp's debut collection launch will take place June 24, 2017, in Paris, and will be available in selected stores in October 2017.
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