Say hello to Tiosk — combining the words T-shirt and kiosk, the small newspaper stands in Europe that sell daily goods. Tiosk is Highsnobiety’s new T-shirt shop, selling a series of tees designed exclusively for us. The first edition will feature T-shirts by Souvenir Official, GEOGRAPHICS, BEINGHUNTED., and Carne Bollente, as well as one of our own design. Tiosk edition one drops on August 7.
When Berlin-based label Souvenir Official debuted its EUnify collection back in 2017, it wasn't just those suffering from Brexit-related angst that stepped up to cop the brand's self-dubbed "opinion-wear."
With fans including Virgil Abloh, Dev Hynes, and Adwoa Aboah, all of whom have been spied repping the label's broken European Union flag design, it was clear that Souvenir Official's political stance struck a chord with people on both sides of the pond. It's a stance that calls for unity and inclusion at a time when it feels like the world is coming apart at the seams.
It's for this reason that Souvenir Official was our first port of call when looking for brands to align with for Highsnobiety's latest endeavor: Tiosk, our new T-shirt store. For Tiosk's first drop, we asked five designers what Europe means to them and tasked them with interpreting their answer on an exclusive design.
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To get a clearer idea of Souvenir Official's outlook, we linked up with the brand's creative director David Mallon and artistic director Filip Berg to discuss all things Europe, political responsibility, and positive collaboration. Find the highlights from our conversation below.
What does Europe mean to you?
Europe is a symbol of gathering. It's a positive spirit that's about sharing and collaboration. It's people who want to make it work and not have war, who want to collaborate, and who want peace. When we saw Brexit happening, it was very much something else. It was people who were wanting to point fingers at other people, who wanted not to unite, who wanted to create negative politics instead of positive politics.
Do you think brands have a responsibility to raise political awareness?
Yes and no. We do think it's important that someone who has some kind of power, no matter if it's in the fashion world or if it's in politics, or if you're a normal person — you do have a vote — if you have some way to affect people positively in whatever way you think is possible, then we of course want you to use your voice. But it's not something that we would say is everyone's duty, so to speak.
The word "souvenir" denotes an idea of travel, experiencing other cultures, and saving memories. Is that the inspiration behind your name?
We had this dream, idea, and mission you could say. We wanted to bring out the emotion that you would get with souvenirs, these objects that you buy on holiday. It was interesting for us to figure out why those things had a value and meaning that was worth more to you than the actual monetary value of that object. Why is it inspiring to you? Why would keep them as a memento?
Why did you start the EUnify project?
Souvenir Official SO already existed five years before Project EUnify launched. When we first [heard] of Brexit, we were like, “How can we reach people through a project? How can we emotionally reach people the way that real holiday souvenirs reach you and have a meaning for you?”
The first EUnify product was the hoodie and that was very deliberate. This was the last object that really belonged to the youth, something you definitely wouldn't [see the] older generation in. And we think that was very interesting to use with the power of a souvenir, the hoodie as an object and symbol. An activist within itself.
It was also a way to really reach another demographic, a sleeping generation of young people who also didn't speak the language of what is being said by politicians. Because [the politicians] are so old, they're like dinosaurs, and they speak another language from their age and standing in society. A lot of young people are not in that part of society and don't necessarily understand what is being said, even if it's [said in] their language.
Is that why you call your garments "opinion-wear"? Because it provides an alternative language?
We don't necessarily see ourselves as a fashion brand at all. Instead of saying, “We make fashion,” we're much more interested in figuring out how to make these souvenirs; how, instead of fashion, we are making opinion-wear souvenirs. You can definitely reach people in this way. It can be fun and engaging because it is something that you wear on your actual body and it becomes a part of you, it becomes a part of your identity. You can define or identify yourself by your opinion and your opinion-wear.
Tell us about your Tiosk T-shirt. What does the design represent?
The design is actually very simple. It's the same [as the classic EUnify designs except] with the European Union hotline number in the front. On the original, [the number was] hidden under the hoodie and we wanted people to go and find it themselves. Here, we wanted to move it to the front. It is an actual hotline that you can call — it's not something we made up. You can call in with all your questions and they have to answer you. We think that democratic resource is a symbol of the EU itself.
We also wanted to tell the story with borders and that's really what the line in the middle is about. Do you want to have a border? Do you want to create lines? Do you want to create me and you, you and them? Or do you want to create a circle? Do you want to create unity? Do you want to create collaboration?
What does your design process look like?
We usually talk a lot, and for this one, we also talked a bit with Nigel [Minani, Tiosk creative lead]. We're not trying to be in fashion, nor for an elitist crowd, obviously. We're trying to be democratic and we're trying to reach the masses because that's what it's all about.