Arguably the best-known skater to emerge from London’s Southbank skate scene over the past decade is 22-year-old Blondey McCoy.
Much like his friend and former teammate Lucien Clarke, McCoy is your textbook new-age multi-hyphenate, juggling his career as a professional skateboarder with several passions that he's managed to parlay into legitimate careers. Art, publishing, jewelry design, modeling, and fashion are all on Blondey’s agenda, which he fits in between running his brand, Thames London.
Blondey was part of the infamous PWBC (Palace Wayward Boys Choir) crew that formed the backbone of the now all-conquering UK skate brand Palace. Still barely a teenager, McCoy was the youngest in the crew and stood out for his style, fearlessness (have you seen that footage of him getting hit by a London cab?) and classic British look that soon saw him front campaigns for Burberry, adidas, Valentino, and Supreme. Joining the Palace skate team aged 14, Blondey soon became one of the skate company’s most prominent figureheads, featuring in many of the brand’s lookbooks and magazine ads.
While representing both Palace and London skate institution Slam City Skates, Blondey was sporadically working on his own brand, Thames London. Started in 2012 and named after the famous river that winds its way through England’s capital, Thames was an outlet for the 14-year-old McCoy to express his ideas and artwork.
Like a lot of fledgling brands, graphic T-shirts originally made up the backbone of Thames' early collections. In a similar vein to Jason Dill’s Fucking Awesome, much of Thames' designs featured cut and paste style artworks that lent it a refreshing, almost home-made aesthetic. The British-centric vibe included imagery of Her Majesty the Queen, banknotes, coins, London boroughs, softcore porn mags, newspaper clippings, and Princess Diana. Aside from the London iconography, there were also references to old movies like Metropolis and Maniac, not to mention raw reworkings of the classic Disney characters Blondey loved to draw as a child.
In 2015, having spent three years producing his own small runs of clothing and stickers, Blondey enlisted Palace founders Gareth Skewis and Lev Tanju as partners at Thames. Although removed from the design process, the Palace crew brought their experience in production to the table, with Thames soon expanding its offering from printable tees to a varied range including embroidered hoodies, shorts, pants, rugby tops, polo shirts, jackets, and tracksuits.
Thames' reputation grew with each season, and some choice collaborations followed. There was a jewelry collection with Stephen Webster (featuring some London "geezer" signet rings), three capsule collections with British heritage brand Fred Perry, and two sets of skate decks with the closely affiliated Palace.
With each season, Thames broadened its range and aesthetic while channeling eclectic influences including Vivienne Westwood, the 1970s New York punk scene, Italian tailoring, and somewhat inevitably, Brexit.
With the future looking bright, a couple of announcements earlier this year came as a surprise to everyone. Firstly, on January 31st, McCoy posted on his Instagram saying that Thames was officially on pause. Around the same time, Blondey's newly launched “Blondey” company began to release clothing alongside artwork and books, focusing on smaller production runs and more limited releases, rather than traditional seasons. Thames' final, Gully Guy Leo fronted, FW18 collection featured an umbrella, scarves, a denim work jacket, knitted cardigans, and embroidered pajamas.
Then came the next Instagram bombshell in April 2019, when McCoy announced his departure from Palace. In a classy post, Blondey said goodbye to his former mentors and thanked them for nurturing him from a young age.
Over half a year on, and Thames is set to be reincarnated as a skate brand.
Earlier this week, McCoy gave the world a sneak peek of some skate decks from the rebooted venture. The set of five metallic graphic decks — slated to release in October, around the same time of Britain's Brexit deadline — feature an image of the UK House of Parliament when placed together, a not too subtle comment on the state of the country's current political situation.
Alongside the likes of Alex Olson (Bianca Chandon/Call Me 917), Sean Pablo (Paradise), Jerry Hsu (Sci-Fi Fantasy), and Dill and Anthony Van Engelen (Fucking Awesome), McCoy is part of a movement of skaters who are distilling their creative backgrounds into business endeavors. Thames is back, and McCoy is just getting started.