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a family affair2

A FAMILY AFFAIR

when you begin writing books about a culture, when you begin theorizing and wanting to tell its story, then it's already dying. It already belongs to the past

Il y a 7 ans lorsque j’ai commencé à travailler, j’avais cette arrogante et réductrice suffisance intellectuelle qui me faisait croire que parce que je connaissais trois ou quatre noms de marques inconnues du grand public, cela faisait de moi un être à part et fantastique, un journaliste pointu et savant. Quel immature postulat !

Et ce qui devait arriver, arriva… Un jour (heureusement peu de temps après), je suis tombé en face de personnes au savoir sain et expérimenté qui m’ont cité une douzaine de marques et d’artistes dont je n’avais jamais entendu parler ou presque… Vexé mais surtout surexcité par cette face cachée de l’iceberg textile et graphique qui s’offrait à moi, je n’ai cessé dès lors de creuser ces premières pistes et ainsi compléter ma connaissance de ce milieu : une extraordinaire culture doublée par un réseau social et amical incroyable.

Lorsque l’aventure BKRW a commencé, j’ai toujours rêvé, pour son ouverture officielle, d’un organigramme concernant les piliers, les pères fondateurs de la culture urbaine, et finalement de par l’évolution capitaliste des choses : les gardiens du business et du circuit économique qu’ils étaient devenus. En évoluant dans ce milieu et en faisant des recherches, ou simplement en discutant, je me suis rendu compte que les mêmes noms revenaient souvent et que, finalement, malgré une théorique ouverture vers la nouveauté et la nouvelle génération, on retrouvait souvent un ancien ou son influence derrière n’importe quel projet moderne digne de ce nom.

Cet organigramme n’est absolument pas exhaustif et certainement pas fini. Il manque forcément des noms, il y a peut-être quelques erreurs qui ont pu se glisser dans la volonté de simplifier les choses, et surtout il ne représentera jamais ce qui s’est passé dans la vraie vie : les nuits que ces gens ont pu passer ensemble à refaire le monde, ou user les dance floors et vider leurs verres, tous les échanges et les évènements qu’ils ont vécus ensemble, tous les projets aboutis ou non qui ont pu avoir lieu. Ce schéma est juste là pour essayer de clarifier un peu la situation et surtout mettre en avant les interactions permanentes qui existent ou ont existé entre ces personnes. TOUTES ces personnes ou presque ont travaillé ensemble à un moment donné. Et si elles n’ont pas travaillé ensemble, elles ont vécu des moments de vie ensemble.

Il y a clairement deux pôles, mais qui fonctionnent comme la circulation du sang. Tout le monde se croise ou se sépare au rythme de la vie et des projets personnels ou communs des uns et des autres. À l’Ouest le nouveau et le vieux continent (l’Amérique et l’Europe), et plus précisément : Milan, Londres, New York et Los Angeles, et à l’Est le Japon, et plus précisément Tokyo.

L’unification des deux pôles et plus précisément des deux réseaux, fut le fait de deux hommes clefs Hiroshi FUJIWARA et Mickael KOPELMAN. Si ces deux amoureux de musique électronique et émergente n’avaient pas mis la main, à Londres, sur la même pochette de disque, les choses auraient pris une tournure plus lente, mais elles auraient fini par aboutir, tellement ce qui rapproche ces deux personnages de tout le reste de cet organigramme sont des goûts culturels (et surtout musicaux) communs. Fans de punk, puis de house, de hip-hop ou de drum-n-bass : tous ces gens ont été fédérés par une évolution musicale semblable. Un goût prononcé pour les clubs et les Dj’s d’un genre nouveau. Ces gens se sont tous réunis et retrouvés à l’occasion du salon de l’ASR (action sport retailer tradeshow) en 1991 : tout le pôle ouest s’est retrouvé par hasard à l’occasion d’un dîner qui restera dans les annales et surtout comme l’une des pierres fondatrices de cet immense reseau.

Si on ne devait retenir qu’une marque ou qu’un projet, il faut rendre hommage au parcours édifiant de STÜSSY. C’est son créateur Shawn STÜSSY qui va le premier créer cette notion de tribu (mélangeant Dj’s, surfeurs, artistes, amis…), et aider au développement de nombreuses structures par la vente et le succès de ses produits, mais aussi grâce aux boutiques en nom propre qui ont grandi dans toutes les capitales que j’ai citées plus haut, et tenues par des amis.

On pourrait parler des heures de chaque portion de cet organigramme, comme (comment ?) ne pas rendre hommage aussi à Kan TAKAGI, TOSHI et KUDO avec leur musique d’un genre nouveau sur l’archipel nippon, et du lien que cela a pu créer avec toute la scène britannique. À NIGO (ancien assistant de FUJIWARA) et Jun TAKAHASHI avec la création de NOWHERE LTD. , puis de BAPE pour l’un et UNDERCOVER pour l’autre… Au travail de Luca BENINI à Milan… à l’énorme impact de Londres et de sa communauté britannique sur ce marché : car les trois quarts du pôle ouest sont des anglais (JEBBIA, COOKE, PORTER, KOPELMAN, LAVELLE etc.)

Mais, plus que les inexactitudes possibles ou les sensibilités des protagonistes qui pourront se trouver un peu pincées par une telle schématisation de leur vie et de leurs rapports (qui forcément implique des approximations), ce qui m’inquiète avec ce genre de travail c’est finalement son sens caché. Et ce sens je le dois à Fraser COOKE, qui au détour d’une conversation me disait (en parlant d’un livre que préparait Steven VOGEL sur le même sujet que cet organigramme) que « lorsqu’ on commence à écrire des livres sur une culture, quand on commence à la théoriser et vouloir la raconter, c’est qu’elle est en train de mourir, c’est qu’elle appartient déjà un peu au passé »…Finalement cette culture en est-elle toujours une ? Ou ne vivons-nous pas sur les fantasmes de revivre une époque révolue ? Existe-t-elle et évolue-t-elle grâce à de nouveaux acteurs ? Ou a-t-elle laissé sa place au marketing et au capitalisme triomphant ?

Thanks : Julien , Fraser “special very thanks for your patience and your kindness”, G&K “ la claque 2001 !”

/// ENGLISH

Seven years ago when I began my professional career I was arrogant and self-important enough to think that simply knowing the names of three or four “unknown” labels made me not just a special and fantastic individual, but also a cutting-edge, all-knowing journalist. Oh, the folly of youth!

Then the inevitable happened. One day (luckily not too long afterwards), I found myself face to face with more knowledgeable and experienced people who told me the names of about a dozen labels I’d never heard of. Annoyed but also overexcited by what lay underneath the tip of this clothing and graphic iceberg, I began a still-continuing quest to get beneath the surface and complete my knowledge of the scene. What I have discovered was an extraordinary culture with an incredible network of social links and friendships.

When the “BKRW” adventure began I dreamed that for its official launch it would have a flowchart built around the pillars of urban culture’s founding fathers and the way things have evolved into capitalist systems. It would show the business’s guardians and the economic institutions they have become. By working in the scene, by doing research and discussing the situation, I realized that the same names kept coming up. In the end, despite a theoretical insight into the new generation and its work, I kept returning to the names of old-timers and their influence on every self-respecting current project.

The flowchart I imagined is by no means exhaustive and is certainly not finished. There are obviously names missing; there are maybe even some mistakes that have slipped in due to occasional oversimplifications; and above all it can never represent what’s happened in real life: the nights that these people have spent together talking, all the exchanges and events that they have experienced together, all the projects that came to fruition or didn’t. This flowchart is an attempt to clarify the situation and, above all, to push the permanent interactions that exist (or don’t) between people. ALL these people (or nearly all) have worked together at one time or another, and if they haven’t worked together, they’ve spent time together.

There are clearly two halves of this flowchart, but they’re two halves that function like blood flows around the body. After all, everyone is always bumping into everyone else or moving apart to the rhythm of their personal projects, whether it’s in the New and Old Worlds (the US and Europe), more precisely Milan, London, New York and Los Angeles, or in the East, that is to say, Japan, specifically Tokyo.

Bringing these two halves together was originally the work of two key players, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Michael Kopelman. If these two lovers of emerging electronic music hadn’t put their hands on the same record at the same time in a London market the whole project would have taken far longer. What brings these two characters into the flowchart is their shared cultural (particularly musical) tastes. Fans of punk, then house, hip hop and drum’n’bass, all these people have been brought together by a similar musical education and a decided taste for clubs and DJs working in new genres. They got together at the ASR (Action Sports Retailer) tradeshow in 1991: the whole Western half finding itself in one place at a dinner that will remain in the annals, one of the founding moments of a now massive network.

If you have to highlight one label or project, however, then you have to choose the enlightening journey of Stüssy. Its founder, Shawn Stussy, was the first to create the idea of a tribe (made up of DJs, surfers, artists and friends) and he helped the development of a number of set-ups not just through the sale and success of his products, but also through the label’s shops that sprang up all over the world and were run by his friends.

You could talk for hours about each name on this flowchart, but we have to pay homage to Kan Takagi, Toshi and Kudo who created new music in Japan and the link they formed with the British scene; to Nigo (Fujiwara’s ex-assistant) and Jun Takahashi who founded Nowhere Ltd., and who went on to found BAPE for one and Undercover for the other; to the work of Luca Benini in Milan; to the enormous impact of London and the British scene, seen in the fact that three-quarters of the Western half are Brits such as Jebbia, Cooke, Porter, Kopelman, Lavelle.

What worries me about this type of organizational chart, more than the possible inexactitudes or the protagonists feeling aggrieved by their lives and relationship being so simply explained, is its hidden side. I owe this thought to Fraser Cooke, who, when we were discussing a book by Steven Vogel (about the same subject as this chart), told me that “when you begin writing books about a culture, when you begin theorizing and wanting to tell its story, then it’s already dying. It already belongs to the past.” So is this culture still a culture? Or are we living out a fantasy of reliving bygone eras? Does it still exist and is it moving forward with new actors? Or has it left its place to marketing and triumphant capitalism?

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