Dr Noki is a contemporary textile artist, though often called a fashion designer thanks to his sustainable, ‘remixed’ fashion pieces shown on platforms such as Fashion East and LOVEBOX festivals 2010 fashion show. Having a distinct style, Dr. Noki uses recycled textiles whilst he fuses couture, sportswear and rave influences to create pieces that are both appreciable in the complexity of creation and influential in their message.
Name: Dr. Noki's House of Sustain
Occupation: Textile Artist and Art Director for street label Buddhist Punk
Jonty Melmann: How did you get into the creation/customisation of clothing?
Dr Noki: It all started in ‘96/’97 whilst I was living in the very early days of Shoreditch, Old Street London, when Shoreditch High Street flowed one way (It's now two-way). It was a time when there was a fresh sense of freedom in London, an area untouched by commercial gain yet there was a new tribe; customising our clothes was a natural reaction to save money so we could spend it getting mashed up partying in warehouse raves. Brick Lane was full of very cheap rag, so trippy experimentation was high on the party agenda hence the ‘Ironic Shoreditch mash-up look’ it is now famous for.
JKM: In previous releases, it is highly apparent that your clothing has a political element. Could you please explain your view of politics and fashion's relation?
Dr. N: It's become political because of the rise of technology in fashion and extended credit allowing high street fashion to become a commercial consumer’s addiction. Customising, to me, is the creation of a unique piece, a collage of the rejected with a heightened sense of (re) invention that fashion used to have, what made a fantasy into a reality for their clients. A carbonisation, through textiles, that fitted their generation and inspired the next.
I'm not a designer; I see my work as collage and sculpture. I prefer the slow evolution of an artist. The pretentious, slow evolutionary process surrounded by rules of engagement that are necessary to keep the ideals of creation pure and to keep their integrity. I need these simple rules because I break rules far too often!
JKM: How would you say your work conveys this agenda?
Dr. N: Like I said it is an artistic view of fashion, a romantic angle of bygone days that respected the idea of style. My mind likes making sense of a world that needs something solid: not throwaway, without substance. I need the ready-made to inspire my future piece and relate it with the world we are in. We live in an era of modern consumption, so I start with that as the general basis of my work. The Rag Mountains I find a challenge to climb, but I can’t just dig a hole and ignore them. I get the futurist mind set.
With the Rip and Tear work, I just choose to rip and tear from what is already ripped and torn from the earth! This leaves me free to start a work, based in solid foundations of the readymade, therefore cancelling out the problem of finding a totally new concept and applying it to a blank canvas. It halves the energy I need to put out, so doubling the energy of the Noki street couture creations my clients receive. It is a solid fantasy based in this ‘futuristic’ reality.
JKM: Ok, so, with extremely high-profile designers such as Vivienne Westwood facing criticism for their designs ‘apparently’ contradicting their political activism, would you say large scale fashion operations with a political agenda can work as well as a more one-off operation- such as yours?
Dr. N: I find all that debate part of the saying ‘Pop will eat itself’- It will be mine one day! There is business and then there are people. Vivienne is a person battling her business by creating debate her way! Whether it criticises her business or not, you must understand that is what she is doing, creating the debate she has always battled with from the days of Punk; a conscious youth movement that battled the establishment, with an in your face youthful determination of rip and tear- both physically and mentally. The world would be an empty place without her, so love her debate, love that she hates business. It is another modern paradox: we are all stuck in a hypocrisy created by business; it is something we all face, every one of us. It just depends how willing you are to follow and consume.
JKM: Definitely. Your clothes have an unpretentious, perhaps even youthful (for lack of a better word) that relates to your politics- not necessarily sedition, but perhaps anti-establishment. Are there any key influences and favourite garments that help you create clothes in such a way?
Dr. N: Thank you for saying that because previously I have said clothes can be pretentious though process- so hopefully my alteration cancels out the pretence of the processing! I have clearly done my job well!
I love what I do. I find utter freedom in creating these pieces. When I cut, punch holes in, re-configure, subvert and whatever else the brand icon I feel I am doing my bit- updating and critiquing. I am not foolish enough to smash McDonalds’ windows and cause some old anarchy riots that just dig holes. Noki is a silent debate; a creative protest that visually arrests, not physically.
I would say I am most happy with customising the basic t-shirt, especially the 100% cotton ones. I love the many proportions and dimensions, be it the printed indent, faded colours, holes, stains or its twisted proportions from the consumer’s time living with it, before throwing it away. I call them my sustainable canvas; my amnesty on the pressure to be green! I say be conscious of a planet in crisis, caused by our parasitical, consumerist, addictive, low self-esteem existence. I get it; I’m a modernist. But I don't think it is necessary to be so dogmatic about it.
JKM: From this, would you say your designs have developed a signature style, your 'culture jamming'?
Dr. N: Yes: I would say Noki style is sports led, derived from customising the not so humble sports t-shirt. Noki style is pre-Y3 collections, so it was seminal to see Adidas bond with a Japanese fashion master, taking a sports brand to another market. Another level that gave into Adidas was the fashion experience, changing the sports brand forever.
The 80's sports casual kind of started this movement- the era I lived through having quite a powerful change.
I would say that Noki is part of that movement: sort of sports-lux street style going toe to toe with old fashion concepts of couture, to create a new hybrid 'Street Couture'. Something I am very excited to be part of as a modern fashion evolution.
JKM: Awesome- so about this signature style, could you explain the SOB?
SOB is what I call my masks - Suffocation Of Branding. I have always made the statement in public by wrapping the sports brand indent over my face as the ultimate sacrifice to show my love and hate of branding’s power. Branding rules- but that’s not to say you have to let it rule you. It is a big issue we must all think more about.
JKM: Nice. Finally, what is NOKI?
NHS: NOKI is the brand IKON subverted.
Find out more about Dr. Noki at www.drnoki.com