Clothing With Attitude

Posted on August 6, 2012

Weekend Offender is born from the punk and acid house eras, so to say it has a swagger with a hint of cheek and insubordination is not doing it an injustice is any shape or form. The label has captured the imagination of the current generation as well as some of the battle-hardened individuals who lived through two of the biggest youth movements of recent times. Adam Keyte, Sam Jones and Rhydian Powell had the initial idea with Aaron Thalmann providing the final piece of a puzzle that has seen this young brand stamp its authority on the fashion world in record time. It has also had tie to launch Rogue by Weekend Offender, a collection of tees parodying the famous magazine. Ibiza has been a huge influence on the label so Essentialibiza thought is was about time we caught up with Weekend Offender Adam Keyte to get the inside story on the rapid rise of the brand…

Weekend-Offenders

How would you describe Weekend Offender?
Weekend Offender is a collection born out of three lads wanting to show, through design, their experiences and influences from their youth. Whether it be a quote from a film, a lyric from an iconic house track or a photo of a pair of trainers we lived in, anything goes if we lived it. One of the partners lived through punk and a few of us acid house so there is an insubordinate and cheeky twist to the brand. The generations we’ve lived will be remembered for hard times and harder partying – out-till-dawn, pills not prawns. It’s now developed into a worldwide brand and sits in the select handful of the best stores in the UK and Europe. We also have a sub-brand called Rogue by Weekend Offender, which is a spin on the front cover of Vogue that is incredibly successful too.

Where did the idea come from to launch a clothing label?
I have a fashion distribution agency in Birmingham and a Welsh retailer, Sam Jones, came to buy a collection off me in 2004. He clocked some vintage Pacha and Ku posters on the wall of my showroom and we got talking about The White Isle, realising we’d both been annual regulars in Ibiza for a few years. We both got our first taste of fashion with the mods in our teens, then in the mid ‘80s, when going to watch football and buying the brands of the time, including Fila, Sergio Taccinni, Ellesse and the likes. I said I’d kept the old Sun Newspapers from ’89-90 depicting Acid House as a ‘horror’ youth culture and said the front covers would make great t-shirts. He said he and a mate of his, Rhydian Powell, had already knocked together some t-shirt designs on ‘80s-‘90s youth culture and had a great name for it – Weekend Offender! The three of us produced our first run of 8 tees 3 months later and supplied a handful of my favourite shops. We promptly lost a few grand and put it on the back burner for a few years as we were too busy trying to balance our full time jobs with our hectic weekends and we did not have the experience to run a brand. With truck loads of ideas and now more time and experience, in ’09, Sam and I decided re-launch the label. I knew an industry guy who was contemplating his next move after selling a big brand. Being an ex punk, Aaron instantly loved the DNA and attitude of the brand and wanted to be a part of it. The team was in place.

Liam-&-Example

What were your aspirations for the label and how far have you come to realising them?
In the last 3 years the brand has exploded into the UK market place and in the last 12months and has recently made the top ten in both the Young Fashion and The Premium sectors of Drapers, the UK industry bible – a feat only done by two other UK brands in the last 10 years so it’s exciting times. We’re in a very privileged position of being able to create clothes that our friends and the public like. For inspiration, we dig through our favourite films or tunes for film quotes or song lyrics and use them in tees, for example we used the lyrics from Joe Smoothes ‘Promised Land’ for a tee and a Tony Montana quote from Scarface , “Don’t get High On your own Supply”. All inspirations from our lives and experiences. Designs have to have a meaning to us. As far as aspirations go, we’re all very lucky to be doing something we all love and therefore the creating process is natural and some ideas come form our friends. We only have time to look forward to the next collection. We’ve already gone further than we ever imagined as a brand!

How much have you been influenced by clubland over the years?
Acid House changed mine and many other peoples lives and was the last great British youth movement. I got my first taste of it when I stumbled on a clothes shop in Stoke on Trent in ’89. Outside in the May sun sat the two owners in striped deck chairs, one with curly long hair down to his shoulders, a white tee and a pair of battered jeans, not seeming to care about the inside of the shop. This weird acid 303 music was booming from within. After surveying the situation for a few minutes I had to go over and check out the shop. Walking into the shop changed my life. Bit like an episode of Mr. Ben! After buying a load of Diesel and Chevignon clothes, which I’d never seen before, I could not wait to go back. A few weeks later I was back and hit it off with the lads. After building up a friendship with the owners I met their mate, Jon Da Silva who DJ’d at The Hacienda and on Thursday nights I used to stay over at their flat above the shop. I’d watch them DJ – John is a mix master and had us mesmerised with the tunes and mixing. A few weeks later I bought a set of decks and started to DJ.

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One of our favourite local clubs was The Cafe Tabac in Cheltenham where Jonathan Grey was the resident. He left Cheltenham to come to Ibiza to set up the legendary Sa Trinxa in ’89 and he got me a slot DJing when he left. This was my first residency. At this point all my close friends were living for the weekend and we’d travel the length and breath of the country to find the best parties, from Venus in Nottingham to Dungeons in London. I designed my first tees then, inspired by the scene. I did a small run of tees for the regulars and our gang at a sweetly little basement club, Henry Africa’s in Cheltenham. I remember it said Henry Africa’s/ Summer’89 and had a Dave Little Spectrumesque eye on the front and across the back of the tee the words “And the dance goes on…” Most lads never really used to dance up until then, but that had all changed. The music, people and dancing were what it was all about. These were such inspirational, life changing times ,I just wanted everyone to have a memento of the place and time. Everyone was so happy and friendly no wonder those few summers of ’88 and ’89 were named “The Summer of Love”.

Late summer ’89 I was lucky to grab a flight with a mate to Ibiza. The Stoke crew had recommended the open air club Amnesia with Alfredo at the helm. We headed straight there and danced till dawn to a music mix we’d never heard before, it was not all acid house, it had new beat and old classics thrown in from the Cure and Carly Simon. In there, as you always did, we met a lad from London who somehow took us on the back of his moped to Space! I was hooked and I’ve been back ever year since. Back then, Ku really blew me away as I’m sure it did most who entered in that era. For me, the sun coming up over Ibiza Town and filling the place with light through that 15m wall of glass to find 8000 loons still dancing their socks of is one of my highlights.

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Does Ibiza have a direct impact on the labels direction?
Yes for sure. When you’ve been coming to such a magical place for 20 years and experienced so many top times, it’s got to rub off. We always have the place in mind, especially for our summer collections. We’ve done tees with the lyrics from Joe Smoothe’s ‘Promised Land’. Another inspiration was The Short Film About Chilling and the iconic Dave Swindells picture from Cafe Del Mar from 1990 of the lad reading the news paper with the headline ‘Exstacy Island’, I just happened to have kept this newspaper and we tweaked the red top box of The Sun to read The Fun, printed it up for a giggle and it sold hundreds on the island and in the UK! I’ve listen to Sonica for years so we’re chuffed that Sonica let us use their sound track for our website. I often do the ‘Winging It’ show with Mitch and John, which is always non scripted and serial! We’ve kitted the staff out at Aura in 2010 and have done a Friday night with DJ Antz. We’re also clothing DJs and local riff-raff out there including, Mulletover DJs, Andy Baxter , Layo & Bushwakka!, DJ Ease, Ben Santiago, Jo Mills, David, Phillips, Johnny La Plage, Jon Sa Trinxa, Andy Wilson and Igor Marijuan, to name only a few! I’ve also had some of my maddest times in rooms of Es Vive Hotel. And then in contrast some of the nicest, chilled out days at Sa Trinxa with the best beach music in the world from Jon – by sunset he’s had half the beach and everyone in the sea dancing!

You launched your Soho shop at the end of last year, what does it mean to the brand to have a flagship store in the centre of London?
We managed to get a site sandwiched in between the two best record stores in London, Black Market and Phonica on D’Arblay Street. The shop not only works as a retail unit but in the basement we have a showroom and our design office. We have a permanent sound system and decks in the store and have regular parties that spill out onto the street. The road outside for shop opening in November was log-jammed with over 400 people. West Soho has really come back as a hot fashion retail area in London and I’d say it’s as good to shop in as Shoreditch, with the likes of YMC, Oliver Spencer, Foot Patrol, Supreme, Bathing Ape and Hideout based there so we’re in good company.

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Does the Soho store give you an ability to be even more innovative with your stock?
There is a North/ South divide when it comes to mens fashion in the UK. There is a more tougher laddy thing up North, with hooded jackets and subtle colours. Where as in the south there more collegiate/ preppy look and your less likely to get beat up in a pub for wearing a pink polo shirt. We cracked middle England and The North straight away. London and the South East has taken the opening of the store to get us noticed. There just isn’t that many independents in London to supply, due to overheads, so we thought we’d do it ourselves. What the store enables us to do is experiment and test styles. For example we’ll do on a best seller, a one off colour for the store and the website.

Look out for an amazing Weekend Offender competition coming soon to Essentialibiza…

Ben-Santiago