Filmmaker, graphic designer and all-round creative Daryl Higgins recently directed a gnarly Promo for Unkle, which lends itself to Dali, The Holy Mountain and psychedelic-goth. Guiding us through his home, we discuss subcultures in West London and whether clothes define us as people...
Brain Dead rug, Goodhood x Vans deck, Gelchop log stool
You live in Ladbroke Grove. How do you find West London compared to other parts of the city?
When we chose to move this way, it was obviously a bit of a shock. At the time my girlfriend was commuting daily to Stratford, which is the entire length of the Central Line. When we first looked for property here it was surprising, you get more for your money than you think you’re going to get. And in terms of culture, there’s so much going on. It’s just different I guess, isn’t it?
For example, the pub around the corner [The Elgin] has a really established community; there’s old boys that have been here a long time and then you’ve got some 21-year-old kid decked head to toe in Prada - it’s weird. I think it’s such a mix of people. I think there’s this tendency to think everything happens in East, but it's not necessarily true. I think I always wanted to move to London to see new cultures and be around different people. The point of being in London is surely the diversity and the different types of people you know, whether that’s people in music or fashion, or people that are in bars, pubs and clubs. You’ll always get that more interesting mix here than you would anywhere else.
A Mcbess vinyl figurine & Gelchop log stool
West London has seen many different scenes and subcultures over the years. How do you find that translates to the present day?
I don’t think it’s as defined as it used to be. You don’t have mods, you don’t have rockers, and you don’t have teddy boys. You’ve got like this global thing where you’ll see people from all different parts of the world coming down Portobello Road and the style is universal. I think that’s translated through social media. It’s a fusion of young wealthy kids in streetwear, and there’s a lot of girls walking around in fleece jackets with bootcut black trousers and air force ones looking like the Jamiroquai video. There’s also a lot of middle-class women who buy stuff from Joseph, Acne or APC too. But then there’s also this thing you get around here, it’s the weirdest thing and I don’t understand it, but we have girls that come here with their boyfriends, and they will take pictures whilst posing outside the really wealthy houses. I’ve actually seen kids with bags of clothes to get changed into to get the right shot. It’s Instagram culture and I think if the culture is just showing off your best life online, I don’t know whether it’s actually culture or whether I’m too old (laughs).
My brother will be like, “you’re a hipster, aren’t you? But you can’t grow the beard.” But I think well, what does that even mean? If it’s about subculture, then I don’t think there are as many subcultures as there used to be. There are fragments of subcultures scattered around since the world has globalised through social media, so the concept of being attached to a particular place, East, West, North or South doesn’t matter anymore.
Who would you say is your favourite designer from that era? Or is there someone lesser-known we should know about…
André [Saraiva] is one of my favourite graffiti artists. He’s got the Hotel Amour in Paris, which is a great place. My friend and I were really into his graffiti when it first came; I like his entrepreneurial spirit as well. He did a series of ‘dream gig’ posters which I never managed to get. It's really annoying because they reissued them about a month or two ago. I just love that character and I love the fact he used to turn up to parties and graffiti onto people or leather jackets and stuff like that. Around '02,'03 - that Colette era, before Ed Banger, SoMe and Busy P were a thing. He’s just a cool graffiti artist. I think in the late-80s or mid-90s he used to get paid by rich guys in Paris to spray paint their mistresses’ names on buildings. Apparently, these guys would show their mistresses and be like ‘hey, I wrote this for you’ in that classic cool Parisian way.
The other one is by a guy I found who sells prints in limited runs. He’s called Guillaume Kashima; he’s German. I thought the characters worked quite well together. My mate turned me onto him and I thought it was cool; there’s a Stüssy one, a Comme des Garçons Play one, an Adidas one and some others. I probably wasn’t quite bothered about the Stüssy thing being on there, but it just… it would lend itself to a Stüssy advert, wouldn’t it? Or it’d be on the tee or something.
Artwork by Stussy and Saraiva André
Do you think what you own or wear is an extension of your personality?
I see it as an extension of our personality, but then I’ve got a Wacko Maria shirt on and I’ve never been to Tokyo. But, I love what those guys do, I love the graphics, and I love the cut. I also love the fact it reminds me of something out of American Graffiti or something. It ties into my interests in that it’s graphic-heavy.
There’s that Japanese culture of taking Americana and stuff like that and doing it amazingly well and slick. You’ve only got to look at The Real McCoy’s and brands like that. It’s the whole Lightning Magazine thing. But if you’re into authentic heritage, is there a stigma about that from someone who maybe can’t afford to do that? It’s like. if you’re really into cars and you really want a nice car then good for you, but the argument is do you just need a car?
There’s an old shop in Shrewsbury near where I’m from and they sell Stone Island. They’ve been doing Stone Island through the peak, through the dip and now through the peak again, because they know the guys who buy it will go out, they’ll work in whatever their job is and save up and get a stoney for the football. It’s the same with that Manchester thing, the hooligan culture or the ‘causal culture’ as they softly call it, and it’s that idea of having something new to make you feel good and be out there. It’s about one-upmanship and it’s about making yourself feel good and looking the part. And I think there’s probably a certain part of that in me with the sort of brands I buy, but I would buy something for three quid if I liked it too. What I don’t understand is this culture of logo-centric, high-fashion ‘labelrama’ that’s going on. I just think that’s too obvious, do you get what I mean?
Skate deck, SS17 Wacko Maria shirt and a selection of pins
You’ve got a fair selection of graphic tees too…
Yeah, well my mate gave me the Fuct stuff and the 4AD stuff because he knows I love Vaughan Oliver, and I’ve got that undercover one there which I picked up as well, it’s old. Going back to the ‘labelrama’ thing, I’ve probably not made a valid point but I think it’s interesting, the concept of the fashion world and the world that you guys are in and that I’m in. I think they are two very separate things. I love a lot of new and established designers like Craig Green and I love Dries and I love even things like Nicolas Ghesquière. I absolutely love all that stuff, Hedi Slimane, old Dior, and it’s really interesting but now it doesn’t seem… It just seems like it’s about how many logos you can have, like you’re a walking billboard for an Instagram post which is quite interesting.
Graphic tees from Fuct, Wacko Maria and Undercover
GH x Vans Authentic and a Neighborhood rug
Do you feel you’re a bit of a hoarder? Do you think there’s a difference between a hoarder and a collector?
Ha, yeah, I’m definitely a hoarder. I think there’s a big part of me that has to buy back the culture, I think they call it ‘kidult culture’ where you spend your time trying to buy back all the stuff from childhood. It’s like a documentation almost. There’s definitely a little bit of me what wants to keep a bit of my childhood.
What’s the story behind all the figures you’ve collected?
I actually found these Simpsons figures somewhere; they’re what my dad bought me when I was a kid. In the early to mid-90s it was just massive, wasn’t it? With the merch, you’d have the really weird t-shirts where Bart was more like a green colour than a yellow colour because clearly they were snide. I re-bought the figures because, well, my mum’s really cool but she did a sell-everything-at-a-carboot-without-asking thing. I think collecting these was why I’ve gotten into Kaws, Mo’Wax, all that kind of stuff. These Kaws ones, they’re kinda common, a lot of people have got them, but I got a bit carried away because I’ve got my Original Fake ones from whenever they came out, 2013 or something.
It’s almost as if it was a catalyst for the career path you’ve followed.
Well, when I was growing up my grandad was an engineer. He used to make stuff and he used to get me to draw with him, so it’s come from that really. I really wanted to do illustration, and then I got into graphics. My cousin is a little bit older than me, he’s a creative director of a studio in San Francisco, and he got me into a lot of things. He would buy me books; a couple of David Stewart ones I’ve got came from their old studio. I grew up loving title sequences for films, and even uncool things like Wallace & Gromit, animation and things like that. I was of the era of Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network.
And obviously design, I love typography and I was a big fan of title sequences for films. I was a fan of amazing people like Kyle Cooper from Prologue and things like that, so that’s kind what I was into when younger. I think I probably grew up around a lot more visual culture than I probably know that I did. My grandparents were quite big hoarders and I remember being fascinated by old graphics they’d have, magazines and things like that. There’s probably quite a bit of that which has crept into the new UNKLE stuff we’re doing which is very seventies, but a bit more grindhouse.
Kaws figurines, Keith Haring dominoes, Aries mug, Malin+Goetz dark rum & neroli candles and a Mr Andre Zine
Ar.Mour (Feat. Elliott Power & Miink)
Directed by Daryl Higgins for Dorcia Studio
Tell us more about the UNKLE and Elliott Power stuff you're working on.
The UNKLE ones are the official videos for both ArMour and The Other Side, the first two singles of the Road Part II / Lost Highway. They feature paintings by James and I mutual friend John Stark, the videos contain strong macabre references, with hints of Rodriguez, Tarantino, Kubrick, grindhouse and blaxploitation trailers from the seventies. I guess as ever these were to create a world which extended beyond the album artwork, also by John Stark. There are hints of classic UNKLE DNA in there, a little like Shynola did with Guns Blazing from Psyence Fiction.
Elliotts video is the long form of the mini teasers for his on going project Kill Fee, which we've been working closely on for about a year. We looked quite heavily into creating a tone which referenced a lot of his influences such as NIN, Portishead and 4AD. For that it was more about the energy and the mood, nothing polished. Heavily influenced by the works of David Carson, Vaughn Oliver and Kyle Cooper. Most of that stuff is done frame by frame, scanned and some of his mums handwriting. The videos were teasers to engage, the first three singles. More to come on that.
Kill Fee (teaser for his on going project)
Directed by Daryl Higgins for Dorcia Studio