Graeme Gaughan is a busy man; running his own label, as well as being a partner in both a brand communications agency and Japanese-based style magazine: The New Order. The creative polymath showed us around his Leyton home, while we discussed the extinction of tribes, juggling creative roles, having a clear state of mind, and more...
Wonder Plants book by Irene Schampaert alongside a repurposed piece of homeware.
If you had to give yourself a creative label...
If you were going to put me under an umbrella, I’d say I was a ‘creative entrepreneur’. I run SANE: a brand communications agency and a label: Tourne De Transmission. I’m (also) a partner in The New Order magazine, plus I’m involved with a footwear label... and I have two kids.
Sounds like you have a lot going on, how do you juggle it all?
You have to do things in the right order. I’ve always had a main job - making sure the rent was paid - but I always did things on the side. I just had the extra drive to do things in my spare time. Having a great team is super important when you juggle a lot.
A lot of people find it hard to get their foot in one door, never mind several, how did you get into the creative industry?
When I left uni I didn’t just walk into a job, I was juggling retail work while I started to work in music as a producer. I probably started about 10 years too early for the type of music I was making - the UK music scene was just different at the time. XL was one of the labels that took an interest in me, I remember all the A & R’s there were dripping in Bathing Ape. I did some tracks with members of So Solid and some remixes for Aaliyah, to name a few, but it was working in the stores that got me into the fashion world.
"MY GOLDEN RULE WAS: DON’T BE A DICK, YOU NEVER KNOW WHO YOU’RE GOING TO MEET ON YOUR WAY UP."
So what was the next step after music?
I think fatigue began to creep in. I hit that point where I wasn’t sure if things were going to get any better with my music, so I gravitated towards selling brands: to press and to buyers. I didn’t come through the normal ranks of working through an agency, I always did things the way I thought they should be done. My Golden rule was: don’t be a dick, you never know who you’re going to meet on your way up.
60s factory worker chair, old mechanics ramp turned into a desk, vintage 60s Yamaha acoustic guitar, Gretsch Electromatic guitar.
I saw the tagline ‘communicating culture’ on the agency website…
As a brand communications agency, we’re fans of well-made product; products we’re excited about. For brands to do well there needs to be a culture around the brand – whether you create that or it’s already there, you need to be aware. You can’t just pay a shitload of influencers, you need to know and have experience of different facets of culture. It's all about a visceral relationship between brands and product: content creation and brand strategy.
"I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN WORKS; MAKING CREATIVE AND COMMERCE WORK TOGETHER."
Out of all your creative endeavours, what do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy elements of all of them; I love creating great imagery or great products. There are always challenges and negatives to be found, but overall I think I'm pretty lucky to do what I do. I love it when a plan or strategy works, where clients take your advice board, go with it and it pays off - making creative and commerce work together.
And how does one do that…?
Experience, I guess. It's difficult, you need people with financial knowledge who can also think creatively. A lot of people in charge of budgets are often scared to take risks, so you need the right person behind you who understands the journey and goals.
Aesop creams, artwork by Lasse Petersen (ex Drummer of The Rakes), concrete pot sourced from Kyoto Japan.
Can you be true to your art and make lots of money?
[Laughs] I think you can make a living. Some people make a shit ton of money, I don’t know how ruthless slash psychotic you have to be (to do that). I love it when people who are genuinely nice become successful.
How did you come to work with The New Order magazine?
I met up with James Oliver, the Founder and Editorial Director a couple of times in Tokyo and we got on really well. I could see what he had achieved was amazing, and if he had a bigger team around him we could help him to develop it even further. Perhaps it’s easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world when living in Tokyo. And James felt he wanted to bring more European elements to the title.
The magazine is great, what was the vision behind it?
It’s still niche, but it's visceral. You can’t really put a finger on it, but you feel it. If you’ve been part of a subculture or a tribe, it speaks to you. We like to focus on the slow digestion of information. So many people in their early twenties are already switching off from social media, its indicative of how much pressure people are under to consume information. We don’t want to force feed people, we want to focus on long-form and great imagery.
Can you remember when things were a lot more exclusive? People would never want to tell you where they got their kicks from for instance…
I think so much more stuff is easier to do now because of the internet, which is good and bad. Beforehand, you had to go seek out stuff, I couldn’t even find mags like i-D or The Face; I had to travel to get a copy. Then you had to travel again to find the actual spots that were featured. That whole teenage period from age 10-16 was super informative – skating and playing music – I didn’t give a shit about much else. Magazines like i-D, Dazed and The Face were all about finding cool shit and telling people about it. Because there was no internet, it was a lot harder to find stuff. You needed mags like that.
"THAT WHOLE TEENAGE PERIOD FROM AGE 10-16 WAS SUPER INFORMATIVE – SKATING AND PLAYING MUSIC – I DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MUCH ELSE."
What tribe would you say you belong to?
The skate community is still in my heart, but I’m not as ingrained in it as I used to be. I struggle to physically skate due to health reasons, but weirdly I can still manage to snowboard. I go once or twice a year and it feels good because it’s my own thing. Music also goes side by side with that. When you skate, you have a family of mates that are all into different things, so you kind of just absorb everyone’s musical tastes. I remember hearing the first ACDC album High Voltage when I was 7, thinking ‘this is the shit’. Now, I like everything from classical music to 60s Jazz, my tastes are very broad.
Another major part of skate culture is the style; you’re part of a tribe and you dress accordingly. I remember when Check Your Head came out, everyone was rocking Gazelles, Pumas, baggy cut-off jeans and Polos. I dunno if the Beastie Boys were inspiring the skate kids, or the skate kids inspired the Beasties. Plan B’s Questionable video (for me) was a watershed moment in the skate scene. We used to record the audio from the video to the tape player to get the soundtrack, which is why we called the footwear line Auxiliary - our take on grown-up skate shoes. It’s also inspired by vintage stereo equipment.
Sasquatchfabrix shirt alongside a Tourne de Transmission bomber and a vintage shirt, artwork by Johnny Brophy, Undercover lab coat from Japan.
Do you think the internet killed tribes?
In some ways - because overall I’d say we’re all pretty integrated so there are fewer tribes nowadays. Maybe because of the way the internet works, everyone kind of weaves a patchwork of cultures together, and everyone seems to knows everyone, even if you don’t know ‘em.
Your personal style seems to correlate with the decor of your house. How would you describe it?
Mostly monochromatic. I like clean or serene environments if that makes sense. My wife's Danish, so she has a big influence. She sources a lot of vintage furniture from Denmark. We have two small kids, so for now, we held back on buying certain things because they'll probably just end up trashing them.
There's definitely a distinctive vibe...
I like it when things aren't too cluttered. I've seen pictures of Karl Lagerfeld working with all this shit around his desk, but I can't physically think if I'm in a cramped environment like that. It starts to frazzle my head and I can't think clearly. It's just the way my brain works.
Danish vintage magazine stand.