volcom's designer interview

We took the chance the dig a little deeper into Volcom's latest Slowburn Collection and gained some thrilling insights through the designer Julien Politi:

. What drew you to the smoky velvet clad lounges of 1920’s Jazz and Swing clubs for inspiration?

I think at that time I was just simply listening to a lot of older and not so old jazz musicians. Music being the powerful shortcut to the human’s mind that we all know, all I needed to do was listen …and listening to the likes of Mike Westbrook, Michael Garrick, Gary Bartz, Archie Whitewater, and so many others, instantly drew me back decades earlier when I watched a lot of the Jim Jarmush movies, where you get that sort of very slow paced, dark vibe night life atmosphere...

And then, there is this particular movie that I recall Jim Jarmush directed called «coffee and cigarettes» in which Tom Waits had a part in. We all know Tom Waits is such an incredible character and musician,  I’ve always looked up to him ever since I discovered his music years ago, it’s so much culture and style in one man, he embodies so much…so at that point I knew I wanted to have something capturing that vibe. I just had this picture of Tom Waits sitting in a dark jazz club and smoking, drinking, doing nothing really. Just being there.

. Which music artist and albums get you hyped?

That’s tough to say because I listen to a lot of very very different things. But for the past week I have been drawn to «the world is getting colder» by Lebanon Hanover.

. 5 songs that are on heavy rotation while working?

I can’t confirm the heavy rotation because I get bored too quickly listening to the same sounds, but recently I’m regularly getting back to listening more to that early 80’s minimal dark wave inspired music :

Lebanon Hanover – Die World
Solid Space – 10th Planet
Central Unit – Saturday Nite
Pleasure Symbols – Control
Geoffrey Landers – 1X1

. What is your affliation with the matches? Doesn’t everybody just use lighters nowadays?

It’s the sulphur…

. Also do I see a skull in the flames there or am I just tripping?

I wish you could have had this vision earlier so I could place a skull or two in there and tell you you’re right.

. When it comes time to partner up with a big name like Volcom and release a new collection, how do you get started? What’s your process like?

Let me quote Henry Miller who put is better than I ever will be able to :
« In music, you hit a note that leads to the next note…, every instant of time leads to the next instant of time, you should not be five steps ahead but only one step ahead, the next step. And If you stick to that you’re on the right path »

So this might be a bit obscure at first, but what it really means to me is that you should not think straight away about the end result, you should not think: «  I want to got there, how do I get there? ». but rather let your mind wander with no particular goal, then one inspiring thing leading to the next, you eventually end up somewhere unexpected. The most interesting part of it being that it will probably lead you somewhere you don’t know, some place you would never thought of going to in the first place; Because if you always know where you’re going, you will always end up in places you’ve already seen. Which I find boring and uncreative.

. What were your goals when creating this collection?

My goal was to create a capsule collection that in some ways would refer to a segment part of Volcom’s DNA. I have always pictured Volcom as a brand that carried a strong controversial spirit, a brand that would expose and discuss the contradictions and tensions in people’s lives, A brand that would enlighten a different way of seeing the things of the everyday. So my goal was to discuss something as controversial and widespread as smoking, while not really taking part in the debate about wether it’s good or bad, but just exposing the act of smoking for other people to figure it out. For some reasons it ended up with matches…the first plan was a bit more daring and straight to the point but we eventually had to let it go…

. How does this collection align and vibe with boardsports culture?

I don’t like to consider boardsports culture as a static object that would come before the people behind it, it must not be some sort of shrine that we should look up to. I like to see it rather as a group of very different people united together doing something they all like, people with very different tastes, different histories, different cultural backgrounds, different ages… So to answer the question the collection does not align with board sport culture as the object we imagine it is. I like to see it the other way around: if people who are into boardsport culture start wearing it, then it does become part of boardsport culture.

. Paint me a picture. Where do you see people wearing your designs? 

I like to be surprised and see people wear what we design in situations i would never have thought of… So I don’t want to say. Still I think it is a very versatile and somewhat easy collection that can fit many different situations, though probably not at a funeral of someone who would have died of lung cancer…

. What does Slowburn mean?

It’s when you let the cigarette consume itself without smoking it, just letting it burn in the ashtray… it burns slowly but all the way. It’s a safer approach.

* interview by Will Willard
* photography ©baignade studio

* shop the collection here