Growth Spurts: Part II, Home...? by Bernard Manarin

Words by Bernard Manarin

So as I continue to gather my thoughts in regards to the second part of the blog, let's recap what was talked about back in part 1 in October. Our launch into Korea has been well documented. Celebrity/Korean musician endorsement has definitely helped us and in return branched out our NTHNG family beyond the boundaries of a typical fashion house creating an extension of like minded artists who share our core values and principles of a brand. Slowly we've built up a following across Asia with Taiwan, Philippines and Korea where we're beginning to reap the rewards and understand the true meaning of brand recognition.

That said we've always been asked; "What about home?!" It's hard to say now a days what home is. Home could be something as simple as Canada. Some say we should be more direct and call home, Toronto. The "six" hasn't been more popping than its ever been at present, with established musicians like Drake and The Weeknd leading a Renaissance of Toronto artists. Visual artists/companies like Kid. Studio have been laying the ground work for a whole new crop of directors/producers following in Little/Director X's footsteps to have their work launched into the mainstream North American market. And I've been witness to the success and social impact both local and a far of fellow brands and artists like Bryan Espiritu and The Legends League as well as Sean Brown and Needs/Wants. That said, I guess this is where I can begin...

It's always interesting to hear the whispers out in the street from others, thinking our brand isn't exactly Canadian. Personally as much as I love my city, I've never been first or felt compelled to claim the "Six". The reality is knowing how finicky and skeptical we are as Torontonians, we need to see proof of any success outside of Canada before we can even begin debating as to whether we can claim someone as one of our own... its hilarious. That said, we took an indirect root of keeping things Canadian by showcasing talent and artists we feel would work as brand ambassadors for us. Our Perfect Tee campaign is a perfect example. Every artist minus one was from Toronto. We had a dancer, musicians, a poet, a graffiti artist, a photographer/entrepreneur... all from Toronto. In Rilla/Create MTTR, we were able to bank the success of her campaign into an official collaboration which sold out. That said this year, we've done a collaboration with another artist from Toronto specializing in natural dyes, by the name of Jefford Lam. (If you haven't seen the collaboration yet, this would be a good time to go on the shop and check them out if they haven't sold out yet by the time of this blog post going up).

A self portrait of Jefford Lam; photographer, writer, designer, in our collaborative NTHNG runic logo hat dyed in indigo. 

Designing garments as always been a passion of mine but seeing my friends and family come up with me is more important than claiming the top position solely for myself. In the end, who wants to be alone at the top? Jefford has become someone I'm very close with and we've shared many industry stories over beers/alcohol and food. He's come up in the retail and fashion industry with his mother being a costume designer and having a passion for streetwear, thrifting and garment construction which he parlayed into a photographer/editorial position at Intelligence Magazine as well as working in one of Canada's top contemporary menswear boutiques, Haven. Jefford has always come across as humble, happy and definitely has his own personal style. Recently in the last few years he has been exploring dyeing and it's process with natural materials, taking thrifted t-shirts and sweaters and turning them into works of art and 1 of 1s, hand dyeing each piece personally so that no two come out the same.

Jefford and our collaborative Runic Logo merchandise featured in Eastweek Magazine in Hong Kong; Oct. 2016

With regards to fashion, I have personally always enjoyed the feeling of having something no one else could have. That exclusivity and personalization that that one garment is yours and yours alone. It's at one end of the spectrum a kind of snob mentality to feel the prestige of having something individualized for you, yet at the other it's the artisan handled with care aspect that I really do appreciate and value. I wanted to replicate that feeling somehow with our brand and slowly our discussion turned into meetings of how can we do this. Despite us stemming away from graphics, our runic logo products have always been a mainstay and a sort of basic part of our wardrobe. From our hoody variations, t-shirts and hats, it's always been used as a means of bridging the gap and divide between old and young consumers. With that knowledge, Jefford proposed the idea of taking our basics and doing a small run of naturally dyed products.

Many nights were spent at McDonalds at Warden and Sheppard in Scarborough and my crib looking over the types of materials we could use and colours we could try and achieve but ultimately we settled on indigo and cochineal; indigo being a typical dye used in denim, extracted from plants and cochineal being a little more rarer to find as it is the dried and pulverized body of a female insect with the extract used to create shades of reds/pinks which can be used to dye garments, applied to food colouring and cosmetic dyeing.

As previously talked about, each garment is hand dyed singularly over various different durations which can be seen and witnessed in the results of some shirts having a more flat, pure and covered finish and others having a somewhat tie dye appearance. Some cochineal shirts even came out more red or more pink in colour.

In the end, all parties have been very happy with the result. In turn we've taken our basic principles and values of exclusivity, personalization, and created a collaboration that embodies everything we stand for. It's turned our core products into something more than just basics and we've given a vessel for Jefford to hopefully see that his research and development into natural dyeing has been put to good use and he can continue further improving his method and process and we can once again collaborate in the future.

We may not objectively claim Toronto or Canada for that matter, but know we recognize where we come from. Thanks to a mysterious poster on Reddit, we've been recognized as one of the few brands whose entire collection is made in Canada, something we proudly display on our tags every time you purchase an item. We do more for our family and friends doing work with them and putting them on than we could ever by just stating we're Canadian. And we're still trying to get more notoriety outside of home country so that one day our fellow countrymen can feel proud to represent us. In the end, we come from a city that lost its fashion week and is not a big supporter of the arts. We do our small part to show that we should still be supportive of one another and our garment industry.

We may not be the catalyst for change but we can hope for a better future for our home...

Growth Spurts: Part I, The Korean Wave by Bernard Manarin

Words by Bernard Manarin

One year.  Well, one year and "change" that is.  It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to sit down and just collect myself.  A lot has changed since you, our consumer, were last on this blog.  Plenty of small "wins" mixed with a couple "losses".  A lot of yin and yang and learning to deal with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.  I've missed the transparency, being able to communicate with our audience is a big part of what we do as a team here at NTHNG.  While we do our best to be mysterious to some degree, a large part of emotionally connecting with our audience is getting you to understand the process at the very least.  And in this case, there was/has been plenty of growing we've all had to do as a team and individually since we last spoke.

The singular biggest change for us here has been our recent expansion into the Korean market.  With Taiwan holding steady and the Philippines primed for our arrival, nobody ever expected us to hit the ground running hard in yet another country.  However, when life hands you lemons as they say, you make lemonade.  

Riding off the heels of our successful "Elegy" campaign, the feature on HighSnobiety and introduction of our "Perfect Tee" we found ourselves, with the help of a friend (Thank you JK), introducing our market to a whole new demographic foreign to us.  With a trio of Korean Hip Hop pioneers known as Epik High marking their first big North American tour in June of 2015 and making a stop in our homebase of Toronto, we saw an opportunity to test run a demographic that was not only playing catch up to the international fashion landscape but was beginning to carve its own niche that went past the stereotypical "K-Pop" norms of "costume" fashion.  Hip Hop has always promoted the idea of "being real" and with Epik High, we found the perfect vessel to launch ourselves in.  These were guys who not only matched their stage personas with whom they were outside of it but set their own rules of "cool" regardless of how trendy they appeared to be or not.  During their encore performance, performing to a sold out Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, their lead vocalist Tablo, came out in full NTHNG "Elegy" apparel (Runic Logo Toque and Mandarin Collar Dress Shirt) much to our surprise and excitement... that was just the beginning.

 

Tablo from Epik High in pieces from our "Elegy" collection.  Watch Episode 7 of "Hip Hop Like Flowers" documenting Epik High's 2015 North American tour and Toronto performance.  English subtitles available.  Video courtesy of Idolic TV/5Ducks  

In the following months after, Tablo was seen in our garments, most notably during podcasts of his former radio show, "Tablo's Dreaming Radio" (Seen here with the K-Pop boy band IKON).  However, by connecting with him we learned of his intentions to start his own record label with Epik High bandmate DJ Tukutz, known as HIGHGRND.  Fostering new, up and coming producers and artists, we grew fond of one particular individual by the name of Code Kunst.  

With his Instagram account full of vague mysterious photos, snippets of raw unfinished hip hop beats, an adorable orange tabby cat and having an impeccable and original sense of style, we bridged a connection that has led to "C.K." being a part of our family.  Culminating in our first (of hopefully many more to come) meetings just this past summer where I was fortunate enough to break bread, share beers and vibe out to new unreleased music as well as preview to him our second collection, Growing Pains.

 

Running parallel to Epik High, Code Kunst and HIGHGRND were connections made with other Korean Hip Hop acts, notably JayAllDay from The CoHort and Gaeko and Choiza, better known as Dynamic Duo.  

In early 2015, JayAllDay and his band of rambo orca ninjas set the interwebs ablaze with their track "It G Ma" which featured crew mates Keith Ape and Okasian as well as Japanese rappers Loota and KOHH and literally turned the world upside down with their refreshing, Americanized/modern Asian Trap sound.  Jay, was actually the mastermind of the collaboration having lived in both Japan, Korea as well as the States growing up.  In Jay we saw a leader who led by example.  Someone who was loyal to his crew and wanted to do anything to get his team to the top.  The man could spit bars and the dude could dress...  We were lucky enough to be able to reach out personally to him, despite his busy schedule, was humble enough to take our messages and it's been dope since.  He's been spotted in some of our preseason, "When We Were Young" pieces notably our sold out Souvenir Jacket as well as our "Perfect Tee".  

This past March, JK and the guys at TR Canada and KPOPMe hosted Dynamic Duo's Grand Carnival Tour which was their first North American Tour and featured Canadian stops in Vancouver and Toronto.  We were lucky enough to be invited to their show and see the boys do what they do best as they performed for a near hour and a half straight, pausing for the mid comedic break in between to try their hand at the english language.  After the concert, we were lucky enough to spot Gaeko in our new unstructured runic cap.  It was an honour outfitting these boys considering they hold the title of having the best selling Korean Hip Hop album of all time, Taxi Driver, as well as founding their own record label; Amoeba Culture.  That said, Gaeko had one last surprise waiting for us.  In July, Amoeba Culture released a posse cut song with accompanying music video entitled "High Five".  Around 24 seconds in, Gaeko can clearly be seen wearing our collaborative "Perfect" script shirt with Create MTTR.  Imagine to think that one day our products would be featured in a music video, none the less a video by artists half way around the world is surreal. 

Amoeba Culture MV for High Five. *English subtitles are now available.*  Click on the 24 second mark to view our Create MTTR x NTHNG "Perfect" Script Tee as worn by Gaeko of Dynamic Duo. 

Being solely focused on Asia has had many benefits but has also in large part alienated our home continent.  There's been reasons as to why we focused to go east as opposed to sink our teeth into establishing ourselves at home but...  I think I'll leave that for part two.     

A New Breed... by Bernard Manarin

Words by Bernard Manarin

So, as I sit here in the living room of my house halfway around the world from North America in a continent that is preparing itself for quite possibly the biggest event for the year; the only thing on my mind right now is work.  You see most that know me on a personal level can attest to the fact I have weird sleeping habits, so add in the fact that I'm 12 hours ahead of my normal timezone, you can say my work rate has exponentially been amped up considering my flight over had me losing a full day of work in the process.  That and the fact this is my very first work related journey where I'm going at all appointments alone.  Don't get it twisted, I'm not crying or complaining.  It's all a part of the process but its daunting none the less. 

That said, if you've been following us for a while now, you've probably realize how much emphasis we put upon growth not just within our clique and brand but also within a grassroots, community, culture level.  At one point, we all were (and some still may be) neophytes as it pertains to knowledge and wisdom.  The clique nor myself ever maintain to know it all, but we've all encountered or have enough life experience under our belt that we can impart wisdom and foresight where others may be haste to call to arms; metaphorically speaking of course.  I, myself was fortunate enough to learn from many industry insiders and grow up during a time where men's streetwear and the correlating skateboard subculture was at a relatively infant stage.  Pre-Hypebeast, High Snobiety or any of the major online publications you now personally go to on a daily basis.  Where authenticity, creativity, and talent played a major part in getting your foot in the door as opposed to a; "knowing somebody who knows somebody" which seems to be more so happening now a days.  Where knowing your "shit" I felt, actually meant something.  These days you can go on anybody's Tumblr, copy and paint by numbers yourself an aesthetic, persona... a gimmick.  But I think my generation led us to that.  There's a reason "High Snob", is called what it is.  Fashion has given average people who know something a little "new", less mainstream or the ability to trend forecast a new medium to dictate social influence.  Being an apparent "fashion snob" isn't cool, as nobody is born with all the information they know currently.  It's all clearly passed down and acquired as you grow so at every chance I get, I try to impart knowledge on people I feel are deserving of it.  So that they in turn don't hold onto this knowledge like my generation, but continue to pass it down to individuals who would use it for good and hopefully change a culture so enriched in snobbery and dick measuring.

Enter this young gentleman by the name of Austin G. Chan.  I haven't known this "kid" for a very long time, and I mean "kid", as Austin is quite young especially in comparison to me, but he's like the younger baby brother I always wished I could have.  He's naturally smart; highly intellectual and inquisitive by nature but not to a point where it's an annoyance.  Ambitious, relatively independent, and has the self-awareness to recognize his own limitations and abilities when it comes to work.  He's never afraid but more importantly humble enough to ask for advice and considerate and thoughtful in manners.  Quite literally, if I could have a protege (not that I am deserving of one at this moment), I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have than him.  Lately, Austin has been struggling with the dilemma most people his age at one point have after leaving post-secondary education; "What do I do now?"   Austin is knowledgeable enough to curate anything of contemporary/modern relevance, he has an eye to see and identify hidden talent but most of all he has practical, creative skills like photography.  The past few weeks we've been deliberating on a chance to collaborate and work with one another.  At the same time, a friend of Austin's, a male model out of New York by the name of Nate Carty, was visiting him and the city we currently reside in for a party they were throwing with Nate as a special guest attendee.  Nate resides in Rockaway Queens, NY and has been freelancing for a little over two and a half years as an aspiring model.  After being scouted by several agencies, he signed to RED NYC and at the age of 20, with his portfolio always expanding, and balancing work and school; Nate is clearly on the right path to fulfilling his dream of being an in demand, iconic and recognizable face in the world of male modelling.  

So with Austin and his photography, Nate and his individuality, and NTHNG all on board to collaborate, we set a date together and I let Austin curate his very own editorial photoshoot combining some of our previous Elegy and newly reworked pieces for the new collection as the inspiration to aid Austin in telling a story thru his eyes and lens.  I'm extremely proud of my baby brother as is the clique here at NTHNG, and are very proud to be able to showcase on our blog the results of our combined work.  A very special thank you to Austin for his vision and Nate for being a willing and excited participant in this collaborative effort and without further ado...

Austin G Chan presents NOTHING, featuring Nate Carty.

Creative direction, photography & styling:
Austin G. Chan
Twitter/IG: @austingchan

Wardrobe: 
NTHNG
Twitter/IG: @_NTHNG_

Model:
Nate Carty
Instagram: @nate.carty
Twitter: @kidnamednate


 

NTHNG Profiles: The Theorist by Bernard Manarin

Foreword by Bernard Manarin
I always wanted the brand, NTHNG, to be about the clothes and the culture.  I personally grew up in an era that defined itself on "show and prove".  Originality, artistry, individuality and authenticity above all.  You worked for everything you got and in return hoped that it would somehow pay off dividends in the end.  In a world filled with fast fashion and trend hopping, the team here at NTHNG wish to return to those roots.  We're trying not to be bound by an aesthetic, but by what we as a team feel is quality.  We create what we like, never straying from our own personal style and interests and in turn we want to create a culture around the idea that not all who wander are lost, but are merely waiting for their opportunity to have their voices heard.  It's never about one person.  But the people who inspire you and help bring about a change.  Life is a marathon, not a race.  If we want to create change, the blocks we build with and the people we surround ourselves with will be the greatest indicator of what we're trying to accomplish as a whole.  That said, we here at NTHNG are proud to introduce to you a new segment of the blog called "Profiles".  Here we sit down with those who influence us; creatives and entrepreneurs, peers and friends, and talk to them to give you a little insight as to who they are as individuals, their drive and passion for their work and show more than anything that they too are human like the rest of the world.  

For our first of many "Profiles" to come, we introduce to you The Theorist.  This gentleman is the musician responsible for composing all the music for our video lookbooks and is an up and coming producer in his own right, travelling the world and known for his piano covers to his many YouTube subscribers.

As added content, with the collaborative efforts from our team, the guys over at Notion Blvd, and The Theorist, we also present The Theorist's musical presentation of the "Elegy" composition in its entirety from our Elegy video lookbook.  On behalf of the team here at NTHNG, thank you for your support and for following us through our journey.    


Interview by Jaz Panaguiton
Photos by Derek C. Hui

Jaz Panaguiton: When did you start playing piano and how did you begin covering songs.

The Theorist: I started playing piano when I was 5, my parents put me through lessons.  Was classically trained. Playing for 21 years now. 

At the time I had a crush on a girl and asked me to play ‘circles by mariah carey’.  that was my first ever cover. every since then I started getting more followers from there I began doing more covers from more requests.

JP: How did the name The Theorist come about.

TT: I was working in the studio with an artist at the time and at the time I was going to metal works where i was taking a course in audio production.  I brought my theory homework with me and one of the guys noticed what I was working on, he called me over by “yo theorist”. After a little while some of the other guys started calling me The Theorist so it kind of stuck from there. 

JP: When you create a cover, describe the process...

TT: The process starts with me finding a song that I like. I noticed on a lot of piano artists’ channels mostly covering popular songs like Taylor Swift/Katy Perry, pop icons in general but I’m definitely not into that type of genre.  I gravitate more towards indie.  Another thing worth mentioning was when the weekend first came out.  I was the first one to cover his songs on the piano, and thats when my youtube channel blew up. 

I would listen to the song I chose to cover about 10 times. I start having this arrangement in my head forming, then i reinterpret it in my own way of playing the song.  Then put 2 mic’s on the piano and start playing till I find which arrangement works best to record and mix.  I shoot the video soon after that.

JP: Back to your cover work, what are some covers that people may recognize from you online?

TT: The Weeknd ones definitely.  After posting my covers of his songs, that's what sparked a lot of interest in my channel.  Ever since he started in 2011, I only had 5000 subscribers and back then he had a very small following and since he’s been growing I felt like I was growing with him, figuratively speaking of course. 

JP: How has The Weeknd’s music effected you? 

TT: At the time I was really into house music, I mean, I was into RnB back then but I grew out of it.  but when The Weekend came about, I felt inspired to do RnB again.  

JP: We’ve touched on covers but another component of you being a musician is producing and composing original works. Can you talk about this step in your music career?

TT: Since I’ve had that trip to Los Angeles, I feel I've come back refreshed and taken a new side of producing original works.  Before when I was doing production work, it felt like I was just copying other artists.  Back then I did a lot of covers of The Weeknd’s music, a lot of dark and melancholy sounds and everyone thought I was this saddest kid in the world. 

Lately I've touched on sampling. I met with another artist on one of my trips who was amazing at sampling.  Especially vocal sampling and it inspired me to start sampling vocals for my own original tracks.  I feel like its important to have words that convey the message of the song clearly to the listener. 

JP: In terms of sampling since you’re getting into it, how much does it influence you and how does it affect your song production?

TT: Sometimes its not words but more so the melody and the rhythm of how the words are said that catch my attention when I make music.  The music I find is really organic now. I dont really follow trends and I find myself very selective in the indie music that I cover and inspire from. As an indie artist myself, its important to have that support system from the very beginning so I make an effort to support other indie artists either from the city or abroad. 

nthng-vidshoot-18.jpg

JP: Has it been easier being classically trained. 

TT: It helps a lot because of theory.  In classical theres a lot of theory education that helps with chord progressions and finding out quicker how a song is being played.  I think jazz theory would've been more beneficial because of its freedom.

JP: During your trips to LA. how can you describe dealing with record labels and artists alike.

TT: You better be prepared.  Before Christmas when I went down I only brought with me my Weeknd covers and not my original songs I’ve been working on.  They liked it but they said it wouldn't get any airplay on the radio and such because of how slow it was.  So I went back to Toronto driven to impress them.  I produced some new songs with a new inspiration and when I went back to LA they loved it. 

JP: Do you find it important to have an image and a unique character that people will see?

TT: Its very important.  Everything has to be organic.  If people like my work then they either follow me or not.  I don’t ask people to go out of their way to follow me.  I rather be true to myself as opposed to fake. 

JP: Do you have a team? 

TT: I do, I don’t consider it a team solely on music but we do other creative work that makes the team... it.  Theres a photographer who is always by my side, we have a web designer and a creative copywriter as well. 

JP: Fashion and music share a similar relationship.  How do you keep your viewers and         listeners interested and wanting more?

TT: The people on my YouTube channel know my taste in music.  Some of them will suggest a particular song that they think would suit me or if they want it covered.  Some of the suggestions are actually very close to what I would have in mind for my next cover which is by coincidence. 

JP: What's the biggest highlight in your career so far? 

TT: There are so many to mention.  One has been a shoutout from Kendrick Lamar.  Also quitting my "9 to 5" and pursuing music as a full time career.  With that I was able to visit LA and that whole experience changed me.  It made me more driven to work on my music.  I was a guy who partied a lot but now I don’t really hang out as much, I keep focused.

JP: Did you have to rearrange life pretty much?

TT: Ya, quite a bit.  As bad as this my sound I didn't have time for people as much.  People needed to understand that this industry is a cut throat environment and to stay relevant, you have to be on the ball.  

JP: What can we expect from The Theorist in 2015?

TT: I’ll be releasing a lot of original work also an EP under a label that I cant really talk about but stay tuned.