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Skateboarding in the early '00s, Pharrell and the history of streetwear: interview with Ross Westland

nss magazine interviewed the European creative director of Billionaire Boys Club

Skateboarding in the early '00s, Pharrell and the history of streetwear: interview with Ross Westland nss magazine interviewed the European creative director of Billionaire Boys Club

Back in 2003, when the word streetwear was only used by few insiders, Pharrell Williams, along with the legendary NIGO, founder of A Bathing Ape, and designer Sk8thing created Billionaire Boys Club. It was the first time that a great music personality and a great streetwear designer collaborated on such a project, but also the first time that the fame of NIGO and Japanese streetwear touched the mainstream of Western society and perhaps even the the first time that fashion, music and skate culture became part of a larger project that, in addition to the clothes itself, acted in a new cultural sphere. Among all the OG brands, Billionaire Boys Club (along with its "twin" brand Icecream) is also one of those that has remained more faithful to its roots, but keeping or always its collections in communication with guessed collaborations and an eye always fixed on the archival fashion and the culture that inspires it.

To better understand the current state of the brand, where it comes from and where it will go in the near future, nss magazine interviewed Ross Westland, creative director of Billionaire Boys Club EU, on the occasion of the opening of the Satellite Store in Galerie Lafayette Champs Élysées in Paris.

Back in the days when Billionaire Boys Club started to create its collections, streetwear and hype culture weren’t really so huge as they are nowadays. How did Billionaire Boys Club catch up with the present?

I don't think about "catching up" with current streetwear and hype culture but since I've been able to direct the EU tier of the brand I have definitely been trying to make people aware what Billionaire Boys Club's original brand values were and these are still, I think, very relevant. It's been more a case of bringing out or evolving the essence of the brand and connecting with people who share similar values.

The logo has always been a major recognition trademark for Billionaire Boys Club & Icecream. Do you think in the near future logos will continue to perform in fashion design?

For me, I value artwork and graphics as much as the cut or fabrication in clothing. For me logos and artwork are so important to creating a strong brand so I think they will always be integral.

Recently the world of fashion opened up a lot towards collaborations with rappers and musicians. Of course Billionaire Boys Club has that in its very DNA, what’s your opinion on this trend?

I agree, the brand was birthed in music at a time when the brand founder Pharrell Williams was completely revolutising the sound of popular music and the genre at large. Nowadays we continue to work with artists who share similar values and beliefs as the brand. Many of these artists have also been fans of the brand growing up so it is a natural connection and both the artist and the brand can push each other forward. I understand why other brands now have a roster of artists they collaborate with and give exclusive lines because this idea of artist with the brand looks easy but to do it successfully, not just for financial success, takes good understanding and taste.

Skate culture is in the heritage of Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream, and it’s now living a moment. How do you relate with it?

 The reason I fell in love with Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream was because I was really in to skateboarding myself and the whole culture surrounding it in the early 2000s - Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1, X Games, Shorty's Skateboards, Baker, Chocolate, World Industries - these were things I was really passionate about. To see how Pharrell was mixing Skate culture and Hip hop was like a magnet. Two pillars of my childhood were music, particularly hip hop and skateboarding. Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream were really pushing the fusion of these two worlds which seems very normal now but back then it wasn't so popular, so I was hooked.

How does Billionaire Boys Club relate with archive fashion?

Most of Billionaire Boys Club's designs are taken from archival clothing product and then remixed somehow either by fabrication, colour, construction or styling so we have a big vintage and archive selection which we continually draw inspiration from to create future designs.

Fashion and streetwear lives very short and different trends. On which one woud you bet for the nearly future?

I'm fortunate that I work for a brand that doesn't have to trend research or follow mass opinion so I wouldn't know. Everything is quicker nowadays, as you mention, so people fall in and out of love with things at the flick of a thumb.

Billionaire Boys Club was one of the first streetwear brand. Then steetwear moved in the direction of fashion, while your brand remained loyal to the culture. Was it a deliberate choice?

 I'm lucky to work for a brand that was instrumental in the beginning of a movement and still relevant today - it has loyal fans and has been an important brand for people growing up - not just the clothing products but everything that Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream carried with it, it's aura. At the same time there are people that are only recently finding out about it now with no idea of it's past which I find exciting and keeps me motivated. To keep loyal fans who still appreciate the evolution of Billionaire Boys Club EU and attract new fans is inspiring and something I hope we can continue to build. BBC is so unique, it has one of the most authentic and rich heritages in this industry so I hope we continue to rise.