The Sweet Spot Between Art, Music and Fashion with Brendan Fowler of SOME WARE
With two masterminds Cali Thornhill DeWitt and Brendan Fowler coming together, it’s not hard to see why SOME WARE made a splash despite being so new. Launched just early this year, the duo has converged their skills into the perfect union treading the line between music and fashion. With Cali’s penchant for bold text-based graphics and Fowler’s DIY skills, SOME WARE is a merch line, but one that’s as fashion and art as it gets.
You’ve probably already heard of Cali Thornhill Dewitt. He’s had his hands in a bunch of projects way back when - staying in the peripheral of the music industry. He’s worked with legendary LA indie club Jabberjaw, was a roadie for Courtney Love’s band Hole and then a nanny for Frances Bean Cobain. He then delved further into the music scene by establishing record label Teenage Teardrops, before dabbling into art by co-founding the Hope Gallery. Then fashion came along, with collaborations with Dover Street Market and OFF-WHITE. While he’s known for his work with a bunch of punk and rock bands, he might be best known for his designs for Kanye West’s “I Feel Like Pablo” merch back in 2016. Needless to say, Cali’s no stranger to the merchandise game and has been entrenched in the culture for years.
Fowler, on the other hand, made a name for himself in the music industry under the name BARR as a free-jazz percussionist. A multidisciplinary in the truest sense, Fowler then dived into visual arts a decade ago, first working on photography and then installations and DIY work. He’s shown at the MoMA and other notable nods on his résumé include editor of ANP Quarterly and his politically-charged streetwear brand Election Reform!
Check out our interview below with Fowler as we delve deeper into what Some Ware is all about.
What was the conversation like when you and Cali Thornhill DeWitt decided to start Some Ware together?
In September of 2015 Cali went to go see this band we really liked called Purity play a show in Los Angeles and on the spot, said to the band, “If Brendan and I start a new label to put out your record, could we put out your record?” Cali and I had never discussed this before but the band said “Yes” and Cali texted me the next day to tell me.
The ensuing conversation quickly evolved from “hope this was okay… ” to what the label would be called — Some Ware — to a consideration of what else could happen with this new thing. The original idea was just to put out this one record, but Purity came into the picture at a very interesting and exciting time. So many friends were working across different formats, many of them in LA, and all the rest visiting from time to time. So we thought, Some Ware could publish a record but it could also host people in a space, at a location... So we put out exactly one record, then we quickly became a party and also a clothing project.
"Don’t say about it, be about it"
Having broad experiences in art and design - working with brands like Eckhaus Latta, Off-White and personal projects such as Election Reform! what is it about fashion that interests you in terms of communicating ideas?
I grew up in various subcultures where one expressed their trial affiliations through clothing and style. My first sort of public output was music — I released records as BARR and toured for most of the aughts — and when I kind of transitioned into art, I was spending most of my time making sculptures that would just go to galleries or museums. I began to miss those interactions that I grew up with and missed the energy of clothing. It reminds me a lot of music, playing shows with other artists, making records together, that kind of collaboration. Also it ties back into the kind of performance of personal style that I grew up with.
How do you work with a DIY ethos in the collection?
Neither Cali nor I were “trained” in clothes making. Like many people, we both sort of discovered that we accidentally eased into it from making t shirts for bands or that went along with zines and art editions and things like that. In fact, I’m not sure that we’ve ever even acknowledged that we are “designing.” We have been incredibly fortunate to find like-minded collaborators who are very skilled at bringing the ideas into physicality, and in this way we can all together do it ourselves.
"I think to be alive and working is such a blessing"
What impacts does technology/digital media have on your creative process? How do you choose between the new and the old to create for the now?
I think I’ve always found that “Now” is kind of incredible, by which I mean that since I have been conscious of my surroundings (I was born in 1978), there has always been some crazy technical/social revolution going on. Certainly things have progressed so much in the last few years as far as internet/post-internet technology, and for sure the ways that many of us are dealing with media is completely different than it would have been 10 years ago, but there was a time before the printing press as well. I think to be alive and working is such a blessing, and to get to present different ideas via different formats/channels is really exciting, so my best hope is just to always sort of try to approach things with an underlying sensitivity as far as what makes most sense for an individual idea. Like, “does this want to be a shirt, an LP, a party, an Instagram post, etc.?”
What's it like having a label with Cali? What roles do each of you play?
Some people want to just collaborate with everyone, but I must say that as someone who does not want to collaborate with everyone, I constantly notice how well our temperaments go together in this collaboration. Before Some Ware we had made a few little things together very casually (a sticker, a pop up at MoCA in LA) and we have managed to escalate the scale of what we do together while keeping the same sort of energy about it. I think it helps that we are both committed to only do what we want to do and we haven’t done anything because we think we “should.” As such, we’re both enjoying watching it develop and seeing where we can take it, from a new shirt, to a whole new silhouette, to the performances that we are getting to stage now as fashion shows, all of which are involving collaborations with increasingly more friends. I am grateful that as it’s growing we’re able to just grow the energy and sense of excitement about whatever we’re working on. In terms of roles, idea wise it’s equal, and we really like to amp each other up.
"I grew up with various subcultures that identified through dress codes, Cali did as well, and I think those roots are so strong"
From record label to apparel, does inspiration come always with music as the foundation?
That’s a really interesting question, because I think you could sort of make that argument for us. Like how I was saying that I grew up with various subcultures that identified through dress codes, Cali did as well, and I think those roots are so strong.
How big of an influence is LA culture and lifestyle to Some Ware?
On some levels it is a really huge influence, although increasingly we are using the label as a means to collaborate with friends in different cities and countries. One thing I can say though, is that categorically it is having a huge impact of how we make things, because of the access to really high quality and even ethical clothing production you have in LA. In general I think this is part of why you are seeing a lot of brands coming out of LA right now, and a lot of us our friends and trying to really help each other with informations, factories, sharing resources. I think LA is always a pretty great place to do anything except farming, which is hard just because we’re in a pretty much constant drought.
Favourite album/artist/film you've been into recently?
Oooh, tough one… I LOVE the new Giggs album, “Wamp 2 Dem” and Young M.A.’s new single “Walk” …right now in LA there are epic art shows by Torey Thornton (at Moran Bondaroff), Marisa Takal (at Night Gallery) and Cali DeWitt (at Karma International)… and Show Studio just published this killer video interview with Arthur Jafa, I’m still tripping on that.
What do you love about Hong Kong?
I am always so grateful to get to experience different zones through projects, and Hong Kong is a new one for me for sure! I have a few really close friends from Hong Kong and the images I have of it I have are pretty spectacular. Also I have been following Juice for many years, so getting to have this pop up is such an honor, so amped for this.
What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
Don’t say about it, be about it.
The Some Ware Hong Kong Pop Up is open from December 15th to the 27th. Don't miss it.
Photography / Simky Cheung
Model / Silver Poon
Words / Helena Yeung