Designers Philippa Price and Smiley Stevens know how to make a fella look gangsta. Their LA-based collection GUNS GERMS $TEAL (G.G.$) has generated buzz for its ’90s hip-hop influence, ability to tow the line between high fashion and street looks, and general ability to make its wearer look impossibly cool. It’s no wonder their designs have been worn by the likes of 2 Chainz, B.O.B. and A$AP Mob. Talk about street cred. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the designers are both 6-foot-tall ex-models.
For Spring 2013, the girls looked to the end of the world for inspiration. The result is a collection laden with atomic explosion motifs, prints fit for a Mayan, and, as per usual, a distinctive hip-hop sensibility. Hey, if the world is going to end, you wanna look good, right? The designers joined forces with artist and veteran skateboarder Chad Muska to create a lookbook that’s drastically more exciting than an attractive model looking bored in front of a white backdrop. Shot in Muska’s LA gallery/studio space, Flat425, the images feature skateboarders interacting with the space and, of course, donning the latest by G.G.$. We caught up with designers Philippa Price, Smiley Stevens and photographer Chad Muska to chat about the collection, the lookbook and their distaste for the term swag.
For this collection you cite “the apocalypse” as an inspiration. Can you elaborate on that?
SS: We started designing this collection last summer, when anxiety about 2012 was brewing, so we found ourselves really interested in ideas that surround the concept of the end of the world. We always start our design process for a collection by spending a day or two on an adventure in the public library. This time, we came across books upon books that had to do with everything apocalyptic…from Nuclear Warfare and Cold War propaganda, to the Mayan Calendar, biology virus books, to ancient religious texts, books on animal attacks, alien invasions, natural disasters the list goes on.
PP: We love to draw visual inspiration from ideas that interest us, so we pulled inspiration from the imagery we found in these books, and translated it visually to create our Spring/ Summer collection. Using the library as a starting point for our design process, each season enables us to weave our love of history, science, and just knowledge in general, into each of our pieces.
Generally your designs emulate a vintage hip-hop aesthetic, and this collection is no exception. What draws you to this aesthetic?
SS: First and foremost we love the music of this era. We’re ’80s babies, but we lived through the ’90s. But beyond that, the bold style of this movement is second to none. Artists like Outkast, TLC, Run DMC, have always been style inspirations for us personally, so naturally we wove this into the collection.
PP: The ’90s, especially in New York, we feel was the heyday of “street” style. We looked at a lot of photography from this era, particularly the work of Jamal Shabazz and his book Back in the Days. Men’s style then was amazing, a perfect mix of athletic sports wear and crazy fashion. We’re trying to bring that back.
What role does LA play in this collection and your designs in general?
PP: It’s funny, because we don’t consciously think about L.A. as being a major source of inspiration to us, yet people always tell us what a “west coast” vibe our brand has. We think this has to do with our use of color—a lot of brands are afraid of colors. We definitely aren’t. From the terrain to the people, California has a very distinct and incredibly vibrant color palette, which is something we both pay attention to and end up always coming back to in our designs.
What do you think of the word “swag”?
PP: We hate that word. The term “swag” has become so overused by all the wrong people and it’s totally lost it’s meaning. If you define your “style” as swag, you’ve already lost your swagger. We think good style is about confidence. It shouldn’t have to be defined, it should speak for itself.
How did the collaboration with Chad Muska come about?
CM: I was working at my art studio and my friend Sabrina from New York was in town, she said I have to meet her cool friends… Then walked in Philippa and Smiley and we just clicked. I was starting to get back into photography at the time and mentioned that if they ever wanted to shoot I was down. I actually wanted to shoot them instead of guys modeling their clothes but was really into their vibe and the clothing they were creating so I was just down to shoot and help make something cool happen.
SS: It was kind of a cosmic coincidence. The night we met Chad was basically the day before we were supposed to shoot our lookbook, and had just finished our samples. When we walked into his gallery it was crazy how similar the colors and textures and inspiration of his work was to our collection. And yeah, we all just clicked immediately, especially on a creative level. Ideas started flying and we shot the lookbook the next night.
Describe the process of creating this lookbook. Who’s vision was it?
CM: It was very natural and unplanned. A lot of the colors and print themes they were using in the line complemented the artwork I was creating and vice versa. So we just put together the looks and hung out, listened to good music in my art studio, and shot photos. It was cool how well two completely separate projects worked together without any planning.
PP: Unplanned and last minute is how we work best—FOURTH QUARTER HOES. We had faith in the combined force of ours and Chad’s creativity, followed our instincts, and just let the shoot unfold organically. We all share this similar creative process that a lot of other people find frustrating to work with, which I think is why we worked so well together.
SS: During the shoot, as we spent more time in the gallery, we were able to pick up on specific details, textures, and colors in Chad’s pieces and style looks to complement the backgrounds accordingly. I think this really elevated the lookbook—each image became so much more than just a photograph of our clothing.
What was the mood like on set when shooting the collection?
CM: It was a great time! I enjoy shooting pictures and really like bringing different groups of creative people into a space and seeing what happens! Lots of smoke, lots of drinks and a lot of good times. The hardest part was trying to tame two young skaters from turning my studio into a skate park and keeping them in one place long enough to get a pic. Those guys were sick skaters though! Watch out for them! Steven Cox and Kevin White.
SS: The “mood” of our shoots is pretty much the only thing we do plan. We’re all about having a good time while working, and we believe this is definitely something that is reflected in the final product. So yeah, lots of smoke, lots of drinks, REALLY GOOD MUSIC, and a good mix of people – Steven and Kevin (our friends/ models) are both skaters, our homie/ rapper Dom Kennedy stopped by, the whole night was really fun. The space itself was very interactive, the boys were skating, Chad had a whole wall that people could paint and mess with. The shoot was basically us all hanging and… oh… wait, put on this outfit and do that again for the photo.
This series of photographs really functions as a lookbook as well as stand-alone fine art photographs. What made you decide to do something more ambitious than the average fashion lookbook?
PP: Welllll we don’t really do anything that isn’t ambituous, attempting the impossible is half the fun of what we do. We like to take it to the next level. With this collection, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to create a lookbook that was more than just a lookbook, we kind of just trusted it would. I think this goes back to our process and the way we work. When we started this neither of us had any experience in fashion, so we aren’t bound to any particular set of rules. We’re doing this our own way, so it’s never a conscious effort to be different, we just are.
Couture is often regarded as an art form. What is your take on this and, in your opinion, what is street wear’s place in the art world?
PP: We believe that is exactly what clothing should be about. We look at the body as a canvas, and like to design pieces and outfits that turn the wearer himself into a piece of graphic art. We think this idea, and design in itself, has been totally lost in the streetwear industry today…while we are heavily inspired by “street art” “street culture” and “street style”, we actually wouldn’t consider ourselves a “streetwear” brand in today’s meaning of the word. This usually leads to the question how do we define ourselves as a brand, which is something we are still trying to figure out. We definitely walk the line between a lot of the genres that exist in the fashion industry. We’re sportswear, we’re high fashion, we’re a little streetwear, some of our pieces could even challenge gender. We love that we’re blurring boundaries, but it also makes it really hard to define ourselves using the typical terminology. I guess this means we’re doing something new?
Can we expect to see similar artist collaborations in the future and if so, who would you like to work with?
SS: OH YES YOU CAN. We have some really exciting collaborations coming out this year that we can’t really talk about but y’all will have to look out for. Collaboration is something we truly believe in and has and always will be a central principal in our company.
PP: We love to collaborate with creative people that exist outside the realms of fashion; putting different kinds of creative brains together and seeing what happens is a really exciting concept to us. We would die to work with Tarantino… his aesthetic is perfect, music choice is always amazing – he’s a genius. Dream collaboration is definitely to work with NASA. NASA, we’ve said it once, we’ll say it again… if you are reading this GG$ x NASA 2014 LETS DO IT.
Can either of you girls skateboard?
SS: Does sitting on it and bombing down a hill count? Haha no… well we both can stand on it and go…it’s just stopping that’s the problem.
Photography by Chad Muska