In Conversation With SVCIETY: Meet The Streetwear Label Breaking Birmingham
We chat with founder Fareed Toure and creative assistant Jacob Levine about upcoming capsule “Origin,” 90s nostalgia and more.
After launching the label in 2016, French-born creative Toure continues to channel his artistry through an array of insane pieces, with both graphic prints and minimalist designs solidifying SVCIETY’s versatility and visionary essence. Combining high-end and regular streetwear, SVCIETY’S past pop-up stores, attention from talents including JID and raw, authentic vibe reinforce the label’s innovative presence among a saturated market.
With new capsule “Origin” scheduled to drop in January, the launch is set to be followed by a fresh round of pop-up stores in Birmingham and London and a game-changing tour featuring Berlin, Milan and Paris. Upcoming collabs with artists including PsychoYP and Pa Salieu set the tone for SVCIETY’s next endeavours, setting pace for a brand new generation of streetwear we’ve all been waiting for.
Was there a pivotal moment you realised you wanted to launch your own label or has it always been an aspiration?
T: I always wanted to launch a label because I wanted to wear my own stuff. I was selfish, I wanted that to be mine. Instead of wearing this and wearing that, I wanted to make it. When I was 13 or 14, I used to play IMVU and design products and sell them to the virtual world, gain coins and earn real money. I had no Internet but had photoshop and used to play around a lot on manipulation softwares. That’s how I learned how to design. That’s where my interest in design came from. From the virtual world to real life.
Who or what are the main contributors to SVCIETY’s aesthetic?
T: Growing up, for me, a lot of things come from Joey Badass and A$AP Rocky, and the way they are with their clique. Pro Era was one of my biggest inspirations when I was a kid. A lot of these things led me to be the way I am today, a lot of pieces when I was a kid made me who I am to this day. I’ve always chosen to replicate myself through the brand, my presence is very loud. So the aesthetics is all me, it comes from me and that desire to look great, to make everything look great.
You released a GTA San Andreas graphic tee a while back, why do you think our generation is drawn towards the combination of fashion and nostalgic and vintage themes?
T: I feel like in the 90s and 80s, clothing style wasn’t really embraced much. But now we embrace it. It’s the same as why this generation doesn’t really love skinny jeans. I love The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, when I’m watching Fresh Prince I’m gassed. The 90s vibe wasn’t ready to leave. The oversized look is nostalgic, it’s spiritual and peaceful. Nowadays things are not that peaceful. People feel like the 90s were peaceful and a vibe, they want to be back in that element. J: There’s a quote in Rick and Morty when Summer says “Bitch, my generation gets traumatized for breakfast.” It feels like we’re in such a pessimistic time, a lot of bad shit is going on and people want to reminisce more. People don’t wanna focus on the present. The future, we’ll leave that to Elon Musk. The rest of us will concentrate on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Ed Edd and Eddy, Ren and Stimpy. It takes our mind off of all that shit. Personally that’s how I feel, it’s an escape. Everyone wants to live in Clueless, everyone wants to live in an American 90s film because it seems fun. T: It’s the same thing when basketball players wear their favourite shoes. You feel good, you play good. Fashion over the past decade has integrated so much with pop culture, it’s an escape from real life, like playing a character. Not avoiding trying to be yourself, but trying to take yourself out of what’s happening right now.
As a Black-owned brand against the backdrop of current affairs, how important to SVCIETY is it that aspiring POC have accessible creative influences?
T: The maddest thing is, I’m gonna be so real with you. I didn’t want to indulge in Jacob Blake too much. I’ve spent so many years educating myself on Black injustice, I was so tired of it, I wanted to keep my brand aside. It’s difficult. Protests are something but they’re not, it never works. We have to channel and challenge our leaders. Back then, your leaders like Malcolm X and MLK, all of those leaders had a voice for Black people, now there’s no one like that. Times have changed. With the brand, I should indulge in that. The brand name is SVCIETY, society is fucked up right now so I really should be talking about that, making a statement. But let me not indulge in that at all, let me work on me. Let me forget about this for now.
A lot of labels predict and utilise emerging trends. Do you feel as though trends are intrinsic to fashion design?
T: We don’t follow trends or seasons, we don’t do that. We don’t want to go out of focus. Trends limit ideas. It’s a good way of marketing because we’re in an industry where we’re having to appease, we’re trying to get the public and the people on our side and share the same vision that we have. A very easy way to do that is to just give them what they want. But the people don’t really know what they want; we have to show them what they want. Our intentions are to create our own trends. The concept is the brand. J: When I think about trends, I don’t think about what the people actually want, I think about what the big brands like H&M etc. are putting out, what they want. If you’re a brand and following a trend, you’re not following your own brand ethos.
What were the creative processes behind the new capsule and how does it embody SVCIETY’s message?
T: Basically two and a half months ago, I had an idea for a shoot with a jeep. I spent a Sunday looking on Auto Trader but ideally wanted to borrow or rent one. I spent the whole day looking for one and couldn’t find one. Then I saw a guy in an orange jeep at Sutton Park. He loved the brand and came the next day. He wanted to invest and ended up letting me use the car for free. The whole process has been mad. I’m a perfectionist, everything has to be perfect. I’m constantly thinking of different ideas to add.
Do you have a favourite piece from the new drop?
T: All of them are my favourite. I can’t choose one.
What are your most significant factors when choosing materials?
T: That’s a good question, we’re very new to that. The most cliché answer has to be they have to be amazing, they have to be quality. Quality sells. At the same time, we are looking for new and independent manufacturers. There’s a lot of new developments in textiles at the moment, we don’t want to just use one because it’s the first one that we find. There’s so much diversity so collaborating with the right textile supplier is very important to us. J: Our way of working out what textiles are best is literally just through trial and error, experimenting with the fabrics, examining their wear and how malleable the fabric is to what we want. Fabrics aren’t all the same.
Do you think the fashion industry is too fast-paced for there to be a shift to primarily sustainable clothing?
T: You can have both sustainability and quality; you don’t have to be forced to do one. It’s mix and match, you don’t have to condense to one method. J: I personally feel like you can have your quick stuff but at the end of the day, you’re getting a shit product. It all fits a purpose. In an ideal world, everyone would save up their pennies and buy a £400 Prada top instead of a £10 one from Primark. But everyone’s different. I think fast fashion is a product of consumer mind-set. In an ideal world, everyone would be wearing Prada and Gucci, but we can’t.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the industry as a whole?
T: The most challenging thing is marketing. You can be great but how do you get more eyes on it. You can spend money on a t-shirt that can get eyes on it, but is the t-shirt nice? What’s also challenging is getting the right audience, it sounds easy and basic but it’s not. You have to challenge that bracket of people who will give your brand the look you’re going for. Burberry paid some artists to stop wearing their garms because they were wearing it wrong. Another challenge is having the correct people wearing your stuff and marketing it to that audience.
What does the future of SVCIETY hold?
T: The future holds more variety of products and concepts. There’s so much that’s going to come, it’s crazy. There’s going to be more collabs with music and hip-hop and illustrative artists. Not even just hip-hop but different genres. I love country music, I’m trying to figure out how to make country music more cool. Lil Nas X has that country song but he makes it look cool. What rapper is fucking with Billy Ray Cyrus? No one.