LN-CC: Dancing to a different record
John Skelton (creative director), Gary Card (store designer), Dan Mitchell (Brand Manager), and Charlotte Hall (PR + Marketing Director) in a photo session with Diane Pernet.
LN-CC The Basement: 18-24 Shacklewell Lane Dalston, London E8 2EZ +(44) (0)203 174 0736
LN-CC is a relatively young cultural venture in London. It’s hard to pin LN-CC (short for Late Night Chameleon Cafe) as a retail space, but LN-CC does carry (and presumably sell) a wide variety of clothing, books, and music. The taste implied by their buys could be described as appealingly eclectic, or hopelessly scattered, depending on your perspective. Which in itself is appealing. LN-CC is hosting a special event this week (during London’s Fashion Week) to display and sell a one-of-a-kind archive of Raf Simons pieces that span a number of seasons. Styleforum had a chance to speak to LN-CC Creative Director John Skelton over e-mail.
SF: LN-CC has really made an impression since opening at the end of summer 2010, putting together an unusual and idiosyncratic roster of brands as well as a solid e-commerce site that makes some of those hard-to-find lines more accessible. Many people, of course, rarely or never have the chance to see stuff from Damir Doma or JW Anderson in person. Can you tell us a little about how LN-CC put together its concept and designer roster?
John Skelton: The initial idea behind LN-CC was to create the first noncompromise independent retail store both on and offline in the world that are run in tandem with each other and where one is not more important than the other. When I say noncompromise I mean that we wanted to create the most interesting and forward-thinking store and Web site and fill it with a selection of products/brands/artists that you would not find in any other space or on any other site the world over. The LN-CC philosophy is only to buy brands and products that are interesting to us as a group of people and house it in an environment that excites us, so, if we wouldn’t wear/listen to/read it then we dont buy it. If we would then we do. Its as simple as that really.
"The tunnel," just one design feature of LN-CC's physical shop It must be refreshing to be able to buy / sell according to personal taste rather than the whims of the market. Can you tell me more about the group of people behind LN-CC? What do you / your shop find interesting, culturally, right now?
Certainly. We are a very eclectic group of twenty-somethings (apart from our amazing CEO!!) that all have a similar aim, in that we are constantly looking to move things forward in a progressive and unique manner in every area that we operate in, including the way we market ourselves, our e-commerce platform, our business philosophies and obviously with the creative, including the store and the products that we sell. From a creative point of view, between myself and Dan (Mitchell) we have a very wide interest in products/music and generally try and select and curate it in a way that has never been done before. I have a huge interest in the key designers of all time and have followed and researched closely all of the greats from Yohji, Helmut, and Raf, through to the new school such as Hedi and Damir and always have my eyes open for the next real and timeless talent to emerge on the scene. Dan very much has a passion for the streetwear side of things and has a very strong interest in the new school coming out of Japan such as SasquatchFABRIX, Unused, and Nonnative, etc. so this is very much where that flavour within our mix comes from. Within the LN-CC team we also have music specialists that cover production, DJ-ing and events and we have a very broad interest in this area just like we do with product, which is why you will find everything from house, techno, and disco through to new age, jazz, and folk within our selection. The most important thing about LN-CC is that we see all of these different elements as one and the same and we try not to separate or pigeonhole any of the product, music, or literature as it is all as important to us and the concept. The difference with our store and set up and what we are interested in, I feel,is that we are never outward-looking in terms of what other people are doing from a retail or movement perspective. We have a very in-depth and long relationship with product and music and have a strong idea and vision of how we think we should portray that. When it comes to products and music we buy on instinct and not reputation so the playing field is level for any brand or artist that we see, in that if its good (to us) we'll buy it, Things that are interesting to us right now are the same as they have been for the past 15 years--the evolution of product from all areas, music from all genres and concepts, and environments that tug at all the senses. As far as being able to buy/sell products that we have an affiliation with, I feel that everybody who has a store or company has that option, but there maybe aren’t enough people who would dare to take a chance on it.
Although I haven't had a chance to see it live myself, LN-CC's brick-and-mortar shop has a very distinct design sense and physical presence. How does it fit into the community in London?
We haven’t really thought it about it, to be honest. LN-CC has been created solely to please ourselves and we haven’t ever thought about how it might be received or if people or a community would like it. We have quite simply created something that we are excited about and put it out there and made it available to everyone. If people like it then that’s a bonus and if they don’t then that’s cool with us too.
Clearly some people like it. Currently the shop is open by appointment. Do you get a lot of night-owl business? Do you think LN-CC will stay appointment / event oriented?
We try and accommodate appointments anytime but naturally people generally come between 10am and 8pm. If anybody wants to come at an offbeat time then that’s no problem for us. I'm pretty sure we will keep the store open by appointment as it gives us the ability to give everyone who visits a very special experience, but obviously I can’t say for sure. We'll just do what is right for us at whatever time and if things change then that’s cool too.
A lot of people are looking forward to the Raf Simons Archive event LN-CC is doing. Judging from the description on your site, I'd predict mixed reactions--excitement at seeing the designs, and disappointment in some of them being prohibitively expensive. Can you talk about your own personal initial encounters with Simons' designs? What was the impetus behind the Raf Simons Archive sale?
All of the Raf Pieces that have been on show on the website since we launched are my own personal pieces, and the idea was more to showcase these and generate interest as opposed to selling them. The reason these pieces are so expensive is because that is what they are worth to me and, to be quite honest, I would rather keep them. Since our launch we have managed to source around 400 pieces of Raf that we are going to sell at the original retail price or lower; however, none of the pieces from my collection will be included or for sale at the sales evening.
I understand it can be hard to put a figure on items of personal historical import. I enjoyed the Raf features LN-CC posted with Paul from Hapsical. What appeals to you personally about Simons' stuff? It must have been thrilling on some level to get your hands on 400 past-season pieces.
Yes, Raf simons for me was my first real love and has always been my brand. the fist time i came across it was when he showed one if his first collections that was almost surf-like in inspiration with cut-off tees and all of the models wearing Vans for the show. I have been collecting and following the development of his collections ever since, and have around 300 pieces in my own personal archive. I have more than likely been shaped by his collections and output over the past 15 years, as it has always been the focus for me when looking at the development of menswear. Raf is the master of capturing a new feeling and moving things forward, almost like he lives in the future and this is reflected in his designs and his collections. The good thing about sourcing the latest batch is that we can actually offer it to customers at a reasonable price and they can then take away a little piece of the history themselves. What appeals to me about Raf Simons is the same ethos that applies to our project in that he is always trying to re-invent and move things forward in a very progressive style. His ability to capture and set a mood through his collections is unrivaled. It feels as though Raf’s previous collections make more and more sense as time goes on which is quite incredible when you think about it.
Also, I noticed on the LN-CC site that you will soon be carrying Inoue Brothers, Balenciaga, and Yuketen for men--any other additions you're looking forward to?
There are many more brands making there way to LN-CC from all kinds of different sources and from all parts of the world including Pow Wow, Junya Watanabe, and an archive of Number Nine to name but a few. We also have more concept rooms opening within the store over the coming year, including a gallery space and a tattoo studio.
You've talked around your buying / curating philosophy a lot, but can you expand on the type of stuff that "tugs at all the senses"? Maybe it's an "I know it if I see it" kind of a thing.
Ha, yeah. I guess our expression comes through what we do, not through what we say--I’m certainly no wordsmith. What I’m trying to say when I say "tugs at all the senses" is the overall environment and everything that fills that. So, for instance, the first time I felt this kind of all-encompassing vision was when I attended the Raf Simons SS02 runway show. Everything from the backdrop, which was a basketball court on the outskirts of Paris, down to the way the seating was laid out in a circular formation then twinned with the soundtrack, the casting of the models, the product, and the red flares that the models were carrying. It created an atmosphere that you can’t describe, quite explain, or put your finger on. It is what it is and can only be felt by being there. It “tugs at all of the senses” in that what you see, hear, smell, and absorb gives you a feeling that you may have never felt before and may never feel again but it fills you with something that is so inspiring that you wish you could capture it and surround yourself with it forever. In relation to what we do, we source product on feeling, we look in unusual places for something that touches on that emotion that we can’t quite describe, and if it fits in to our vision, we take a piece of it and incorporate it into an environment we have created, which will often be contrary to the environment that we found it in. When searching for clothing or music we are looking for something that can not be categorised, that’s unique in its approach and its execution so we are therefore relying on our own feeling and judgment. That’s how trends start, by somebody putting something out there that is completely new. All things that make an impact on any scene have started as something small and very new and over time establishes themselves whilst others copy and replicate it until it becomes the norm. Rick Owens is a perfect example of that, recently, as when I bought his first collection nobody wanted it, liked it, or understood it. The first five collections didn’t sell at all then all of a sudden it was accepted by the tastemakers, and now it is a huge commercial hit and about 100 collections in the industry just rip it off shamelessly. What he does in essence hasn’t changed at all but people’s perception of it has changed and now they view it as being something good and relevant. I thought that the first time I saw it, which is why I bought it, but I also took the rap for it not selling from all my former employees. Now it’s the best seller for all of them. Also, what you have to remember is that everybody interprets things and processes the information differently. Say if you have three friends on a dancefloor and they are all dancing to the same record. Each of the three is focusing on a different part of the record--one is hearing the drum formation, one is hearing the bass line and one dancing to the riff whether that’s guitar or keys. They're all enjoying it and getting something from the experience but they are all hearing something completely different. That's the beauty of it. Everyone has a different outlook on what is going on and I feel that’s what makes an experience. Your own personal take on what is around you; by trying to explain it or describe what you are meant to feel takes the pleasure and the mystery out of the experience. Everything quite simply is what it is, and how you choose to interpret that is up to the individual. For us, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to what were doing, I don’t really feel the need or have any interest in trying to explain it.
Thanks very much to John and Charlotte at LN-CC.