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In conversation withTaya Francis, Tara Hakin, and Adam Jones

by Alex Brzezicka

The designers on their vibey collaborative project with Boiler Room and Unlock Your City.

“It was a privilege to be asked. A big company like that could have easily gone for a big London-based designer, whereas they reached out to smaller brands. That rarely happens these days,” says Adam Jones, a Welsh designer involved in the Boiler Room x Unlock Your City initiative. From day one, both platforms have been all about sourcing and polishing the hidden gems found in any secret corner of Britain. It made perfect sense for them to come together in a cross-genre, ground-breaking collaboration.

The project took designers back to their hometowns, where reconnecting with their roots, they found a way to upload their brands’ DNA through curating an immersive club experience. From Taya’s ‘Big Tings’ in Nottingham, inspired by British knitwear and Jamaican bootleg/D.I.Y culture; Adam’s ‘Dawns Parti’ in Cardiff, set in a replica of his grandma’s house; to Tara’s ‘Roadkill’, a bold celebration of the subverted female form set to the soundscape of contemporary R&B. Each night unravelled a different sensory dimension: “It was like building a world within the club, that was something I really loved, and collaborating across the various fields was fun,” Tara elaborates.

As the project breathed a revamped creative spirit into local scenes and brought their communities together, we hosted three designers under one roof to exchange ideas, compare their Boiler Room x Unlock Your City experiences and discuss the sustainable future of fashion on a micro to macro scale.

Taya, Adam, and Tara provide us with an exclusive insight into the inner world of the fashion industry – underlining the importance of collaborative events. After all, the most exciting things are always happening underground or under the veil of the night. Only then can we clearly see a city’s pulsating veins – full of artistic potential, willpower, and a simple urge to have fun. Put your dancing shoes on and get ready to boogie in style.

How beneficial are initiatives such as the Boiler Room x Unlock Your City platform to up and coming creatives across the UK?

Taya: It’s an amazing opportunity. You see time and time again, the same faces, or the same brands that get these kinds of opportunities. It gives you a bit more confidence in what you’re doing, and numbers don’t 100% matter.

Adam & Tara: Definitely.

How did you find collaborating with other creatives from different disciplines on this project, and is this something you’d like to see more of in initiatives such as Unlock Your City?

Tara: I got to collaborate with one of my good friends Furmaan Ahmed, they’re a set designer. We got to do all the set design. I had the idea at the very last minute that it might be a good idea to do, and Boiler Room x Unlock Your City were so down for it.

Adam: It can be daunting to collaborate, to begin with. It’s much easier for me to crack on my own, and get things done. Bringing other people in can be a bit more stressful because of ideas, but then great things can come out of clashing those ideas. You can do something you didn’t realise you would.

Taya: A lot of the time, you’re just so used to doing everything. You manage everything yourself. It’s a bit daunting sometimes to let some of that go. When you’re so strong with what you want to do and how you want things to be, I really enjoyed the process.

Both music and fashion serve as means to communicate identity and as an escape. Can you tell me about your relationship with both?

Taya: I explore my heritage a lot. That’s what my whole brand is: connecting to my heritage. Music is quite a significant thing in that. Being around family at parties, there are certain genres that I associate my heritage with. It was exciting to bring those together with my work in this space. To show people kind of what Knit & Ting sounds like.

Adam: I didn’t really realise that my work could work with music. I saw this as this other world that was very contemporary, young. I feel a bit older at the moment, especially after the pandemic, having not been out and about clubbing. It was quite a surprise to me how well it did work.

Tara: It was really exciting to have a different perspective in terms of what I was doing – the mix of music and fashion, because that’s something that I work with pretty much every day – but for it to be less about the artist and more about my input.

It’s so rare to have so much creative control over the whole project.

Tara: That’s the phrase I’m looking for. It was just so nice to have complete creative control of what it looked like from the inside.

How does the utopian future of the fashion industry look like for you?

Adam: I would definitely like it to be a friendlier industry like we’ve said. This sustainability question is to stop being forced on young designers who are really doing their best, and maybe to hold the bigger brands accountable. Young designers get penalised a lot.

Tara: I feel like the most sustainable thing to do is to not do anything. I don’t think that any brand can truly be sustainable as such. When I try to be sustainable, anytime I make a print or anything, I just do it to the absolute measurements of what I need that minimise waste.

Sometimes you have to be privileged to be sustainable.

Tara: I don’t think anyone can truly be sustainable.

Taya: I do feel like there’s quite a big pressure to be transparent. There are all these words that get thrown around that you feel like you have to be prepared to have answers. But I do think the way that I work, I am quite conscious of where my materials come from – and then how much I make. I try to work in small quantities.

If the customers could see the process of production of both independent designers and the big brands, they might rethink their way of purchase.

Adam: People always say don’t look back, keep moving forward, it’s about the future. But then you need to remember the past as well. It’s okay to use things from the past. It’s not all about this expensive chemical fibre, technology, 3d plastic bottles into fabric. It doesn’t have to be all that. It’s okay to look back. The future can be old-fashioned. I think you can do it cheaply. Everyone can get involved in it. It isn’t what they think. It’s not this super-fibre technology shit.

How are you feeling after completing the Boiler Room x Unlock Your City collaboration?

Tara: I would just love to do it again. There was so much fun. I’d love to build on what I did before.

It was pretty special, an experience in an environment that you fully immerse yourself in.

Adam: It was cool that they wanted to take us back to our hometown or home country as well. I haven’t been back to Wales. Unless to see my mum and see the dog, I wouldn’t go back to Wales for a night out and I haven’t done it for 10 years. It was fun to see that Wales has this cool side or there are cool kids doing things and looking great.

Taya: That was quite an exciting aspect as well, being able to bring something like Boiler Room to your hometown. It felt like such a buzz and excitement. Then your brand’s around that too. It’s such a great project.

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