Ryan Hawaii, the maverick 20 year old from Catford South East London who’s been crafting a career as a renegade artist for some time, but of late, has been grabbing some much deserved recognition for his work. Drawing heavy influences from the DIY, anti-establishment ethos of the Punk movement in the late 70s, Ryan’s art work in all mediums is really resonating with a new generation of style starved young people, and is also empowering them with a brand that supports culture and reflects the attitudes of British youth.
After discovering that the OG BNTL family ‘Face’, and me old pal ‘Jack Cannon’ was knocking about with him in Amsterdam I decided that it would be a good time to reach out for a chance to have a dialogue about Ryan’s influences and the movement thus far. Here’s what we discussed:
Hometown pride is a strong element of your aesthetic. You reference Catford in a lot of your work and it comes across that your manor means a lot to you. What do you love so much about your ends? And is there something special about Catford that’s had profound impact on your growth, not just creatively, but in all avenues of your life?
“I love that catford is a real place with real life working class problems. Like even the smallest things, like back in the day Catford used to be kind of sticky, so you would have to put a lot of thought into the way you travel home – for example – and that instilled a proactive mentality within me, and the ability to work under pressure. I shot all my early look books there and growing up in a working class enviroment makes you way more grounded. I love CATFORD for that.”
East London, it seems, has had it’s peak with regards to being the hub of underground creative culture. To me, though the creative scene is still flourishing, to find something credibly underground seems unlikely. South London on the other hand, holds potential for exactly that because, in short, less people go there. Would you say South has it’s own vibrant creative scene detached from the gloss of the East London scene? Like, the ‘Steez’ collective for instance..
“I feel like if you take it back to what the road men do in south they tend to be a lot grittier and less focused on the materialistic aspects of that lifestyle ;they’re more focued on making money; playing broke and getting rich. Wheras east and north, I feel like it’s glossier and it’s more based on looking fly rather than trying to get yourself out of your situation. I think that general attitude has passed down into the creatives which is why you get a lot of interesting artists, who’re quite genuine and down to earth coming from South London. I also feel like because there is less night life in South, that’s created creative communities because my generation have way less to do, which means way less distractions.”
‘David Cameron Hates The Mandem’ is a statement with makings of an iconic phrase that – in mine, and the opinion of many others – will go on to define a generation. What inspired it? And with using it on garments, will you be continuing to use it on other mediums moving forward? Seems like its got some legs, and in too be really honest, it’s slylee too powerful to put down right now.
“Thank you man I appreciate that! It’s funny you asked this because I was just having a conversation about this today!
This one actually comes with a the story! I was putting on a exhibition in the a gallery and I was kicked out of the gallery early because of a mess at the gallery on fire doing a fire painting! I was also sleeping in the gallery as I was homeless at the time.
As I still had some leftover pieces from the exhibition I decided to do a street exhibition in Shoreditch it was partly inspired by being homeless and somewhat of a social experiment to see how people would treat me as if I was a rough sleeper.
A few hours later after a few spliffs (as it was 4/20) and a bottle of the Disaronno a friend of mine Marco Grey came to see the exhibition.
He told me that he’d had a quote on his head for a while which was the quote and told it to me and I just walked over and sprayed on the wall who snapped a few photos but to be honest I didn’t expect it to go as far as it has gone is basically gone viral! I released the T-shirts and they sold out in two days , so I’ll definitely be doing some more stuff but those specific T-shirts with those specific colourways won’t be available ever again. But as always I recycle my ideas around so you never know where it could end up.”
I read in a prior interview that you did with The Fader that you wanted to do “two culturally significant events before launching” your brand. This attitude towards your work is one that is all too often lost on people who attempt to start a brand, and then go on to present the brand as a psuedo movement without truly offering an real culture – which to your credit, you actually have – namely in for the form of your well thought out gorilla PR stunt at Selfridges last year, where you invited over 150 people down and held a presentation and giveaway in the OFF-WHITE section of the menswears floor; which you detailed on your website. How important is truly informing culture to you?
“I think that leaving an impact on the culture, and people, and their way of thinking is way more important to me than money, so I definitely just wanna do cool stuff that will provoke thought and just change shit up you know? There’s too many people doing boring shit or recycling old trends and just trying to cash in on it. I’d rather have made a mark and make great work than simply cash in. I’m Tryna be a millionaire before I’m 30 though. Just gonna do it smarter.”
The Bonnesuit collaboration seemed to really resonate with people. For me, the Bonnesuit brand itself is very strong for reasons I’m not going to digress into, but on top of that, that suits turned out to be the perfect blank canvas for an artist like you to work with. How did that come about? And, on the ground level, how did Amsterdam respond to the project.
“It all started when I met Bonne through a close friend of mine Ray Fuego go who’s worked very closely with him for number of years. I actually met him on my first day in Amsterdam at a Bonne Suits x Glamcult party, and we sort of build a relationship from there organically. Bonne is a rockstar man, we’re so similar in our nature that it was so great to work with him. We’d been thinking about doing a collaboration for a while and he gave me 10 suits the work on in colour pairs and I made them over the course of my time in Amsterdam, influenced by my surroundings and the people I was with, I even painted some of the suits while my friends were wearing them out, so like on the go, spontaneous shit.
Amsterdam surprisingly reacted really well like I had a really good turnout at the pop-up I sold quite a few suits there and generally a lot of Bonnes fan base moved over to me and vice-versa so that all came out really well! We’ll defo be working again in the future.”
At this point in a society saturated with over hyped over priced clothing brands, the work you’re doing is refreshing because it revolves around true youth culture that is personal and relatable. 1/1 pieces you can cherish, print runs to support demand and a real sense of value and inclusion when buying into your brand. How do you feel about the current state of “fashion culture” or ‘style culture’ for want of better phrase. Do you feel that too many young people are blinded by corporate branding? And is this something you would like to consciously combat?
“Definitely think the consumer culture is something that inspires my work, personally, I hate the culture of fashion and trends as there is very little substance in all of that. I guess I’m trying to combat that to some degree but I would probably say that my work and style is a response to the things that I dislike and simply trying to rectify those things in MY work, like I don’t give a shit about fashion and all those egos. My pop ups are a direct response to retail spaces being generally whack as fuck. That’s why I’ve never said I was a designer always as an artist who is working on clothes. Maybe in years to come I may not even work onto clothes any more it’s just another medium for me. And easily accessible and effective at this point in my career. I think people generally get more sentimentally attached to clothing more than artwork and that is beautiful to me. I love seeing people happy with my pieces. Especially when they wear them with sauce.”
Your work as an artist isn’t limited to painting on jackets, walls and tshirts; making Music with you’re crew the Neverland Clan is a prominent feature in your life, so as such, Music as a whole i’m assuming, is a large part of your creative influence. So, with that being said, and you’re proven Punk attitude towards the establishment and creative commerce – How do you feel about the notion of Grime music taking steps in the same direction? I wrote a post last year called: ‘Audio Ammunition: A 21st Century Soundtrack To Civil Unrest’ which touched on the subject, and with songs like ‘Street Politcian by Novelist’ taking a conscious lean towards political content; is this something you would like to see more of? And is it also something you’re looking to support?
“Hell yeah! I’ve been saying for couple years now that Grime is the modern day equivalent of punk music. It was also born out of frustration and the working class demographic, the only difference is sonically and the demographic that fed into creating the culture which was prodimately Black British.
I will support grime always and it is a big influence on me. Novelist is one of my favourite artists full stop. And I am lucky enough to know him personally, as were both from Lewisham, SE4 and SE6 respectively so yeah Blue Borough to the world init, I wanna see him shine.”
You threw a post up on Instagram mentioning some coming work on a Mike Skinner music video. Could you shed some light on that? And what else have got planned for this year, and beyond?
“Yeah it’s actually for ‘Half Brother’ Murkage Dave & I Used To DJ, who are artists part of Mike Skinners label. The artwork is for a song called CCTV where we plan to make masks in a ratio of 1:11 in 2 Colourways which represent the ratio of CCTV cameras to people in London. Really cool project, keep an eye out for the painted cameras around London. Love to all them guys Mike put my work on his tumblr which is awesome as I’m a big fan, crazy how life works sometimes.
In regards to the rest of the year, lots of travelling, got projects with Boiler Room in London, a project in Paris, one in Amsterdam and a few other things so keep an eye out. Some big names will be involved too. Other than that shows with NEVERLAND and we’re working on some projects soon. Coming for your neck init.”