Interview with Christopher Skyner | Founder of Authority Clothing

Published in The Trend Spotter:

It looks like the street wear trend is finally getting that much needed revamp from the new kid on the block Authority Clothing, a unique label that focusses on creating an artistic extravaganza by combining fashion and street art together. Founded in 2012 and already receiving critical acclaim from international superstars such as Snoop Dogg and Daz Dillinger, we sit down with Creative Director Christopher Skyner and discover how the terrific brand came to be.

Christopher Skyner

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Actually, it was never my ambition to start a career in fashion. I suppose you could say I kind of fell into the industry since moving to Melbourne. When I moved to Melbourne in 2011 I was in search of a new challenge.  I had always planned to start a project of my own and this drive lead me into the fashion industry.

Since coming up with the initial concept for Authority Clothing in 2012, I have worked relentlessly on the Authority Clothing brand. I have given it everything – I even moved out of my house and checked into a backpacker hostel for a period of time last year so I could use my bond money to invest into stock. I have a clear vision of where I want Authority Clothing to be and what I want it to represent.

What I enjoy most about my work is the fact that I can tailor the personality behind the Authority Clothing brand. I can incorporate parts of my own character into the overall concept of Authority Clothing, which makes the brand so much more fun to work on. Despite still being new to the fashion industry, I have found the people in the fashion industry so bloody inspiring. They are unbelievable driven, passionate and charged to succeed. They are exactly the kind of people I want to affiliate myself with.

How did you come up with the name ‘Authority Clothing’ and how did its concept come to fruition?

I have always been a person that slightly defies authority if I believe it is needed or if I see an adventure ahead. I suppose you could say I have bent the rules on occasion to get the best out of things. To give you a small example of this, I once got caught up on the border of Nepal. I wanted to see this country so bad but the authorities closed all the gates into Nepal because there were guerilla activists attacking local police stations in Kathmandu. CNN was recommending all tourists leave the country as it was potentially dangerous. It took me a few nights but I found a local to help sneak me through the boarder at night. It resulted in meeting such beautiful people; I hiked for around 2 months and worked with children at a small orphanage in the country’s capital. I had an amazing trip, which would never have occurred had I turned away at the border.

I first formed the concept of working with the street art community after walking through Hosier lane (Melbourne’s street art gallery space) to work in 2012. I became intrigued by the messages expressed through the art on its walls. This intrigue came from fact that people were using art as a vehicle to express themselves in modern day society, in which everything we do is so regulated. I loved that.

Authority Clothing

Combining street art and fashion is really unique, and I’m sure you get many street artists wanting to collaborate with you. What is the selection/thought process that you go through when deciding to work with certain artists?

At first it was an absolute struggle to get the art community onside. Then after around 8 – 10 months of approaching different artists, attending exhibitions, putting proposals together for artists and being turned away by all,  a small number of artist’s (now great friends) gave me the break I needed to start the brand. They agreed to put their name to Authority Clothing and give me a chance. We created a small range of limited edition t-shirts using their work, in which I attached to these t-shirts something truly unique (I honestly think no other street wear brand in the world does this) – a swing tag.

A swing tag is added to the garment that not only credits the artist’s themselves for the work, but also displays the exact location in where you can find the original street art piece in the city. I added a QR code that would direct you to the original art piece once scanned (using your phone) by accessing Google maps.

In addition to that, I offer some artists the chance to collaborate with Authority on a wall. We fund the materials and source the wall for the artist. We then fully document the mural process and create the apparel from this. A perfect example is our recent Bieth Street Collaboration with artists Steen Jones and Alex Lehours. Follow this link to see the video we made for the artists (shot by Cale Rodriguez).

Work like this has given me a little more freedom in choosing the artists I collaborate with now, which is always a blessing. There are still some artists that do not want to work with the brand, which I respect completely, as we cannot accommodate for every street artist. But for the ones that do like what we do, I usually select them quite carefully. I monitor their work through social media feeds for around 3-6 months to make sure they are the kind of person/artist I want to associate my brand with. I look for drive, compassion, talent, and generally just an all-round good cat.

The artist's behind the Beith Street project.

How do you select the materials that are used in the clothes and accessories?

To be completely honest I have not fully delved into the material selection quite yet. I have found an amazing supplier for my t-shirts who has amazing quality garments. But I do work very closely with the team at Killer Merch Screen Printers in Melbourne to translate the artist’s work from wall to tee. This process is extremely important as we strive to replicate the original street art piece exactly. We are creating a completely different style of canvas for the art and it has to be perfect.

We hear that Snoop Dogg is quite a fan of your work (Congratulations!). How did you feel seeing him wear your ‘fuck AUTHORITY’ tee in his new music video?

On top of the bloody world. He is the ultimate personality to represent our ‘fuck AUTHORITY’ tee. I honestly could not believe it.  Even now I am still blown away by the whole Snoop Dogg event. Especially by the way it came around. Please allow me to tell you a little about it.

Two days before he was due to play in Melbourne I was approached by a PR firm to represent AUTHORITY. One of their selling points was that they would strive to get a celeb to wear our brand monthly. The costs were stupidly high and I figured I could do the job better. So Snoop it was – he was my goal. I researched his agent in California, found the times and locations he was performing in Melbourne and brought a plan together. I contacted a friend that is a personal trainer at Fitness First (who definitely looked like he could definitely be part of Snoop’s posse) and we headed for the Melbourne venue with some tee’s for Snoop Dogg and a personal note 7 hours before his gig. We rocked up to the venue and managed to get chatting to the venue manager. I claimed we represented Snoop Dogg’s agents from Stampede Management in California, and we had clothing to drop off for the artist. The venue manager was lovely. I had a good chat with her and she said she would do her best to leave the tees in his dressing room. Only if they were expecting them she said, which I assured her that they were (a little white lie).

It seems she was true to her word and she took them straight to his dressing room. Snoop Dogg received our gift when he arrived to play at the gig. We found this out when he posted a picture of himself wearing our t-shirt to his Instagram. We learned that he liked the ‘fuck AUTHORITY’ t-shirt so much he wore it in his new music video with Daz Dillinger. How bloody amazing is that! In fact today I actually received a tweet from Daz Dillinger (Snoop Dogg’s partner in the recent video) asking for more tee’s for his other video’s. Unbelievable.

Snoop Dogg wearing Authority Colthing

What are your plans for the future, and what can we expect from Authority Clothing in the coming years?

My main goal is to work as closely as possible with our artists to create clothing that represents their work seamlessly.  I hope to work with artists locally and internationally and I want Authority Clothing to become a global brand. I also have plans to massively expand our product range. At the moment we design mainly t-shirts, but I want to move into manufacturing our own garments using fabrics full of the designs manufactured from the streets. With this we can tailor a whole new look for a range.

A great example of what we will be doing is the collection we designed with designer Damien Yip for last years Fred Hates Fashion runway show. This collection was designed only for the show. We created designs from the street art that were printed on the different fabrics and tailored apparel.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is creativity, inspiration, personality and fun. It represents so many things from great design to wearing an item of clothing because you believe in what it represents. I have always loved the fact that fashion is a vehicle of expression. It is a way of voicing out who you are to the world, or who you want to be.

Steen Jones X Alex Lehours collaboration

Authority Clothing

What are things that inspire you and the collections that you create?

I want to make an impact on people with the designs we release; I want to make a statement. This is displayed not only in our designs but also in everything we do. Let’s use the Fred Hates Fashion event as an example again.

It was my goal to make a real impact at the show. I gave the models the freedom to go out onto the runway with attitude and power. One of the models even gave the cameras at the end of the runway the middle finger. We also showcased the range to a song called Beautiful People by Marilyn Manson. Not the kind of song that people were expecting I think. My motivation behind the song choice was we were definitely going to make an impression. The art collections that were created so far are mostly down to the artists themselves. I give them no guidance or direction what so ever in the mural design’s. This is why being selective of the artists we work with is integral. I then take the artwork I believe translates well to apparel and work on how we can present it as a wearable canvas.

View the Authority collection: www.authorityclothing.com.au

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