Donk Wear is an independent, couple-lead, fashion brand based out of Manchester. What qualifies as ‘fashion’ lacks a uniform definition, leaving space for interpretation; a principle deep-rooted in the products made by Madi and Sam. They gave us the low-down on their daily operations, time in the fashion industry, and their cat, Enzo.
Firstly the name, the unavoidable slap that leaves you face down on the floor, Donk. It began by Sam exposing the word on a screen simply because he knew he would want it printed on something at some point and “it just ended up looking that sick.” It also ties in with other personal factors for Sam, being from Bolton, the hallowed Mecca of Donk, and a true love for music. “It’s a noisy word, we want to try and capture what it represents in our clothes.”
After surfing their rail you instantly pick out the trademark characteristics - not trying to be anything previously known, and not necessarily caring or understanding what is going on, but rather being enticed by whatever is happening. This is not dissimilar to the way Donk originally developed into a brand. Madi has always been engrossed in fashion, and studied it before the two met. Sam was more into the world of graphics and screen printing. Once they got together it was a match made with levels of divine potential, not seen since dumplings and soy sauce. “I would print off fabric to give to Madi and she would sew it all together. Then it has kind of grown organically, we didn’t plan to start a brand.”
Neither one of them opt for the 'fashion designer' label, rather artists, using clothes as a canvas for expression. “It’s not just about the clothes, we both love drawing and thinking of new concepts and ideas. Sometimes I just want to find things that are really anging, which you wouldn’t think would be nice on, but turn them into something really different.”
Describing their clothes as “on the verge of wearable art” it is clear that their priority is not in an items practicality or selling ability. “We do the hard dance stuff, all the boingy outfits, trackies and things, but there are some things that are just our art, made only to be in here (their studio) or a show. It’s always going to be an exhibition if we are going to display our art.” With one exhibition already under their belt, anticipation for another is growing. An exhibition by Donk is sure to guarantee a rollercoaster of looks that will leave you suitably spun.
When they’re off the runway the couple cater for alternative styles within everyday wear. Madi wants to have fun with the work she does, making clothes “that other people want to wear and feel comfortable in as well as stuff I enjoy making”. Producing sportswear seasoned with street influence, or punk animation trousers, there never appears to be a limit to what is possible in the studio.
Naturally, having a variety of abstract styles can be a challenge when aiming for a cohesive ‘look’, nonetheless it appears to blend naturally for the pair. “We never actually think about merging styles, we both appreciate so many different elements of fashion which might come from us both being around vintage clothes a lot. Sam has worked in retail and my dad (Aka Carhartt Man) is obsessed with clothes.” Donk has no real target market as each piece is unique and can attract people from all places. If you’re quick enough you may find that one of one piece you didn’t know could ever exist. “The stuff that we make now we wouldn’t have worn before because we were the weirdos of our area back then. We came to Manchester and went to Afflecks palace for stupid jumpers and studded belts. We’re the ones making clothes for those people now.”
Everything is done in house, from design to construction, but it is clear that this stems from a passion for things being done right. Creative control is important, and often a struggle for young artists when they enter an industry under a bigger corporate name. Donk was in collaboration with COW Manchester, contracted to revive items for the shop to later sell. They have both recently decided to prioritise Donk, “we’ve gone freelance just due to working with someone who wasn’t a creative, a lack of communication and he didn’t see things as sellable. If a design is too crazy for you then it’s just not for you.”
The expectations they set at COW were far from reasonable, making it tough to have Donk on the side. “I was aiming to get things done and constructed in a day. Sewing it up, drawing the pattern and cutting is completely different. It’s like a 3D jigsaw, you have to figure out which pieces of the jigsaw fit on the body. You need to work out mathematically what goes where, it all depends on where you put curves and perfect measurements.” The future of Donk is bright, sonically and tangibly. The brand was commissioned with the outfit for post ironic pop artist GFOTY’s performance at Bangface festival, having her come down to the studio for a fitting suggests more could be in store.
The Donk duo are the furthest thing from glory seekers, and speak fondly of being a small-scale company. Their disgust of the word brand and their desire to interact with customers, alongside dreads of having to deal with the production side of fashion which they have seen all too much of, demonstrate their motivations clearly. As fast fashion has resulted in people losing interest in what they own themselves, Donk offers the service of taking in your old clothes and customising it for you. “It’s just good for the culture and the people in the area as well as the environment. It’s so much better if people just came down to the studio and could see what is going on, it’s not something you usually see.” Donk not only resurrects your once favourite garment but will refresh anything that you have purchased from them. “I think it’s quite sad and quite noticeable in an age gap that the attitude of fixing things has gone, there’s a lot more of it’s broken so I’ll just chuck it in a bin bag. I say to people that if there is a rip or the paint comes off send it back and we will just fix it for you. There’s no need to throw it away. These things will happen because we are a small studio and I do blaze quite a lot.” The personal touch that comes with Donk resonates from the relationship between Madi and Sam.
Donk Wear are everything a small business should be. Madi and Sam’s values seep into each and every fiber of their products, instilling a deep-set attitude of love, positivity and independence in anything they create. In a time of imposed separatism, and a broader age of fast-fashion spearheaded disposability, Donk acts as an early reminder of a better way, where local people and local desires are dealt with in a local way, allowing levels of personal input and customizability that most in the 2020 dystopia don’t think possible.
Follow @Donkwear on Instagram to become a better person.
Sam- A poisonous frog with the mind of a human
Madi- A chicken and an axolotl with the brain of a dog
Who would you like to dress?
Sam- The Queen
Madi- Rico Nasty
Alexander Nicholas Turner, or ‘Ali T’ as he is more commonly known, is a graphic designer and owner of Liverpool based streetwear brand ‘No Mind Collective’. Following internships with various brands and companies, the last being Umbro, he decided to try and pave his own way in the competitive world of streetwear, harnessing the skills picked up through his previous design roles and utilising the often neglected luxuries that come with youth: creative energy, time and a devil-may-care attitude. No Mind Collective is a brand with a bold identity that is individual in its appeal and unique in style. We sat down with Ali T in his Merseyside studio to find out a little more about the man in question.
Primarily a graphic designer, and with a stream of requests to create artwork for others, he describes his garments as “very graphic heavy”, often favouring a wonderfully abstract aesthetic. We asked about his processes and influences when designing his garments, and looking back over his projects his replies seem obvious. He described No Mind as “Streetwear clothing inspired by loads of subcultures: Punk, hip-hop, rave and skate culture and various other themes & interests that I’m into”. A common theme identifiable throughout each is the nature of striving for success by being true to yourself and creating openings to stand out from the rest, a sense that can be felt when wearing the brand. The detailing in the designs draw people to them; the confidence found in the person wearing them comes from the personal appreciation of and connection with each design. As with any piece there has to be a sort of imprint at first but it is due to the vast amount of detail in each piece that makes the No Mind look books seem so attractive.
Inspiration for Ali T began in his formative years in Manchester. Nights would be spent at raves whilst days spent around like minded young people who “dress well and don't really give a fuck”. It is easy to see that No Mind is heavily aimed towards these individuals, “People who are out there creating their own shit”. A brand that wants to connect but also break away from the ordinary and generic. Like many of our generation do,] the Los Angeles rap collective ‘Odd Future’, gave the first substantial introduction into the world of streetwear. Perhaps a virtue of Ali T's individualistic approach to his brand stems from their unconventional approach, and disregard for those critical of them: “I remember seeing them and just thinking these geezers are fucking barmy man”.
His designs however show no evident influence, often using dark colours to provide a strong contrast with primary ones.
Typography can affect how people react and interact with a piece. Careful selection mixed with consistent use of a chosen typeface can be just as important in typography as the use of graphics to a design. Ali T evidently realises the importance of this art form. A gritty use of typography is used in the ‘flames’ design, which depicts the text ‘No Mind' engulfed in flames. The method is used as a starting point in some cases, giving something that the rest of the design can feed off and build around. With some pieces typography is the entire design. Typefaces like that seen in the flames design can be traced back to Ali’s early influences, being in a hardcore band and somewhat of a “little goth”, it is clear to see how that has evolved and influenced his work today. Extremely stylised, gothic and cult like in most cases these early themes are extremely prominent in the brands image. “I love all this cult shit man, not just the look, but the idea of people blindly following some mad ideology. It’s scary to think shit like that is actually happening.”
The brand image of No Mind is kept very personal and down to earth. Not taking things too seriously is paramount to the brands Ali T's philosophy, posting memes or funny photos which further this light hearted take on the industry. Evidence of this laid back personal approach is seen in the ‘about’ page on the No Mind website. Instead of a brand statement on how amazing and sophisticated they are, for this section Ali T says “I’ve just listed a load of crazy words that inspire me, so; Stella Artois, White socks, fried chicken, UKG, Boneless banquets, Black Sabbath, Jeff Mills, Jeff Gills, Jeff Pills, Snow Leopards, Phil Mitchell, Nokia 3310, Ozzie Osborne’s life span…” just to name a few.
Ali by no means lacks ambition: “This is just a starting step… I’d love to get more artists involved, No Mind is a collective, for anyone out there who’s wanting to get involved.”Ali T pictures branching out into the female market, a move he believes will open up a variety of different creative avenues. The female form is something he admires greatly. Also eventually putting on exhibitions, music events and collaborating with a number of other brands, artists and musicians.
The passion that Ali T has for his brand never fades whether its deep into a house party or cycling into his studio, that looks over Invisible Wind Factory’s smoking area, in the early hours of the morning. Since splitting ways with his friend and former partner who now works for Vice in Amsterdam No Mind has been Ali T’s baby, and it’s fair to say that it has had a growth spurt. There is much more to come from this young company and there is no predicting what that will entail. That is other than the guarantee of an ever evolving set of themed drops and a dreamed collaboration with Home Bargains.
Check out the latest drop from No Mind, available now from the link below!
Store - https://nomindcollective.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/nomindcollective/