VEXED GENERATION [TECHUNTER interview about the re-issue]
VEXED GENERATION [TECHUNTER interview about the re-issue]
If you have not heard about this phenomenon in the fashion industry from the 90s, you will probably be shocked by this interview. We came across the products of these guys in one of the flea market in the social media. It was a joint collaboration jacket with a PUMA. Picking up the archives, we told everything we could find about this brand in our 3rd printed issue.
And in 2018, designers Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter declare the brand to be reincarnated, along with the BYRONESQUE bureau specifically for the FARFETCH retailer. We managed to ask designers about everything that has interested us since our first mention of the brand.
Interview: Alexander Zabelin.
Answers: Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter (Vexed Generation).
Layout: Tatyana Vasilenko.
Photos: Rememberyouweremadetobeused, Byronesque and the VEXED GENERATION archive.
Special thanks to the BYRONESQUE Bureau for this opportunity.
[You can rightly be considered like one of the original "techwear" subculture founders, straight from the 90s. You are one of the first to use technology in clothing, effectively serving both in terms of function and form. What technologies were available in the industry at the time of your brand's launch in the 90's ? What was the market like then?]

To begin with we searched UK looking for fabrics, materials and trims.
We worked with genuine military spec high tenacity ballistic nylon 66 to make the Parka and some of our early jackets and trousers. Initially we coated it with neoprene which made it fire retardant but non breathable so we moved on to a PU coating by around '98.
We found knitted Kevlar in Liverpool which we used as zip out liners that looked like high collar tracksuit tops. We also used Kevlar in a fabric that we used to call 'Tarmac' as it resembled a rough road surface. We put the 'Tarmac' into expansion pleats in the knees of trousers in '97 so if you hit the floor with a bent knee you were protected. These trousers also has a knitted Kevlar lining when Kevlar was only available in yellow!

We had an issue with denim because we were constantly getting wet on our Vespas so we approached The British Millerian [the largest textile production in the UK, the original manufacturer of waxed cotton] and asked them to give it a flurocarbon coating – in those days flurocarbon was only used on delicates – never on denim. It wasn't straightforward.
Something in the denim meant the fluorocarbon wouldn't adhere so BM had to scrub it first, then applied the fluorocarbon coating, often referred to as Teflon. That did the job and VexeDenim was born; the first of its kind. It was beautiful, the water beaded on the denim like diamonds (but there were some issues with bleed from the indigo that seemed to come loose after the scrubbing).

Thermo regulation was always on our mind and when we came across 'Outlast' [develops and sells microencapsulated materials with a phase transition, which are included in fabrics and fibers for absorbing, storing and releasing excess heat], we used it in linings across our ranges. The paraffin laminate was smart in the way it worked. It absorbed your body heat above room temperature (via an endothermic reaction – heat energy being used to break the paraffin molecules (like when ice melts to cool a drink). Then, once you became less active it began the reverse reaction occurred – an exothermic one that returned the stored heat back towards your body. It was good news from a 'bulk' perspective – keeping you hot when you're cold and cold when you're hot – meant you didn't have to take layers on and off to keep a comfortable temperature. The tech had been developed for skiing but we figured it had a contribution to make to urban lifestyles – be it on public transport or a bicycle or scooter.
Further discoveries came when we started designing an 'Urban Mobility' collection with Puma that would keep you 'cooler than naked'. We noticed that when you cycled to work in a dry T-shirt in the summer it'd be wet with sweat by the time you got to the workshop – but if you took a wet T-shirt from the wash and threw it on and rode to work it was dry and you were cool when you got there. We started researching to see if anyone else was working with this idea and found a fabric called 'Hydroweave' being used in the steel mills in the southern states of America. It delivered its temperature control via 'evaporative cooling' . It was a sandwich fabric, the outer face was whatever and the inside face was a simple polyester taffeta [glossy dense thin fabric of linen weave from tightly twisted threads of silk, cotton or synthetic organic polymers] (a good conductor). The sandwich was filled with water absorbing wadding. The idea was to soak your cap or zip out lining in cold water before leaving your base. The water then keeps you cool whilst evaporating during your journey, and you' and the garment are dry by the time you arrive. Great for riding bikes in the heat.

The issue of keeping cool in summer cities was also tackled when we experimented with laser cutting to create both breathability, flexibility and expansion. We used a micro polyester and cut lines through the shoulders, front and back to create ventilation and freedom of movement. The cuts only opened when you were stretching forward on the bike so when you were off the bike the holes closed up again.
We searched high and low through Premier Vision (a Parisian fabric show) every season and formed good relationships with many UK and European mills.We worked with Mallalieus of Delph [the oldest garment factory in great Britain for the production of wool fabrics] to create 'Big Brother Tweed' which had a reflective stripe woven in with 1 reflective pick for every 14 non-reflective – referencing the 1 camera for every 14 citizen in the UK. It was a tweed keeper – very hard wearing. We are still the most highly surveilled country on earth!

We also had a good relationship with Majocchi [an ancient manufacturer of cotton and cotton weaves in outerwear, now specializing in technological fabrics in military, working and fashion industries] in Varese who always asked us what we needed. They would coat their amazing array of fabrics depending on what your requirements were and develop special weaves with reasonable minimums.
Generally the market was only really starting to understand performance textile possibilities. The beginnings of waterproof breathables and the need to provide an alternative to Gore which was only beginning to get a grip on the market.

Gore were very progressive and to this day are market leaders. We made some some great pieces from their materials. The Gore Leather Ninja Hood stands out (it stood up on it's own, we only made one… probably with Cooper and Stollbrand [the largest manufacturer of premium outerwear from Manchester] who now part own and make all of Private White VC) and the Gore Cashmere Soft Jacket that we did at the end of the 90's.
[Tell us about the experience of working on the PUMA collection. What was the reason and what experience did you gain from working with the sports giant ?]

The Puma experience was a learning curve! The team in Germany was creatively led by Satish Tailor who was very open minded and keen to do new things. We created our Urban Mobility collection, a Martial Arts collection and some pieces under the title of Ignite, inspired by F1. With Ignite we threw all our ideas into 2 or 3 pieces which were then used to stimulate diffusion ranges within the Puma ranges. With Puma, we travelled to Germany a lot and launched in New York and Tokyo where we met lots of interesting people and had a fantastic time. We learned a lot about production, minimums, costs and how to design for a larger amount of people – something we often didn't consider when designing for Vexed.

[You launched your brand in response to the infringement of civil liberties in London, following the Criminal Justice bill released in 1994, as well as the strengthening of surveillance cameras in the streets. Does this re-issue today mean that the situation in the world has worsened and you are reacting to what is happening again?]

The reissue collection is exactly that, a reissue, but the manufacture quality is much better and it is still made in England – in fact 60% of our factories are in London. We want to hook up with the people that we have missed whilst we took a break and focussed on doing different things. We have plans for new pieces but we're unlikely to do full collections, just put new pieces out when we are inspired to, with the provocative debate design philosophy that we enjoy creating.

We have both spent time in education since we stopped Vexed and see what younger people are wearing. Occasionally we see a Ninja and everyone wants to know about it. People want them after all this time. Many of the pieces seem to have stood the test of time. Hopefully that is because they are well designed. They certainly add to your wardrobe. The clothes are practical and perform. We always considered the urban environment first but our clothes work almost anywhere.

The fact that many of the issues that we discussed in the 90's have got worse is a key reason that we have reissued these pieces. Air quality is just the tip of the iceberg – climate change demands instant action – check out Extinction Rebellion and join in.
The modern fashion industry is a beast that is out of control.
[How do you assess the current situation with data collection around the world, automatic face recognition and other mass management tools? How will Vexed Generation operate in the current environment ?]

Data collection is everywhere and it exists and thrives through our use of technology. The more we click and swipe, the more data is held on us. Social Media, cookies, credit cards, loyalty cards, phones, travel cards… the list goes on. Those that hold the data can't be trusted – they can't be trusted not to sell it, use it or lose it – and the penalties for them are pathetic – 500,000 fine for Facebook for letting Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ take the opiss with peoples data – even the harshest penalties are toothless – under GDPR the mx fine is 4% of turnover.

And data discriminates. The facial recognition algorithms are badly flawed and the amount of false positives that occur is very worrying. The system is at fault in its design and does not have enough understanding of the human race in order to be accurate. It therefore fails far too often. Imagine the hassle of having to defend yourself against a wrongful accusation from an algorithm!? "Computer says yes".

The whole idea of recognition systems is abhorrent and is intrusive in an Orwellian manner… and who thinks that 1984 is a nice place to be?!?

We have a plan. In the meantime these sites are worth a look:
Privacyinternational.org,
tacticaltech.org
and the Algorithmic Justice League - ajlunited.org

[It has been a long time since the activity of Vexed Generation. Now the world has changed a lot and the modern market with it. What do you think about the modern fashion industry ? Do you support the current trends?]

There are many people who talk about sustainability and the environment and human rights, but there are many organizations that simply ignore all of it and keep on churning out more and more for less and less. Our landfill sites are full of polyester and the seas are suffering through micro waste and other manufacturing pollution. The campaigners and designers that are shouting are doing a good job but the sheer scale of new high street drops every 2 weeks is overwhelming the planet.

We do not wish to be part of the problem so we are working with factories that pay people well, mills that practice environmentally and have teamed up with Stop Micro Waste who make bags to wash your polyester clothes in. The mesh on the bags is so fine that it captures the tiny microfibres that are released during the wash cycle, and ultimately end up in our oceans.

We are not particularly interested in trends unless you count environmental, humanitarian and societal trends. We have always done our own thing and will continue to do so.
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[Have you heard about this modern "techwear" subculture? Do you single out any of the modern designers of this direction?]

There is a lot of tech wear out there. Much of it has a similar aesthetic and some is very paired down almost zero exterior detail that is reminiscent of our Stealth ranges in the late 90's/early noughties. We have respect for some of the new technologies and are keen to work with those that are relevant to our context. Much of it has moved on dramatically and the issue of connectivity for example is much better than it was. We are looking forward to exploring more, and our new work is likely to be visually dramatic in a very different way to before as well as technically more advanced in construction.
[Recently, we saw that Kanye West found your one strap backpack of the 94' issue and asked for the search of designers. Have you met in the end and should we wait for joint projects?]

We're glad our work resonated with KW.

[What will be the concept of brand restart? Will it be something new, in response to the existing order of the system, or will you continue to maintain your previous concept?]

Our new work is exploring new ideas. We're not thinking in full collections but pursuing ideas that communicate our desires and concerns. Environment, society and performance will be at the forefront of our thinking and, as with the reissue collection, we will be considering the welfare of the people that make it as well as the carbon footprint of the materials, production and distribution. We hope to be part of a global community through shared ethics and local, relational production. It's "create or consume" and we hope to make it easier for people to create for themselves as well as access our creations.