nothingknew and s+ Talk about Their Latest Collaboration, Mixing Novelty and Nostalgia, and Making Everyday Garments for Specialized Situations
We could not be more excited to host nothingknew and s+ (pronounced "synthesis plus") as our first pop up of 2023. The creative groups have come together to develop the MMoto Pants and the Para Overpants. We're very proud to offer a limited selection of MMoto Pants as well as a few other items from their collaborative capsule from February 11th-26th (or shorter depending on inventory) at our L.A. shop. RSVP to the launch event here.
How should we understand nothingknew and s+?
nothingknew: nothingknew is a mercenary solutions provider. Think of it as a creative consulting agency with experience from design, production, and marketing. We can help anywhere from the beginning to the end.
s+: s+ is a creative agency that aims to recontextualize apparel, accessory, and object matter by integrated specialized design principles.How did you link up?
s+: The collaboration resulted from an affinity for militaria design research. Although our applications are different, the styles are complimentary.
nothingknew: It was an opportunity to make products we thought did not exist while providing the production resources and time to execute.
Tell us the story behind these pants. What was your inspiration? What changes have you made and why?
nothingknew: The collaboration’s focus is between 2 pants: the MMoto Overpants & Para Overpants.
s+: The inspiration behind the pants were WWII-era French Army dispatch motorcycle pants. The two hidden front pockets were used to store gloves and accessories that optimize rider ergonomics and capacity. The reference has been used by the likes of Issey and Comme to name a few.
The objective here was to extend the use-case to a more modern lifestyle, a goal of improving utility and fit by optimizing compartments and adding styling alternatives; original pockets were redesigned for improved ergonomics and accessibility while additions such as hem expansion, ventilation and swing pocket produced versatility. The outcome is an entirely different feel in both form and function depending on how one uses the product.
nothingknew: The Para Overpants are based off the rich history of Pararescue and Smokejumper uniforms. They’re extremely specialized pants featuring a dual zipper design and made to carry over 100-150ft let-down rope, a radio, and miscellaneous fire fighting, rescue, or survival tools.
Recent brands that have referenced dual zippered flight pants are Dries, Supreme, and Simone Rocha even. We thought at nothingknew how flight pants act as a jacket for your legs and wanted to design a version that made people understand the necessity in layering and have it be fun. Then the problems kept appearing when prototyping and designing a leg pattern as one piece, which was frustratingly fun. We finally achieved a solution we were happy with: a pant that is adaptable to many body types and preferences. Wear as pants or wear as a skirt, the choice is yours.Why did you choose these two fabrics?
s+: There’s a strong dichotomy in the qualities of these two fabrics that accentuate the changes made to the original silhouettes differently. The waxed canvas pushes the hardwearing qualities of the original canvas material by giving it more structure, durability and adds a discernible patina as it wears. The sharkskin pair produces a permanent, flowy drape and comfortable feel that can be worn all year round.
nothingknew: What they said ^
Could you describe the testing and stages of development that went into making these pants?
s+: Being that nothingknew focuses on militaria, the first step was finding a reference that interested us for the collaboration. After many stages of re-patterning the originals and adding some things to further its capability, we found an overpant fit and silhouette we were satisfied with. The pants were wear-tested in two of the fabrics we chose to ensure its durability with the significant amount of new parts added.
nothingknew: *laughs* We just don’t focus on militaria! All of apparel design is interconnected in some way or form. Men’s clothing is very military based, whatever that means.
It was a painstaking process to perfect the fit through prototypes. Both pants took quite some time to finalize. We can’t stress enough how crucial prolonged wear testing is. If there’s a rule to apply for developing anything, it’s to peer review.
Often, we love things for reasons beyond their specs and functionality. How do you approach making garments that can evoke that feeling?
s+: There’s a universal affection for things that bring us joy whether it’s embedded in novelty or nostalgia. In our view, it’s a balanced interplay between something one can relate to and something a bit unorthodox. Our design principle when making garments is to exhaust an idea, then reduce.
nothingknew: Design for a need that hasn’t been met. Or design for specialized situations. Then apply those things for the everyday. For us, if you can’t daily the item, it can never evoke a feeling of need.What has the response been like to these pants? Has anything in the response surprised you?
s+: The response from those who obtained a pair has been quite exciting knowing the amount of R&D spent on developing our first market-produced apparel project. We are happy that people love and appreciate the level of detail and care having the product in hand which you can’t see or feel from visuals alone.
Gratitude is the word. The support we received for this project was unforeseen and makes us excited to showcase more of our projects in the near future.
nothingknew: The initial prototype was received well, but it was disappointing because it did not function for everyday use. There is a lot of anticipation building for the final operating version, which we can’t wait to reveal.
I’ve heard nothingknew refer to Virgil Abloh’s 3% rule - that you only need to change an original design by 3% to make it new. How do you relate to that idea?
nothingknew: We can only speak for nothingknew, but we love that idea. Its essence is democratic and often reveals our biases on who gets the pass/capable of appropriating. But 3% is the bare minimum. Sure, memefication exists in everything and we all love memes. It gets tricky because that means accepting fashion can actually be disposable, which is counter to the overall demand for sustainability. Can we actually admit that this industry really is a paradox?
s+: Can’t say our design ethos can relate to Virgil’s as our process feels a bit more comprehensive than “3%” when reiterating something that already exists conceptually, although we understand what he means when it comes to marketability. Most people aren’t initially accustomed to big innovations and 3% changes are approachable, which make sense in trickle-down economy. Most people gravitate towards familiarity.
Do you think designers have an obligation to innovate? How does that relate to meticulous reproductions of vintage garments?
nothingknew: It’s situational. But it’s truly the textile industry that innovates, designers only apply. As outsiders, we give too much credit to designers rather than seeing them as service based workers. There was a 1granary article saying 85% of a product’s footprint is decided in the design phase. We believe there has to be a demand for less ego-based design and more action.
But Creative Directors, the fashion DJs, are at the forefront instead of designers and sewers. There’s no argument highlighting CDs as key players behind brands coupled with the internet has homogenized design and encouraged reproductions, not just of vintage garments. Everything ends up being cyclical because the body never changes. But the trends change because feelings are fickle.
s+: It’s a yes and no answer, an extremely complex question with complex answers. We don’t know how other designers should think, but s+ aspires to move forward.
One could say reproduction is the antithesis to innovation. Vintage garments are the most time-tested remnants of apparel and a no-brainer as to why brands continue to reproduce them - they sell. Our culture is rooted in sentimentality, a factor of our creating and consuming tendencies that go beyond reason.What are three brands, people, makers, designers, publications, etc. who deserve more attention? (3 from each of you).
- Mei Sze Tsang (@tms.site) for focusing on industrial workers and reclaiming them as athletes. Designers often fail to highlight the people they claim to design for, but all her work centers on blue collar workers. We know how often consumers and designers fetishsize workwear, but could never, and would never be willing to do that type of work.
- Woody Brogden (@double.tilt) in the vintage community has an encyclopedic knowledge on the original American outdoor gear. Think Gerry, Holubar, Sierra Designs, etc, along with experimental military designs and camo. I’ve learned from plenty of friends who sell vintage, but Woody is a treat to hang with.
- Aota Mituhiro for decades of research in denim, zipper hardware, and flight gear. The number 1 American vintage researcher in Japan and also the most elusive.
- Andrew Huberman for being layman’s translator of the mind and its effect on the body
- Lex Fridman for re-defining the meaning of conversation and what it means to be human
- Michael Pollan for re-contextualizing the use of substances as tools for edification and creativity
Interview by Storr Erickson