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10 Burning Questions for A Healthy Obsession’s Head Honcho Kerso

 

1.        How long has the idea for AHO been in the pipeline

I don’t know so much about it being in the pipeline – more a germ of an idea that began about 7 years ago. I had a mate who had a large screen-printing business and I began getting him to make me up 10 or so t-shirts to give to mates as Christmas presents – usually music based images – the first 2  were a simple Moodymann logo & an Underground Resistance one about their battle with Sony over the Knights of The Jaguar. The second one in particular caused a bit of a stir with loads of people asking anyone who wore one where they’d got it etc – even Rolando, the guy who’d made the record,  asked where he could get one

Then in 2002 I was asked to take part in an exhibition by adidas in Stockholm . My exhibit consisted merely of a photograph of me standing next to my boxes of trainers – and for that they flew me out to Stockholm for a couple of days to where the exhibits were on display and held an opening party. Before I went though I had to come up with a name for my exhibit, so for the first time the phrase “A Healthy Obsession” was used – my way of describing my passion for trainers. It was part of a stock answer I’d give when people would say “Not MORE trainers” – my reply being “Look, it’s a healthy obsession, if I wasn’t tracking down trainers I’d probably be out raping nuns…”

The final part of the jigsaw was when I bought a couple of t- shirts from e-bay. They were simple cotton tees but the images (of a Roland TB 303 and TR 909 – vintage bits of musical recording kit) looked amazing as they were exact digital reproductions. At least I thought that at the time – looking back now they were pretty pony and certainly didn’t last beyond a few  washes. Out of curiosity I began researching the various methods of printing to see if any were possible and viable for me to start making my own – initially only for myself I have to say. What followed next was 3 years of trial and error –  testing the materials, ink, software, printers and machinery etc involved in the process and somewhere along the line I started giving some of the sample efforts to friends. The reaction was very positive and seeing as I discovered that I actually ENJOYED producing them I started giving serious thought to making it a small commercial venture. Which is where we are today. I’ve now finally reached the stage where I don’t think I can improve on any areas of production – so I’m now happy to let the label go public.

2.       Will you be doing one off tees or will the workload mean you’ll request limited orders?

AHO has a sister label called TeeSpoke which will offer a service allowing for one-off designs chosen or supplied by the customer to be made. The design remains the property of the client and only they can request any to be made – so if they request only one it will be a totally unique item made to their own specifications.

AHO itself will only make 10 items of any design – again guaranteeing an element of exclusivity as well as a high quality product and only available from the website.

If (and it’s a big if) both these work out the way I hope then I may consider a label for retail called 2Obsessed. I’m conscious of the fact that not everyone has access to or shops via the internet. One way I’ve thought of getting round this is to produce very limited quantities of designs (different ones to those on AHO) but offer them for sale via a very small number of retail outlets. At the moment though it’s no more than an idea – AHO may bomb and I’ll just go back to making myself a new tee every Saturday to go out in…

3.       Who has influenced you most?

 2 people in particular – primarily Massimo Osti, for his ability to push the boundaries in experimentation with innovative use of new fabrics whilst still maintaining classic designs for every label he was associated with.

 Nigo from A Bathing Ape is the other – purely because of his marketing strategy. By only producing in small numbers and making it very difficult to source garments his clothes attained almost mythical status. Allied to the fact that he got a few high-profile people to wear BAPE ( effectively passive marketing), word soon got around and before long it became a “must have” for lots of serious clothes heads – regardless of whether they were any good or not. When he did decide to finally go mainstream and make it available to J.Public esq the floodgates opened and the rest is history. I seem to recall reading somewhere it was the most bootlegged/snide label on e-bay. A compliment if ever there was one.

4.       Would you consider opening a specialist shop along the lines Oi Polloi or Microzine?

Never in a million years. While I have total respect for what Nige at Oi Polloi and others like him are doing, the hassle and cost involved in setting up retail premises are too daunting and opening a shop includes having a constant source of  stock that will sell as well as having to dealing with Joe Public face to face – which doesn’t appeal. By being solely internet-based any overheads are reduced to practically nil and you have the whole internet community as a potential customer base. No risk and a lot less grief from where I’m sitting.

5.       Have any fashion houses or companies approached you for your input, if they did what do you think you’d say/do?

I’ve contributed a few items for books and recently had a couple of offers of collaborations which I’ll certainly consider as long as the quality and exclusivity aspect remained, the subject matter appealed to me and is different to that of AHO.  I also got a nice surprise  when one of the execs at adidas in Herzogenaurach got in touch and requested an AHO tee!

As for what I’d say to any established labels -  the one thing that has struck me over the last few years is the serious lack of new, groundbreaking designs and ideas so probably “ Put more thought and money into research and development and less into bad retro productions.” Otherwise where is the next Global Hypercolour gonna come from? And why haven’t CP come up with a coat that has a gyrocopter hidden somewhere in the pockets??

6.       Any thoughts on branching out to make clothes from scratch? Should imagine you’d be better placed than most to come up with an innovative design for say a nice winter coat

Yes and no. I’m not a designer and have no experience in clothes manufacturing as such so trying to come up with new, innovative and commercially desirable items each season would be beyond me.

That said I have an idea for a unique web-based service which goes much, much further than creating specialist tee shirts. However it’s at no more than a research stage at the moment and if it were to somehow come to fruition it would obviously require more than just me to be involved and almost certainly financial backing. I’m convinced it would be a winner – I just don’t know if the logistics will make it possible, but I definitely intend to find out

7.       What’s you attitude towards present fashion?

As the yokel farmhands on The Fast Show used to say “It’s all a load of old bollocks, innit…?”  I’m afraid I’ve long subscribed to the theory that “fashion” is the Emperor’s New Clothes updated for current generations.

A bit of an extreme example I know but if a load of movers and shakers in the “fashion” world started wearing bin bags (by Alexander McQueen) you can bet your life that it would soon become a common site on the high street.

That, to me is fashion. Just because it’s fashionable doesn’t make any less ridiculous. It merely proves the sheep mentality of people.

And to be honest I don’t have a Scooby what is or isn’t fashionable these days and I really don’t have any interest in finding out. I’ve had 25 years to find out what I like to wear and more importantly what suits me. I’m sure Prada for example make some lovely clothes but the cut they use just doesn’t suit me so I stay clear of it – others look great in it though. One man’s cutting edge fashion is another’s idea of what Stevie Wonder would look like if left to his own devices in TK Maxx.

 

Style, on the other hand is a different matter altogether. We grew up in an era where we had more youth culture movements than television channels – Mods, Skinheads, Punks, Casuals, etc. And although each group was easily identifiable by a “look”, within those groups there were always certain individuals who had style – the ability, without seemingly trying, to look so much better than the others. Those were the guys who drove it forward, wearing something that little bit different – which subsequently would get adopted as a current fashion by the others – particularly in the early Casual era where a look could change completely almost overnight. Nowadays it seems that the only people dictating fashion are the people making and selling the clothes.

As far as I can see the only current discernable youth culture movement seems to be the Metal/Goth-type look. As you can tell it’s made such an impression on me I don’t even know what to name it. It is however the only “look” amongst teenagers which stands out from the crowd, they seem to be well into their dressing (didn’t know there were so many shades of black….) and music, they tend to stick together as a group AND – probably best of all, unlike any of us when we were that age, a spotty, ginger, ugly geek can pull a fully developed, adolescent female on the strength of a full length leather coat and a signed Nine Inch Nails tour t-shirt. Fair play to them – but can they fight?

“Anyone can buy fashion but originality and style can’t be purchased anywhere. ” has always been a phrase that sums up fashion to me.

 

8.       What are your hopes for the long term of AHO?

 

Er….to have a long term!

Ideally I’d hope that in 10 years time there will be people trying to source original, vintage 2006 AHO items. While their sons (or daughters) just buy them new each season. Even though Dad say’s they haven’t been the same since Kerso’s untimely death at the controls of his Lear Jet on the way to Portugal to play in the Sir Robbie Williams Golf Pro-Am.

Quality is obviously a key part of longevity. Aquascutum haven’t been going for 150 odd years by making crap clothes – by the same token their customer base will now bear no relation to that of 20 years ago. So being able to adapt to circumstances is essential. I am keen to the point of obsessed (no pun intended) not to be pigeon-holed as a Trainer or Casual label. Which is why I want to produce both graphic and digital images and designs – some with connections to the whole Casual/Trainer thing, others not. At the moment, anyone who is aware of the label will associate it with the Trainers – so if I can produce decent images or designs using my shoes as a base to begin with, then try to keep it fresh and moving forward, I might get more than a few months out of it…….

9.       Which do you enjoy more: the hunt involved in collecting or the pleasure of owning vintage?

My blunderbuss and pith helmet have been put away for a long time now. There is no hunt anymore – certainly not on my part anyway. Seems ridiculous talking about a time as recent as 2002/2003 as the Good Old Days but it’s true. There was period round about then where picking up mint, deadstock trainers from e-bay (or more specifically, German e-bay) was like shooting fish in a barrel. My days of spending 8 hours online while trying to look busy at work are gone – a combination of firewalls and a couple of e-bay stalkers saw to that. I’d do the legwork by finding the items, stick in a bid and lo and behold, 3 seconds before the end of the auction I’d get sniped and lose out on them. At first I just accepted it as part of the e-bay game but then I noticed it was the same couple of names doing most of the sniping so they were obviously just looking to see what I was bidding on and if they fancied them, that was that, I wasn’t going to get into any bidding wars. If they wanted to pay silly money for stuff, so be it, but they weren’t gonna do it by using me to find anything for them.  Fortunately those years also saw a few friendships forged which still results in the odd gem finding it’s way north of the border though – these guys will know who they are, so thanks gents

The pedant in me would say that I don’t actually collect trainers or vintage gear. I just like wearing both. Proper collectors don’t use the items for what they were intended – they just look at them, show them off or knock one out over them every now and again

10.     Finally, desert island duds - one pair of trabs, one pair of keks, tee or sweat and a coat (the Island has an inclement weather pattern).

 

Well, if it’s a desert island you’ve got to go for practicality rather than looks haven’t you? I suspect though you’re asking me for my favourite of each item? If that’s the case –

Trainers – adidas Jogger.  First and last love. Don’t know what it was about them but when I first put them on in 1978 trainers stopped being just something you played football in. The thought of ruining that beautiful blue suede by kicking a muddy ball……

Strides – always a difficult one. We might have thought we looked the dog’s bollocks in a pair of Lois jumbo cords in the mid 80’s but wear something as tight as those now and you’d look more like Max Wall. Probably classic boot-cut Lee denims for me.

Tee or Sweat – I’ll cheat and go for one of each (what with the inclement weather and all that….) Tee shirt has got to be a plain Lacoste polo shirt. Design classic and the same shirt which will still be worn by Heads of State on the golf course and council estate kids simultaneously robbing their locker room in 25 or 50 years time. Sweatshirt – everyone has their own favourite little label or item which may have been popular for a brief period but didn’t stay the course. Mine is Best Company. Like a lot of Italian & French labels of the time 75% of it you wouldn’t go near, but when you come across one of their good sweats (usually designed by Olmes Carretti) nothing else can touch them for detail and quality.

Coat – ah, the old killer “What’s your favourite jacket?” It’s obviously going to be an Osti-design but I may surprise a few by plumping for one of his Levi’s ICD numbers. Criminally under-rated (although good news for those of us who got them on the cheap) and years ahead of it’s time. I think a lot of it is down to label-snobbery and the Levi tie-in but in 5 – 10 years time when it dawns on people just how good these are we’ll have another SI Ice Jacket-type scenario with funny money being paid and loads cursing themselves for not picking them up in TK Maxx all those years ago

 

Check Kerso's website out at www.ahealthyobsession.com

 

 

 

 

 
   
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