Nature World started out as a concept and began based on a collective of friends before it materialized in 2011 as a lifestyle brand, self-described on their just-launched website as “a true subculture brand for the modern jams.” As of 2013, it’s since grown into a burgeoning apparel label, backed by its two main founders, musicians Antwon and Andre Martel - and including a collective with Sad Andy, Cities Aviv, Froskees, and more. They’re currently stocked at the Harajuku premium shop Radd Lounge and New York boutique The Good Company, which carries NW alongside brands from FUCT to MMVIII to ETC Tacoma. Literally no initial pun intended, but it’s obvious Nature World, despite only being a year old, is in good company.
The Nature World graphic body of work is sometimes harsh, and often challenging, with nods to punk, old school hip-hop, and working class motifs - though its common thread is deeply rooted in friendship. Case in point: Their new exclusive gender-subverting collaboration with storied LA artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt’s elusive collective WSSF (some readers who don’t know Cali might recognize his work in Off White’s “Moving Still” collection). When I sat down with Andre, Antwon, and Sad Andy at Zankou Chicken in East Hollywood for our interview and asked them about the LAABF-exclusive collaboration, instead of answering with design cues, they described the nature of their friendship with the artist. That personal approach and sense of communal trust is really the infrastructure behind Nature World, and why they’re the brand to watch in 2015. Read our interview below, and find info about where to get the collaborative capsule at the end.
ALINA NGUYEN: Nature World’s been around since 2011?
ANDRE: Yeah, the physical manifestation of the clothing brand. It’s something we’ve been building since 2011. It originally started as a part-collective, so everyone involved was doing music or just friends. But the idea for it was there, we just couldn’t manifest it yet, until about two years ago. We finally got to a point where we could actually do a clothing brand. It started coming together like that.
Can you describe the collective in 2011 and what it was?
ANTWON: Us as friends - it was just hanging out and doing music stuff. I think it just basically was like a more hip-hop thing, where we would just hang out and record music. But we weren’t hip-hop kids from the jump.
The actual brand came about since I was talking to our manager and he was like, “Yo, you should do a clothing brand.” And I was like, “YO, I should do a clothing brand.” And then that’s when I was like, “Yo, ANDRE, do you want to this clothing brand together?” So we started the clothing brand together. My manager, Chase, he’s like our main investor in the company and it’s just been going really good. We’ve been trying to keep it more uniform and stuff.
Our target audience is more of like a person that’s not really a streetwear person, but more of an alternative person - I guess? A person that’s out of culture.
“I’LL TELL YOU OFF THE JUMP - I’M NOT A FUCKING ARTIST OR DESIGNER.”
ANDRE: Yeah, just coming from our background and what we like as individuals. I know I speak for myself but, low key, everybody else that is involved in it, it’s always been one foot in the punk scene and one foot in the streets. Hip-hop, streetwear, graffiti, and everything like that, but at the same time, we fuck with punk shit, goth shit - actively. Almost everybody in Nature World was in a band at some point or involved in the punk scene on that level.
But at the same time, like he said, we’re doing hip-hop, rapping, producing. So it’s kind of like trying to find a balance and identify the things that match up within both of those things. I know how a lot of hardcore kids do graffiti - it bridges the gap. We want to do that visually to where you don’t necessarily have to be a streetwear person to fuck with it. Or vice versa, you may not have to understand punk culture, but you could see something that we do that’s more rooted in punk and it fits; it connects.
Would you align yourself with any other brands that are around?
ANTWON: Nah - I mean I don’t think we align ourselves with brands and stuff, it’s not like we dislike anyone, I think it’s just that we’re doing our own thing.
ANDRE: We’re doing our own things because, right now, we need to do our own thing; put our best foot forward… basically, we just fuck with each other because fucking with each other is what got us here in the first place.
WSSF X Nature World.
Who’s in the Nature World collective?
ANDRE: There’s the artists in there, so obviously we got Antwon, Sad Andy, I also rap, but I’m deeper into building the brand or whatever. Froskees who is one of our main producers and then we’ve got Cities Aviv and he also raps and produces and he does a lot of design stuff too. So those are the main players within the group, but then we have a lot of people outside.
One of the main things that we push with the idea of our brand is celebrating friendship - an idea that comes from the punk scene - just a network of friends. But as far as the visible players are, that’s who it is. The name of the brand itself is me and Antwon dealing with the day-to-day or curating the visual aesthetic for it.
Are all of your designs a collaborative effort?
ANDRE: Yeah, Antwon’s like an idea machine and then I’ll be the filter, how it starts off. He’ll come up and be like, “It’d be cool if we did this.” I get it and I translate it, I shoot it back to him, he shoots back - it was back and forth before because he was out in San Jose, so it was a lot of emailing and phone calling. Now, it’s a lot quicker, it’s more focused and you can kind of see how the brand’s become more focused over time. But originally, it was me and him and we still pretty much do that. But now, we kind of have the luxury of being able to work with other people and help them help us to develop.
Because I’ll tell you off the jump - I’m not a fucking artist or designer.
But you are the one that is designing all these?
ANDRE: Yeah, me and him and we have a few other people that we’re starting to work with and now we’re doing the thing with Cali [DeWitt] so…
Do you guys want to talk a little bit more about the collaboration with WSSF? When we asked you guys for Cali DeWitt’s description, he said, “WSSF is a shadowy squad of perverts based in Los Angeles, but with members crawling all over the Earth.” Who is WSSF? To you?
ANDRE: WSSF is very mysterious to me, but they’re at the forefront of the new art movement that’s brewing in LA in my opinion. They do a lot of zines and apparel but a lot of it is very murky to me and I think they like to thrive in that shadowy kind of mystique.
I’m not very familiar with Hank, and to be honest, I’m not even sure if it’s limited to him and Cali. Sometimes I feel like there may be dozens of them. But I can say they are one of the few collectives that I feel like is actually doing something challenging at the moment. Like stuff that makes me uncomfortable.
How did you guys start talking and how did you come together?
ANTWON: I met Cali the first time I played in New York and then I met him through my friend Jason [Adam Baker] who does Ormolycka. He came to one of my shows and this was right when Cali did that “Hoax” video, then he did a couple videos for me. I don’t know how we were like, “We should do a collaboration with him.” I think at first we wanted to get designs from him, and then we were like, “Yo, we might as well just do a line.”
ANDRE: It originally was supposed to be a little bit larger than what it ended up being, but just due to time constraints and everything we had to focus it down a little bit. But we just wanted to come with him and let him interpret what we do in his eyes.
What’s the concept behind the collaboration?
ANDRE: The concept behind it is just sexuality… I think the theme is just taking men out of their dominant gender role and switching the roles - having women be more dominant.
ANTWON: The thing is that most people who buy [our clothing] are guys. You’re making them wear really emasculating clothing.
“IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ONE FOOT IN THE PUNK SCENE AND ONE FOOT IN THE STREETS.”
Can you tell me more about the boot logo?
ANDRE: [Laughs]. I was just sitting there one day and I was looking at old punk flyers and, at the time, listening to a lot of hard bodied skinhead shit. And I was just like, “Man, the boot itself is very powerful imagery.” Especially for punk, people sing songs about it and just talk about boots and what have you. I seen a boot on an old flyer and right then and there I put it together. I found [it] off an old punk flyer and then mocked it up or whatever and sent it over to him and it just clicked right away. It’s been the most consistent thing. I was just fucking with that, I didn’t think it would be something that people would identify us with. But it’s one of those things where it happened kind of by accident, it’s low key been becoming the imagery.
So that’s one design - can you tell me about another design from the collaboration that you guys are doing?
ANDRE: [To] touch back on gender roles, we have one where there’s a woman who is basically emasculating a man and has him in bondage gear in that position where the man’s kneeled down. It’s just something that I want to push with Nature World because I feel like a lot of brands are very male-centric, especially with the imagery, and I don’t fuck with that. I want to make stuff that anyone can wear, but specifically, I want to reach out to women and make hard-bodied shit that they can wear too.
So when you say other brands [are male-centric], are you just mostly referring to - I mean, obviously you’re not referring to just streetwear.
ANDRE: Yeah, not just streetwear, but I feel like there’s this low key undercurrent of sexism in fashion, which is the last place you would think to see. So that’s something we always try to go back to and bring out. Another thing is just having a feminine aspect, we do a lot of stuff that has roses or flowers. That’s something that’s always seen as really feminine, but the way that we try to present it is a little more harsh.
ANTWON: Dude it up a little bit. [Laughs]
What other motifs are recognizable with Nature World?
ANDRE: Old '90s sportswear. Obviously, you might be able to see some of the influence from Polo in our stuff or Nautica. One of the first things we did was this shirt that was kind of a play on the old Fubu jerseys. I know a lot of people do that stuff now, but the way we’re trying to do it is not a rip. Where it’s just continuing shit that is now low key ironic, like it’s ironic to wear a Fubu shirt. But back in the day, that was the shit that people were wearing, seriously wearing shit like that. So we’re bringing that into the fold too.
Kind of like a more sincere nostalgia with those things?
ANDRE: Yeah, I think that’s where the street and hip-hop element comes in because we do more sportswear-oriented stuff. But we do it in a way where you don’t have to be that kind of person to rock it, but if you are then you’ll see it and fuck with it and it won’t be corny. A lot of people do it and it looks corny to me, it’s just a rip off.
…We did this hat called the “Father” cap where we made our logo look like an old Polo logo. It was off one of those old dad-looking caps. It was more our shout out to that and to link it, so you might be able to be a punk and wear some Polo shit. It was something that came from [Antwon] because he’s big into that kind of stuff too.
So, obviously, [to Antwon] you had your thing with Unif, which also had the words Nature World in it.
ANTWON: Yeah, because I don’t want it to just be Antwon - that’s stupid, a whole bunch of clothes with the name Antwon on it. I just wanted to put more a Nature World thing on it because it’s like - off top, that’s part of me. It was Nature Boy Gang before that and I was like, “Yo, we’re not going to make Nature Boy clothes, that’s kind of weird because [it sounds like] we’re just basically marketing it to boys.” So I was like, “Nature World, anyone can get into that.”
It used to be Nature Boy? How long was it that?
ANTWON: That was maybe 2011 to 2014, right before we started the brand.
It kind of reminds me of Bugle Boy, do you remember Bugle Boy?
ANTWON: Yeah, that’s actually low key one of my influences too. Bugle Boy was on fire in the '90s.
ANDRE: Bugle Boy - we gotta give them a shout out, shout out to Bugle Boy. But it was just a thing where originally the collective was known as the Nature Boy Gang. It just didn’t match where we were going with and where everything was going. Nature World sits better with the imagery, I think. And it’s just easier to market and easier to work with. Because, like we said, it’s hard to hashtag.
ANTWON: Because you just get nature pictures.
ANDRE: I think less now, but when we first started, everyone would selfie in front of a tree and be like, “Nature Boy Gang.”
ANTWON: Nature basically just means natural - these natural things that happen that we’re all in a collective of. These things happen not because we’re trying to be that way, it just happened in a way that flows out of you. We got a bunch of creative people that just naturally have what they have.
[To Antwon] I remember in our interview I asked you something like, “Describe Nature World in three words,” and you said, “Natural, friendship… [community].”
ANTWON: And pizza.
We talked back then about how most musical collaborations for you that happen are never ones that have to do with any sort of reaching out - all of them are very organic and deeply rooted in friendship, or you felt like you were immediately friends with them when you started the collaboration.
ANTWON: That’s always how it kind of is. That’s why even with the shit with Good Company and shit with Cali, it’s all because we were cool before. We were just kind of like, “Oh, let’s do something.”
Some of our readers are mainly going to recognize Cali’s work from the artwork in that Off White collection. How would you describe Cali’s aesthetic in your own words?
ANDRE: I would describe it as very harsh but real - it’s reality. He does a lot of different stuff that - have you seen his poster boards? That’s what drew me to his stuff first. Then I saw the sweaters and everything. But it’s really reality-based -
ANTWON: The first shot I ever saw of Cali was a picture on a surveillance monitor on a subway of some girl eating out another girl on the subway and I was like, “Wait, what is this?” I was like, “That’s crazy, how did he get this picture?” That’s when I met him and we hung out - we hung out outside and it was snowing in New York. I was like, “Yo, it’s cold,” because it was snowing. And he was like, “Yeah, I really love riding my bike in the snow because it’s so exhilarating.” I was like, “Yo, I really like walking outside in the snow because I like breathing all this cold ass air, it’s kind of crazy.” Or how do you bike and it’s cold as fuck but you’re sweating?
During your interaction, what did you take from that?
ANTWON: He’s just a dude that actually cares about life. So you can see it through his art. Some people will just show you one side of something, but he shows you shit so much because he feels it all. Where everyone gets all fucked up and numbs themselves, he doesn’t get fucked up anymore, so he’s real sensitive to the whole world and we’re kind of numb to everything because we get high and drink every day and shit. But he’s -
He’s completely sober?
ANTWON: Yeah, he can take on everything and then he just shows it. I think not that many people can unlock that kind of ability in themselves. So he’s probably like the chosen few.
ANDRE: Yeah, he’s one of the few people I’ve ever met where I immediately felt 100% comfortable. I was like, “Man, this is the nicest human being I’ve ever met.” Because I used to ship shit out and I’d see him at the post office randomly before we started talking about anything like this. He would always give me advice on how to ship shit out - he’s just a really genuine person. People say that shit about other people all the time, but if you meet him you’ll know he’s a real fucking person.
I think it’s interesting that I asked you guys about his aesthetic and you guys looped back to his personality and your friendship. That’s telling of not only your approach to the collaboration, but your approach to your brand as well.
What kind of runs are you guys looking at for the collection?
ANTWON: It’s probably going to be pretty limited because Cali likes to do that shit limited.
ANDRE: Even as a brand, we kind of do our shit limited. Not because we want to be exclusive or anything, but it makes more sense to be kind of limited right now. We don’t really want to cheapen it for anybody that buys it and mass produce it. What we do, we try to keep it high quality. The look of the collaboration is more like we’re going to do - I don’t know, it’s an artistic statement I guess. At the same time it’s still a brand, it’s still a business. So it’ll be limited but it’ll be available at the same time.
“OUR LIFE IS CONTENT.”
Do you think, in the future, most things are going to be collaborative or will you have people that design for you?
ANTWON: Equal part in-house design and working with other people.
ANDRE: My dream with it is to grow it as much as possible to where we can get it so we have our team of people we can work with and just do more. Because right now, there’s not that many of us in the actual company so it’s a little bit harder. We’ve been working with Andy a little more and he’s bringing some more stuff to the table. But collaborations is something that I’d like to do, and having someone work with us, in-house, that’d be the dream. To just have somebody translate what we do and then just do it, we’d have way more stuff. We’re still early in it, it’s going to take a while until we get to the point where it’s a full-time thing.
You did mention, “One day this brand will be able to sustain itself and I won’t have to rap anymore.”
ANTWON: Yeah, I just want this brand to sustain itself and sustain me. I want this to be like Rocawear.
Do you know of any brands that share a similar approach?
ANDRE: I’m sure there is, but not in the way that we do it. Because we have a culture that we built around it. I know a lot of times people don’t take brands and musicians do as seriously, but we kind of have an advantage against all these people in that we’re actively creating the culture around it. We’re constantly creating content and music in itself is content; our life is content.
The WSSF X Nature World collaboration is an LA Art Book Fair exclusive, and will only be available at WSSF’s booth 79 this weekend from January 30-February 1.