Citizens of Nowhere
What inspired you to start this project?
I started Citizens of Nowhere as a creative reaction to the frustration that my friends and I were feeling around Trump, Brexit, and the refugee crisis, and the whole political climate that we’re in right now. A lot of my friends would be calling me telling me how upset they were, and I would feel the same way. A lot of us had anxiety around where we’d be in a year or two and rather than channeling that into anger I though I could channel that productively and make clothes.
Where does the name come from?
It comes from Theresa May’s 2016 speech where she declared that ‘If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.’ There was a massive media backlash against that speech, and against the nationalistic and xenophobic implications that it had, especially when you’re constantly told that we’re facing a refugee crisis and these people don’t have the choice to be global citizens and consider themselves that way. Almost 50% of London’s citizens were born outside of England, so it’s just a complete disconnect between Theresa May and the people that she’s actually governing.
Why did you choose to represent global identity through fashion branding?
I’ve been privileged enough to travel around the world, and I’ve noticed that everywhere you go to there’s bootleg and counterfeit culture - people wear Louis Vuitton monogram across the seven continents, Gucci is everywhere and Nike is pervasive in every single culture that I have got to know and it’s something that ties everyone together.
Why do you think the fashion branding and counterfeit culture and symbolism in fashion are particular relevant and appealing to young generations?
I think there’s something about logo culture that transfers importance on clothing that it doesn’t necessarily inherently have. I think the logos demonstrate affiliation to similar interests, but also there’s something democratic about bootleg culture and there's a valuing of the meaning behind the logo more than the authenticity of the logo itself. Not everyone can afford Gucci but people like Ava Nirui and Imran Potato are bringing back the hype around counterfeit and bootleg and everyone can afford to make their own t-shirts also, and that makes them cooler.
How did the other parts of this project originate? How did this project get you thinking forward?
I’ve been thinking to make a magazine to be the blueprint and manuscript for the whole project. I’ve been thinking of expanding into doing parties to fund-raise as well. I think there’s a very strong link between the charitable cause and the t-shirts too, because as much as clothing is a form of identifying yourself, I think many people are looking for meaning behind clothes - and there’s no point in making anything commercial if it doesn’t have a larger purpose.
How does the process of creating the t-shirts happen?
Basically I have to design the fonts myself on Photoshop because they’re hard to replicate, then I hand paint those onto screens and then I expose them with photosensitive fluid and screenprint all the sweatshirts myself. Same for the sweatpants, that also feature a super strong sailing nylon cord. I think everything has to be handmade, everything is imperfect, for copywrite issues but also because it just makes it a more interesting, bespoke product.
Why did you choose Refugee Action specifically and not other charities?
Refugee Action is London based, which is close to home and it’s everything Citizens of Nowhere is revolving around. But also it’s a very small charity that doesn’t focus on giving short term relief, but instead gives long term sustainable aid by giving people free legal aid and job support. There’s already not that many refugees that are being let into the country, so they may as well be supported appropriately while they’re here. For example, now Refugee Action’s big campaign is to round up the government and make sure everyone is getting high quality free English lessons, because if you can’t communicate in the country you are living in, there’s no chance of you succeeding and there’s no point having people come over and not giving them the basics they need.
What do you hope to achieve with this project?
I think mostly it’s a way of transforming general anxiety and frustration into something productive and of showing how everyone with very little action can actually make a difference - whether it’s buying something whose proceedings are going to something constructive, or even making something yourself. It’s just spreading the word and turning these moments of hopelessness into something hopeful.
Do you think fashion can be a form of protest and denunciation of social issues? Is this something you’ve looked into for this project?
I think it can be a form of social protest and denounce mainstream culture. When there was the Jeremy Corbyn Nike bootleg, it wasn’t doing anything constructive but it was showing affiliation to a specific politician, whether you like Corbyn or not.
Do you think this project can get more people and talking about social issues?
I think it can bringing greater awareness. Especially with the Palace sweatshirts - I don’t think or know if a lot of 15-year-old hypebeasts care about the refugee crisis, but if they buy the Palace bootleg they can read more into it and be concerned, or show their concern into a way that’s also marketable and makes them look cooler.