Read our interview and peep the images, below.
Tell me about this shoot.
Noah: We’ve always wanted to go Tokyo, and Luka wanted to have something in his repertoire that was shot there because he’s never been photographed in Japan. Then we had the idea to fly out this model that we really like to be his girlfriend in the photos, doing a sort of ‘day in the life’ style shoot of what Luka would actually do in Tokyo if he was there with this girl. So, we went all over the city, and I just shot them doing everything from going to the arcade to just hanging out. The photos turned out looking really organic, because at the end of the day, that’s really what it was.
How long have you two been collaborating? What’s your process like?
Luka: We met on Twitter, like, three years ago. It’s basically that modern classic story of meeting on social media. But we’re basically the same person split in two bodies. We really do have one brain—we say the same things at the same time, we think the same things at the same time. It’s just never-ending. That’s how it goes.
Do you find there are any challenges working with another person? With art of any kind, there’s always a level of ego involved, and working with another person always requires some sort of compromise.
Noah: Working with anybody else, yeah, that’s usually a problem. But like Luka said, when we go into something, we pretty much always have the same vision, even if we don’t know it yet. We’ve really only fought like, twice, and that’s just because one of us was being snarky. But that’s really because we value each other’s opinions enough that if one of us doesn’t like the direction something is taking, we’re really willing to take a step back and take a second look at things, and really trust what the other one feels or has to say. Even though we’re both from totally opposite backgrounds and upbringings, it somehow just works out.
From left: Raf Simons archive bomber (on Lilah); Helmut Lang archive; all Junya Watanabe.
Speaking of backgrounds… how did you both get into art and photography?
Luka: I just woke up one day and was like, ‘This modeling shit sucks.’ Literally, dude. I hated being a model. So, I reached out to Noah because I liked what he was doing and I realized the only way for me to have fun in the fashion scene is to have my own thing going and to have full creative control.
Noah: Yeah, pretty much Luka DMed me saying, ‘I have an idea for this project’ and we just started working on it from there. But I’m from a small town in Colorado, and I was just shooting things like mountains and horses—stuff like that. Then we came together and everything kind of spurred from there.
Luka, you said the only way for you to have fun in the fashion world is for you to be doing your own thing. So, how do you make sure you’re always making something unique, especially now, when everything is so oversaturated?
Luka: Funny enough, we actually don’t pay much attention to what’s going on. We’re not a brand, right? So, we don’t make clothes. I mean, I can go to Fashion Week and it’ll inspire me, but not to go home and make some clothes that look exactly the same. So, on a creative level, most of what’s being pumped out, we don’t pay attention to, and most of what we do see, we don’t really like. Basically, we do shit because we hate a lot of what’s out there. So, it’s kind of like, ‘Let’s make shit we do like, so we don’t have to look at the shit that’s already done.’
What does inspire you, then?
Noah: It just depends—everything from laundromats to weirdos on Instagram that no one pays attention to. Just things we think are cool that most people probably don’t even notice.
Luka: Yeah, like lots of random stuff on the internet and troll culture—that’s a big inspiration to us. Trolling is very important in 2018.
What about for this shoot in Tokyo?
Noah: Right now, I don’t know—I’m just a really bad person to ask because everything I’ve seen leaves me feeling pretty underwhelmed. I look online and I see things that are almost cool, but then I think, ‘I wish fashion was more like it was in the mid-90s, or music in the mid-60s,' you know? I mean, this is going to sound super arrogant but I’m really inspired by us and what we’re doing—it just makes me want to do it more.
From left: Carhartt pants, Rick Owens shoes; Junya Watanabe shirt, Prada pants, Calvin Klein boots.
What do you like about Tokyo?
Noah: For me, it’s super modern and up-to-date but it’s actually so opposite from anywhere in the U.S. it’s insane. They still operate within the same spectrum as we do, but it’s just a completely different world. Total culture shock. And you don’t really expect it. If you go somewhere in South America, you might expect it to be completely different, but with Tokyo, since it’s such a big city, you expect it to be kind of like London, or New York. But then you go there and everything is the complete opposite, so it’s totally fascinating.
Luka: Yeah, and everything they do, they do it better than us.
What was it like shooting there?
Luka: It was so dope. We were just walking around, doing our thing, and I chose mostly archive clothes to wear. Like Noah said, there’s not a lot that’s coming out right now that we’re super into, so we went straight for archive stuff that’s probably the reference for all the shit right now.
What do you like, though? Like, when you get to style a shoot, listen to whatever record you want, whatever—what are the people, brands, things that you pick?
Noah: We like Rick Owens a lot. We’re going through another Aphex Twin phase that always comes and goes. I’ve also been liking a lot of Japanese directors from the ‘90s and Pier [Paolo] Passolini’s work.
Luka, you said you were over modeling. But technically, you’re modeling in this shoot. So, what is it about these kind of projects that keep you excited?
Luka: 100%. But also, now that I’m a personality, it feels like more people are shooting me for me, instead of how I look in the clothes. Do you know what I mean? It gives me way more say and creative input.
From left: Cherry top (on Lilah), Junya Watanabe top, Prada pants (on Luka); Saint Laurent pants (on Lilah), Comme des Garçons tops (on both).
It’s funny both of you said you don’t pay much attention to what’s happening, but a lot of what you have done has been a result of your presence on the internet. What role do you think social media has played in shaping your careers?
Noah: Obviously we wouldn’t be working together if it weren’t for the internet, and we’re both still on Instagram. I mean, of course, we both went through the kind of hypebeast phase where we knew everything that was going on all the time, and were always on our phones. But now, we like to be more in the moment, and rely on what we learned back then instead of constantly feeling like we need to be on top of what’s going on. We want to be making what’s next, not just continuously soaking in what’s already out there.
Luka: Of course we pay attention to what we like, but everything else is just noise—it doesn’t really matter.
Why the change? Do you think constantly being on your phone, always waiting for that new song, those new sneakers—is that bad for creativity as a whole?
Luka: Yeah, absolutely, mostly because then you end up doing shit that other people are already doing or have already done. Our brains are like a sponge. So, even if you squeeze it out from all of its contents, it’s still going to be damp, you know? Then you think you’re doing something cool and new, but really, it’s been done by a ton of other people.
Noah: That can be good, though, too, especially for people like Virgil [Abloh], because he knows how to take the things that are happening right now and tweak them, and reinterpret them, so they are totally original. That’s the way to push creative boundaries forward in this kind of climate. But taking your time on something, like people used to do—spending five years on a painting, or six years on a record—that doesn’t really happen anymore, because people are either going to forget about you, or—
Luka: Everyone’s attention span is five seconds long.
Noah: Right. Whoever can put out their work the fastest, is going to succeed. And that’s very depressing. But that’s also why the people who are really innovative are going to stand out.
It seems like authenticity is something that’s important to both of you in your work. This shoot, and a lot of the other work you guys produce together, follows that same sort of ‘day in the life’ kind of vibe.
Noah: Absolutely. Anyone can get a studio, hire a lighting guy and a make a moodboard on Tumblr. But it’s a whole different thing to actually take something that’s important to you and try to articulate it in a different way—in our case, through a photo.
From left: Raf Simons jacket, Maison Margiela archive boots; Saint Laurent pants, Comme des Garçons top.
If you could shoot anyone or with anyone—alive or dead—who would it be?
Noah: Dead? I’d probably want to shoot Jesus, but alive, I’d want to shoot Kim Jong-un—or Terry Richardson.
Luka: I’d want to shoot with Richard D. James [Aphex Twin] or [video artist] Chris Cunningham.
I can’t believe you said Jesus. I ask people variations of this question all the time, and they often give me some sort of super basic answer—like, a musician will say David Bowie and an actress will say Marilyn Monroe. But you said Jesus Christ...
Luka: Jesus is the biggest influencer of all time! He walked on water and went so hard, got so many likes. This guy died for our sins and then he dipped!
What does Hot Mess have coming up next?
Noah: We just unveiled a new American Apparel campaign that we did, and we have something with Margiela coming out. A lot of photos, videos, merch—just everything we can handle, or can't, that’s what we want to do and put out.
What do you want people to take away from your work, no matter the medium—whether it be merch or photos?
Noah: I just want to inspire people—for them to look at our stuff and think it’s cool enough that they want to go do something themselves.
Luka: We also want people to like it. If they don’t, they can go blow a bag, but if they do, then that’s sick.