Beachroad chat with designer Siôn Rees the founder of clothing brand Vive Ahora. As Siôn says... "We've been around for a long time, playing in the background."
NAME? // My name is Siôn Rees, I was never given a middle name.
YOUR FIRST JOB? // The first job I landed myself was as an photographers assistant. I was about 12 years old and we were shooting garden furniture sets for a catalogue in different locations across South Wales. My role was to help set up the sets, check the lighting with the light meter and to give the test polaroid a shake while it developed before getting the proper shots. Film was still being used at that point and digital was only just starting to take over.
YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION // I'm currently a graphic designer based in South Wales UK. I work for a well established design agency called Pentagon Design. I concentrate mainly on brand building and web design... I'm also the owner of SFC Fitness. It's a high intensity fitness class that trains using elements of Boxing / Kick Boxing and Karate... But more recently I started up Vive Ahora. I'm quite a busy guy.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START VIVE AHORA? // There are two reasons I founded Vive Ahora, Love being the first, I've always loved to create. I've been obsessed with different artists and different mediums of creation from a very young age, and even though I spend each day designing and creating for clients, I still get the urge to do more "Art" stuff for myself. I guess you call those passion projects, or selfish.
Whichever way you want to look at it.
Reason two was frustration, I started to get infuriated by these so called "streetwear brands" I kept coming across online. They were all copying each others designs, they were all using the same models doing the same poses. There was not an ounce of originality in their "brands". Especially the small scale ones that were growing at a rapid pace. They aren't in it for the right reasons. There’s no history or culture in what they do, and it really got to me. Vive Ahora is partly a middle finger to all of those guys because (where I'm from especially), it seems that the new "look" is to have complete unoriginality in your style.
WAS STARTING THE BUSINESS AN EASY PROCESS? // Well... originally it wasn't a business. It started as a little social experiment. I created an anonymous instagram account where I'd post old illustrations, photographs and designs from my design archives. I wanted to see what attention it would get.
Within the first three weeks of having the account I managed to gain myself some work for a shoe company called Guariz out in Miami. After that I started putting my designs onto t-shirts. Just for fun. I've always loved the idea of having my own clothing line, as I enjoy designing pieces that I can wear myself. I used to design my own t-shirts back when I was in school, using those iron on sheets you could get from office supply stores. Doing it this way is even better though, as I now get to ee others wear my clothes.
I guess the business process started once I had a couple of sample tees done. I didn't really know what I was doing. I came across a local independent printing company run by a young guy named Martin. Unlike others he had a real eye for getting the perfect finish on my pieces. He understands how I want my finished products to look. We work well together. This attention to detail is vital part of the process for me.
Once I had a few tees printed, I thought if I got them photographed, I could build myself an online store and see if people wanted to buy them.
So from then on, everything I did was sourced locally. I used a local photographer named Francesca Goodridge, and she helped me find local models and used locations in our area to shoot the first set of tees. It was important to me that the brand was "home grown" you could say.
I didn't have many designs printed because I was still experimenting with the instagram account, but once the first shoot was complete I then had some imagery to work with, so I built the online Vive Ahora store.
So all in all, as I enjoy the whole process, it remains relatively easy.
WHERE WOULD YOUR DREAM VA STORE BE LOCATED? // Since Vive Ahora is currently only selling through viveahora.co.uk it remains pretty exclusive. I like that. Having an actual store had never really crossed my mind, but a few weeks ago I saw a picture of the Hollywood hills pop up on my insta...
I love the palm trees and how the sun just makes everything better, and I thought "to have a little VA store in the US would be sick!"... I'd probably go for Venice Beach though. I think the store would sit quite comfortably there.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE BRAND IN 5 YEARS TIME? // Vive Ahora is a Spanish translation of the words "Live Now", which leads me to... “Action always happens in the present, because it is an expression of the body, which can only exist in the here and NOW. But the mind is like a phantom that lives only in the past or future. It's only power over you is to draw your attention out of the present.” - The way of the peaceful warrior (a book I once read). So to answer your question about my brand in 5 years means I'm not really "Living Now". Vive Ahora?, who knows... But my admiration for the brands with history behind their name means I'd like to be in this for the long haul.
WHY SHOULD SOMEONE WEAR VA? // VA should be worn because the inspiration for the VA pieces come from two very different cultures. The brand also has meaning. I'm highly influenced by the effortlessly cool surf and skate scene (even though I'm a terrible skateboarder and surfer) I still love the culture and style.
I'm also a huge fan of the whole Manchester rock and roll scene influenced by bands such as Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and of course the Football Casuals of the 80s. This is slightly closer to home for me.
In my eyes, both cultures and life styles are worlds apart, yet Vive Ahora is the bridge that links them both together. This strange combination of aesthetics and styles make Vive Ahora unique, and that's why it should be worn. It's not for the sheep.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE DESIGNS AND DESIGN PROCESS? // My designs often come from the music I'm listening to and the mood I'm in. I take inspiration from almost anything, and without being too pretentious, those are where the foundations of the design process start. I'm also big into recycling things from the archives. I'm currently working on the VA Compass project. It's an updated adaptation of some previous prints I had done. They'll be in a separate category in the online store. Special edition you could say.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CLOTHING BRAND? // I have a lot of respect for the following brands for different reasons:
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOTWEAR BRAND? // Even though I love the craft of Nike, it's Adidas for me every time. You can't go wrong with adidas.
YOUR GREATEST LOVE? // My greatest loves in no particular order are:
YOUR GREATEST FEAR? // Living my whole lifetime without ever having been awake.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY? // When I was younger, (back in the early 90’s), my parents helped me and my little brother make a Batman film using the family video camera. My brother was Batman, I was Robin, my dad was the bad guy and my mother was the camera woman. We used my Batman toy on a piece of fishing line as a stunt double for the special effects. The credits were also hand written on paper.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY? // I'm not sure if these guys are role models or influencers to me, but Mike Skinner from The Streets and Liam Gallagher are both gods to me. I believe Skinner's creativity is on another level in all different mediums, while Gallagher has an aura around him of ultimate coolness. He is king.
YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST? // There are too many to list for too many different reasons. When it comes to branding I'm a huge fan of Michael C Place from the Leeds based design agency Build. As well as Dylan Griffith from Smörgåsbord in Cardiff, I truly find their branding work inspiring.
For more off the wall stuff, Shia Labouf is a bit nuts and I like where his head's at, as well as Mike Skinner. The Photography he was doing for a while is pretty mental. It's nothing but it's something, similar to William Eggleston (who’s work I LOVE). He even invented his own music genre called 'Sour House'. What a legend. Then you have the obvious Andy Worhol who is always a safe answer. I appreciate his eccentric-ness. You have to be almost insane to your craft.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE JOURNEY AND DESTINATION? // Out of all the beautiful places I've been and I'd like to go to, one of my favourite journey's is the drive from my home of Wales to Scotland... the scenery is breath taking at times.
I also have a list of places I intend on traveling to in the near future, these places include Okinawa, Thailand, Madagascar, Alaska and Jamaica. But this year, I'm going to Morocco.
WHO IS YOUR GREATEST FASHION INFLUENCE? // At the minute the fact that Mike Skinner only seems to be rocking black attire is quite influential to me. I'm in all black while answering this question. Black VA tee and adidas trainers too obviously. I also read an interview the other day where Liam Gallagher said "It never lets you down, black, does it?"... So I'd say Gallagher and Skinner again I guess.
WHAT IS THE LAST GIFT YOU GAVE SOMEONE? // I recently bought new pj's for both my sisters on their birthdays.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION? // There are two things I own that are treasured to me. I have a golden cross necklace that my grandmother gave to me on my 18th birthday. I also have it tattooed on my left leg. The other thing is a 17th Lancers 'Death or Glory' badge that my grandfather gave me. It's from World War 1 and it was his uncles. I have that tattooed on my right leg. (There's also a ‘Death or Glory’ tee under the 'Experiment' section on the website)
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CHILDREN? // Work hard, be nice to people... and don't be a sheep.
WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? // Ideas. My mind is always ticking with ideas. I'm terrible for coming up
with things late at night just as I'm about to go to bed. I've started forcing myself to not get out of bed and act on them. I understand the importance of sleep now. Especially to me. It's taken me a long time to realise that without sleep I function but I quickly crash and burn.
YOUR WORST TRAIT? // My time keeping and staying up late. It's something I need to work on. Again that's a lack of discipline as I always get distracted by ideas. As you might have guessed inside my cranium is a bit of a ticking time bomb. I also think I'm a people pleaser. I need to learn to say no more. I hate letting people down, which can often be to my detriment.
THE WORST TRAIT IN OTHERS THAT GETS YOU MAD? // Mess and dramatics. As I grow older I'm learning that being mellow is the way forward. As my grandfather once told me "It will all be the same in a 1,000 years." (I'm still trying to work out exactly what it means - But I know it's to do with being mellow). There's never need for drama.
YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIES? // Rocky 1 to CREED (Bar the 5th Rocky. That’s crap.) Karate Kid, Judge Dredd (The Original), Twin Town, Human Traffic, I Love You New York, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, I’m Still Here, Quadrophenia, Warrior Batman Begins / The Dark Knight / Dark Knight Rises, Layer Cake, City of God, Cop Land, Oasis: Supersonic, A Bronx Tale, Pulp Fiction, RocknRolla, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Trainspotting, Notting Hill, This is England, Batman Returns, The Drop, Napoleon Dynamite, Step Brothers, The Spirit of 69 (It’s a short on YouTube) and Zemanovaload I keep coming back to this question and adding more. I could go on forever... I love films.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE? // It would be awesome if Tom Hardy did. He's just got that level of cool I could never actually achieve in real life. It would also be cool to have Shia Labouf do it. I think he's pretty mental in a good way and I believe he'd play me well. But then again, Tom Hardy did a good Charles Bronson, and I think of my brain as a creative Bronson. Unpredictable and strange.
I'm not too sure. - I don’t think Ritchie or Scorsese are in any rush to make a movie about me though.
LAST RECORD / DOWNLOAD YOU BOUGHT? // Cream - Club Anthems 2012. I love a rave, and 2012 / 2013 in my opinion were good years for the club scene.
LAST BOOK YOU BOUGHT? // How to be f*****g awesome by Dan Meredith.
THE CLOSEST YOU HAVE COME TO DEATH? // I've been in two car crashes which were both on the motorway at a reasonably high speed. (I was only driving in the one)... Neither were nice, and I'm grateful that no one was hurt in either.
FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION? // There's a little village in Spain called Cala d'Or... If you go to the right spots it's just a little piece of perfect.
LEAST FAVOURITE TRAVEL DESTINATION? // London. It's a great city with plenty of opportunities, but I'm always grateful to be coming home when I leave there.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH? // Lauren (my girlfriend) is good at making me laugh until my sides hurt. I also found myself chuckling while listening to Jack Whitehall and his father's audio book the other week.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY? //Rocky 3, the scene where Mickey dies. It gets me every time. I’ve seen it about 80 times. Also something happened in Stranger Things that set me off not so long ago. I've been told I have a lot of empathy... Or you could say I'm just a big baby.
YOUR MESSAGE? // My motto: "I've been around for a long time, in the background." - I think that sums me up quite a bit. VA's motto: "Live Now." My Message: "Be nice to people." - It's one of the most valuable things I've ever learned. You can never beat being a nice person.