// by Shamika Tamhane //
PHASER recently had the chance to speak to Lydia Jenner, founder and head director of 808 London, an up-and-coming streetwear brand rooted in urban culture and dance.
808 prides itself for bringing creativity and versatility to streetwear that can be worn by all genders. Their latest collection shows a brand that is unafraid to take risks and is confident in its approach.
ST: What’s the story behind the name of the brand? And why does ‘808’ feature on many of your pieces?
LJ: The story behind the ‘808’ is an interesting one. I was 17 and walking around LA when the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) pulled up next to me and all the police officers ran out shouting “We have an 808”. I was intrigued by what 808 meant, just as I wanted to know what was going on, and it turned out to have a super cool meaning. ‘808’ is police code for when someone is disturbing the peace: a peace disruptor. The number ‘808’ features on so many of our pieces as it is a movement people want to be a part of. It brings people together and by including it on our clothing; it is a symbol of unity amongst the artists and creatives that wear our brand.
How did the business initially get going?
808 initially got going from my bedroom when I was 16. I had watched a YouTube tutorial on how to make a silk screen and went from there. It turned out pretty well, making custom pieces and customising denim. They were initially for myself as there was no clothing on sale that I wanted to wear. People kept asking me where I was getting my clothes and from there I decided to start selling. Then, I used this money to invest in the brand and just kept making money and investing it.
Who is your client base?
Our client base is pretty international. We get orders from our online websites and shops from all over the world. This week alone we have had sales anywhere from Australia to Ireland.
Your brand is firmly rooted in the UK dance and music scene – how have these things influenced the brand?
Although our brand has its roots in music and dance, our influences are much broader than that. We take inspiration from everything in our lives. We are especially influenced by the wider street culture of London. We create our pieces for ourselves based on what we would like to wear out on a daily basis. We also get inspiration from each other and all vibe off one another to create our clothing.
You said you were inspired by the street culture of London. What are your favourite parts of the city?
There are a few; I spend my time in a lot of different places but I love the arty places especially such as Hackney, Brick Lane, Shoreditch and South Bank. I also love Brixton, Peckham and Swiss Cottage as there are always great finds in the markets and on the streets. Everything from the street art, and the style of clothing worn inspires us. The colours of the city and architecture also give inspiration – how the greenery mixes with the concrete, that kind of thing.
Recently we have seen a real movement towards the appreciation of long-life, investment pieces rather than fast fashion items. What are your opinions on this debate, and where do you think your brand stands on that spectrum?
I think that statement is partly correct. People have been more interested in investing in long-life pieces but they also have been buying fast fashion pieces. It’s always good to have a mixture of items in your wardrobe, some long-life investment items and some fast fashion you can wear out with friends. On the spectrum, I think our brand is somewhere in the middle, we have a new line coming soon that is geared more towards investment pieces alongside some fast fashion pieces. I think It’s always good to have a mix as a brand.
Which celebrity would be your dream client or brand ambassador?
My dream client would be someone like Kanye West or Nike. I love the creativity and platform to share a message that they both have. My dream ambassadors would have to be Kehlani, Cardi B or Lil Simz.
Who is your personal style inspiration?
I don’t have a style inspiration – I think I am my own inspiration. I just buy what I like and then if I think it looks good, I wear it. 90% of the time the clothing goes.
808 London (via Student High Street): Flag of Faces T-Shirt, £20
Where do you see 808 London going in the next couple of years?
In the next couple of years, I want to be somewhere like Los Angeles walking down the street pass someone with an 808 tee on.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out with their own brand?
If I could give advice to someone starting out, I would advise them to make the clothes for themselves, not for what they think people would want. I would also say that you shouldn’t let people take credit for your hard work.
Cover image courtesy of Lydia Jenner