Thaddeus O’Neil’s Surf Children Of The Night

New York-based luxury label Thaddeus O’Neil creates play wear for the romantic merman après surf. Thaddeus’ namesake label is an homage to the hobos of the sea; a salty-hairred squad of nonchalant nomads, free-spirited thinkers and rebellious beach bums alike. His wave-driven vision for design manifests the organic playfulness of water, an authentic perspective based on a life-long relationship with surf ideology and counterculture. Now for New York’s first men’s week, the international Woolmark Prize-nominee showcased his tropical-motifed Spring/Summer 2016 collection in vamped up style (bloody noses included!) We caught up with the poet behind the brand to discuss the incident that inspired his novel Dracula-influenced presentation titled “Children of the Night.”

T_HimselfThaddeus O’Neil backstage

“The sea has always been my biggest inspiration; its movement

and dynamism, the colors and textures and life that it conjures.”

So you just debuted your SS16 collection in your first ever runway show; how has your brand evolved this season?

I care more for the fact of evolution than the how. The challenges, adaptations and accidents constantly reintegrated into the whole. As long as it has evolved in some meaningful way – and this will evidence itself as to the how differently to different audiences – I’m happy. And I am happy! So there is the fact of that. If happiness is a signature or trace of evolution then my collection and I have evolved. But something I try to keep in mind is that excess has meaning only in relation to restraint. It’s like when Bataille says “I love purity to the extent of loving impurity.” Everything interesting to me is at the margins and thresholds of a relation where things morph into and become other new things.

This summer assemblage was a lot darker (aesthetically) than your previous collections. What triggered the inspiration for this “Dracula meets surf” unveiling?

Materially the collection itself isn’t darker. The darker play was in the inspiration for and performance of our show. The concept was prompted by a very mytereious-feeling surf break in Latin America when I was sitting out in the water alone. It was a deep set cove with big lush mountains by a river mouth and the sun was going down and the sky was magnificent but savage. And the locals – guys and gals – were friendly enough and beautiful looking, but I started having imaginings of them as this hidden away community of vampire surfers, modern vampire mermaids and vampire mermaid-men. Then I started thinking about it as a film and what that would look like and I was sitting there on my board laughing hysterically. Some of the locals must have thought I was completely crazy. For the show I wanted to play with and mingle these two very rigid archetypes and create a new feeling within each idea, a becoming-other of each. Again it’s a relation deforming form into new form. I wanted to bring the surfer and vampire into an encounter to darken and gothicize the idea of the surfer and lighten and liberate the idea of the vampire. The idea was very Lost boys meets Point Break so Dracula dropping in on Larry Clark or Gus van Sant at Waimea. Besides, the only thing sexier than a surfer is a vampire, and the only thing sexier than a vampire is a surfer. So there you go.

 

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You’ve stated that you design your label for “the hobos of the sea.” Does this still remain the backbone of your vision?

Yes it does, but this is a psychological-spiritual description more than anything literal. I think these people know who they are.

Why is surf culture and ideology such a strong point of reference for you?

Well on a very basic level, it’s what I’m familiar with in a certain intimate way. But it is also a rich source for me to mine because it is non-ideological. Surfing culture is traditionally rooted in deconstructing and militating against tradition. Not in a serious pedantic way, but in a very easy, playful, laconic, we-don’t-give-a-shit-way. The irony and significance of course in all this is that all such rebellion, even the rebellion of casual non-concern requires this idealist traditional base to hack into, revolt against, extract from and form new information. In a parallel way, culturally and stylistically speaking, surfer-sartorial imperatives are a mash-up or cut-up poem. It’s also very accidental and found. It’s the appropriation of the ready-at-hand. It’s very Hobo.

What is your WILD Wish?

It’s a secret wish.

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text by: Nicole Zane

photography by: Avinash Hirdaramani










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