Photo provided by the Ps & Qs dudes’ Facebook page.
One of my favorite stores in the city is Ps & Qs. Pretty sure you’ve figured that out by the handfuls of posts I keep putting up. One of the reasons I love the store so much is because of a couple of the dudes that run the place: the owner, Ky Cao, and one of his trusty associates, Saeed Ferguson (pictured above in the bottom left). They’re just chill dudes with good style, and they seem to enjoy talking shit with me about menswear shopping in the city and brands and shit. And Cao seems to be keen on putting together some really cool in-store events. I missed an event a couple weeks back that featured the Naked & Famous denim guru, Brandon Svarc. But when I got prodded to come see what these guys The Madbury Club were all about, I said to myself, This can only be interesting. Not knowing much about the dudes, other than what Cao’d told me (essentially, they run a blog, but they’re also creatives who do all kinds of stuff), I knew I was in for some kind of a lecture and a Q&A. Those kinds of things are always good to get my blood pumping and my brain twitching.
So, let me break a few things down before I get into my thoughts.
The Madbury Club’s been evolving for years. What started, primarily, with Phillip T. Annand and his budding Award Tour T-shirt game, with the assistance (he’ll say mostly packing boxes of shirts) of his boy Ellington Hammond, has grown considerably and taken on a few different variations of a mission. TMC is far from a T-shirt company in 2013. Annand and Hammond have been recruiting. They’ve pulled in a handful of creative and spiritual dudes (this is, 100%, a sausage party; some of em’ from Philly) to help them mold and sculpt their creative vision. But what they’re more than willing to admit is that this vision isn’t totally in focus— or at least, they’re willing to admit that they’re not even sure exactly what they do. They’re somewhere in between a creative team that’d be not unlike a small ad agency (but only on the creative side), a collective of artists/photographers/videographers/creative producers and fashion fans. Seriously, it wouldn’t feel right to call these dudes stylists or fashion editorialists, but they just love sweet goods. Especially sneakers. Over on The Madbury Club site, you’ll find some extraordinary lookbooks in which they themselves act as curators and models. Certainly they’ve got brands they turn to on the regular, but what they seem to do most genuinely is dress themselves in current, urban, modern and clean looks.
One of the reasons these guys got started in this line of internetting is pretty simple: They were bored with what was being offered to them. Complex, SPIN, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, Street Etiquette—these were ‘zines/blogs that they eagerly and excitedly consumed, but they inevitably felt bored by them, or at least, they didn’t feel like they were being as adventurous or as creative as they could be. So, they started a site. One of the things they were certain about was that they wanted the visuals to be extra. They wanted spreads to be full-screen affairs with outstanding content. “Content” is actually what TMC seems most obsessed with, and that was one of the weirdest aspects of the night. What this content is is, again, something they’re deciding on as they go.
Take “Chazebralope” (below), for instance, one of their most recent efforts. It’s essentially a trailer for a movie that will never be made, but it’s an ambitious one. The vision came from a choice of six sneakers from PUMA that they could make something visual for. They picked the ugliest one, the one with more than five different animal prints on one shoe, and crafted a narrative around the idea of a mythical beast. A dangerous one–a mixture of a cheetah, an antelope, and a zebra (obviously). They shot for almost a week in the deserts of Utah and boiled down hundreds of hours of footage into a high-end, visually-dazzling trailer. Shoes are hardly the focus. But TMC guys are starting to catch on to the fact that they’ve got what some companies are looking for to the T. They’re young, they’re stylish, they’re urbane, they’re sophisticated, and they have taste, but most importantly, in their own way, they have the technical and artistic know-how to make an outstanding visual product. When they got their first giant wheat-pastes plastered all over New York City, they knew they’d made it. Sort of.
Here’s the troubling thing, for me, about these guys: They’re all clearly very talented; they’ve got GREAT eyes for visual aesthetics; they know clothes and shoes, and they’re trying to explore the unknown realms of the nebulous worlds of creative new media. It’s like dark matter. The sky is the limit. Craft yourself a strong following with a killer Instagram feed or recruit a rabid Twitter following, and sometimes, the world is your oyster. You could turn into a famous blogger (at least, until, the flash in the pan cools down) and start appearing on TV as the voice of a generation. But to do it all while continuously expressing the idea “We’re not sure what we’re doing” is disheartening because it feels a little like the blind leading the blind.
The team has found creative epiphanies and renewed their zeal by traveling, a pretty big component of their blog (which, at the moment, isn’t nearly as robust or updated as it used to be, and they’re OK with that). And one of the heaviest topics entertained in the Q&A session was the idea of following your creative heart, and if that means saying “Fuck it, let’s go to California and see what happens,” you buy your tickets, and you all cram into one hotel room or tent and do it on the cheap if you have to. School is not for everyone, and a degree doesn’t get you anywhere. You get yourself to wherever you absolutely have to—and adventure is essential to a truly lived life.
I just have to share one more thing. In the Q&A, there was a dude who purported himself to be an art school graduate who teaches art, and he applauded the collective for rebuffing or at least questioning the value of an art degree, but finding much more value in just constantly creating and constantly experimenting. At one point, Annand talked shit about Duchamp’s “The Fountain,” which I didn’t really approve of. He was making a point, though– when stuffy art heads make something absurd, call it art, and it’s lauded as genius, it can be a little disconcerting. But art teacher dude managed to make the analogy that the work TMC is doing, work that we got to see lots of in their presentation, is in fact exactly like Duchamp’s “Fountain,” but in 2013. To him, I say, “No sir. I heartily disagree.”