The North Face and Alfie Kungu teamed up earlier this year to produce a first capsule collection. In a unique offering unlike anything The North Face has dropped before, the 10-piece unisex range – made up of garments, bags and mules – comes doused in the artist’s signature abstractural art.
The designs draw inspiration from Kungu’s enduring love of the outdoors, nurtured by his upbringing in the hills of Yorkshire. Kungu uses a palette that includes earthy greens as well as cool blues and deep violets. This is a reference to the adventurous wildlife that has always surrounded him. The overlapping prints can be seen as a landscape of rivers and mountains, with twinkling skies if you look closely.
For the new collaboration, Kungu took to both his remote Yorkshire studio and inner-city London space to create the “hundreds upon hundreds of characters, compositions and abstract pieces” that led to his final print. Kungu invited Hypebae to his East-London studio for an exclusive interview. Read more below.
What was the first thing that drew you to art?
Because my dad is a great painter and my mother is very good at painting, I have always been around art. As a child, I loved drawing wild animals and monsters. It was a great way to pass the time, and it was something I was familiar with so I kept at it until I realized I had no choice but to stop.
Let us know a bit about your practice and how it has evolved over the years.
I’ve found that I don’t really like to break up my practice into separate things. All of it is interconnected. Relief painting is the technique I’ve been using for just over a decade. I will take a canvas and cover it with silk. Then, I’ll do the painting onto the silk and take off the canvas from the back and it’s got the bleed through – the relief. It creates wonderful nuances that are impossible to intentionally paint in. It is the mistakes and gaps you make that add more essence to your painting than the one which you actually attempted to do. The bits you don’t paint tell a more interesting story. Although it may seem a little excessive, once you are familiar with something it is like your favorite food. No matter how many times you make it, it still tastes good.
You have a distinct technique with bold colors and textures. Why should they be an integral part of your work?
One of my favorite things is to experiment with new materials. You want to feel the relationship between texture and color. Exploration with different materials is what I believe gives my work its distinctive oversaturated color use and drives me to create more. It’s also about pairing colors. A single color is great. It is the connection between two colors that excites me.
Let’s talk about the importance of materials. How does your collaboration with the North Face and work with garments compare with the usual art sheets that you create?
It was actually the same approach I took to it, trying to imagine how I could make my idea into a piece art. It was either a garment, bag, or mules at first. Just needed to create a piece and translate the elements into colors. Blue is the water, sky and land, and green is the earth and the nature. Having these elements allowed me to create an environment in the painting as well as an abstract composition. I tried to break it down. First, I created the foreground. This will be similar to the river, and it continues on to the mountains, then the sky. Each color is related to different environments in nature.
Did you have any feelings or emotions you wanted to see in the design?
It was great to be able share my passion and express my love for nature and the outdoors through my practice. They’re seemingly quite separate things – you might be quite outdoorsy, and also make artwork but they come together. It was an exciting experience to create this collection. I love the way it expresses my love of nature and the outdoors.
Why is your fascination with the outdoors so strong in your work environment?
I’m always inspired by the outdoors because no matter how familiar you are with somewhere, there’s always something new that you’ll come across and it’s just really important to me to spend time outdoors.
What does the North Face really mean to someone who grew up in the country?
It’s been my favorite outdoor brand since I was a kid. When I was younger, I asked my mom if she could help me get one. The North Face puffer jacket was my go-to for studio work when I arrived at university in Bristol. It was so cold that it was always on. Over the years, it just got more and more paint on and eventually it was covered on the inside and outside – and I still have that jacket. I’d wear it all the time in my studio and people would always say, “Is that a limited edition?” Or, “Is that a collab?” I’d always reply, “one day, one day.” But without realizing, the jacket related to this collaboration. I thought ‘I could do it like this’ and make it part of the story.
Hypebeast is now showing the Alfie Kungu collaboration with The North Face. To shop the pieces featured, head to The North Face’s website now.