Nok Nok was born out of a nickname given to now, fashion designer, and CEO, Angel Nokonoko when he was growing up. Nok Nok injects a fusion of London subcultures including old school punk, rock, as well as the more urban, hip-hop, R&B and trap culture. Another element of influence for the brand is based around where Angel grew up, the island of Ibiza. This is where the nightlife influences and the edginess starts to shine through.
How did you first get into designing clothing and running your own company?
‘It happened very naturally. When I was in Ibiza at the age of sixteen, seventeen, I used to make T-Shirts and customize my jeans. I then used to make clothes for me and my friends for when we used to go out. At the time, it was just so much fun. When we were out clubbing, I would show the DJs my work and ask them to wear it, and this just caught on to the point where DJs were asking me for the clothes, so I ended up making t-shirts for DJs around Ibiza which was awesome.’
‘I wondered how I could take it to the next level, I thought going to London would be a great opportunity, so I studied at Central Saint Martins for four years. That was a great experience, I loved those years, they were so much fun. I felt in a way I had brought a little bit of Ibiza here, I used to hold parties at the universities! In London, there are people from everywhere, Spain, Japan, Italy, so I felt why don’t we host some Ibiza style parties, so as a slight side hustle, that’s what I did.’
‘Then I went to work in Paris, I was at John Galliano & Christian Dior for some time, it was a bit of a learning curve, I saw a little bit of the high-end luxury side of the market, but I didn’t really connect with it, I found it was just a little bit too shallow for me. So I came back to London where I worked for some smaller brands where I designed menswear.’
‘That was fun, we did a bit of everything, we did a bit of leather, denim, shirts. All of the clothing we produced was made in Italy, really good quality, we used to use really nice fabrics and very high-end leathers. In fact, I still have some of the jackets and they still look great after so many years, I still wear them. For me, quality, sometimes you pay a bit more, but in the long run, its worth it as you still have great value & longevity on it.’
‘At Nok Nok, we base a lot of our collections around denim because my background is very denim focused, I’ve been working in denim for the past 10 years, so it makes sense. We make all of our denim in Italy also. ’
‘The price of our denim is high, but there is a reason behind the pricing. First of all, we make them in Italy and we use Italian sustainable & organic types of denim. Then we use a lot of internal details, internal prints in all of them, we use binding in the seems which are printed, then we add a lot of hand finishing and in addition, most of the pieces are limited edition.’
‘For me, those times where you’re not really thinking about selling, you are so free’
How did you develop your designing skills?
‘It was a natural thing, I think you are either creative or not. For me, I enjoyed customizing clothing, I enjoyed writing things, I used to use it as an expression, it was a bit of an art form. You need the side of learning the process, of course, pattern cutting and sewing, for those ones you need to go to universities where they can teach you, and keep you up to date with the latest techniques. Nowadays, everything is going a bit more tech, so you have a lot of software where you can design, back in the day you had to do everything by hand, everything is more computerised now, and that takes some teaching to get used to.’
Can you remember what your first piece of clothing was?
‘I remember I customised these wool pants, if I think back now, I don’t know what I was doing haha. I wrote in a gold pen on the crotch ‘brown sugar’. I remember I used to make a lot of T-shirts when I started which were made with denim patchwork, with the words, ‘I’m so sophisticated.’ The thing that I liked was that all the letters were in denim which I hand-stitched on.’
‘That kind of style I did often when starting out. Then I did another one where I cut the pocket of the denim, then I put it on the t-shirt of the front, and then the waistband of the denim I put on the edge of the hem on the t-shirt. I used to do things like this and it gained a lot of attention early on, friends asking if they could have one.’
‘I also made one for this big DJ back in the day called Smokin Jo. I made this striped black and red t-shirt, and then I had a camouflage fabric on one sleeve and then the other one was made out of lace. I was just playing around and being creative, not even thinking about selling or not. For me, those times where you’re not really thinking about selling, you are so free, you are just enjoying the process, and that’s a very important thing to remember when you’re starting out. In the coming year, I also made t-shirts for other DJs like Loco Dice, Hector, and a few others.’
You originated from Ibiza, what was it like growing up there, and what was the creative scene like?
‘Growing up in Ibiza, there are good parts and bad parts. The good things are that you grow in a little bubble where everything is light, you don’t have much crime, it’s very safe, but on the other side to that, you grow up a little bit naive, grow up thinking everyone is nice. If you compare Ibiza to the real world, like when you come to the City, there is so much cloud, so much noise, but in a way, I loved that side of London.’
‘Ibiza was great, you had the sea, you had the sun, it’s an easy life, and then in the summer everything just booms. I remember there was a change when I was 14/15 going on to 16, when I started to go out with my mates and you start seeing and meeting the tourists. Once we could start going out to the clubs, then it was really exciting.’
‘Because we were from the island, we used to know all the bouncers and some of the DJ’S, so we used to go out Monday-Sunday during the summer, every night we used to go out, drink, smoke, I mean I was one of the softest from my group, the other guys were way more hardcore than me. This was great because we met so many people. I think that had a huge part to play in going to London as I would meet so many people who had come from London, I felt so connected with them, in the way they dressed, the way they thought,… I felt like it could be an interesting place for me to checkout.’
‘There is definitely a lot of creativity on the island. You have lots of artists, lots of painters. For me, the most creative was the nightlife. You had all the dancers, you had the creative directors behind the dancers, they used to create outfits out of nothing. They would go to a fabric store, buy a few fabrics, cut them off and put them on the girls and boys, and then create their make-up on top.’
‘Seeing that process was so creative, seeing all the gays, all the transvestites and all the beautiful women… for me, it was just like, wow!. The whole concept of the parties was incredible. I remember back in the day there was a party called Manumission, for me that was the best party Ibiza has ever had. It was really big in the 2000s, I think they stopped in 2009.’
‘This party was really creative in the way they staged the whole thing, every summer they had a different theme. The whole thing was very sexual, they became famous because the guy used to have sex with the women on the stage, the guys were from Manchester. So it was as crazy as that, I think I was 16 years old when I first went, I will never forget.’
‘That party is where Jamie Jones came from, he used to play in the toilets at that party. These things kind of stick to your mind, so for me I like to mix it all together. Just from seeing the nightlife, how the guys were dressed, how the girls were dressed, the dancers, already there was a big influence in terms of creativity for me.’
This mirrors your strapline, ‘Life is a party’?
‘Definitely, but there is a double meaning, it’s not wholly connected to let’s go out, let’s drink and get f’d up. It’s also a representation to celebrate life, to be grateful for what we have, and seeing life as a party, a happy thing, a sunny thing. Of course, I feel like going out clubbing and partying is in my DNA, even when I’m 60/70 I’ll still be going out, not as much I guess, but you never know!’
What else about the island inspires you?
‘The clubbing scene is just an addition to what the island already has to offer. You have beautiful sightseeing spots to check out all around the island, amazing beaches, restaurants, bars. Then you also have this holistic, yogi side to it too. There are people who are into more spiritual things, like yoga. You can get that in Ibiza, you have retreats, rustic hotels, yoga retreats which you can do.’
‘My Dad told me Ibiza was discovered by the American Hippies in the 60’s after they left the Vietnam war. So somehow they found this island, so they are the ones who really started the whole thing. Back in the ’70s, it was a very hedonistic island, where the spirit of Ibiza was, it doesn’t matter if your rich or poor, we are all the same.’
‘You might go to the beach, and you might be with the Prince of Monaco, and everyone was cool. The status didn’t matter. That’s the other side of Ibiza, it’s about the energy, and that’s why you have the hippy side in Ibiza. There is an area in Las Dalias in Santa Eulalia, where you can see more of the hippy ideology behind Ibiza.’
Can you remember your first time in London, and why was it so important for you to move there?
‘It was love at first sight. I remember I came to London when I was 18, I went to study English in Oxford, that was the first place I went for 2 or three months. For the weekends we used to go to London. As soon as I got there I thought to myself, this is my place.’
‘My Dad was African, and my mother is Portuguese, so I felt I wasn’t fitting in as much in Spain, even though Ibiza is great, I believe it is probably one of the most open-minded islands. When I came to London and I started seeing the people and the city, I felt a very deep connection and said to myself this is the place!.’
‘I had to go back to Spain, but in my mind, I was always coming back to London. It was from the heart why I came back. Another city I have had a similar feeling to that was when I went to Tokyo for the first time! Great city, culture, people, food… I love it all! I have amazing friends there that I miss dearly… :)’
Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, are big influencers for you and your brand, what is it about these people which inspires you?
‘Jimi Hendrix is my all-time hero, for what he represented, his art, his vision, at his time, he was a huge visionary. The messages he also sent out, ‘peace, love and rock and roll’ which is iconic and something which resonates with me.’
‘In the jackets, we have this phrase printed in the binding, and in our hoodies, the binding we use to close the seam also has the same writing. That’s again connected to the whole hippy Ibiza scene, iconic at the same time with Jimi Hendrix because he was around in the 60s/70’s “hippy time”.’
‘Kurt Cobain is more of the 90’s grunge, in Ibiza, there was a time when we were twelve, thirteen, when we were very into bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all those,… That sort of aesthetic comes into my brand, into the whole distressed denim, ripped denim, handwritten denim, that kind of the influence.’
‘Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison are also some other inspirations. Jim Morrison is one of my favourite artists because of his music, his poetry and the way he dressed.’
Could you speak about your latest collection and the process you have gone through to create it?
‘This is more of a proper collection. I have expanded the line a bit more, due to starting work with new agents in the US and China, so I thought it would be a good idea to release a wider range. We’ve added some hoodies, some jumpers and a boots collection which are very styled in the whole ’70s, rock and roll era. The boots are something I believe maybe Jimi Hendrix or The Strokes would wear, because of the Cuban heels, the leather and the beautiful details of the boots.’
‘We’ve used some limited edition leather skins from Italy, and then the boots are hand made in Spain. Again, the whole influence is 60’s, 70’s rock and roll, mixed with the whole urban aesthetic. The denim jackets are oversized, a more general baggy fit. We haven’t got many jackets this season, we’ve done three or four styles, one of them in black which has been hand-painted, the jacket is black and we write everything in white. We’ve done another one which is Tied and then bleached, and then we added some studs to make it rock and roll.’ I love embellishments…!’
‘I love positivity, and I try to be positive at all times’
‘We have also done some T-Shirts as well in new exciting washes like cool die, acid wash,… I like to go extra with our clothing to give it that extra value. We have some messaging on the t-shirt like, ‘Dreamer’, but we changed the “R” the other way. To be a dreamer is to go forward and do what you want to do, follow your dream. We have that message ‘Always Dream’ on the inside of every jacket we make, the idea, when you wear it, is to give you a positive vibe that the wearer only sees.’
‘I love positivity, and I try to be positive at all times because when you’re positive you attract good things and good people into your life. Nowadays there is so much crap going on, the Virus, the economy, blah, blah, blah… so it’s important to be positive. It’s very easy to be negative, it’s nice to fight to be positive.’
‘With the clothing that I am making, I want to be able to give that sensation and feeling of positivity, but with an edge, a sense of passion. We need to make it a bit more poetic, edgy and exciting.’
‘It’s funny, the thing with me nowadays, I just pick things up from different feelings I’m going through, I might be writing something about it and suddenly I come up with some words or phrase that works great as a print in a tee or hoodie, or I might be watching a movie and I might find something interesting in the film that I can use on a style or that inspires a whole concept for a new collection.’
‘We have also created some leather caps which we made in Spain, and then customized them in London, all hand-painted, some of the meanings are based on Frida Kahlo’s work, her work was so exciting! you have all these revolutionary messages, to go against the rules and so on. There is a lot of messaging in what we do…’
‘In addition to that, we like to collaborate with other artists. At the moment we are working with Los Angeles based visual/graffiti artist Ron The Killer. I love his work because its not heavy graffiti, it’s more playful and he has a mellow way of drawing, very LA, very smooth with the colours he uses,…’
‘He is making some jackets and caps for us which are all customised based on Ibiza vibes mixed with his style. He’s done a lot of work with Justin Bieber, Miguel, Eminem, Pharell Williams,… among others,… he’s very cool! That will be coming in the spring/summer season in a limited edition drop of 10 to 20 so make sure you keep your eyes open as the jackets are fire!!’
Do you find it easy to create collections?
‘I’ve been doing it for so long now, so I’m more used to it. It’s a process, a lot of work, and it drains a lot of your energy. It’s like your baby… You can work on something for months and months, for example, it took me a year to get a sample for the boots which are now in the new collection. It was an interesting experience for me because I have never worked with shoes before.’
‘You start with the original sketches of what you want, then you have to choose the mould which is the base for the boot shape, I remember the first one didn’t work at all so we had to remake it all… It was a struggle but the final result was great!’
‘In a way, you already have an aesthetic idea in your mind, visually I started seeing a bit of what I want, and then I twist it a little bit, and then have to give it that extra touch which gives it an extra twist. At the moment with the brand, what I am trying to go for is things that I would wear. It’s important the buyer can match you with what you are selling.’
‘There are so many different ways to go about creating a collection, and that also depends on what type of collection you want to do. If you are trying to make a commercial collection, then you have to see what’s in the market, and then create your take on it. If I was to do a catwalk collection, something which is based around fantasy and art, then that is where you create your attention and you might not have to be so commercial focus.’
‘I think nowadays, sadly, that kind of vibe is getting lost a little bit. I remember when I was in Paris, you would see all of those collections from Alexander Mcqueen, John Galliano,… it was all fantasy and beautiful art. Nowadays, things seem to be going down the commercial avenue more. Which is fine, a lot of people say being a designer you have to be commercial too. If I wanted to create something which is rawer, then I will just look at something that I feel is “rawer” for inspiration.’
‘For my latest collection, I was producing the boots in Spain, then I was doing the denim in Italy, so I had to go to Spain every week/two weeks, then the same with Italy. Then you have to choose all the trimmings, make sure all the details are fine. Sometimes it’s a learning curve, some things you may think will look great don’t work, so you have to learn and adapt.’
‘For example for our boot, I wanted to put an embossed print in the sole which looked amazing in the mock-ups, but the annoying thing was you would wear it once and it would wear away. Things like this you need to tweak, and that can take a long time to get it right.’
‘it’s about training the consumer about what’s behind what they buy’
How important is sustainability for you, and do you think the fashion industry can be doing more to help it?
‘It’s not like all of the sustainability problems have just appeared. Sustainability problems have been going on for a long time, but it just happens now that people are paying more attention, and they are starting to do something about it. At the end of the day, it’s about training the consumer about what’s behind what they buy.’
‘I do some consultancy work for other brands. I do some work for a company which is based in Bangladesh which is totally the opposite market to what I normally do, it’s fast fashion. Sustainability is very important to them over there, they are introducing new machines, there are a lot of new companies supplying all this new machinery that they are starting to work with.’
‘These machines use technology that avoid using chemicals when producing clothes and for denim, some help reduces the water usage when you wash it. Others like the Ozone machine helps you achieve fading the denim to lighter shades without using bleach,… Denim is one of the biggest polluters in the fashion industry because it consumes a lot of water when you wash it and it uses a lot of chemicals during the different washing processes.’
‘In my case, for our Denim, we use organic cotton, so the denim we use is 100% organic, then hoodies and T-shirts are also organic. The boots not yet but I’m trying to find organic leather or some sort of sustainable component to add to them.’
‘At the same time, every year sustainability is going to evolve and increase its offering due to new technology being added and with companies and consumers investing in it. Now you can use chemical-free trimmings like buttons, snaps, zippers,… amongst others, the industry is gearing towards a greener direction which is very positive.’
‘Consumers need to understand the problem which is going on and what they are buying, and at the same time, understand the price that comes with the pieces of clothing or shoes which are organic. It’s more expensive to produce organic clothing. At the movement, organic technology is very niche, so they have to charge more meaning we as the designers need to charge more too.’
‘The Denim fabric we use is an Italian Mill, produced at a manufacturer called ITAL DENIM. They are very good because they are always working on new, more eco-friendly fabrics. So for this season, the fabrics we have used, they call it smart indigo, they worked very carefully on the amount of water that they use for the production and at the same time the electricity they use, among other things. The raw materials they use are organic & recycled pieces of cotton, taking out chemicals during their dying process.’
‘So the sourcing and making of the fabric are very sustainable. At the same time, I’m also offering a product which is exciting & fashionable. I’m not just doing the basic trucker jacket with a basic fabric, I’m taking it to a new level. I’m offering Fashion whilst being as sustainable as we can be.’
Can you talk about the ‘Viva la Revolution’messaging found on some of your jackets and hats?
‘Let’s be honest, the system is designed to use you. Having that third eye that’s checking in all of us, this is not how everything works, what they teach me in school is not actually how the world is. What they tell you on the TV, that’s not all the time what is really happening.’
‘Have your own revolution and your own way. Sometimes, go against the rules, why do you have to follow what the teacher is telling you? You can question things. In a way, I began my brand because, yes I would love to take it to the next level, but at the same time, I have done it to be independent, to be able to go at my own pace and direction.’
‘That’s the beauty of having your own brand, you can express what you want, you can drive it the way you want it. Of course, there is a risk, your putting in money, and you might lose that money, but I think there is an eternal satisfaction that you don’t get in other work and jobs. It’s your creation, and you can take it to where ever you want, that freedom is very important to me.’
Your photos and videos to showcase your products are amazing, how involved are you in the shoots?
‘I get involved with all of them, I need to be involved with them to give across the whole concept. For our first season collection, everything was hand-painted, with street and rock and roll elements, so in the video, we had a lot of graffiti in the background which we shot around Brick Lane, and around train stations. In the second half of the video, we shot at a rock bar owned by a friend of mine called Blondies, its vibe is super Punk Rock, you can find Blondies in Clapton Pond.’
‘For this season I wanted to have less graffiti, so we shot the photos and videos in a hotel room by London Bridge. It was again, really organic, I stayed there a few nights, and the room was very old school, a bit vintage rock and roll. So I thought instantly a video of the collection would be cool there. We shot half in the studio, and the other half was in that room. We had these models, a girl with dreadlocks, and then this Asian guy, really tall and moody, they looked great together.’
‘The concept was that they had come back from a night out, they were rocking out and had a bit of an after-party in the room. We added some bottles of champagne and wine as props and messed the room up a little, it looked cool! The videographer, a good friend of mine called Darry, had a cool idea to shoot the video in the dark, with the only lighting being from a torch, so we got a really cool effect with that.’
See more www.noknoklondon.com