The North Face teamed up with Alfie Kungu, a painter, to create a 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. The artist uses a palette of deep purples and cool blues that references the wild animals that have always surrounded Kungu. 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 invites Hypebae in to his East-London Studio to share the journey with The North Face. 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 kid, I enjoyed drawing wild animals and monsters. It was a way to relax and was something I knew I could do. I didn’t stop drawing until I realized the joy of it.
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. It all flows together, I believe. Relief painting is the technique that I have 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. You can create beautiful nuances that you wouldn’t be able to paint in. Your mistakes and gaps give the painting more meaning than the one that you tried to paint. The bits you don’t paint tell a more interesting story. This can seem a little too much, but if you like something, you will still like it no matter how many times it is made.
Your technique is distinctive with bold colors, textures. So why are they important?
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. The relationship between two colors is what excites me most.
To touch on the importance material, how does your collaboration and working with garments with The North Face compare to the traditional art sheets you make?
In fact, I approached it in the same way. I was thinking about how to translate my idea onto a piece artwork. At first, I didn’t realize it was a garment, a bag, or mules. It was enough to make a piece on paper and then convert the various elements into colors. Blue is the water, sky and land, and green is the earth and the nature. These few elements enabled me to create my own environment and abstract compositions within the painting. 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.
Do you feel any emotions or feelings that the design should evoke?
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 passion for nature and the outdoors.
Why are you so attracted to the outdoors while working?
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.
How does The North Face affect you as a rural child?
It’s been my favorite outdoor brand since I was a kid. I can remember asking my mother if she could lend me money to buy one when I was younger. It was freezing cold when I started university in Bristol. I used to wear this The North Face puffer jacket in the studio. 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.