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. The artist uses a palette of deep purples, cool blues, and earthy greens to reference the wild animals that have 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.
Which first inspired you to take up art?
I’ve always grown up around art in the house because my dad is a painter and my mum is also really good at painting. As a child, I loved drawing wild animals and monsters. It was a way to relax and something I felt so comfortable with that I didn’t want 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. The technique that I’ve been developing for just over a year is called relief painting. I’ll get a canvas and put the silk over it. 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 beautiful nuances that you couldn’t deliberately paint in. It’s the gaps and mistakes from your actions that give more of an essence to the painting than the one you actually tried to do. It’s the bits that you don’t paint that tells more of a story. It’s almost become a bit overkill but when you’re familiar with something, it’s like your favorite meal, no matter how many times that you make it, you still kind of like it.
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 color pairings. It’s fine to have one color. 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. Initially, I didn’t consider the fact that it was a garment or a bag or the mules. 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. These few elements enabled me to create my own environment and abstract compositions within the painting. It was a broken down process. First, I did the foreground, that’ll be like the river and it builds back to the mountains then the skies. Each color corresponds to different environments within the natural world.
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 is it that you are so fascinated by the outdoors?
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?
Ever since I was young, it’s always been the most sought-after outdoor brand. 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.