I N T E R V I E W
You may have read about us – on this very website – about who we are, how we work. That we are driven by the desire to offer you quality, original clothing that blends high fashion with pop culture. However, we feel like you deserve to know more. Today, in the company of Dimitri van Eetvelde, Creative Director of ARK/8, we'd like to take a minute to take a step back from our work and tell you more about our brand. Where it came from, how it has grown. What it means to us and where we want to take it in the not too distant future. In a word, we want to tell you a story, that of ARK/8.
First things first, where did the idea for ARK/8 come from? What made you decide to create a new clothing brand that mixes fashion with pop culture?
Dimitri: I come from over 13 years of experience in the licensing industry, making official merchandise as the Creative Director of Level Up Wear, which is specialized in gaming apparel & accessories. While it’s still a really fun endeavor to create more traditional merchandise at reasonable price points, I’ve had the itch to create a more premium fashion brand for a while and it seemed like now was the perfect time to start.
Gaming and pop-culture are everywhere, they’re part of most people’s lives and not just a niche hobby anymore. People are getting bolder and willing to wear stuff that is more experimental and aims higher in terms of quality and design, while having that unique satisfaction of giving a nod to one of their favorite characters or universes. I know I do (laughs).
Obligatory question, what does the brand name, ARK/8, mean? The parallel with arcades is obvious but I guess there's more to it than meets the eye. What can you tell us about it?
While I discovered video games with Super Mario Bros. on the NES console, arcades were a turning point for me.
When I was a kid, I used to travel to Indonesia every Summer, visiting my family on my mother’s side. I loved being part of such a different world, having this hybrid EU/ASIA origin. I adored the daily discovery of new flavors, smells and atmospheres that Surabaya, a port city on the island of Java, brought to me. One day, my dad had the brilliant idea to bring me to an arcade in a shopping mall. That’s where I got my first bout with Street Fighter II. Ryu’s Hadouken, Chun-Li’s Lightning Kicks and Blanka’s Electricity soon became my daily regimen.
As much as I liked the sunny weather of Surabaya, the darkness and coolness of the arcade rooms were a perfect respite from the city’s crazy hustle and bustle. That’s also where I learned that gaming could be competitive and was best enjoyed with total strangers who became friends by the time I had to go back home. Arcades were a place of infinite discovery and possibilities. A different universe from which I could bring back so many memories.
The name ARK/8 comes from that moment in time when I roamed the arcades of Surabaya, but the way it’s spelled also feels a bit strange and foreign on purpose. That’s to convey the multiple journeys and origins that have defined me through time. The “Slash/Infinity” mark represents the fact that the world is, in fact, infinite. ARK/8’s mission is to infuse foreign elements into our reality.
One important feature of ARK/8 is its collaboration with artists and franchises from all over the world with very different styles. ARK/8 explores new universes each time and, without a doubt, draws from the experience. How does the collaboration with these different profiles and styles work?
I believe that’s the brand’s biggest strength, to be able to be so diverse and rich, shapeshifting for every collaboration. We want to take people with us on our travels. And, really, there’s no limit to the genre as long as it speaks to us and that there’s something intense and intriguing about it.
Now, as you point it out, it’s also our biggest challenge and daily struggle. How do you keep the brand’s art direction alive while being true to another brand’s vision? It’s not always easy but it fascinates me, really. It’s the collision of two worlds. It’s enriching. That’s why ARK/8 has some flexibility and tries to keep an open mind by adapting to its collaborator, while keeping at the same time its core values of style, quality and edginess intact.
Do you have a material that you prefer? How do you go on about deciding which material to use and how to use it? I’m thinking about the Destiny Luna MA-1 Flight Jacket, whose color changes depending on the light. What is the thought process behind your choice of material?
I think that I do go through phases where a certain group of materials catches my eye, but mostly it all comes down to finding innovative materials that match the brand’s DNA.
For the Destiny Moon Collection, for example, we explored iridescence and technical materials as it was inspired by the NASA’s outfits and helmets. For another collection we’re currently working on, it’s the Sengoku period of Japan that is concerned, and therefore you’re looking at hemp, organic cotton, rope, and more artisanal/natural materials, so it’s completely different. Different worlds – different materials.
Last week you revealed the Overwatch hoodies you designed in collaboration with illustrator KOYORIN. Is that an experience you wish to reiterate with other artists? Any new collaboration on the way?
Working with KOYORIN was a breeze and a real pleasure both at the creative and human level. They understand exactly what we do, and their style was perfect for Overwatch. I’d love to do more of these, absolutely. Are we working with other artists for future collections? Maybe (laughs).