Jacob Earl talks to the man behind the UK’s punk renaissance
Ryan Hawaii, 21, is a South London based trendsetter who you should definitely be keeping an eye out for in 2017. Creating pieces of art out of anything is his speciality – objects, music or garments. With a very unique appearance, he is hard to miss and when I spoke to him at a gig in December his personality was even more distinctive. This is what was so intriguing to me: how can someone so different be so humble? I wanted to know more about him. I asked him via Instagram, after our initial meeting, if he’d agree to an interview for The Basement and he did.
A couple of days later, I met with Ryan at his Catford studio, where all his emotions are brought to life, for a chat.
So to someone that doesn’t know, who is Ryan Hawaii?
I’m a human that’s lucky enough to realise he has emotions, and is lucky enough to have something to channel them emotions into – Art and music. In the past I’ve done a bit of directing but usually I just do what feels right to me.
When I look at your work I see punk influence, is this on purpose?
Punk is a huge influence on my work and on me too. It’s a way of thinking, not just music. I got into it about 3 or 4 years ago, for the philosophy of it. But as far as bands go, I listen to lots of Bad Brains and The Clash.
Who influenced you to become a punk?
I’ve kinda always had an anti-capitalist type mind set but My friend Ray Fuego opened me up more to punk music and living the punk lifestyle he’s a style icon to me. I spent lots of time with him and he gave me more depth to the punk philosophy. He was the one that told me to be myself and do whatever I want to do. He helped me realise that I should embrace what I was worried about other people seeing, and really shouldn’t care what other people think.
I think you’re creating a punk renaissance, is it what you’re trying to do?
That’s very flattering.
It’s not ever just me that kicks things off: it’s Neverlands and all of my boys. I look the most punk, but we all think like punks. But I know for sure we’ve kicked some things off, in this country anyway.
How long have you been a creative for and what was the motive behind it?
My whole life but just in different ways. It took a while for me to find what it was that made sense, what made sense for me to channel my emotions into.
I’ve always been emotional, like bare emotional and I feel like people can feel it. So I just started doing things instinctively, just not fighting it. That was the path towards it.
When did you first realise people where really appreciating your work?
The first time I really clocked people where on what I was doing was when I met Skepta in 2014.
I met him at an Off White party before I knew Virgil. Me and my friend Chris SMG where washing our hands in the toilet just as he (Skepta) had finished washing his hands and was about to leave.
SMG looked at me and was like,
‘Yo that’s Skepta!’ Anyway we asked him for a photo and he let me get one with him but SMG was nervous, he took like 4 photos and they were all bare blurry. With celebrities you don’t ever want to bother them, so I didn’t want to ask for another one.
But then Skepta asked to see the photos and started telling SMG to tap on the screen to make the camera focus more, for whatever reason he wanted me to get a clear photo with him.
After the party finished I clocked him at the bar, doing his low-key ghosting thing he does, just absorbing the energy and I went up to him and I said
‘I see what you’re trying to do, re-invent yourself as an artist, by the way you dress.’
I think after I said that, he realised I wasn’t just any other fan. I was working on some clothes at the time and I asked him if he would wear any of them and he said ‘I will if I like them.’ He told me to DM him, so I did but he aired it.
This was when I was working on my first project called ‘New being’ and the hoodie had a text on it from myself to myself, saying ‘one day we’ll be living in space’ representing my ambitions for the future.
But then I bumped into him again in Camden, but this time he approached me. I’m quite an impulsive, so I called him out on airing my DM, but it turns out he actually didn’t get it. Anyway he followed me on Instagram and I sent him the hoodie.
A couple weeks later he wore my hoodie on Instagram. At the time I was working at Chelsea Football club, serving burgers and stuff. But when you started your shift, you had to leave your phone in your locker. So I never knew until I finished my shift and checked my phone. Bare notifications, bare people texting me, all these were because he wore my hoodie on Instagram. Mad.
What are you putting all of your energy into right now?
I focus on whatever I feel. I go through phases, I might want to do more music for a few months than art for a few months, and it’s just how I feel.
Being affiliated with Virgil Abloh, and your garms on Skepta, how have they helped you?
They’re older than me for one, so they have more life experience and stuff, and they’re both successful people at what they do. They’re both just good people.
But I think the whole influence thing is give and take, they’ve influenced me just as much as I’ve influenced them. They aren’t responsible for my work, maybe they are responsible for the reception of my work but not for what I’ve made.
In my earlier interviews they used Skepta and Virgil as ‘click bait’, I get it you lot (journalists) need to do your job, but let me make this clear, I’m not an understudy to anyone, I’ve made myself. I’ve been working too hard for years to be placed under anyone.
What is vital to the success of a creative in today’s world?
Creating from your heart and not being scared of your emotions. As long as you’re doing that, and stay true to that.
You may not be successful in terms of popularity, wealth, etc. but you’ll be happy. That’s what success is to me. Sometimes it’s not what the world needs, it’s what you need.
On your Twitter you said, “2017 is the year I boss up” what can we expect from Mr Hawaii?
I’ve got an exhibition in Amsterdam for 3 weeks coming up, starting on 3rd February. The Neverland Clan are Supporting Night Lovell on 16th February and I’m going to announce this now, on 28th January I will be at the Manchester Selfridges store and on 2nd of February at the London store, I’ll be customising your Off White pieces.
Speaking with Ryan was so humbling. It realised that it’s not doing something for the sake of doing it. It’s doing something because it has a meaning to you, an emotional meaning. Everyone is able to channel his or her emotions into something, but not everyone has the gift to distinguish what that platform may be.