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Key4Life X TJ

Monday 17th August. A special day for The Basement. After being restricted to our bedrooms for the best part of the last 5 months, the team were finally able to return to YF Studio, our South London studio space, to host a creative charity day for members of the community. The space was built with the goal of providing young people in the community with the chance to gain experiences in the creative arts, and find real pathways into creative industries. 

On Monday afternoon, the Basement played host to a branding and design workshop, welcoming 8 members of the Key4Life rehabilitation programme to work in the space for the day. Key4Life is a non-profit charity that works with ex-offenders to provide them with opportunities in the workplace and guide them towards a brighter future. Especially in today’s climate, it is very important for us as a community to show support for the young black men whose lives have been unjustly affected by the dysfunctional, inherently racist justice system that exists in this country. Therefore, we invited the Key4Life group, each of whom had a particular interest in creative career paths, to an informative and hands on 6 hour activation, with the aim of enriching their knowledge of the industry and developing their marketing and design skills. 

‘Today has honestly exceeded my expectations, to be able to learn from four people who are successful in this industry is super useful. It’s made me believe that a career in the creative industry is possible. It’s given us inspiration’ Mohammed, 29

With each member of the programme having spent time in HMP Brixton over the past couple of years, the Brixton-based studio provided a comfortable environment for the group to learn, with the men eager to get to work from the second they pulled up. The workshop began with an opening address by TJ, welcoming everyone, and providing an overview for the day, jam-packed with various engaging activities. The mic was then passed to Alex Ropes, who introduced an elite panel of industry experts, namely, SlikSyd, the mastermind behind BySlik, Gramm founder and Manchester’s finest, AK, owner of brand CareFree and Converse team member, Damian Malontie. This catalysed an engaging 90 minute talk and Q&A that was widely regarded as the highlight of the day. 

Photos by Karan Teli

In a talk centred around the rise of each of their brands, the panelists delved into their personal stories, trials and tribulations and keys to success, areas of great interest for the group.Questions were fired at the panelists thick and fast, with specific interest in the financial side of fashion, as well as the challenges faced in the early phases of brand development. The talk concluded with each of the men gaining key information and priceless insight into the marketing industry, as well as a renewed confidence in their abilities to design and succeed in a field that once appeared inaccessible.

‘I’m not trying to say I’ve clocked this game, I’m still learning, but at least I know that at this workshop I’m learning the right shit. I could be learning how to flip a Z, I could be indulging in other illegal shit, but instead I’m spending my time doing real work.’ Rory, 27

Spurred on by a new-found passion and desire to materialise their vision, the men were then tasked with creating their own personal, marketable brand logos with the close guidance of the design experts and Basement team. The group used sketchbooks to create mood-boards for their ideas, referring to book sources, laptops and existing Basement designs for inspiration, before finally sketching their own original logo concept, ready to scan in and refine. Through this process, the men shared their main sentimental inspirations for their designs as well as discussing their personal ambitions extending beyond the workshop. It was super encouraging to hear some of the guys speak about how the workshop had changed their perspective on the industry and inspired them to pursue a creative route that they’d never before considered.

‘The most important part of today, is not that you’re opening doors for us, but that you’re installing the confidence in us that we can go through those doors.’ Mo, 29

Finally, after a quick break to munch on some good yard food, the lads digitised their logos with the help of Adam Bartlett, our resident graphic designer, making final changes and alterations to their designs before we finished for the day. The energy in the room was tip top all day, with everyone making contributions and enjoying themselves while also getting down to work. It was such a success that it was almost a shame when it ended, but, after 6 hours of hard work, brainstorming, learning and building relationships the Key4Life men were able to leave with a refined logo and t-shirt design, along with an exclusive collaboration tee, but more importantly, they left with irreplaceable advice from the industry’s finest, the tools to pursue a future career, and life-long support from the Basement. Don’t sleep on these guys.