I have no doubt that when we grow up enriched by the best of different cultures, the personal and professional projections of our lives are wrapped in a deeper meaning that accompanies our every action and is reflected in what we do in each stage of our lives and what we decide to dedicate ourselves professionally. The strong influence of music, the inexplicable feeling of freedom that the waves of the sea evoke and a cool social life are reflected in each of the Angel Nokonoko collections. Angel is a great in every sense of the word, one of those free souls who goes through life in search of being who he wants to be in order to be happy. With this constant desire he manages to reflect in each creation all of the magic that he carries within. Words by Andy Durán.
This is an interview extract. Find out the full version in the Fall Winter 2020 Issue 5.
Get your copy here.
You are background is a mix of three different cultures, tell us about your childhood and what you learned from it.
MIX IS THE FUTURE! Different cultures are what make the world so rich and beautiful. Being born in Spain to an African father and a Portuguese mother made me who I am today. As someone of mixed descent, you grow up so open-minded but at the same time it’s challenging as I felt that I didn't belong anywhere. Though as you get older, you begin to appreciate your heritage. Growing up in Ibiza was amazing, it’s a safe, beautiful island where life is so simple and easy... Admittedly, I did feel lost sometimes because I grew up being the only black person anywhere and it was a little confusing but also, a lot of times, it was very cool! I think the best thing it taught me was how to adapt to any new culture and also to respect my elders.
Tell us a bit about your life there and how you started your career as a designer? What motivated you to create and express yourself in this way?
As I mentioned earlier, I got into making clothes when I began going out and experiencing the nightlife in Ibiza. I call them my ‘vampire times’ because we would go out every night to a different club until 10 a.m. then sleep during the day, wake up at 8 p.m. and do it all over again. I loved customizing my clothes, I would paint them, cut them and bleach them. Some of my friends began asking me to make them tees, and then some DJs started asking too. Often, when I was on drugs, I would get inspired about social issues, there were times when I used to get quite sad and frustrated about being black in Spain. Other times, I was inspired by music, or love story that I had had during the summer. I had so many different influences but I loved the process of making, writing, cutting and stitching. It was a beautiful feeling, like poetry.
Could you describe the soul, the spirit and the message you want to convey with Nok Nok?
Nok Nok is all about being a free spirit. As in Ibiza, I want the people that wear our products to feel fucking cool! Like a rock star performing onstage and giving good vibes to all the audience. The message is: Peace, Love, Rock ‘n’ Roll – I think that says it all. And you can find those words printed on the internal pocket bindings in some of our denim jackets.
Where do you get your inspiration from and what does denim mean to you?
I get my inspiration from many different sources, I don’t really just stick to one thing. It could be a film that I then mix with an art exhibition I have recently seen, or it might be that I’m going through a break-up and that sadness gives me the initial vibe for the collection. Denim is a lifestyle and an identity, I love denim because it’s such a casual item but at the same time so needed and worn in daily life by so many people. It represents rock ‘n’ roll, grunge, hip hop and so many other subcultures that are linked to Nok Nok's vision. I love how fun it is to experiment with denim – the wash process is actually a very technical process where you have to be knowledgeable about the fabrications and the washing techniques – it’s such an exciting cloth!
At what point in your life did you decide to settle in London to continue growing and promoting yourself? What does London mean to you?
I came to London because of Ibiza. I met so many interesting people in Ibiza who were from London that I felt that I had to check the city out and, when I did, I instantly fell in love with it! I saw myself being able to fully expand here as person and as an artist. I moved to London fifteen years ago and it has been such an amazing journey, I have been introduced to the world through London, the energy that this city has is so special, the diversity of people and cultures is so beautiful and I have fitted in just perfectly.
We are going through a global catastrophe due to the pandemic at the time of this interview. What have you done during this time and how do you intend to project yourself from now on?
Big changes are coming our way socially, economically and in terms of lifestyle. Luckily, I spent most of the lockdown working, thinking and preparing for what's to come. There are going to be a lot of bankruptcies in fashion, so it’s very important to try to hold on and survive. The big brands will be OK as they have a lot of cash and for smaller brands like mine, we should also be OK as we don't have as many overheads and it’s easier to adapt. It’s the ones in the middle who will suffer as well as those who were already struggling but I try to stay positive as in any crisis there's always opportunity. At the same time, I'm realizing that we are going to have to adapt and offer better price-points in order to drive sales and interest. In addition, we are focussing on offering more sustainable fabrics made from organic cottons, recycled polyesters and having fewer chemical washes on our denims.
What do you think we need to change in order to eradicate so much violence, inequality and hatred in the world? And what do you think the fashion industry can do to help make these changes?
I feel like education is key; I think that the schooling system should rewrite a lot of history books because we have been lied to for such a long time. If this was done, then we can consciously understand how and why things are the way there are. Sadly I believe that violence, inequality and hatred will never be eradicated as they are engrained within our DNA. These things have been present in all civilizations. Fashion is a reflection of society and the social changes that are happening at the moment, for example with the whole Black Lives Matter movement, the fashion world is going to have to embrace and push for racial equality.
If you had the power to alter the fashion industry, what would you change and why?
Fashion should be able to educate the consumer about what they buying, what’s going on behind the products (so the manufacturing process etc.), and why they pay the price that they do. This is all so that the consumer can make a conscious decision about what to buy and when. It would be a great way to move towards more sustainable fashion, all the way from sourcing to the brand and the consumer, so the result would be an industry that reduces the levels of pollution that so badly effect the climate.
What immediate dreams are you looking to fulfil? And where do you see yourself in the near future?
Well, we have begun working with a sales agent in the US who has offices in LA and New York, so we are expecting to grow in that territory through them and then we will start doing pop-up shops in Los Angeles, perhaps on Melrose Avenue, and also in London. In addition, we are also working with a Chinese agent to introduce and grow the brand over there. Looking ahead, I want the brand to grow and position itself by having a very strong online presence and high-end wholesalers while also having our own retail space where we can have a fusion of shopping, music and food in the same space.