Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.
Quite simply, there's not another Fraser Croll. For 5 years now, Fraser has been producing some of the greatest film and music homages to ever grace clothing. Bridging the gap between nostalgia and the contemporary, Croll hits the sweet spot, achieving a look that is simultaneously vintage and brand new. It's impossible to guess what Fraser will do next, so we tracked him down and asked him instead.
Aloof Studio (AS): Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
Fraser Croll (FC): My name is Fraser Croll and I run Foreign Currency with some friends, a brand/website that puts out merch and books, and I make bootleg film and music items under my own name.
AS: What’s your history with clothing? How did you get into making gear?
FC: Honestly, I just wanted to make stuff that I wanted to wear, that’s always been my aim and it's still the case to this day. I make tees and items that I can't find online and take it from there. Some ideas take longer to come to fruition, but for the most part it’s just whatever I'm into, be it a film or a band, at that given moment.
AS: Your offering is heavy on nostalgia, whether it's films, events or music. What was the initial appeal of producing something new that has a vintage feel to it?
FC: The first shirt I ever did was a Home Alone shirt in 2015. All the Home Alone shirts you can buy on the high street were shit, so I wanted to do something simplistic that could’ve been legit merch from 1990.
With a shirt for a band from the 80s or 90s, you have a back catalogue of album art and reference material to play with, so you can have something that is an ode to that time whilst also not looking too dated.
AS: Licensing imagery can be a difficult arena; have there been any moments where people weren’t happy for you to use the imagery for one of your pieces? Any cease and desist letters?
FC: Touch wood only once. I had a cease and desist from The New York Times about 4 years ago for a hoody I did. Ironically, they now produce an almost identical version of my hoody which they sell online. Go figure!
AS: Your items are printed on Gildan tops, was that a conscious choice or was there R&D that went into picking them over the other blanks manufacturers?
FC: I truly love Gildan, they're really good to print on, I rate the quality and they're readily available too, it’s just the standard for merch. The shirts are bulletproof and get better the more you wear them. I've seen people do reverse weave Champion shirts, but that doesn’t interest me. The best ones are on regular basics, it doesn’t need to be anything else.
AS: Can you talk us through your process from initial concept to execution? Are you starting with an image first, or is it an idea that you then work to find the right imagery?
FC: If I'm watching a film or listening to a certain album, I might get inspiration and start playing around with an idea. I’ll maybe check online and see if there ever even was merch, but for the most part I’ll just try make something from scratch. Some designs just don’t work as much as I want them to, like recently I had an idea for a second Madonna shirt but I found a vintage one that was very similar to an idea I had, so the idea design stopped there.
AS: As a producer of ‘bootleg’ items, how would you differentiate a fake and a bootleg?
FC: As far as differentiating, I suppose a bootleg is usually meant as a tribute to something, if it’s done right. A fake is just not good, ever.
AS: Are there any brands or companies that you’re into at the moment?
FC: I really like SCREVVFACE from Canada, they’re doing great things consistently. They did a really good HEAT shirt a few years ago that’s one of the best I’ve seen. That film is one of my favourites, so that helps! Other than that I've actually got back into buying band merch again.
AS: Do you feel like you’ve developed your personal style of design since you first started out producing gear?
FC: I think I have a better idea of knowing what I want the final design to look like, and how to get to that point. I’d like to think the overall designs have fundamentally got ‘better’ since 2015. I’d maybe change some of the earlier ones now if I were to do them again.
The subject matter usually defines what the style of the shirt would be, so that determines the overall feeling. Some designs work better or feel more authentic when they’re simplistic rather than trying to over-design something.
Never overthink it.
AS: What can we expect to see in the near future from Fraser Croll?
FC: I have one or two more releases coming out next month and then I'll take a break over Christmas. I’ll also be putting out new items with Foreign Currency before the end of the year, and I have some good wholesale accounts supporting that project.
I was recently approached to do some merch for one of my all time favourite bands growing up, so that’s something I hope sees the light of day soon. Other than that, I’ve done some work for a close friends brand which I'm excited about, and going into 2021, I actually have some new designs already which are ready to go.
Check out the available products from Fraser Croll on his website here. For releases under Foreign Currency, head here. For all the latest information on new releases, follow Fraser on Instagram here.