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.
We sat down with Joe, head honcho over at Swamp Breed, and picked his brains for a little while about his experiences and where he currently finds himself.
Aloof Studio (AS): Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Swamp Breed?
Swamp Breed (SB): My name is Joe and I am the owner of Swamp Breed. I created the brand back in the summer of 2016 whilst studying at art college. From my early teenage years I was really into streetwear and independent fashion. There was something special about finding a small unknown brand, I was drawn to the uniqueness that they offered. This is definitely where my passion first sparked. Despite being creative from a young age, always drawing at school and not really paying attention, I never really thought about pursuing anything creative. No one around me was doing anything like this at the time so I didn't think much of it. I come from a small town where there isn't much to do, I knew I wanted something more from life so I moved to Bristol in September 2016 and I have kept it moving ever since.
AS: How did you find it when setting up the company? Were there any speed bumps in the road or unexpected hurdles you had to overcome?
SB: In the very early days of forming my brand I would say that, much like anyone diving into their creative pursuit with no planning or history, just finding a purpose and identity with it was something I struggled with for a while. It's hard not to take too much influence from established brands because of your own anxiety about being original. Taking something that is organic from you and showcasing it to the world is a scary thing- but over time you begin to care less of what people think of your art and it's a beautiful feeling. Creating completely from the soul; accepting the things you love and the things you dislike. I have been doing Swamp for four years, but it has been a much longer process that goes far beyond the brand. There will always be bumps in the road, I think most people think that running a clothing label is easy. It's not just design, photograph and sell. There is so much going on behind the scenes that you have to learn independently. I have had to teach myself everything and I have made some big mistakes in the past, It's all part of the ongoing process and as long as I am still learning, I know I am still progressing.
AS: What’s your process when it comes to creating the graphics for the clothing? Do you start with an idea of what you want or is the process a bit more abstract?
SB: My process is all over the place. I might have an idea in my head and roughly sketch it out, but I like to just dive in and see what happens. With any artwork I am creating, whether it's a painting or graphic, I want it to say something. I like to think my artwork has a story and the viewer has to create a narrative. I'm very interested in cave paintings and earlier discoveries. The simplicity of the symbols say everything you need to know and I try to translate that into a modern sense. I have so many old sketchbooks in my workplace. If I ever get stuck I flip through them. There is always something in them that I can go back to and bring back to life.
AS: If Swamp Breed had the chance to collaborate on any piece of footwear, what would you choose and what would it look like?
I would love to collaborate with Nike on a shoe. My go to shoe is the black Air Force 1, simple but good for all occasions. It would have some turquoise reverse stitching all over and it would have a slightly transparent gum sole. The Nike Swoosh would be made out of something that resembles the pattern on a leaf. I would also try to use as many sustainable and recycled materials as possible. It would look like it came straight out of the swamp. It would be a modern organic collaboration, celebrating all that is fun, energetic and authentic about the streetwear scene today.
AS: Bristol is widely regarded as being on the creative forefront of Art & Music. Are there things happening locally that inspire you?
SB: Bristol is an incredible city to live in for this reason. There is an electricity here that is hard to put your finger on. Prior to the global pandemic happening right now, it felt like there was something going on every single day. It's a very small, condensed city and it feels like everyone knows each other in some shape or form. Everyone you speak to is doing their own thing and it's refreshing to be around so many like-minded individuals that are creating and thriving together- it feels like everyone pushes forward together and helps each other grow and I am happy to be a part of it.
AS: Can you pick a few brands/people doing really exciting things that we should look out for?
SB: For sure! I could go on forever with a list of so many talented people I know! You need to check out Workshop Studios by my good friend Jake Garrad. He is killing it right now! His brand is fairly new but the dedication, time and effort he puts into his products blows me away every time. Another person you need to check out is Andy Smith from Remb. His brand focuses more on heavy graphic design but the way this man puts together imagery is so fresh and innovative. I am always excited to see new releases from him. Aside from clothing, the team over at Noods Radio do a wonderful job of being a solid platform for musicians and DJs, consistently having live shows around the clock. Another one to keep an eye on is the team over at Trust Exercises. They have a few podcasts up online that tackle interesting topics about music as well as tackling some controversial subjects that always make for a good conversation. Definitely worth checking out.
AS: With the Breeding Sounds mixes, do you find they directly feed into the clothing or do they stand-alone?
SB: Breeding Sounds and Swamp Breed definitely feed into each other. I always wanted to venture into music as it's another avenue that I am interested in. I called it Breeding Sounds because it's something that's ever growing and changing. I have always wanted to do more with Breeding Sounds and I did actually have a few Bristol based parties planned for the summer of this year, but everything is crazy right now and I don't know what's going to happen at this current time.
AS: What have you got on your record rotation at the moment? Do you find that certain genres of music help you to be creative more than others?
SB: For sure! I'm constantly listening to music, trying to discover new stuff and put other people on to it. That's the best thing about music, there's so much out there, it's like mining for gold! When I am working I like to listen to beat tapes/instrumentals, which help keep me focused on what I'm working on. My rotation right now is the new Knxwledge album '1988', and I am always finding new unreleased Madlib stuff on youtube. They're two of my all-time favourite producers. King Krule dropped his new album a couple of months ago and i'm still bumping that heavy. Honestly the man is a musical genius, when you dig into his other aliases and the work he did with the supergroup Sub Luna City, it's amazing how diverse his back catalogue is. I've been listening to a lot of U.K. artists too, I think there's so much good music coming out right now. I could go on all day!
AS: Looking back to when you first started Swamp Breed, is there anything you would have done differently?
SB: Absolutely not. Its been a crazy ride and it amazes me that I still wake up everyday motivated to keep things moving. I've had orders from all around the world and done things I couldn't even imagine when I first set out on this endeavour. Its been a long process, one that has changed with me as I have got older and more mature. When I look back to previous work that I have put out via Swamp or any other outlet, I do think "what was I thinking here?!", but that's the great part about it- learning, making mistakes and moving forward. I don't regret any decision because I don't have room for it. I'm here right now in the present and everything I have done along the way has helped me get to this point. Swamp is not only a reflection of where I am creatively, it's also a reflection of where I am at in life right now.
AS: Finally, what can we expect to see from Swamp Breed in the near future?
SB: In the future you can expect to see more hand painted goods. I am really into colour and texture right now and I have been trying to figure out a way I can reflect this in my brand and I think I've cracked it. Hopefully, if the lockdown is lifted around June/July, I had a few pop up shops/parties planned in Bristol but we'll have to see what happens with that. In the far future I'd love to build up Breeding Sounds into a record label, many of my friends make beats so building a platform for them to showcase their work would be great. It'd be something new for me too, I always want to keep challenging myself. In this present moment my primary goal is to keep releasing consistent, good quality products and making sure every release is better than the last.
Find out more about Swamp Breed here