It was a newborn fall in Seattle when I came across a painting that captured my imagination: ‘LV Supreme’ Aerosol on Wood.
I loved the simple statement; Louis Vuitton and Supreme wrapped around a spray paint can – I presumed a commentary on the collaboration at the time. It did not take long to discover that the artist was Campbell La Pun, a fantastic stencil artist from Tokyo. His work captured an aesthetic that felt right for PAACHN. So, I reached out to say hello.
We had a fresh, imaginative conversation the first time we connected with Campbell. Even though we were 4,700 miles apart, there was a familiarity – an engaging connection.
Before his art adventure, Campbell worked full-time in the corporate world, insuring high-rise, high-asset-value buildings in and around Melbourne. His art explores commercialism, repetition, pop culture, and multi-million-dollar brands.
We told Campbell about our fashion-technology start-up based out of Seattle and explained we were working on a fresh concept: connecting people to their clothing and to others through technology.
The truth of the matter is we had a vague idea of what we wanted to do. We had nothing in place and no idea how to accomplish our vision. However, Campbell seemed to like the concept, which was cool enough. So, off we went. Inspiration in hand.
The Empty Space Between
Back in 2017, all we had was a vision. How the hell were we going to pull off a collaboration with a global artist like Campbell? We had to create a brand, design a technical blazer from scratch, find a way to attach cool artwork to our clothing and digitize the entire experience.
Mid-way through 2018, we reconnected with Campbell and were excited to report that we had made good progress. We were months away from launch.
Well, we were way off on the timing!
Campbell had just been invited to Zurich for a project with Moët Hennessy and Dom Pérignon. We thought, “Wow, Campbell is getting invites from LVMH, and we are just a small, unheard-of company from Tangletown.” At that point, we wondered if Campbell would still be interested in collaborating. We were definitely worried.
Even though we had a “let’s catch up” conversation in late August 2018, a calming silence fell upon us both, and we lost contact for a while.
It was not until mid-2019 that Campbell and PAACHN started to put the “paint” to paper. Campbell was still keen to collaborate, and following one of our discussions, an idea sparked. He would take a small crop of artwork he had created and make a patch. Campbell sent over the images he was working on. They were abstract, engaging, graffiti-oriented, colorful, and we loved them. We noticed, however, in his email he had been working on something else:
“The painting I created for the patch just hasn’t provided a result I am happy with, which occasionally happens when I experiment with new ideas. It took a lot longer to cut the stencils than I expected……concept was possibly better than the outcome.”
We were intrigued and wanted to learn more.
“Curious about the experiments you didn’t like. Feel free to send if you want – happy to take a look.”
A month went by, and our curiosity continued to build. The suspense continued to mount. The empty space between proved a beautiful silence.
It was a warm Seattle morning in August when we received an email from Campbell at 2:36 AM, “…found some images from the work in progress…[but] didn’t bother photographing the final piece.....just painted over them the next day.”
We were floored.
Campbell had sent over the first images of “The Boxer,” and they were terrific. They were exciting, energetic, mysterious. But wait, what?! He had painted over them!
We knew this work had to be shown —they were beautiful—inspiring, and a story that had to be told. We wrote to Campbell telling him how we felt about the images, about how much we loved them.
Campbell got back to us and gave us the story. They were created using the image from the famous Warhol/Basquiat exhibition poster from New York in 1985, but they had a twist, an influential appreciation. Campbell mentioned that he wished the piece would have worked out and that maybe he would try again in the future. We were indeed on the edge of our imaginative seats.
Two weeks later, we received another communication from Campbell with the final image of the ‘The Boxer,’ the painting that became our first story. Our first collection.
We just had to find a way to tell the story.
Leaving the Rest Blank
Our plan for the campaign: film a remote interview with Campbell by projecting the conversation on an urban wall and film the projected images with a separate set of 4K cameras.
We did our research and pulled together questions that would tell a great story. We wanted to ask Campbell about his statement, “Everyone has a different journey and life experience that relates to some kind of imagery.” What did he mean by that? What advice would he give to creative people who live in the 9-to-5 corporate world and want to pursue their passions? We were curious about the boxer; what did he represent?
We were prepared for the interview. And then we got a note from Campbell.
“I’ve given it much consideration and… I feel it just isn’t necessary to explain [the work], I prefer just putting out work and leaving the rest blank, I more enjoy other people’s interpretations or thoughts.”
The interview was off.
Most would think this was a dead-end, but we knew it was the beginning. We fully respected Campbell’s wishes, and now we had to tell an original story with the added limitation of being unable to interview Campbell. How were we going to tell the story?
To us, “The Boxer'' was a metaphor for Campbell’s growth as an artist and for PAACHN fighting to become a new brand.
We forged ahead.
We reached out to a boxing gym where the University of Washington Boxing team trains and shot original footage with gloves and a few cannons. We met an engaging dude in Capitol Hill who managed an empty basement that whispered stories from an old clothing company that started during the Great Recession. We received inspiration from a new school surf video and discovered our fondness for silhouettes.
Campbell was gracious enough to share some of his original footage. We shot footage over two days and pulled together the storyline over a few bottles of Royal City Syrah.
We are forever grateful to Campbell, not only because he created a fantastic painting, but because he helped us start to craft our brand voice. Campbell would say there is no meaning to “The Boxer” and that we should enjoy his art for what it is – just art.
There is wisdom in this type of interpretation.
When artists choose not to project meaning to their craft, they are not avoiding the question; they merely provide emotional and creative space for viewers to consume. Is that not why we enjoy art? How art speaks to us and how we respond is better left to interpretation, a personal moment in time, and a meditation on one’s emotions.
This is our interpretation of “The Boxer.”
What is yours?
Be curious, be adventurous, and always live w/ PAACHN!