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Art Comes First talks Product and Design

My creative routine is really based around research. Everywhere I travel, I tend to always look for a market, or places I can find vintage...
Sissi Johnson: What does the color black mean to you as a designer? It is such a signature color for ACF.

Sam Lambert: The color Black means a lot. I think my approach to the color started when I realized that the mix of every color is actually black. But also, it is aligned to my mood most of the time. I’m a traveler, and at the Sam Lamberte time, even though it doesn’t always look like it, I practice the art of minimalism. I try to be essential in my packing. I try to be as efficient with my travels. But really when it comes to design, the color black started really because we wanted to make sure we focused more on the design and quality of the cloth, and less on the color.

Shaka: The black color represents so many things. Of course, it’s the palette, but the psychology around color is that black represents elegance, it represents power, it represents sophistication, it is based around constraint.

So when you confine yourself to all these other elements such as color, it forces you outside your box. So you focus more on texture, the color itself means so many things to so many people but for us, it’s a form of identity.

Outside of race, if you look at people who use black to identify a particular group they are a part of, such as say punks for instance. They always wore predominantly black. But also where I’m from in West Africa, it’s a tool to communicate emotions. Where you’ve lost someone and you are mourning, it’s common practice to wear black for a month or six months. For so many reasons, that’s why we use black.

Sissi Johnson: What is the best design advice that you have ever received?

Sam Lambert: The best design advice got to be “Keep it simple”. That’s also what actually made us stick to the color black. It’s easy to add things, it’s easy to make it complicated. But once you make it complicated, only a few people will get it. But once you keep it simple, simplicity is everything, simplicity is elegance, simplicity is understood by many, simplicity is simplicity, so just keep it simple.

Sissi Johnson: What design advice would you give now?

Sam Lambert: I’d probably say be true to yourself. The idea of you designing is not that you are designing for other people. You are actually designing for yourself. It is self-expression, so if you are true to yourself, everything that you will design will be understood. I think we all need to understand ourselves first before someone else understands us.

So if you are true to yourself, that would probably be the best design advice I can give because if you are one person that loves to complicate things, then complicate things cause that’s you. If you are a person who loves to simplify things, then simplify things cause that’s you. So as long as you are true to yourself, you are always going to find people that understand what you are trying to say.

Sissi Johnson: Can you share with us your creative routine?

Shaka: My creative routine is really based around research I would say. Because everywhere I travel, I tend to always look for a market, or places I can find vintage clothing. But not just clothing, it could be the music, even Instagram, social media, you would be surprised what you can find. Go back into history because that is something that really inspires me. So my routine is really based around research and continuing to research.

Sam Lambert: I’m a big fan of music. I like the sound of the feeling of vintage, but being brought to the edge world. So one of my creative routines is always to start from researching out of the actual design world. I’ll probably research into music or architecture. So if I have to research into music, I’ll frequent a lot of flea markets or go to a record store to buy vinyls, or CDs. Through vinyls, I’ll figure out so many things, just through that piece of work.

I’ll often buy stuff I don’t know because I love to discover things. You have to have that wandering mind. I’ll buy a record just ‘cause I like the album cover, the artwork does a lot to me. The artwork and the names. Through that, you find photography, you listen to the sound, and then you try to picture that sound with the artwork. So one of my main rituals has to be music and through that, you can see a lot of our inspiration is based on music. Sometimes, you might actually confuse it, “do they do music or clothing?”

Music has a lot of things to do with my life because it kind of sets the tone. It’s the soundtrack, I need a sound before I start anything. That is probably one of the main things. Another one is I love photography books. There are so many photographers out there that we still need to find and discover their work. I love photography books. I always either have one at the studio, which I buy many, or I go out and look for one. It can be a random one. Can be a book from Africa about birds, or can be about tools or it can be about styles from the 1940s.

Again, trying to picture me in an era or a space, somewhere. That would be the second one. The third one would be, probably something actually very silly, like a random conversation between me and my business partner. Like a proper random conversation, and that conversation always guides us into a feeling. That feeling becomes an idea, and an idea becomes a silhouette. So we do a lot of dialogue. You can call it gossip or whatever…

Sissi Johnson: Then you infuse that into your design?

Sam Lambert: Yeah, because we always speak about everything. We tend also to create our own wordings. There is always one word, or one thing we are going to say that’s like “Ah!”. I remember just talking about “Surf Afrika”, that’s how it came about. Literally, a conversation when we were going to travel to Senegal. While we got that word, traveling into Senegal, that word was still coming with us.

Then a lot of documentaries, I spend my time YouTubing or Googling documentaries about many different things, because they are so realistic. That puts me more into a mood of innovating something, because once you start seeing how stuff that was done before, or other people’s work, gets you to want to re-interpret it back into your own work.

Either it’s a film, either it’s photography, either it’s an explorer, you bring that to design. That’s mainly really me talking to myself often. I’m going back and forth. Sometimes we give the collection 3 to 5 names. Those are just random because that’s how I felt.

I was looking at this horse, “oh cowboy, Yeah this sounds good! But cowboy what? Oh! Black cowboy!” It keeps on evolving until it takes a shape, and from that we start creating a moodboard. So l think about what we are creating now, we actually wanted to express our journey in West Africa, and that was a road trip.

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Art Comes First: Exploring the Intersection of Style and Identity

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