'BONE, STONE, SOIL AND WOOD' with Alfie Kungu

'BONE, STONE, SOIL AND WOOD' with Alfie Kungu
We collaborated with Yorkshire-born artist Alfie Kungu as part of SS20: Fifth Generation. Now based in London, Alfie has been creating work inspired by nature, wildlife, regeneration and raw material over the past year.
The capsule consists of hand-painted denim sets, oversized knits, printed shirts and work trousers as well as a set of graphic offerings across hoodies, knit-sweaters, t-shirts and hats.
We recently caught up with Alfie to discuss Butterflies, The Flintstones and whether our reality is actually part of an elaborate game. 
Read the full interview below and scroll down to watch the video.
Hey Alfie! How did the collaboration with Liam come about?
We’ve always been into each other's work. There’s always a back and forth conversation whenever we’d meet up, go to the pub, or just be speaking online. Stuff like - “aw mate, that’s absolutely amazing” or “that’s shit hot, how did you do that?”. Initially we both thought it was just going to be a print for one piece or something like that, but as we continued sharing our ideas, realised that we both held very similar concepts at that time. Naturally once they were stuck together, we really couldn’t go any other way but to make as much as possible, to communicate a mish mash of concepts that work together. 

"[Liam and I] sort of met at exactly the same starting point so the idea grew every time we’d meet and discuss it - it wasn’t two separate things bursting forward."

What were the starting points and initial inspirations? 

He’d [Liam] been going mudlarking, walking along the Thames finding bones and crockery and stuff like that and he was sort of bringing round this stuff and showing it me and I thought it was quite weird but somehow it brought us on to this film called ‘Existenz’ by David Cronenberg. It’s a really good film - it’s sort of about real life and a game and not being able to tell if you’re actually part of this game. He was telling me about his concepts - this was even before we’d discussed how we’d approach a collection - then what he [Liam] was saying, totally reminded me of that film so I told him to watch and he messaged me just like “Wow, that is a visual representation of all the shit going on in my head.” 

That was a starting point, certain points in the film - especially aesthetically - the use of bones and technology. Really, really old, prehistoric but then combined in a modern or futuristic context. It was quite a weird, jarring mash of things but they actually went together really well in the end. I started drawing loads of bones basically, and different forms of bones - and Liam would send me different pictures of like broken shit and then eventually after all the drawings were laid out on the floor, we’d just pick a few of the favourite ones. 

How did 'the Flintstones' also influence the collection? 

With the idea of something really old fashioned but combining that with sort of something modern. ‘The Flintstones’ is actually a really good example of that because they’re literally a prehistoric family but they live the modern-day family life. The dad’s got a 9 to 5 job, they’ve got all modern technology like telephones and cars so it’s just a really light hearted way of having a modern social commentary but doing it in a totally off-key way. 

The whole thing looked and is styled so well, everything fits in there. All the use of rock and all the bones together for the telephones and cars - everything’s made from the same three things but you totally understand what it is. I think it was not just the appearance of caveman stuff but also the people and society and the tools they used, which is why I drew a lot of clubs and the bones - prehistoric shit.

"Really, really old, prehistoric but then combined in a modern or futuristic context. It was quite a weird, jarring mash of things but they actually went together really well in the end."

You worked in the pop up store we did on Greek Street back in April last year, how did that inform the work? 

Yeah, I was making the work in there, that was really good actually. We just wanted to make the drawings that I’d done on A3 huge, so then we could just pick really distinct characters that would become the motifs throughout the collection.

What was the process like - how did you choose? 

I was down in the pop up store pretty much everyday for one week on the bottom floor drawing the characters and motifs that would be in the collection and refining them by doing them on a larger scale, essentially to figure out which is going to work. I really settled on drawing quite a simple cartoon style butterfly and then using the wings as the canvas on which the detailed images would be displayed on - like the bone formations and natural, organic shapes rather than computerized stuff.

"I think we both provided something that one another couldn’t without having that [dynamic]. We were both sort of buzzed off what each other brought to the table so I think because it was a positive process, it was quite easy for us to let the ideas develop." 

What did the butterfly symbolise? Why was it important in the collection? 

Just about the classic cycle that butterfly went through from being the caterpillar. It’s a symbol of regeneration and I guess that’s what we were kind of looking at when it’s old fashioned stuff coming into the modern - from ‘The Flintstones’ or from that film [Existenz], it’s always a recycling sort of thing.


The butterfly was also a central part of the set design for the SS20 show. What was the process working with Louis Gibson to transform your work into a 3D sculpture? 

So with building the 9-foot butterfly, that was really fun because we literally just had to start from a drawing, a 2D image, of quite a simple cartoon-like butterfly. Thinking about how you could make that 3D and then also what colour would it be? What texture would it be? - that was all linked to how we were going to make something to be strong enough to stand up, look well made and also reflect the actual ideas. So we basically started by making a 3D render - Louis did that part - of a drawing I did of the character and then from there we just chose the breakdown of colours based on the colours that would be in the collection. From there we went to the fabricators and we built it alongside those guys in 3 days. 

They had made the frame before we got there - it was sort of a wire mesh to create the shape and then we covered it with papier mache and then with this stuff called jesmonite which dries rock-solid in about 20 minutes. We painted it after that and it looked great but we had to make it in a few parts because it was too big to fit in a van or move around anywhere. That was something I’ve never done before as well - make a sculpture, or something 3D, my work’s always painting really. Working with Louis [Gibson], we were able to create something that we both wouldn’t be able to do individually. I was just amazed at the transformation of it being a flat image to a physical presence. 

Going back to the topic of turning something 2D into 3D, what was it like for you seeing your artwork being worn and translating it into clothing? Have you worked with fashion like that before? 

Not necessarily, not specifically in this process. I think that’s what was really good about it because we [Liam and I] sort of met at exactly the same starting point so the idea grew every time we’d meet and discuss it - it wasn’t two separate things bursting forward. It always stayed quite in its lane which was good because there’s a danger of it losing track of what you were trying to do [in the first place]. 

I think we both provided something that one another couldn’t without having that [dynamic]. We were both sort of buzzed off what each other brought to the table so I think because it was a positive process, it was quite easy for us to let the ideas develop. 

Colour is obviously a signature part of your work, how important were the colours in the collaboration - across garments and set design - and how did you go about this process? 

With my work, the relationship between colour and whatever I’m making is fundamental just because the colours are what sort of direct me to paint, and give me the energy to paint something good. If you choose the right palette you can create a whole range of emotions or whatever you want the piece to say. So then I just sort of applied that to how I thought the different garments would look. If I wanted it to be quite a loud piece, I’d use colours that I’d usually use in my bright, big loud work. I think it worked really naturally. It’s quite an easy sort of thing, what the colours do communicate can vary depending on how you’re wearing it.

"With my work, the relationship between colour and whatever I’m making is fundamental just because the colours are what sort of direct me to paint, and give me the energy to paint something good."  

 

What’s your favourite piece from the collaboration and why? 

Super tough to decide because I feel a personal attachment to each of them. However, if I had to choose, I’d say the white denim trousers that I hand painted - it was a good challenge trying to fit my bone chain design in the right places. Making sure the garment doesn’t become too busy but still having a good composition with areas of colour. I was really happy to see how well it worked as a two piece with the matching jacket too. That was one of my proudest moments seeing that look on the runway. I think that whole collection was a huge success and one of the most interesting and challenging projects that I’ve worked on.  



 

 

See more of Alfie's work HERE 

and find out more about SS20: Fifth Generation HERE