The first thing that strikes you when you sit down with the members of Blackfish Collective is the sense of comradery that exists within the group, a relationship that verges on the familial. Most of them have known each other since their early teens, having grown up in the same town where they all pursued different ventures, mostly playing with local bands in an attempt to cut their teeth. However, it wasn’t until relatively recently that self-described “hype-man” and creative director of the group, Alda, decided to unify their talents. According to Alda, Blackfish started as an idea, “a minority within a minority, trying to establish itself in the community”. Blackfish’s main goal is to provide a platform for disparate creatives; a space to collaborate and promote each other’s work. The Collective’s output is as diverse as the characters who populate it; each member bringing a unique skill-set which ranges from rapping, producing, illustrating, directing and designing clothing. After the success of their debut track Drizzle, Blackfish has returned home to Dublin for their first live gig in Bello Bar, located in Portobello Harbour, Dublin 8. The sleepy downstairs venue has been utterly transformed into a multi-media performance space where the collective debuted a number of new tracks, supported by the visual and fashion projects that the collective have been working on for a number of months in anticipation for their debut.
Images: Katie O’Neill
Tucked away in the annex of Bello Bar, Blackfish’s first streetwear collection “Enigma” is displayed on the wall; lovingly curated by rapper and designer Dami (AKA Squarehead) with design partner Sophia. The choice of name reflects the enigmatic nature of the collective and their creative output, Dami explains, citing the clash of references and individual styles that the group oscillates between on each release. The garments on show are pared down canvas creations, emblazoned with original artwork by digital artist and fellow Blackfish member Mubashir which re-interpret the collective’s logo. In this way, the wearer becomes a walking exhibit. “We love art, one of [the designs] ‘Fish of Life’ is influenced by Picasso’s Cubist style. The one right beside it is called ‘Destino’ inspired by Dali’s Disneys cartoon.” The group is surprisingly confident in their decision to reject a consistent aesthetic, both sonically and sartorially. Instead, they hold their ears closely to the ground to determine what the youth is asking for in the moment. “Today we’re doing trap because we’re listening to trap. We can do indie because we like it. We can do afrobeat. [In terms of the designs] today it’s art, tomorrow it can be Virgil Abloh style – Off White – or these Vetements guys. We do what we like!”
The graphic patches and streetwear silhouettes on show are certainly comparable to Abloh’s work with urban brand Off White, so it is no surprise that Abloh serves as somewhat of a role model to Blackfish’s grassroots attitude. “He is one of my biggest influences right now,” Dami confirms, “he studied architecture but he has one of the up and coming fashion brands. It’s causing a scene in Paris right now, in Tokyo. If you go into his stores it’s like an exhibition. It’s like an art piece. You’re not gonna [flick] through the rail, you’re gonna treat it more like a one of a kind. You cherish it.” It is this sense of individuality that separates Blackfish’s clothing from mere band merchandise. Eventually, the group want to open an online store where you can customise each piece for order. For example, you can cut off a sleeve or switch out an artwork depending on your tastes. Acting both as an individualised piece and a collaborative artwork, Blackfish aims to make clothes which connect youth to a larger lifestyle, or even movement, reclaiming the notion of clothing as cultural identifiers and test driving it in an emerging Irish urban scene.
To read the full interview you can purchase the Spring/Summer 17 issue of Men’s Fashion Ireland here.