We explore the East London home of long-time Goodhood friend Fabio Arciero, an industry insider for many years, to talk De Beauvoir Town, cult Japanese magazines, the influence of early BAPE, and the flexi disc.
Cav Empt jackets galore... Fabio's wardrobe.
A storage crate from Japan's Human Made.
So, you’ve worked in this world for a fair while now. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve done?
Yeah, I've done a lot of stuff for a lot of good people. It started from working in an independent skate shop in the suburbs in 1998/99 when I was 16. They used to stock brands like Silas, Stüssy, X-Large and I’d go and do the buying. For a little skate store, it had pretty good brands and those buying appointment’s where I met people like Fergus [Purcell], Russell Waterman, Sofia [Prantera] who does Aries, Gareth from Palace, as well as Misha and Shauna from P.A.M. (Perks And Mini) and all those kinds of people. I’d buy Stüssy, so we’d go to the Gimme Five office and I met Michael [Kopelman], Hitomi Yokoyama, James Lebon and all of those guys... Inspiring people…
They opened the BAPE store in Soho in the early 2000s, next to where The Hideout was and I ended up working there for quite a while, as well as for Gimme Five doing some sales. I’d end up going to Japan for work all the time and worked with people like NIGO, Sk8thing and Toby Feltwell. Then Pharrell and Nigo launched Billionaire Boys Club and we launched all of it for Europe, which was a mad time. Then I ended up helping start Craig Ford’s agency, A Number of Names. We started distributing other brands like Billionaire Boys Club, Human Made and Cav Empt. We did FPAR with Tet from WTaps, Gourmet Footwear with Jon Buscemi and Greg Johnson, Bedwin and the Heartbreakers, all that sort of stuff.
How have you seen it all evolve?
In those [earlier] skate store days you’d just try a lot of stuff out, “oh, we’ll just have a go with this brand or that brand” so there were lots of smaller labels about. There wasn’t anyone telling customers what to be into, do you know what I mean? You wouldn’t go on Instagram to see stuff. It’s not even that long ago, but people didn’t use the internet as much as they do now, or at least not in that kind of way. People would come into the stores and ask what’s new, or they’d know a brand they like but then buy based off what you, personally, would guide them to.
Centre artwork by Gasius.
Artwork by Japanese brand Hysteric Glamour.
A selection of old editions of Relax and Christ Unlimited figures by Medicom Toy.
How would you be finding things out for yourself?
Well, I’ve still got all the old magazines. Like Relax, that for me is just, it’s a Japanese magazine and you could only get it in certain places. I got my first one age 17 or 18, and it was the only way to find out about this sort of stuff. I mean, you had things like Dazed and i-D, and Sleazenation was sick, I used to love that, but things like Relax were mind-opening as a publication.
I think now it’s not necessarily easier, but there’s a broader audience of people into this sort of stuff. You know kids that, when I was younger, would just be wearing whatever Nikes were cool, the freshest from JD Sports or whatever. The dream thing when I was at school was who got Moschino jeans that had a mental print, all that kind of stuff, and it wasn’t necessarily a specific thing but you were just kind of a bit ‘stush’. But, I think now those guys that would have just worn the more mainstream clothes or didn’t really care as much, now they’re really into all these brands.
In that sense, you had to be invested in it back then if you wanted to find something out but with today’s accessibility, everyone can have a go.
Yeah, when I worked at BAPE, we’d only get stuff delivered once a week. As much as people like to have an opinion on it, they were the forerunners in many respects. So, if you wanted something, we got the delivery, we’d put it out on a Saturday morning, there’d be loads of dudes out front, they’d buy it all, and then we’d spend the rest of the week with nothing in the store. But people would phone up all the time and we’d sometimes post stuff out or mail-order to pick up, but you wouldn’t be able to view it anywhere. They’d call up and ask, “what have you got?” and we’d say, “aw, there’s a t-shirt and it’s got an ape head on it. It’s wicked, just buy it” and they’d get it posted out, purely off the description given over the phone. But if you did that now it’d be insane; we had a ledger book with everyone’s details written in it. I don’t think we even had a computer in the office at the start, or maybe just one of those blue plastic macs.
The Cav Empt Owner's Manual and Brain Dead Index 01 on Fabio's bookshelf.
Fabio explaining how Nigo produced a flexi disc for cult Japanese magazine Relax.
Fabio's DJ Swamp Ouija-board-inspired slipmat.
We can see you’ve got the Cav Empt Owner’s Manual…
It’s pretty nuts, there’s a CD in it which has everything they’d made up until that point on it. Every single item on a white background, hi-res shots, just in a row. It’s a huge image file, and you can just zoom in and see all the pieces.
They did a flexi disc for it too - you can play it on a record player. You used to get them on magazines and I think you can only play it a handful of times before it’s done. There’s actually one in an old Relax, but you used to get them more on British music magazines because they were cheap to make. I don’t think anyone really makes them anymore, everyone’s doing cassettes now!
You’ve got a fairly big record collection too. Where’s the slipmat from?
It’s ‘DJ Swamp’ [laughs]. He was Beck’s tour DJ from the ‘90s, and he did these slipmats which were called ‘sickmats’, proper 90s Ouija board shit. I bought it years ago, and it was once white…
Left to Right: Vintage ET figurine, Medicom Toy x Undercover Burger Lamp, The Incense of the West Teepee Burner.
An oversized Estwing axe toy.
Fabio showing a blacklight poster for death metal band Electric Wizard by Andrew Labaranis.
Your flat is in an old 1920s/1930s block. What are your perceptions of the space?
People must have been a lot smaller back then... The flats in here are really solid and well built, but it’s pretty compact and the kitchen is really small. I guess people didn’t need as many appliances or other really non-practical stuff to squeeze into their homes.
Before here we lived in the Barbican Centre in an even smaller flat, so I'm used to small spaces. Luckily Enzo (my dog) is tiny so he’s good with it. This area is still filled with most of the original buildings. Most of the land in De Beauvoir is owned by the same family, so they haven’t torn it all down yet and built shitty flats.
Do you have any one item or artwork from over the years that you’d consider a prize piece?
Ah, no not really, nothing that’s not in storage! I think that’s the thing, it’s not like I really madly collect things, they just come up because it’s the world you roll in, do you know what I mean? It’s not like, pride and joy, you just end up accumulating; “saw that in a shop in Japan, still got it.” I’ve got loads of stuff in storage, but you just rotate bits and bobs over the years…
How often do you rotate things? Is it on an ad-hoc basis or do you decide to completely switch things up?
I basically don’t ever get rid of anything, so there’s about 20 years worth of stuff. I'm not sure how healthy that is. I guess when you work in an industry of ‘products’ they start to accumulate. As the flat is quite small, I downsized when we moved in which was actually quite nice. I had to put a lot of things in storage, but I tend to pop in to pick one thing up and end up bringing a whole box of random stuff back...
You could argue these kinds of possessions can be very symbolic of what you’ve done, where you’ve been and what you’ve seen…
There’s definitely a memory trail there, and to be honest I probably need that because I can barely remember anything! I’ve got the worst memory, and they’re tokens of a time, aren’t they? But at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff, isn’t it?
Enzo, Fabio's Italian greyhound. Shop Selected Goods: For Pets.