boombox's 10-year anniversary: we throw back to fashion's most fabulous party of the 00s
As Boombox prep to relaunch for one night only, we revisit i-D's Wealth Issue, 2006, and meet the "equal parts mouthy North London rude girl diva and shy Somalian Muslim prince" behind the legendary club night. "Armed with a Polaroid camera and a shiny...
If you've ever rolled in the EC2 ends, or shocked out at NagNagNag/Kashpoint /Boombox/Anti Social, you'll certainly have been dazzled by the twinkling glare spraying off the mirrorball hanging around stylist and club kid, Molaroid's neck. When he enters the building, that omnipresent mirrorball always announces a club-wide, 'Holllaaaaa!' Following up is the ever-present stunna shades, and the future boy- metallic-sci-fi looks that leave Molaroid looking like he beamed in like a Klaus Nomi styled battle agent from a Yu-gi-oh! trading card. Never predictable, he's as likely to be 'catwalking it' wearing a Jewish kippah with a Nike tick on it, as much as he is a Warholian green wig. This 23-year-old boy is off the charts. Together with Gareth Pugh, Matthew !WOWOW! and Carri Cassette Playa, he is so representative of London in 2006. Equal parts mouthy North London rude girl diva and shy Somalian Muslim prince, the entry in Wikipedia is on the way and he's in more MySpace top 8s than you! When living with his family in Saudi Arabia aged six, fashion first snatched a hold on Mola's imagination in the shape of a girls' night out with his Mum, only these were princesses in an opulent palace. "All the girls were wearing burkhas but underneath the black material I could see jewels glimmering. All of a sudden there was a bellydancer, and one of the girls just took off her burkha, to reveal this amazing purple couture dress, with loads of gold and jewelled heels. Her hair was lovely with a Farah Fawcett flick - it was so glamorous. That was the first time I thought, 'I like what you're wearing.' That's where my fascination with bling-bling and infatuation with fashion began."
The magic seeds planted, this beanstalk of ideas took time to take root. Moving to London aged seven, fashion reached into his mind through the sharp architectural 30th Century futuristic looks in Manga animation like Appleseed and Dominion Tank Police. Like all good yoots, buying a NES and then a SNES, Mo dropped into a galaxy of computer geekery and video games, losing himself jumping around collecting coins in technicolor fantasy worlds. Youthfully obsessing over these all-engrossing entities, he's quick to breathlessly elaborate upon character's outfits in his favourite game, Street Fighter. "I loved Blanka, with his massive orange hair, big green muscly body and cut-off denim shorts." Developing upon the impact they had on him, he goes on to say, "I suppose I see elements of the visual aspects of fashion in computer games and the worlds they were creating in collections, but it's still seen as a very childish thing even though it is so rich and developed. For me, it really took a hold." Taking that to the ultimate level, he ended up a computer games tester in Guildford, eventually meeting a hero of his, Mario Bros creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, while Mola was wearing a Manga styled outfit complete with blue contact lenses. As he explains, "I wet myself! He's like our Andy Warhol, and he did not know what the fuck to think of me!" Molaroid's not just a geek; he's a super-brainy geek. "I took Physics, Chemistry and IT at A-level. How boooooring! I loved chemistry though. Taking the molecules, adding them up and breaking them down, mixing and matching, I've always loved that mix and match approach. Chemistry is like styling."
Mola soon ditched the consoles in favour of a graphic design course followed by a stint in retail, at Marks and Sparks. He took up temporary residency on the returns desk at the Marble Arch branch. "The pastiest people used to turn up, and you'd just end up fighting every day," he remembers. The pinnacle of those days was his altercation with a certain shouty Scottish singer. He still bears a grudge to this day. "Who does she think she is? Turning up two foot tall in her awful regalia, and she's like 'I bought this cashmere jumper here and it kinda like bobbled up.' We looked at it, and we're like, 'Did you wash it? Did you read the back of your receipt? You can't bring it back if you've washed it.' And then she turns around with, 'Do you know who I am?' My friend Keisha just turned around and said, 'yeah, I know who you are. Aren't you that Peggy Mitchell from Eastenders?' She went fucking apeshit. I've seen so much trouble over fashion, and that was just over a M&S cashmere jumper."
Around the same time, he started hanging out at UK garage nights and War FM, where he drew inspiration from the London rude boy styles. "The tags hanging off the caps and clothes - I love it, the language of it. They're breaking the English language down, and creating a fresh dialect. I still wanna use words like that. If I meet Anna Wintour, I'll say 'Anna, I think what you're wearing is STUSH.' I love fashion, but I don't really enjoy the arrogance associated with it. I think it should be more humble. My styling is more like image making, than what the next trend is gonna be, or which buckle will be the hottest buckle this season. I always love to use graduate designer's collections, I'm as excited by the energy that I saw at pirate stations in tower blocks, as much as a designer in London with 5p in their back pocket. They have that same drive and attitude, and that's what excites me about London."
By chance Molaroid was introduced to Caroline Baker, the legendary stylist behind Nova magazine in the '60s, which to this day influences his aesthetic. "I thought it was amazing, so cool and so graphic, and no one gave a shit about advertising and brands, and pissing people off, and that's the direction I wanted to push myself in. I felt certain magazines weren't pushing it enough and that's when I started working as Fashion Editor for (now defunct) Superblow magazine."
Taking gentle steps into London's clubland, at parties like Kashpoint and NagNagNag, he was a quiet kid, dressed top to toe in black, sat back quietly observing, until an eventual epiphany, "I always held myself back, imagery of Middle Eastern aristocracy. I'm very proud of my heritage."
A long perceived notion that Molaroid is a wealthy trust fund kid is a complete myth, although his family name remains known and respected in Somalia (his Granny was at one time woo-ed by Hailie Selassie) the family money has long since been lost through war in the country. "I get criticised by loads of people for being self promotional, but do you know what? I don't care, because I'm not rich, and I don't have money, I don't have a PR like some rich kids, I'm my own PR, and that's where we are now, like Carri, like Gareth. We're entrepreneurial, multi-tasking, aspirational, forward thinking and boundary pushing, and we don't let anything get in our way." Anyone who's ever dressed up to go out, be they goth, metaller, punk, club kid knows that the dreaded walk out of the house and onto public transport, always comes with scorn from a disapproving public. And with an adroit courage that comes with everything Mola does, yep, he embraces it. "I love public transport. I love being in touch with society. I'll never be in a blacked-out bulletproof limo. I love to see what people are wearing. And I love to see the reactions of people to what I'm wearing, and to let others see this world that I live in." He admits he quite loves to antagonise through his provocative outfits - "One time I was getting the tube to Family with my friend Mimi and some Millwall fans came on to the same carriage as us. You can imagine the reaction that I received. I just stood there and said, 'Do you know what? You can just FASH OFF! This is London, I can do this if I want to, you can't stop me wearing this, in the same way that I can't stop you from supporting Millwall and being racist!' I've been applauded loads of times; I've been discredited loads of times. I'm not hurting anyone, and clothes are a very powerful way of making a statement, that not everyone understands. The way I dress up changes my mood. If I wear something metallic and shiny, I feel like a character from Dune. It's very powerful."
Text Jeremy Abbott
Photography Takashi Kamei
Hair Tomo Jidai at Untitled using Aveda
Make-up Georgina Graham at Pearle using Chanel
Photographic assistance Tom Medwell
Styling assistance Camilla Bruce
Hair assistance Takeo
Shot at Metro Studios