öctagon is the new skate brand you need to know about
At a time when skate companies are still riding the waves of 90s nostalgia, Öctagon is the French skate brand transporting you into the future.
Something is happening in the French capital. The skate scene over there has been blowing up lately, as if a massive spotlight has been hanging over it for the past year or so. Consider: a brand new Supreme store opened; Larry Clark made a film about the city's wayward skaters; a slew of US pros have been Instagramming clips from Place de la République with increasing regularity. Paris - it's clear - is the white-hot centre of the European skate scene and it's fuelling some of the most hyped new skaters and brands.
Öctagon, a French skateboard hardware brand comprised of a tight crew of friends - team riders include Edouard Depaz, Valentin Bauer, Bram De Cleen, Joseph Biais, Yeelen Moens and Rémy Taveira - has swiftly elbowed its way to the top of that hype heap. They started out last year with a video supported by Carhartt. Their aesthetic was minimal. Their videos were shot in stark black-and-white, filmed in and around brutalist urban utopias. They had their own vision of what a skate company could be and where it could go. And most intriguingly, their work played with strange futuristic narratives.
"We just want to take it somewhere else," the founders, who wish to remain nameless, tell me. Amid the flurry of new brands, how do they stand out? "By simply doing our own thing without caring too much what other people think, and by having the best guys skating for us."
In their latest video, Perceptiön, which, on top of skating, touches on A.I., cyborgs and perception, the fierce experimentalists have developed their ideas into something you've never seen before in skateboarding. Something that's impossible to pigeonhole. This new video emerges alongside their latest collection - their second - which is all part of the same carefully cultivated dystopian universe. You can get a better sense of the collection in their brand new spring/summer 16 lookbook featured exclusively below.
At a time when skate companies are still riding the waves of 90s nostalgia and putting out VHS videos soundtracked by Dinosaur Jr, Illmatic-era Nas, and various shoegaze bands pre-2000, Öctagon is putting out techno-heavy videos set in a not-too-distant future. They embrace the modern. "Our aesthetic happens to be against the 90s trend but we didn't do it on purpose; just for the sake of it," they explain. "We just wanted to build a whole universe from scratch based on what we like, regardless of what might be trending or not."
That's exactly what their work does: it creates a universe. The aforementioned narrative they suggest in the videos is tethered to the brand name itself. It comes from their vision of a sad and desperate future in which a totalitarian computer system called Öctagon rules over a black-and-white surveillance state. It's peculiar, and to my mind, completely monolithic in today's skate culture. No one is doing what Öctagon is doing.
Can you think of any skate brand that takes influence from manga artist Masamune Shirow and conjures an Orwellian sense of dread in their videos? Didn't think so. On their influences: "We have a big respect for the anime adaptation of Shirow's Ghost in the Shell by Mamoru Oshii. But we're mainly inspired by what surrounds us and by the questions that living in a modern society brings. It's important that there is something more than just making and selling clothes."
The story they spin in the videos extends to their collection. It's all part of the same world. "We try to connect the story with our products," they explain. "Our clothes identify themselves to the characters, the music, and the settings of the story. For this new collection, we got into the cybernetic alterations, so we basically tried to work on senses. Today, robots look like humans since they copy the different movements and senses of being human. In that way we tried to use people's senses. This is how our Perceptiön T-shirt was designed."
To those unacquainted with Öctagon's skate videos, the design of the clothes alone is minimal, sharp, and somewhat surgical: "We wanted something as pure as a laboratory atmosphere." But out of context, separate from the world which Öctagon has sculpted, the line wouldn't be as exciting. Here the videos are key, because the whole aesthetic of the brand is anchored by the narrative. "We don't want to make something meaningless, so we guess the clothes will evolve like the story, it's gonna be deeper and deeper every new season."
Öctagon has cultivated a mysterious presence online. What information there is about the brand is entangled in the same narrative web. You're never sure where the story finishes. Which is refreshing in a world where skate companies spoon-feed you products and drop clips online every week if not every day. Without aping what brands before them have done, Öctagon has melded audiovisual art, architecture, fashion, techno, storytelling, and skateboarding into a unique solar system of ideas. In a way, it's a middle finger raised to the polite business-as-usual California skate companies. You hear the message, loud and clear: There is no rulebook in skateboarding.
Today it's a message that's blaring from the giant megaphone hovering over Paris. That's why the city is making waves internationally, perhaps. I asked the Öctagon guys what they thought about the dominance of the French capital in skate culture. "Paris is definitely having a moment right now and it's a good thing. That doesn't mean we need to get the mandatory five clips at République in all our edits though." Every scene eventually breeds stereotypes and clichés, but for now, Paris retains its originality. Paris is winning.
Photography courtesy of Öctagon