​cav empt and nick knight discuss the past, present and future of youth

Developed through SHOWstudio's Untitled project, the latest limited edition Cav Empt capsule collection explores the idea of youth through the eyes of Nick Knight, filmmaker Rei Nadal, and Cav Empt duo Sk8thing and Toby Feltwell.

by Steve Salter
31 May 2017, 10:30pm

After being introduced by MACHINE-A's director Stavros Karelis, SHOWstudio's Nick Knight, director Rei Nadal and the design duo behind Cav Empt have spent over two years exploring youth together. What did these coming-of-age teenage years mean to them? What do they see in the next generation's sense of fluidity, freedom, discovery, excess, possibility and rebellion that inspires them now? From Nick Knight sharing Joseph Szabo's smoking Jones Beach native from the late 60s to Toby Feltwell's San Diego emo punk rockers and Tokyo-born Sk8thing's skinhead daydreams after discovering Knight's iconic 1982 tome, the foursome shared, challenged and pushed one another forward.

"I like the idea of new relationships and finding how the world looks from inside other people's heads," Nick Knight explains over email."I have learnt a lot about Shin (Sk8thing) and Toby and C.E. as well as my continuing and evolving understanding of Rei's mind. To see how they work and how they react in front of the same questions and ideas I have is such a privilege and the reason in the end to do this project."

Conceptualised by Karelis, this Untitled Project documents the various stages of research and invites the reader, viewer and consumer on a journey through to the project's final stage -- a film by Nadal and Knight and a range of limited edition Cav Empt products. From filming the moment co-directors Rei Nadal and Nick Knight first met Cav Empt's Toby Feltwell and Sk8thing right through to the finished collection, the entire creative process is reflected, refracted and diffracted throughout the collaboration.

Thanks to SHOWstudio live shoots and discussions, we've grown accustomed to following Nick Knight behind-the-scenes of creativity but Cav Empt are notorious for their air of mystery and sense of aloofness. "Many things about this process have dragged us out of our comfort zone -- that's what's supposed to happen when you work with people outside of you circle," Toby Feltwell explains. We might be inundated with creative coming togethers at the moment, but few collaborations are as pure or as open as this Untitled Project.

As we share its 15-minute short film Energy Surplus below, Nadal, Knight and Feltwell invite us deeper in their shared vision of youth.

What was the catalyst for this Untitled Project?
Nick Knight: Stavros and Rei's desire to create some form of visual conversation between Toby and Sk8thing from C.E. I like the idea of new relationships and finding how the world looks from inside other people's heads. The further they are from who I am the better. I'm drawn to people with very different viewpoints on the world from me.
Rei Nadal: With MACHINE-A, Stavros has the opportunity to meet the most talented and interesting creatives in this industry. It made sense in his head to introduce Nick and SHOWstudio to Toby Feltwell and Shin. From a mere aesthetic point of view, the two teams might not appear the most obvious mix, but it was very clear from the beginning this collaboration was going to be groundbreaking.

What was your starting point and how did those initial conversations evolve into the finished product and accompanying media we're sharing today?
Nick: The general subject was youth -- our different experiences of it and our different perspectives on it now. That transition from child to adult is often the defining moment of our lives. It's a rite of passage that has become very blurred, so people can never really feel that they are adults and keep referencing back to their teenage years. I can't be sure or not whether this is good or bad. Our common ground was my book on Skinheads as it was an important reference for Sk8thing.
Cav Empt: We were excited just to talk and see where it led. It's hard to remember if what we discussed at the start is reflected in what it ultimately turned into... But we had to go through that process in order to get here.

We're particularly interested in how the project unpacks the creative process. From concept to finished product. Why were you so keen on inviting us on this journey?
Rei: Nick's been a pioneer of this for many years. He has always been very open about revealing his development and sharing his shoots at SHOWstudio. It was an early discussion between Stavros and myself that we thought we would take this idea to the extreme by recording on camera the first time Nick, Shin, Toby and I would meet. Overall I think it's a very unusual collaboration with a very unusual process, which directly influenced a remarkably different piece of work.
Cav Empt:To be honest, we prefer not to explain what we do, but in keeping with the way that SHOWstudio operates, it could only happen with them if the process was in the open.

Now, we have to talk about Energy Surplus. It is no ordinary "fashion film". Could you introduce it in your own words?
Cav Empt: The film is the product of Nick, Rei and the two of us sharing things that we are into based on some very loose themes and following that to wherever it took us... There was no object in sight at first. What we've found really interesting about the experience is that it's been very similar to the way that we work on everything we do: we each introduce a lot of seemingly unrelated ideas to each other -- there is some thread that connects them that you can almost recognise, but it's impossible to describe it without going through this process of working to find out how the ideas all fit together. It's been very satisfying to go through that process with Rei and Nick and recognise what is produced as essentially C.E.-ish.
Nick Knight: It was a co-direction. There was a very delicate and respectful dance between our ideas. I am fascinated by the way Rei's mind works and I love being able to work with her at this level of creative intimacy. Neither of us wanted a simple, easy to digest, linear narrative driven film. It's not a story but an association of ideas around our different viewpoints on age and on youth.

Why and how did you want to push it beyond what's expected from a film that accompanies a release?
Nick: I firmly believe fashion film is a non narrative medium. Rather than film, it takes its founding language from fashion photography. A great fashion photograph is just a powerful trigger to future desires, there's no need to tell a narrative driven story. As soon as that image starts to move, there's no need to plaster a narrative upon it either. The narrative is in the clothes already and in the characters the models become when wearing those clothes.
Rei: Energy Surplus is one of those films that is conceptually dense, it's more interesting to allow the film to be watched without offering introductions or explanations. I want it to be more about what the viewer think it means.

Do you think intricate, all-encompassing projects such as this one are the future of fashion collaboration?
Cav Empt: The word 'collaboration' makes me cringe because so much of what is labelled collaboration is a cynical marketing strategy. I'm sceptical of anything that even slightly seems as if its only reason to exist is an opportunity to combine two different groups of instagram followers in order to promote a product. But this really was a collaboration, I have to accept that that's the best word for it.

Finally, what's next? What excites you most about tomorrow and beyond?
Rei: New collaborators, new ideas, new possibilities.
Cav Empt: There are limitless things for us to find out about. That's what keeps us going.
Nick: I've been working on a timeline of punk and the use of clothes as symbols of revolt, so tomorrow I will be deep in that again. The C.E. project is something that has taken at least two years to come together. Some things are worth the time and the energy applied to them, This certainly was.

The Cav Empt x SHOWstudio / MACHINE-A collection is available now via The Cav Empt x SHOWstudio, MACHINE-A, Slam Jam and Cav Empt.


Text Steve Salter

Nick Knight
Fashion Film
fashion interviews
cav empt
toby feltwell
rei nadal
untitled project