February 5, 2013

10 Minutes With…Twin Horizon, Purveyors Of Shanghai Street Style

“Our Style And Approach To Art Is Our Logo, Our Brand.”

Launched last year, the Shanghai street-style label and creative house Twin Horizon has quickly developed a reputation for keeping fashion fresh and authentic, with hand-drawn artistic statements that push the boundaries of “simple clothing.” For its first collection, Shanghai DIY, Twin Horizon debuted with t-shirts sporting designs inspired by five prominent independent bands: Stegosaurus?, Friend Or Foe, Boys Climbing Ropes, Rainbow Danger Club, and Moon Tyrant.

Recently, Jing Daily had a chance to catch up with Ivan Belcic, one-third of the Twin Horizon team, to talk about artistic statements, DIY culture in Shanghai, street style, and the label’s upcoming plans.

Jing Daily (JD): Twin Horizon is a three-part team (Belcic, Clem Balanoff and JC Heinbockel — ed.). What brought the three of you together?

Ivan Belcic (IB): Clem and I have had this idea in mind since we became friends while at Trinity College in Connecticut. Clem had taught me how to paint shirts using hand-cut stencils made from freezer paper. Once we started putting our drawings and designs on clothes, it was more or less a foregone conclusion that this would be where we’d try to direct our lives.

JC and I met each other through a mutual friend here in Shanghai. We got to know each other quite well, both as bandmates in Moon Tyrant and as roommates as well. Clem was still in Buenos Aires at the time, and I needed someone to handle the business end of things — sourcing shirts, cracking the whip, keeping track of finances, that sort of thing. That’s JC’s bag. He’s back in the US now in law school, but is still very much an active member of our group.

Twin Horizon

JD: Twin Horizon believes that “an artistic statement can in itself serve as an identity.” What kinds of statements is Twin Horizon making, and why have you chosen t-shirts as your creative medium?

IB: That’s a reference to our idea of being an art-first label. We’re responding to what we see as a disturbing trend by many streetwear labels to simply plaster a garment with some version of their logo and have it be wildly received by their adoring fans. We see ourselves more as — and I hate using this word to describe myself, it makes me feel like such a pretentious ponce — artists using apparel as our medium. Our style and approach to art is our logo, our brand. I want someone to look at one of my tees and say, “Oh yeah, that’s a Ivan for sure.”

We love streetwear, and the T-shirt is the foundational garment that ties a look together. When I get dressed in the morning, everything I wear is centered around which tee I’m throwing on that day. It was only natural to see the vast emptiness of a blank tee and think, “There’s just so much that can be done to augment that space.”

JD: Can you describe DIY culture in Shanghai and talk about how Twin Horizon fits into the community?

IB: I would hesitate to lump everyone making things happen under their own power into one readymade “culture,” but I agree that there is definitely a support system in place. The bands I associate with in the underground music scene all take a proactive attitude when it comes to recording, touring, and all that. I’m in a band myself, and so I’m fortunate to play shows with and count as friends the multitude of talented, driven musicians in this city.

JD: Street fashion has really exploded in China. How would you describe Shanghai street style?

IB: I don’t know if I could. It’s all over the place. It seems to me like you’ve got a lot of different templates, and people decide into which of those they’d like to fit themselves. You’ve got the guys with flannel button-downs, tight cuffed khakis, upturned caps and canvas kicks. Then there’s your hip-hop style plate, but they don’t seem too prevalent anymore. Shanghai street style definitely favors the hipster aesthetic over the hip-hop one. Whatever the outfit is, it’s too often all topped off by a pair of lens-less glasses, and in the worst of cases, drop-crotch pants.

For every one person who’s got a firm handle on their own style and how they want to look, there are three or four people who go too far and end up looking like parodies of themselves.

JD: What’s the reception been like thus far to your label, and who’s been buying?

IB: So far, pretty good. It’s encouraging. We’ve only had one collection so far, and we’ve sold over half of the shirts we made. It’s a learning experience — next time, we’ll print fewer shirts of each design. Since our first line was based in the music scene, we got a lot of support from fellow musicians and other concertgoers this time around. Though we’ve only made men’s sizes for now, a fair amount of women have been buying the tees nonetheless. Some people take scissors to them, cutting and customizing the shirt to fit their personal style.

I love it all. If you like something I drew or designed enough to spend your money on it — well, I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

JD: Have you noticed any advantages or disadvantages to starting out by selling via e-commerce on your site?

IB: As a label without a retail space, it was only natural to set one up on the Internet. It’s a home base for people to check in, see what we’re up to, maybe buy something if they’re in the mood. I don’t see how you can hurt yourself by having an easy-to-use store on your website. The only disadvantage is waiting in line at the post office when it’s time to ship an order!

"Friend or Foe" by Twin Horizon

JD: How do you promote Twin Horizon and target your customers? What kinds of social media are you tapped into?

IB: If I didn’t feel like I had to use social media to market myself, I’d keep far, far away from the stuff. But since it appears to be the inevitable progression of things, and you’re a societal pariah if you abstain, I try to walk that line between a steady stream of content and being an alienating font of self-promotional drivel. We tweet from @twin_horizon, we have a tumblr account at twinhorizon.tumblr.com, and our Facebook page is www.facebook.com/twinhorizon. We do our best to keep interesting things coming out from all three fronts. Twitter is weird — you act like you’re best friends with people you’ve never met.

JD: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now and future projects to come?

IB: Gladly! We’ve got our second batch of T-shirt designs all drawn up, but hit a slight snag with sourcing the shirts themselves. So while that’s getting back on track, we built our own silkscreen machine in our apartment, and we also have a bunch of super-cool flannel shirts coming out. We designed them with a bunch of additional features making them perfectly suited for the two-wheeled, pedal-powered consumer. But I don’t want to say too much until we’ve got them ready to go. Our tailor is still hard at work, making each one by hand. I’ve been in to check a sample, however, and they’re absolutely amazing. I’m excited to move into another piece of apparel outside the T-shirt.

We also recently released Vol. 2 of the We Are Shanghai compilation series. It’s an ongoing series that aims to showcase the best and brightest across Shanghai’s musical offerings that we’ve been working on in collaboration with Zangnan Recordings and Luwan Rock. Check it out at www.weareshanghai.com.

Eventually, I’d really, really like to move into sneakers. The possibilities with those — colors, materials, shapes — it’s really limitless what you can do with a seemingly simple piece of footwear.

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