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Creatives In Practice: Slik Syd

By February 28, 2022Fashion News
Creatives in practice:

Slik Syd

“I don’t even like calling it a brand, I like calling it a life.”

For those plugged into London’s underground scene, the work of Syd will be very familiar. A creative by nature, he is responsible for two clothing labels, Osbatt and Bysilk, as well operating under the moniker yearsoftears for a range of outputs: music videos, editorials, clothing… basically whatever he feels like doing.

Whether it’s Lil Yachty, Lancey Foux, Skepta or Trippie Red, his designs have garnered a following from those in the limelight which has helped to gain him a cult following. The type of following that will shut down a street in Bermondsey with only 24 hours notice, doing tug of war with a pair of the designer’s jeans and fighting for his designs.

Beginning his journey into fashion with a pair of jeans that feature a praying skeleton on the front, split between the two legs, and a skull on either back pocket, his designs have continued to present a dark undertone. Partly an ode to the punk movement which he is inspired by, it is continued in his latest designs for Osbatt, the more high-end strand of his fashion output, imagery of bats, vampires and possessed-looking women.

The designer’s uniform of leather, distressing and gothic imagery has influenced London’s underground and the style which permeates within it. At the end of our interview, when I asked Syd if he wants to say any last words, he says, “Wait for me, I’m coming. Instead of saying (it), I’ve got a lot of sh*t to show.”

So for those who are still waiting to know about Syd, and for those who are already acquainted with his work, we discuss his introduction into fashion, being recognised by Floyd Mayweather and how, in the future, yearsoftears will be a commonly used adjective.

Interview: Tom Barker | @toombarker
Photography and Creative Direction: Rhys Marcus Jay | @rhysmarcusjay

What was your introduction to fashion before you started making clothes?

There were these guys that went to my school and on the non-school uniform day, this guy called Laurence came through wearing Adidas X Raf Simons Ozweegos. I thought they were so hard but one thing I do is if I like something I tell you I don’t so you don’t think I’m jumping on that thing so I said ‘yeah, they’re dead.’ The same day I went home and researched everything, knew everything about Raf Simons. Since then it’s been a snowball effect.

How did that develop into starting a brand?

That developed into starting a brand because I was buying pieces but I couldn’t find what I wanted so I made it myself. It felt like the next step, it’s cool posting pictures of what you’re wearing and all of that but I always knew there was something else for me to do next and that felt like the next step.

What were the first designs?

I made a phone case, that was the first piece I ever made. Then the first clothing piece was the BySlik denim trousers which we were shooting with today. My newest brand Osbatt I’ve had that design since I was 15. I just never brought it out until this year. 

How does it work with the two brands that you have?

BySlik is the first thing that showed me I can make anything I want. With Byslik I’ve sampled everything, I’ve used it like my test tube where I’ve sampled anything I want to make. Osbatt is where I put all the refined stuff that is ready to go out. Byslik is casual everyday wear and Osbatt is more high-end.

With the jeans that you first made and with lots of the designs for Byslik a lot of the imagery is centred around skeletons and skulls. What’s the story behind that?

I studied biology in school and I was in class studying the anatomy of the human body. That praying skeleton was on one of the pages. I went home the same day, designed it and put it in some denim but I felt like there was something missing so for three or four months I didn’t try and get them manufactured until I figured out what was missing and it was the back pocket print. I realised that was missing from Billionaire Boys Club and the running dog jeans. That’s what inspired everything really and I realised they have something on the front as well as the back.

You can see that influence from Japanese streetwear labels such as Billionaire Boys Club or Evisu who would print on denim a lot.

I never shy away from that as well. A lot of people shy away from saying where they got their inspiration, I feel like I’m being dishonourable if I don’t say where I got my inspiration. I can’t lie about that stuff. I’d rather tell someone that they inspired me to do something so everyone that has ever inspired me I tell them all the time.

When people want to start a brand and have a cool graphic their first move is normally to put it on a t-shirt or a hoodie. Why did you go with jeans?

I’ve never worn t-shirts, I’ve never liked them. I would just wear a white t-shirt or a black t-shirt. That’s why even with the t-shirts I have it’s only white or black and they won’t have any crazy graphic, it will just say what it is. I didn’t make a t-shirt, to begin with, because I thought it was too easy and too hard at the same time because I don’t wear them. That’s why I chose denim, denim is what I was wearing every day, I was head-to-toe in denim, in my baby pictures I’m wearing denim. I’m from Zimbabwe and there are a lot of farmers there and all they wear is denim so my introduction to this from a young age was straight denim and that’s why I found it very easy to start with that. 

“I’m from Zimbabwe and there’s a lot of farmers there and all they wear is denim so my introduction to this from a young age was straight denim”

You have been doing this for a while now, what has been the biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge was starting Osbatt. I used to work with this other guy and he once told me that once you try and start something new it’s not going to work. That was in my head for so long and then when I started Osbatt I was like if I put everything into this it’s going to work because I’ve done it once before. If you can do something once then you can do it as many times as you want. But that jump was so scary because it was mid covid but I knew that if everyone is at home they’re all on their phones, the only way I know how to show this is through a phone. That first post on the page was crazy, I had to make a statement and show that it is different.

Is it a coincidence that the brand launched during covid?

Every single day during Covid was the same and through my brand, I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. I needed a way to diversify and change it up so when I made the new brand that’s what I was doing. And I had this stuff designed when I was 15-years-old, it was like a dream coming true. I can go on my phone and show you designs that are out now that I made in 2015. 

You mentioned that the first thing you made was a phone case and I know you have made a rug before. Other than clothes, what would you like to make through your brands?

I don’t even like calling it a brand, I like calling it a life. One thing I want kids to get from this is to do what they like, not what anyone else likes. When I wear my own stuff, I might make a t-shirt but I cut it into a vest because that’s what I like and I want the kids that get this stuff to do the exact same thing. With years of tears, I feel like it’s way bigger than Byslik. If you search Yearsoftears online you might see a music video or an editorial that’s nothing to do with clothes. It’s everything, a cult classic sort of thing. Even the stuff that’s out now, I have way more stuff to share but I’m a perfectionist and I can’t let myself bring stuff out until it’s ready in my head.

What’s the story behind the name yearsoftears?

Split the word into years and then there’s tears. Years is the years of hard work we put into everything that we have going on and the tears aren’t sad tears, they’re tears of joy of celebrating what we’ve achieved so that’s the name.

Something we’re asking everyone is how would you describe your creative process?

My creative process is me living every single day. Me waking up in the morning is part of my creative process. When I’m in the shower that’s part of my creative process. When I shower I’m a weirdo, I close my eyes the whole time, I know where everything is so I close my eyes and I’m thinking and thinking and I’ll design a piece in my head. The hardest part of designing for me is the thinking process. Digitising it I can do in two seconds but the thinking is the hardest bit. The most important part of my creative process is when I’m in the shower, it’s weird but that’s the most important thing. 

When you look ten years into the future where do you see things going?

I see Years of Tears being no longer just as a brand, more so if someone does something they refer to it as “I’m doing Years of Tears.” I don’t know how to explain it, you see the word “anarchy” means not being under any governance, I want people to use the word yearsoftears in that same respect where you’re just being you. Do what really makes you happy, chase any dream that you have. You can actually make it a reality, I did the same thing. When I look back to who I was before life has changed so much, I’m still the same person but life has changed so much and that was through doing yearsoftears and chasing my dreams. I can’t really put it into words but the same respect you hold anarchy to, hold yearsoftears to that same respect.

Anarchy is related to subcultures and movements such as the punks, do you feel like your starting your own movement?

One hundred percent. We did an event last week in Bermondsey and I posted a screenshot of the address like 24 hours before from discord and I was expecting mabe 50 people to turn up. I got there and I couldn’t even get it. There were undercover police there trying to stop it, everything. The neighbours were peering out their window and I threw some clothes to them. That’s an upper-tier location, it’s London Bridge so you shouldn’t be doing anything like that but that’s why I chose that area because, ‘this is somewhere you don’t want us to be, I’m going to make sure we’re there.’ 

Where was the event?

Just literally on the road. People were fighting, I didn’t expect that many people to come. I only had 150 pieces to give out and like 300 people turned up. I felt bad because there were people who travelled from far away. I told people to pull up at 4 and they came at 1. When I started seeing people at 1 I thought maybe the police were going to do something but they came and I don’t think they did anything really. I had to pay my driver though because I fucked up his car and stood on top of it because there was nowhere else I could stand. Shoutout to him, he’s the realest one, he wanted some stuff for his kid. 

You said that you’ve had this vision from a young so when something like that happens how do you reflect on it?

It motivates me like crazy. As soon as I left that location, we were there for around 20 minutes and as soon as we left I went and shot a music video straight away. I came home, had people over, I was designing. That’s my endorphins, that’s what really gets me going. It restores my faith in a lot of stuff I’ve been doing because with Covid I haven’t been able to see it in real life I’ve just been seeing numbers on a screen. When I saw people outside it made me realise that this thing is very real and it keeps me humble. That’s one thing that I’ve always cared about. I’m just any normal person and I feel like staying humble is very important, a lot of people lose that when they start doing stuff and then life will humble you. 

Touching on that, what’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you where you have had to remind yourself to stay humble?

I was with my ex in Selfridges last year and Floyd Mayweather was in Selfridges. I know his son but I didn’t know that he knew me so I’m just walking through Selfridges and I see a bunch of security at Offspring but I just walked past with my AirPods in and then my ex tapped me on the shoulder and Floyd Mayweather was calling me over by name. That’s probably the craziest thing but even after that I just went home and played FIFA with the guys. Another crazy thing was when I met Lancey Foux and they were all saying that they knew me already. They are the people that I look up to, I look at them in the same way someone might look at Kanye. Stuff like that really does motivate me.

It does feel like them guys and you are part of a movement coming out of London that is doing something different.

One hundred perfect. I’m so geeked that it’s us at the front but I can’t wait for the next ones to come up. I’m 21, as soon as I hit 25 I don’t need to be doing this anymore. I want to see who’s next. That’s why now people like Fimi, the hardest artist out and he’s 19. It’s people like that which I want to bring into anything that I’m doing. I have a discord and there are so many talented kids in there and I was the next. I want to make sure that they know what’s up and that they control this thing next.

Could you ever see yourself handing the brand to one of them if you do break out at 25?

I always try and give people jobs but I don’t want anyone to be under me. I want you to have your shine. I can’t find someone that I think is hard and tag them and be like everyone fuck with them because that’s my fans, that’s people that fuck with me and they only fuck with you off the strength of me. I want you to build your own thing and if people see me around you and they fuck with any way that’s perfect. I can’t take someone else’s shine, that’s not good for them. The kids that I really fuck with, I’ll give them a platform to do what they want to do. 

Like what Rei Kawakubo does at Comme Des Garcons with people like Junya Watanabe.

Exactly like that.

Follow Slik Syd. on Instagram

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