I launched Thames when I was very young. Well, I must have been. Either I was very young or it wasn’t much of a launch, though, come to think of it, there’s no reason why both of those statements can’t simultaneously be true. Anyway, Thames has been a part of my life for the part of my life that my humble hippocampus deems worthy of remembering, and then some.
I was, I’m told, one of those children who like drawing cartoons as much as they like watching them. If there’s a pinpointable, pivotal moment at which the type of art that suits skateboards succeeded the type that suits screens as my principle source of aesthetic inspiration, it’s the moment I first set foot in Slam City Skates. Thinking about it now, the words ‘sensory’ and ‘overload’ spring to mind. I’d love for you, dear reader, to be able to see that vast and varied board-wall, that altar-like display cabinet, slapdashedly adorned with stickers and that ceiling, with thirty-years-or-more’s worth of names, epigrams and crude illustrations etched into and scribbled upon it, through my 12-year-old eyes, or through you own eyes, for that matter, however old they are… alas, the shop has long since closed.
So I held the shop in high regard. We’ve established that. You’ll understand, then, my swelling with pride when, in 2013, it began to carry my products. Again with the pinpointing, I’d say it was at this moment I first realised that my GCSE art project was a brand, and vice versa. Doing the mental arith’, I reckon I’d have just turned 16 at the time.
A little under a year later I partnered with Palace Skateboards. Thames did, I mean; I had already been skating and, believe it or not, modelling for the brand for a couple of years by then. I tend to think of the chapter that ensued as Thames’s adolescent years. I mean to say that it didn’t very well know what it wanted to be when it grew up. But, eventually, I did. Or, at least, I knew what I did not want to be: under Palace’s wing/thumb. In 2019, aged 21, for reasons we haven’t the time to get into, I brought our partnership to a close and the business with it.
Now fast forward, if you will, to September that year, and you’ll see me, Blondey, putting the finishing touches on my first collaboration with Adidas and pondering which platform I ought to launch it on. My own website –– from which I had been selling my art and art merchandise –– was the obvious answer, but something stopped me from seeing it as the right one, and I suppose that something was Thames. I believe it’s called Stockholm syndrome, or something like that, when your head is banged against a brick wall for so long that you come to consider the thing a friend. Well, whatever it’s called, I had it. I knew, however, that no matter how much it simply felt like ‘the right thing to do’ (to restart the brand, | mean), my decision to actually do it or not was one that would require careful deliberation. I asked myself what the point or points of it would be and arrived at three intrinsically-linked answers: firstly, to connect with people, secondly, to get my creative fix, as it were, and thirdly, to represent British skateboarding in a fresh and unhackneyed way.
But how could I do that? Step One was looking out of the window. I did so, and was reminded of something I’d once heard of Dame Vivienne Westwood saying in the early ’80s, once Punk had gone off the boil. She said that the most subversive thing a man could do, at that time, was wear a suit and tie (or words to that effect). Well, I don’t know if those words rang true when she supposedly said them –– I wasn’t alive yet –– but it struck me that they did in 2019, and that if Thames Phase Trois, A.K.A. THAMES MMXX., were to be inspired by them, it’d have a place in the real world and my own for as long as this were the case.
It is, at the time of writing, the 2nd January, 2022, and I’m pleased to say, dear reader, that this is still very much the case.
Founder and Creative Director, THAMES MMXX.