I started Thames when I was very young. Exactly how young I don’t recall because, as with skateboarding, I don’t care to remember much of life before it. The earliest evidence of its existence is at my grandmother’s house: a Mark Gonzales skateboard I bought the first time I went to New York at the age of 14, slapdashedly adorned with poorly printed Thames stickers. Thames, like my grandmother Salma, has no official birthdate.
My first visit to Slam City Skates in Neal’s Yard was a pivotal moment in my life. The board wall served as my introduction to art, the type that seemed to seek no approval and need no validation – an attitude more compatible with the school of skateboarding than with actual school. I came to favour the former over the latter but, for some time, Thames was my attempt to stay enrolled in both. In fact, I only originally gave the artwork I was making out of newspaper clippings a name and a logo in an attempt to establish a congruent theme for my GCSE Art portfolio. It wasn’t until 2013, when I was 16 (by which point my stickers and tee shirts were stocked in Slam and Supreme), that it dawned on me that this GCSE Art project had become a brand.
I wasn’t much more conscious of this fact by 2015 when I partnered with Palace Skateboards (my board sponsor at the time) to expand Thames. Thames became a medium-sized operation with two collections a year, seasonal lookbooks, collaborations and real distribution. It had left the comfort of my bedroom and entered the world of ‘product pushing’. That’s not to say I particularly minded that. In fact, it was in 2015 that I did my first art show which, like the following three, consisted only of graphics I made for Thames that never made it onto clothes. Phase two of Thames’s existence had its moments, but I always think of that time as its adolescent years – a little unsure of what it wanted to be when it grew up.
I formally parted ways with Palace on the 21st of April 2019, having officially put Thames on hiatus on the 1st of January, with no intention of resurrecting it anytime soon. My wanting to make tee shirts never subsided, and I had started to do so under my own name. ‘Blondey’ is art merchandise: for every exhibition, there is an accompanying collection of tee shirts that act as editions. ‘Blondey’ the brand, as I prefer not to call it, was always intended to be a democratisation of my art, and it shall continue to be so. On the other hand, THAMES phase 3 (full name THAMES MMXX) will be in every way a brand, and everything I want a skateboard company to be.
Not only is THAMES my board sponsor, it is also my vehicle to support and work collaboratively with other people. In this sense, I was looking for a team of art directors as much as a skate team. That the riders meet these rather specific criteria, of being shit-hot skateboarders who are also creatively driven, is essential to my utopian dream for a skateboard company. It is the reason that the THAMES skate team consists of Sam Sitayeb and myself.
I always take comfort in the tendency for things to come full circle, and it was with this in mind that I decided to replicate my old school uniform for the first collection of THAMES MMXX: ‘Boarders’. I should have been at school, but I wasn’t – I was skateboarding every day and as a result, I was asked to leave. Edith Piaf said ‘use your faults’ and I wholeheartedly agree.
Founder, Creative Director and Boarder, THAMES MMXX.
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