Hello Daniel, can you introduce yourself and explain to us what is your background?
My name is Daniel and I am co-founder and designer of the AOKUWARE brand. I started AOKU as my graphic design/illustration nom-de-guerre and it soon grown into better know items launched as AOKUWARE.
How did you find out about urban techwear and what did you like about this world to the point of becoming an actor in it?
It was kinda always part of my style — as a teenager I spent days inline skating so I needed garments that allowed for full movement range. I also spent my night with local graffiti crew so my clothes had to be dark and with pockets. So when I started working and was able to afford more I technically bought more polished verison of my good old BDU pants.
It looks to me like you started by customizing an Acronym 3A-3TS bag. What was wrong with that bag? And what were the constraints that you faced?
First there is nothing wrong with 3A-3TS! I have been cutomizing my bags since I was like 12 and member of boy scouts organization. The main driver for me was the olive zipper that I wanted to change to black. I had several other concept ideas but found them hard to explain to any tailor so I thought I can do it and just took it apart.
At that point I did not think I can make a product from scratch so I just customized what I had.
You use a lot of X-Pac from Dimension Polyant. What type of X-Pac do you like? Have you tried the new Light-Skin?
I have Lite-Skin sampler but I am really drawn towards the blackest matte black VX21 because it’s black.
Other brands in the universe commonly referred to as “tech-ninja” also use Dyneema. Have you tried it yet? If so, what do you think?
I did not have a chance to work with it myself, but the durability specs sound like a too much of an overkill for my products now.
You offer messenger bags and sling bags but no backpacks. I know you had a project that you named SWIFTPACK. Can you tell us more about it ? (you are very well informed:))
Yeah it’s a first backpack concept that I am making. Basically it’s inspired by running backpacks and tactical vests, but obviously made for daily urban usage. I hope people will like it as much as I do but for a reason techewear community people are more into messengers than backpacks.
Right now I am working on a third version of the SWIFTPACK. The main issue is that I have to make it again including the manual and since it’s a really complex bag I was distracted by smaller ones. But as I said I am reworking it now and hopefully it will be available early 2021.
One of the peculiarities that I like about the designs of your messenger bags is that you offer bags for left or right handed people. Which is very rare. How did you get the idea?
Well, it’s simple. Mostly messenger bags are made for righ hand swing users — worn over left shoulder, next to right hand. And I myself prefer to wear it other way round. It’s one of the key AOKUWARE design approaches — create products that I miss and want to use myself.
I know you are sensitive to customer service, to being close to the fans. This is what makes a brand come to have a community. Especially since in your techwear universe, the same as Acronym, the fan-base is pretty hardcore and very geeky. What relationship do you have with her?
There is no super marketing plan behind the brand, I was member of the community before I started AOKUWARE and I chances are that I would be talking to my current customers even if I did not run AOKUWARE. I am really grateful that the community supports us and accepted us. I always wanted an anonymous/mysterious brand but talking to the community and contributing publicly feels much better.
Do you do custom for clients? Whether it is on your own products or on, for example, a bag that a customer would like to see reworked by you?
Unfortunately no. I have daily job as an Art Director and time is precious. We only have contracted workshop that is not suitable for one-offs and my personal sewing quality is questionable. I hope people will put the PUNK in CYBERPUNK and DIY their items like I did back in the day. It can lead to new interesting brands.
Your brand, AOKU, and your style are very inspired by cyberpunk. There is a futuristic side in your graphics, on your website, in your communication on social networks or videos as well as in your designs. What are your inspirations?
My work is a classic mashup of what I enjoyed as I grew up. I liked anime and 90s cartoons, therefore my work (and our logo resembles) characters, I enjoyed eurorave music which was all about futuristic Y2K visuals, I spend some time doing graffiti so my works is typoography heavy. Growing up in eastern bloc developed my feelings for brutalist architecture. Add video games and martrial arts to the mix too.
I do not want to sound like those hipsters who try to sound like they never saw obvious inspirations for their work, so yeah tDR, GITS, The Hackers (1995), Psycho Pass, work of W. Gibson, N. Blomkamp and obviously fashion brands like Vexed Generation, Y-3, Stone Island, Acronym.
You wear urban techwear. In total cyber / Ninja tech look. What are your favorite brands ?
I bet everyone know sthe usual suspects: Y-3, 11, ACRNM, SISP, Hamcus. I always try to mix it with something else, apart from strict techwear I wear a lot of DRKSHDW, SILENT, Demobaza and some geeky t-shirts.
This style of clothing is extremely successful in Germany, where Acronym launched this movement, but also in the countries of the former Soviet bloc (your country, in Russia …)? How do you explain this?
I have never actually found the reason for this. If I were speaking for myself — there was a lack of decent clothing and a lot of us used to wear military or tracksuits (insert gopnik joke) clothes simply because there was not much available or we were not wealthy enough to buy western clothes.
You’re from the Czech Republic, which has another popular techwear brand: Tilak and his urban label Poutnik. Do you have a relationship with Roman Kamler? Could we one day see a collaboration between you two?
I wish, but TILAK is next next level and even we are both in the same small country I doubt they are even familiar with AOKUWARE.
For few time you have been offering some clothes. Do you plan to release a technical clothing line one day?
I would love to release a proper line one day, which is really challenging. What I can promise is more clothes that will eventually for a clothing line one day.
I have a last question. The Cyber / Ninja Tech universe is a niche market. It has a very visually marked style, not easy to wear on a daily basis because many pieces of clothing do not easily mix with other styles. There are many small brands that are in this style without being very technical. They are more in a “fashion” step which is sometimes at the limit of the caricatural (too many straps, Molle attachments which are useless…). Don’t you think that precisely all these small brands, not always very qualitative, harm this universe and transform it into an ephemeral fashion very marked temporally?
Some time ago a group of discord people from the scene tried to replace the word “techwear” with “supermodern fashion” so they avoid the #techwear that has been exploited by normies weearing ACRNM prestos, edgy kids wearing chains over t-shirts over dress shirts and guys taking photos of themselves in tactical vests wrapped in do-not-cross tape.
I find the term “techwear” misleading as it kinda suggests technical properties of the items, which people mostly read as “waterproof”. First, the fabric development and research already allows for waterproof classic tailored blazer with finest italian pinstripe wool uppers. And soon it will be normal to create most garments with waterproof specs, because it’s just a feature that does not compromise desired look. Second, I do not find it very technical to wear a 3L shell when there are no signs of rain at all. A lot of us are living in tropical or sub-tropical climate and every linen pant will perform better than superbreathable synthetic one. That said I stand by the fact that “techwear” is mostly about futuristic styling — just think about the range of styles that people wear in sci-fi movies.
Thanks for the opportunity to be featured in the mag and thanks for everyone who supports us and is part of the scene. Feel free to message me anytime.