As part of the a pop-up gallery they did in their studio last May, the 123klan duo of veterans opened their doors to the public. So, our team took the opportunity to meet these legends of the street art world. When entering their studio, we already appreciate the diversity of the mediums used. Their art really has no limits.
With 20 years of experience working in the street art scene, Scien and Klor have transformed their particular style, mixing graffiti art and graphic design techniques, on all sorts of canvases: paintings, skateboards, clothing, shoes, toys, etc. This year, as part of Mural Festival, it’s on an STM bus that the duo’s unique style has been translated, with the theme “Alouettes”.
You do graffiti, graphic design, illustrations, you also have your own streetwear brand and a creative studio. How would you describe 123klan in a few words?
Our motto, “Style is the message”, is the starting point. The vector is a tool. The medium is just a tool to display our style. Might it be in the form of graffiti or something else, the starting point will always be our style, it’s what unites everything we do. Creation above all.
We can find your artworks on paintings, walls, clothing, skateboards, posters, stickers, pins and more. Do you have a favorite medium or are all means good to create your art?
As soon as we can put our image somewhere, we’ll do it. For example, when we moved in, we needed plates and we couldn’t find any that we liked. So, we did ones ourselves. We answer our own needs in the end. The advantage of the vector over the spray can is that it can go on pretty much anything.
Is there a medium you haven’t tested yet and that you’d like to try out?
Your style mixes graffiti and graphic design, what motivates you to use graphic design and bring your practice to another level?
In the 90’s, we were one of the firsts to make this mix. We really used Illustrator as a tool to develop our style. It was new and it allowed us the advantage to create huge artworks with just a small design. We could really overturn the value scales and create things the simple spray can couldn’t allow. Also, at the time, graffiti wasn’t as popular as it is today, so working with vectors made the final result more clean.
At the same time, there’s a common thread between graffiti and graphic design, which is that when you do graffiti, you’re still laying out elements on a given space. We thus play with colours, fonts, compositions, in both cases. Graffiti’s the same as graphic design, but with a freedom level that is pushed to the extreme.
After collaborating with some big-name international streetwear brands, such as Nike, Stussy, Adidas or Vans, you launched your own brand, Bandit-1$m. What pushed you to stand on your own 2 feets in this field?
A couple years ago, there were no shops like Urban Outfitters, you had to create your own look. We then started to customize our white t-shirts and our Levi’s coats, on which we added graffiti.
In that sense, we always did streetwear. It’s a style our generation created for itself and it ended up influencing some of the biggest brands that have been there for decades around the world.
Therefore, we thought we should create a brand in our own image, which would be much more personal than the creations we made as part of collaborations. Even though these collaborations allowed us a lot of freedom, the disadvantage of creating with other brands is that you create something that might take shape only 2 years later. It can sound a little egotistic, but, everything we do is for us. So, if I create a design for clothing, it’s because I want to wear it now. You can’t put a price on freedom.
Do you still like doing collaborations with brands or do you prefer keeping your independance and having total freedom on what you create?
Obviously, if you work with Nike, it’ll be Just do it, or, when working with Vans, it’ll be Off the Wall, for example. It’s normal that you have to adapt. As a matter of fact, brands that are doing business with us do it because of our graphic approach. What they want is to see our style adapt to their needs. When we work for our own brand, we work on the concept from A to Z and that’s amazing–but we’ll still work with other brands.
Your a very productive artistic duo and you’re also in a relationship. How does creation process work when you work together?
It’s simple, there’s nothing going out of here if it’s not approved by both of us. There’s a time when we’re creating when we ask ourselves the question and if it’s good on both sides, we continue.
As it is vectorial files, it’s more easy to work together, we’re used to it. You have to see us paint to understand the process. We don’t really speak to each other. We don’t need to tell each other what the next step is.
Even when we work with our children, like we did on multiple occasions, we don’t really need to supervise them. Everyone knows where they have to be and what they have to do. As a matter of fact, the first collaboration we did with our children must’ve been at Pow! Wow! when they were about 12 years old. At the time, we didn’t want them to be bored when we were working, so we decided to intergrate their drawings to the mural we were creating. So they participated in the artistic direction, from the colourways and more. They haven’t stopped creating with us since.
Your aesthetic reminds us of propaganda and advertising and you have a tendency to multiply mediums and reproductions. Do you consider yourselves as pop artists?
It’s the graffiti side, the impact, short and punchy colours, messages, and our French edge with a touch of irony. Our brand is called Banditism because we make money out of graffiti writting which is considered a crime and making money out of a crime is banditism, but it’s all very sarcastic.
I think there’s nothing wrong with making a living with your art. Why shouldn’t I make money with my art? Also, why shouldn’t we produce things that are more accessible to people? For example, posters are more accessible than paintings. I don’t think that takes anything away from our authenticity.
What are your next projects and challenges awaiting for you?
We don’t really have a plan. In fact, the objective is always to stay the freest possible. In a perfect world, we would be making a living exclusively with our art. That’s the dream, might it be with our brand or by selling paintings or continuing to make graffitis. We’re well respected as artists, business is going well and we’re still very free in what we do. In the end we take it day by day. We can’t complain.