Dr Noki talks about breaking the rules, 90s Shoreditch and the rave uniform
Following his presentation at London Fashion Week, the masked designer sat down with Document to debrief and reminisce and imagine the future of his legendary brand
Dr. Noki, otherwise known as JJ Hudson, has created a brand that never gets old. It’s probably because NOKI was founded on the principles of youth: anti-institutional rebellion, the endless search for a style that stands out, an almost religious love for partying. Hudson founded his label, after all, out of the Shoreditch rave scene of the late 90s – refining his going out uniform, he set about recycling second hand clothes, eventually releasing something resembling the bold and irreverent mashups he shows today at London Fashion Week.
Despite and because of Hudson’s elusiveness – he always wears a mask that obscures his features, cut with the same safe and haphazard technique as the rest of his clothes – the designer and artist has become something of a cult figure on the scene. London fashion. . Her last show is proof of that: NOKI’s audience looked more like onlookers than the typical Fashion Week crowd. Multiple soundtracks played from portable speakers, t-shirts were tossed into the crowd, and the models provided their own visual noise: each look was less predictable than the last, incorporating elements ranging from tulle skirts, to fencing equipment, to Disney merch, to duct tape, to furry boots.
Straight after the iconic production, Hudson sat down with Document to debrief and reminisce — and to envision the future of the NOKI brand, “with big open arms and a happy heart for the future of fashion education.”
Morgan Becker: How was the energy at the show today?
JJ Hudson: It was like this weekend of anticipation for a mind-blowing rave.
Morgan: What kind of intention did you place behind the presentation?
not a word: This presentation was for the platform of the NOKI NESTT, an educational enterprise to start my own school and studio. The idea is for students to learn how to construct these bespoke silhouettes themselves, to construct [their own] interpretations.
Morgan: NOKI has been described as “anti-fashion”. How do you see it fitting into institutional events like London Fashion Week? What is its relationship with the more traditional labels with which it is presented?
not a word: It is about presenting a new way of interpreting fashion design: as the bespoke construction of already created garments in fresh and enduring styles and silhouettes.
Morgan: Tell me about the process of making a NOKI garment, from sourcing its materials to the final product. Do you have an initial vision in mind, or is it gradually coming to fruition?
not a word: In the beginning, in the 90s, I had to build new ideas that I hadn’t seen before by experimenting with my own rave uniform – customizing it with an inner instinct, I guess. The classic NOKI Zine is two t-shirts serged together, to make what I saw as a Shoreditch textile zine, instead of a traditional paper zine. I graffitied and hijacked each t-shirt like its pages, and I loved seeing my mates wear them in the rave scene, like a crazy double page spread. It sounded like 90s, cool zone vibes. Each custom build is from a vintage find. Then my mind goes into 3D construction mode. I know that when I cut them for the first time, it will work. It’s blind faith that I like to perform.
Morgan: How should a NOKI garment feel on the wearer?
not a word: This should look like a Liberty uniform.
Morgan: You have historically taken the iconography of streetwear brands, symbols of pop culture, reusing these disparate elements and, in doing so, making them your own. What are your thoughts on ownership in the arts industries?
not a word: I had a stupid idea in the 90s. I broke the rules. I had an impact by not being afraid to have a healthy contempt for them. My [rule-breaking] has become mainstream, which I’m happy with as an artist. It makes my fellow vanguards more relevant in 2022. It’s a nice youthful development.
Morgan: NOKI was born out of the legacy of London’s 90s DIY rave scene. How does this heritage continue today in the collections you bring out? How have your creations evolved since the creation of the brand in 1996?
not a word: To be honest, I don’t think anything has really changed in the way I create a NOKI collage. Custom building has become more professional in its approach, but what has definitely changed is Mother Earth’s ability to provide this first life garment. I just have a solution on what a second, third, fourth life customization can look like.
Morgan: Are you still involved in the underground party scene in London? How do you stay connected to this initial source of radical inspiration?
not a word: I have my moments, yes. But it’s not my motivation mash-up like before. I know my limits. You have to. it’s called. This show had JBL portable speakers playing the musical tastes of my muses. I wanted to celebrate this unique rave release. As if you had your own personalized rhythm.
Morgan: What was an unexpected creative reference this season?
not a word: Crispy packets and crushed tin cans on the road, and my mate Jiv’s plastic scraps. Our work just appears together.
Morgan: How are you celebrating this new collection?
not a word: With wide open arms and a happy heart for the future of fashionable education.