Although it may take quite a while for French youths to climb the required ladders and leap through the required hoops in order to establish themselves in their respective artistic fields, they are, at least, kept happily appeased with ample space in smaller cities designated for the practice of youth culture activities like skateboarding, graffiti, or break dancing. While the 123 Klan may have had such humble origins, its core members SCIEN and Mrs. KLOR are now highly sought after in their field for their crisp character designs and strong aptitude for fresh formatting.
â€œThere are also a lot of advantages to the net, but if you mess up online and talk shit in some discussion forum, then I think you can get into some real trouble down the line.â€
Format: What are the origins of the 123 Klan?
Scien: We founded the crew in 1992, in Lille, in northern France. It started first as a graffiti crew but then we made it in to our design studio where we work on client and personal work. KLOR and I left the other members (DEAN, SKAM, SPER, RESO) and moved to Montreal a few years ago to be closer to New York because we have lots of clients there. Montreal was also a good choice for our kids because itâ€™s easier for them to adapt as French speakers.
Format: How did you first get involved in the toy scene?
Scien: We have some friends in France that work in the toy industry and they asked us to do customs for them—people like Rolito Boy, Teddy Troops, and Superdeux. We are actually working on our own toys with Kid Robot. The industry takes a long time, you know, because you have to wait to get a sample back and you have to draw each character from different angles and send them over. After that whole process is done, two years has already passed you by. So weâ€™re going to make some funny mascot characters. Mascots are usually strong, superhero types, but ours are going to be more like ghetto animal mascots. It should be pretty funny; we want to call them something like â€œHoly Shitâ€. Basically this is what we want people to think when they see our characters, but weâ€™ll have to see how that goes.
Format: Haha, cool, a bit like the latest Mist toys: the Debilz.
Scien: Haha, yeah, that comes from the word debile, in French which means stupid, or crazy. Mist is a good friend of ours too. Heâ€™s like us; he just creates this stuff, not caring about their popularity or whatever. We just try to make a living with what we can. Itâ€™s always cool to get recognized and respected, but itâ€™s not our main priority.
Format: So, what do you like about making toys?
Scien: Itâ€™s about sculpture and art. Itâ€™s another side of creation. I like how you can bring your own characters into reality, as an extension of your self—itâ€™s like you are really bringing your own personality to life. I feel very lucky to have this chance to do it for myself.
Format: You work with a lot of character design. How relevant do you think it is to everyday life?
Scien: Well, character design is easy for anyone to understand. You donâ€™t need to know the language to understand the characterâ€™s mood. Itâ€™s not like graffiti, which is more of a coded language. Itâ€™s very accessible; anybody can recognize it whether itâ€™s on a wall or a logo. I think that is why we do work with characters so often.
Format: You told me about the custom work you did for your friends; tell me about the Gundam custom.
Scien: I used to be a big fan of Gundam. I went to Japan and it was way cheaper to buy them there, so I just repainted it—it wasnâ€™t a complete custom. I would love to be able to actually design one but theyâ€™re way to complex.
Format: What is the attitude towards vinyl toys in France?
Scien: I think the scene in France is very creative and open minded. We donâ€™t have that many distributors as in the US, Asia, or Canada, but we have guys like Artoys, Rolito, Superdeux, or Mist to name a few. Most of them come from graphic design or graffiti. I think maybe that toys are popular in France because of the graffiti scene. Itâ€™s fairly new compared to the US, and itâ€™s very creative so maybe thatâ€™s why the toy scene is big, because of the youth culture.
Format: Your new website is so complex; are you worried that people might get lost?
Scien: That was not the main theme, but it was made for that; we want our fans to get lost. We think that too many people are making plain and simple HTML sites. With sites like Facebook or Myspace, you donâ€™t even have to know anything about web design. Our new site is a bit of a reaction to that. We want to keep people thinking. If they get lost when the come to our site, then thatâ€™s not our problem, we donâ€™t care, hahahaha!
Format: Was there a specific piece of work that got you discovered?
Scien: Not really, I think itâ€™s because of the Internet. Before this, you would have to build up some fame or popularity within your community, which would eventually get bigger, and then maybe you would get recognition in your country and then things would expand from there. But now, all you have to do is put some shit online and you get famous in thirty seconds.
Format: Do you find that your popularity has been growing since moving to North America?
Scien: I donâ€™t know. With the Internet popularity is impossible to tell, but maybe when you move to a new place people are cooler with you because you are new and they want to hear all about you, or maybe they heard about you. So maybe they are more open minded, but then there are always shit talkers on Internet forums, so maybe you get more fame and respect on the net, but we have no idea how many people know us. But we just put our shit online just to share it with people. If you like it, then you like it and thatâ€™s cool, and if we get clients from that then thatâ€™s cool too but weâ€™ve never done it to be famous. Somehow the Internet gave us the opportunity to move from one country to another. There are also a lot of advantages to the net, but if you mess up online and you talk shit in some discussion forum, then I think you can get in to some real trouble down the line.
Format: Can you tell us about some other future projects?
Scien: Other than Kid Robot and personal clients we might be doing some new t-shirts for our line, BANDIT-1$M, available online at (http://123klan.bigcartel.com/).