Urban Species

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Formed by a group of friends with varying talents, Urban Species aimed to nourish a desire for a brand that accurately portrayed their lifestyle. Aside from stocking independent brands from all over the world, Urban Species is the official licensee of Marvel. This fusing of fashion and comics is something that founder Hash Hirji reveals is a desire of all the “cool” people. This fusion adds a unique vibe demonstrating what Urban Species truly represents.

“Comic books are the secret drug for so many uber cool people I know with great jobs, so I thought; Why keep it a secret? If they could wear something that is fashionable and features characters they hold close to their heart, let’s give it to them.”

Format: Please introduce yourself to our readers and describe your role at Urban Species.
Hash Hirji: My name is Hash Hirji and I am a founder/director of Urban Species. I head all creative for the company and am the company spokesman.

Format: How was Urban Species formed? Give us a brief history.
Hash Hirji: Urban Species is a family founded company. Within our social groups of designers, musicians and artists we felt that far too much of our mainstream culture was drip fed from the U.S., and in effect not giving any representation of how we felt as people in society. London is an amazing cultural melting pot and we wanted to make a company that reflects this and represents the views, tastes, and feelings of the coolest people that we know, work with, and meet on a daily basis.

Format: Who makes up the Urban Species team?
Hash Hirji: All you need to know about Sarah and I is that I am the good cop and she is the bad one. We also have a heavy named Liam for where ever we go, a gimp named Nate, a mysterious ambience filler which goes by the name of “Dumuc,” and a scary gangsta who goes by the name Wendoza. We also have an endless array of freelancers, but if I told you their names I would have to kill you.

Format: How did you come up with the brand name?
Hash Hirji: My father suggested that I develop a line of t-shirts as a new brand that he could use and sell. He used to have two main companies by the name of Urban Attitude and Urban Clothing, owning both names since 1988. Everyone was pleased with the designs and we were trying to think of a name for the line that fit with his ‘Urban’ brand. We called up my Mum, who was running another clothing company with her ex at the time, and she thought up Urban Species. We felt comfortable with it from the start, so we rolled with it.

Format: You focus on maintaining a certain uniqueness and exclusivity to your brand. How do you manage to stay so exclusive with so many other urban brands in the market today?
Hash Hirji: We developed very complex and unique printing methods with both clothing and art. It’s all about staying on top of pop culture, and knowing what’s going on. If that means occasionally watching trash like Desperate Housewives, I’ll do it. No matter what project we embark on, we make sure we have passion and that there is a story for us to move the product forward. We will attach it with unique viral/TV/media marketing promotions that give the fans some sort of community vibe. At the end of the day, it’s all about the fans who want cool stuff, and in a day and age when they can make the stuff themselves, you have to give them a full multimedia experience that they feel has been made just for them.

Format: Tell us about your collaboration with Bomb the Bass.
Hash Hirji: We did an interview with Tim for our website, and I geeked out and just had to go along. Turned out that we got along really well and he has a great affinity for Spider-Man just like me. I approached him to create a t-shirt line, he investigated what we were about, and it was a total natural fit. I mean, he used the Watchmen smiley on the cover of Beat Dis and generally has a very strong range of pop culture referencing throughout his entire career.

Format: You are official licensees of Marvel; a comic book and related media company. Why fuse comics with fashion?
Hash Hirji: I am such a fan of the medium and it is my favourite form of entertainment. I am very much of the Alan Moore school of thought where comics shouldn’t be looked at only as possible movie franchises, but as an art form that has barely tapped its potential. When it comes to super heroes, I have always had an affinity for the Marvel characters. Stan Lee set the Marvel Universe up in real world NYC in the 60’s, breaking all sorts of new ground and rules by tapping into what they saw around them, race riots, campus protests, drugs, and death. It may not read with fierceness now, but it was hard hitting stuff at the time. Comics and hip hop have always been intrinsically linked. Most hardcore DJ’s I know collect comics and visa versa for comic collectors. Comic books are the secret drug for so many uber cool people I know with great jobs, so I thought; Why keep it a secret? If they could wear something that is fashionable and features characters they hold close to their heart, let’s give it to them.

Format: Tell us about your customized hats, clothing, trainers and art. Was it a love for graffiti art that brought this concept to light?
Hash Hirji: Growing up and meeting people from different scenes, I’d go to warehouse parties and meet various artists. When people would find out that I was a huge fan of comics, I’d be shown all sorts of artwork on clothing. I knew tons of designers who’d incorporate iconic characters that reflected how they wanted to portray themselves in a cut and paste manner on customised clothing. Its local real talent not dreamt up in an office where execs pat each and other on the back after doing months of market research. It is for the people, by the people, so grounded in reality and so authentic, heartfelt, and guerrilla at the same time. It truly is wearing your heart on your sleeve as well as giving props to what you love. Yes I do love graffiti art, but I love art altogether. It was more of a love for the talent I had seen of my friends and peers that made me feel if I had the resources to give them a platform I’d be a fucking moron not to.

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Format: Why do you feel it is important to give up and coming artists a platform to showcase their work?
Hash Hirji: I am sick of the BS that people who are born into money or a scholarly world are the only ones taken seriously enough to make a living from their creativity. The inspiration came really from the point of view of how I felt misrepresented in society. Growing up as a brown guy, I never felt that we were acknowledged in the western world. I still feel like that, but I got sick of listening to myself talk about it. It turned less into a race thing for me and more into a community thing. To give artists a platform was an aspect of the bigger picture to make the world see the level of sophistication and talent of the people around me, and to share all the stuff that I think is really cool.

Format: Any collaborations in the works for 2009?
Hash Hirji: We are having a massive restructure of the company and we are also going to become part of a much bigger media group. We are part of the team that is going to hold the Geek Chic Festival in Shoreditch. We have just negotiated a deal with the lovely people at Warner Bros. to create Urban Species very own line of clothing and art featuring their biggest and best DC characters. That is right, you heard it here first. We have begun a relationship with ITV/Granada. We are also going to be working with a certain Mr. Jamie McKelvie. He is one of the hottest comic book talents in the world right now who has made two of the coolest books in recent years. We will also be continuing to move back into the world of music, like we were at our inception. I won’t confirm anything yet, but we will bring some awesome Bomb the Bass stuff out this year.

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Shera Nezon

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