Easily their second best album. Perhaps first. Midnight Marauders by seminal rap camp A Tribe Called Quest glimmered with charged basslines and decadent riffs. It was celebratory. Hook heavy. Artistically audacious. And for Lawrenceville, New Jersey native Phillip Annandâ€”owner and creator of Award Tourâ€”the definitive track (â€œAward Tourâ€) from the 1993 album serves as the nucleus for his exegetical streetwear line. At only 19, Annand leads a team of tastemakers and visionaries that subscribe to one rule: Live! More than t-shirts and hoodies, the brand has become a way of life, though Annand says he hasnâ€™t totally abandoned his original aspiration. â€œWhen I was younger I wanted to grow up to be the man who designed LEGO sets, Iâ€™m not sure if I have given up on that dream yet,â€ he says. All jokes aside: Award Tour equals beats, rhymes and life. Welcome aboard.
â€œItâ€™s all about making the experience more enjoyable for the supporters, because at the end of the day, a t-shirt is a t-shirt. Itâ€™s the value and meaning you put behind that six ounces of cotton that stands for something.â€
Format: The name, Award Tour, is also the title of a classic A Tribe Called Quest track; is that where you got the name?
Phillip Annand: Yeah brother, interesting story. I was shuffling around in the attic of my grandmotherâ€™s house trying to dig up some old comics when I ran across a 12-inch vinyl. The album was Midnight Marauders and â€œAward Tourâ€ was the first song that crackled out of the speakers when I dropped the record onto the player. My interpretation of what Award Tour stands for is different from exactly what I would imagine Tribeâ€™s original intent was, but thatâ€™s where the initial inspiration for the name came from.
Format: Does music inspire your work a lot?
Phillip Annand: Thereâ€™s no doubt that music plays a large part in my design. I tend to stay as far away as possible from actually putting lyrics onto shirts. Iâ€™m sure that everyone can agree at this point that that entire concept has been beaten far beyond death. But, whenever I design, there is a variety of everything from Nas and Fleet Foxes to Gill Scott Heron and Camp Lo blasting at slightly absurd levels throughout the room. The vibe and atmosphere that those artists create has an enormous influence over how the designs come out.
Format: So what does your adaptation of Award Tour mean?
Phillip Annand: Being â€˜onâ€™ Award Tour is the term we use to describe the lifestyle we as a family of friends lead. When you set out to enjoy every moment that is given to you, and pursue life with reckless abandon, then you will know the definition of Award Tour. Quite simply, it is living every moment to its fullest potential. We try to get that message across not only through the clothing but also through the Good Times blog and every other medium we deal through. So this summer when you are sitting around with the family at a barbeque, or climbing to the top of a tree to jump down into a river below, you can pause for a moment and realize that you are literally at that moment on Award Tour.
Format: Your line definitely stands out from the crowd, where else do you draw inspiration?
Phillip Annand: Ah, the inspiration question. This one is always hard for me to answer because as clichÃ© as it sounds, I really pull inspiration from every corner of life. Last season alone I based a design off of a vintage soda cap that I came across, and in the same season based another design off of Radio Raheemâ€™s character in Spike Leeâ€™s Do The Right Thing. Inspiration is one of those funny things that you canâ€™t control. Sometimes you come across certain things out of nowhere that will set off your mind and send you into a flurry of creative production. I usually end up designing a season in the span of about a week when the inspiration decides to hit. Unfortunately that week always tends to be the week my clothing was already supposed to be in production but you canâ€™t influence how the cookie crumbles.
Format: How is Award Tour any different than the scores of other street wear brands?
Phillip Annand: Award Tour embodies something that the vast majority of [clothing] lines simply miss out on. It is a simple dedication to being completely honest in presentation and very upfront with the message we are trying to convey. We are not trying to change the world with a design on a t-shirt. So many companies will tell you that they are trying to â€˜raise awarenessâ€™ or â€˜expose an issue.â€™ Since when has the t-shirt been an effective method for doing that? We try to be realistic, itâ€™s the family created by the brand and the connection people draw from the antics of those affiliated with the brand that really sets us apart from the others.
Another big thing is availability. Rather than being some aloof company that merely pushes product and neglects its followers, Iâ€™m always available to talk directly to any supporter of the lineâ€”young or old, up-and-coming or established. Whether itâ€™s on Facebook, AIM, Twitter or email, I always do my best to respond to each and every email regardless of how long it takes. I remember exactly what it was like to try to talk to these seemingly big-time founders behind street wear brands when I was nothing more than a high school kid myself, and I donâ€™t want anyone who wants to speak their mind in regards to Award Tour to ever have that same feeling of disconnect that I had when I tried to email my favorite brands.
Of course, in the end, itâ€™s always nice to think that the aesthetic of your product sets you apart from the others. I stay away from the same inspirations that a lot of other lines draw from, and try to offer up classic American-style inspired, design-driven shirts that have a slightly more refined but unassuming vibe. Plus the Award Tour family is just more absurd and crazy than the rest. Come out to a party with us, the times are unforgettable.
Format: I did an interview a while back with photog Lynette Astaire and she mentioned that, in todayâ€™s society, we are largely consumed with ourselves. Do you feel youâ€™re adding to the problem we have with superficiality, especially since you work in the fashion world?
Phillip Annand: To an extent, yes! But I would offer up that for a person to truly have a problem with superficiality, they would already have to have some sort of predisposition towards that personality trait. Especially today, you canâ€™t even carry a conversation with someone at lunch without them stopping to Twitter about the meal you are eating. Any pictures of yourself are immediately updated to either your blog or Facebook for the world to see.
We live in a world that requires constant media attention from all angles. We are obsessed with presenting an image of ourselves for the world to see. I would tend to think that this is a natural thing with the evolution of technology and culture, but obviously since I make clothing to outfit these â€˜images,â€™ I do in some way contribute to the so-called problem.
Format: Whatâ€™s the back-story on your new summer line that just dropped?
Phillip Annand: The theme behind the summer line is Born To Run. Canadian emcee K-Os has a great song by that title that was on repeat through the design process of the season. The reason this was chosen as the catch phrase for the season was to try to convey the message that every one of us is born to excel and succeed at something. Whether it is design, athletics, or just being extremely good at getting out of bed every morning there is something everyone can claim as their own. With that in mind, summer is the time to push all of those activities to the fullest and really go after your passions. We donâ€™t throw the theme on every single shirt but that was the driving force behind the entire process.
Format: More personally, what drives you as an individual?
Phillip Annand: I have an amazing group of family and friends who supports and follows the craziness that I drag them through. Without that system of people to fall back on there is no way I would be where I am today. Beyond that I have always had a slightly ridiculous passion to win. I was the kid whose day was ruined if his team lost in gym class. I enjoy the creative process, I enjoy the struggle and most of all, I enjoy emerging at the end of struggle with amazing results. Sounds sort of like a bad Nike commercial but itâ€™s about as close to the truth as it gets.
Format: Theme wise, what do you have planned next for Award Tour?
Phillip Annand: I switch up the theme with every single release, and we try not to give that away because I feel like it really brings something different to the table. Rather than continually just dropping collections that have no common thread or theme, I try to at least provide some sort of coherent thought behind why we released the articles we did. Itâ€™s all about making the experience more enjoyable for the supporters, because at the end of the day, a t-shirt is a t-shirt. Itâ€™s the value and meaning you put behind that six ounces of cotton that stands for something.
Format: You have a dope blog that I check from time to time, any other plans to expand the Award Tour brand?
Phillip Annand: The blog has really become one of my favorite aspects of the brand. It has taken different shapes as it has grown over the years but the evolution has been fun. As far as expanding it, the most recent growth has been in the writing. Iâ€™ve always enjoyed writing so I have been doing more in-depth reviews and editorial type of posts to separate my blog from the vast majority of fish-eye pictures of dinners / sneaker releases that dominate almost every other street wear blog. The next step as far as the Good Times blog is concerned is to start expanding the video content. In addition to that, I have some other projects up my sleeve that I canâ€™t speak on just yet, but there are definitely some big moves being made that will bring a lot of what we do into a grander public spotlight.
More Info: http://theawardtour.com