Old English law decreed that the eldest son inherited everything, so younger siblings Will Kemp and Rufus Exton founded Second Son in 2005. Kemp and Exton met as lone skateboarders in a small English town and have since gone on to carving out a unique niche in the midst of an already heavily saturated European streetwear scene by focusing on original graphics, Brit humor, and the ubiquitous â€œWeather Patternâ€ design.
“In the UK we have a long and fruity history of fashion and tailoring, so Iâ€™d rather refer to our particular heritage instead.â€
Format: Please state who you are and your role with Second Son.
Will Kemp: My nameâ€™s Will Kemp and I co-own Second Son. Iâ€™m the creative director for the brandâ€”I do all the designs and the visual side of things.
Format: How did you come up with your brand name, Second Son?
Will Kemp: My business partner and I are both second sons and we started the company with my older brother, so it seemed like a good choice.
Format: Describe your relationship with your partner Rufus Exton. How did you meet?
Will Kemp: Rufus and I met in maths class where we were our teacherâ€™s two least favorite pupils. We went to a very old school in a small town with the largest geriatric population in England, and we were the only two skateboarders there. I remember us being shot at by an old man with an air rifle while skating at a car park. Now we run the label together: Rufus does the business side of things while I do the design, and we work together on the direction of the brand and developing the products.
Format: You continue to work as a freelance designer for brands such as Carhartt, Etnies Plus, and Slam X Hype. Does your work with these brands inspire your Second Son creations and vice versa?
Will Kemp: Iâ€™ve been designing for Carhartt for several seasons as a guest artist, which I love because theyâ€™ve got a strong brand so you can have a lot of fun playing around with the name and the logo. With Second Son, on the other hand, I get to indulge myself a little more by just doing designs based around whatever I happen to be obsessed with at the time. At the moment: triangles, dinosaurs, and outer space.
Format: Your â€˜Weather Patternâ€™ design features a cloud with a lightening bolt. How does this image epitomize your brand?
Will Kemp: Everyone always takes the piss out of the British weatherâ€”that and our bad teeth. We thought weâ€™d flip it and use it almost as a point of pride (the weather, not the teeth). Streetwear comes from California, the Golden State, but over here weâ€™re stuck with grey skies and rain so we wanted to embrace that with the â€˜Weather Patternâ€™ print. Itâ€™s become synonymous with the brand, almost like a monogram.
Format: You began in 2005. What are the biggest challenges you have faced coming into the streetwear industry in London specifically?
Will Kemp: We were lucky because I was working at Bond International (Londonâ€™s original streetwear shop) when we started, so we had already had a platform for the label. We got some good stockists on board, such as ryÃ¶Ã¼ki and Supra; [we] were able to develop close relationships with them. More recently weâ€™ve started to expand and are selling in shops like The Reed Space in NYC, Rumors and Black Markers in Canada, and BKRW in Paris.
“I hate it when people say that theyâ€™ve got a load of amazing projects in the works but they canâ€™t tell anyone about it yet, so Iâ€™ll just shut up instead.”
Format: â€œBristishness is integral to Second Son.â€ Youâ€™re very proud of your British heritage and it being the foundation for the brand. Do you think there is a lack in patriotism in the UK as it relates to streetwear fashion?
Will Kemp: Just being true to yourself. I could try to design more thugged-out American-style prints or weird futuristic Harajuku steez, but those are already being made in the US and Japan so I donâ€™t see the point. In the UK we have a long and fruity history of fashion and tailoring, so Iâ€™d rather refer to our particular heritage instead. Plus, Iâ€™m a middle class white boy so Iâ€™d look stupid if I dressed like a thug.
Format: Youâ€™ve grown the line into selvedge denim and flannel button-downs very recently. What other cut and sew pieces are on the radar?
Will Kemp: Weâ€™re perfectionists, so weâ€™re taking our time to expand the cut and sew range as we learn more about fabrics, patterns, and production. Sometimes when brands grow into producing smarter cut and sew pieces, they seem to ditch the stuff that made them popular in the first place. Weâ€™re working on ideas for everything from polo shirts to knitwear at the moment, but ultimately Iâ€™d like to have a full range of clothing with smarter stuff at one end and basics like the graphic tees at the other.
Format: Tell us about the challenges you faced when you made the transition from tees into cut and sew.
Will Kemp: The deal with manufacturing clothes seems to be that anything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong. We started by making selvedge denim jeans and spent about 9 million years getting that right before moving on to the button-down shirts. It has been a steep learning curve but itâ€™s worth putting in the time and effort to get it right.
Format: What about your relationship with Nash Money? How did you meet and what role does he play in Second Son?
Will Kemp: Weâ€™re working on a collaboration range with Nash Money right now which Iâ€™m really excited about as he has a very similar attitude towards clothing, production, and details. Apart from that, well, I hate it when people say that theyâ€™ve got a load of amazing projects in the works but they canâ€™t tell anyone about it yet, so Iâ€™ll just shut up instead. Oh and if there are any sunglasses brands reading, please get in touchâ€¦In terms of Second Son, we forced him to model for one of our lookbooks wearing a fake horseâ€™s head and since then weâ€™ve dragged him into it every time. Now weâ€™re working with him to develop some new products as well.
Format: What are you looking forward to for Fall/Winter 2009?
Will Kemp: Looking forward to having a holiday, launching our new website and online store, trying to go snowboarding for the first time in years, designing more cut and sew products, working with more bands and musicians, and finally getting round to launching my portfolio website. And I need a girlfriend.