Despite its notoriety for being an epicenter of cheap sex, drugs and all-around debauchery, thereâ€™s a side to Amsterdam most tourists donâ€™t see. Amsterdam is quickly becoming a cultural mecca. From music to fashion, thereâ€™s movement underway and Wolf & Pack is right in the middle of it. However, founders Julian Lynn and Gabriel Hunter didnâ€™t start off in Amsterdam. They actually became friends half a world away in the early SoHo streetwear shop Liquid Sky. What began as a simple hobby (printing t-shirts for friends) has turned into an all-consuming lifestyle.
Julianâ€™s philosophy of clothing as wearable art is reflected in not only their clothes but their brick and mortar store as well. Located in the heart of Amsterdam and housing an art gallery amongst the myriad of tees, hoodies and accessories, the store is a reflection of its carefree and creative surroundings. You may not have heard of Wolf & Pack yet, but with the rising profile of the Amsterdam scene donâ€™t say we didnâ€™t tell you.
â€œBack home a group of kids with a dream can go get 50 tees printed for $80 and sling them out of the trunk of a car and become the next big thingâ€
Format: Quickly introduce yourself and what the Wolf & Pack is all about?
Julian: Wolf and Pack was started in 2003 by Julian Lynn and Gabriel Hunter over drinks at a bar called Max Fish in New York City. Gabe and I met first at NASA a nightclub in the early 90’s, but we didnâ€™t really become friends until we met again at Liquid Sky (a SoHo streetwear store) that he co-owned and I worked at. Fast forward to a few years ago when we would rather buy drugs or drink instead of buying anything for anyone on birthdays, holidays, etc. So we went with the shirt idea, itâ€™s what we knew, and where we started. We would hand paint each shirt with this thick bleach shit Gabe knew about to achieve our first Skun logos. In the end, people started to ask for the shirts (even on non-holidays). So, being the capitalist scumbags that we are, we started selling them.
Format: When you set out to create Wolf & Pack what were your goals?
Julian: Honestly, to lie cheat and steal our way to our dreams at any cost. At first we had this huge back-story about being a disgraced Savile Row Label: some shit we cooked up about two dudes in the French foreign legion that started a shop in London in the late 1800â€™s, which we bought the rights to. Something with a bit more jazz to it than two young guys doing it from scratch. But as things kept going, we realized that anything based on a lie was not going to fly, not for us. If we are going to put this much effort in to anything, it is going to be 1000% honest and real; not some manufactured ideal.
So it kind of grew from the idea you can scam people into believing something. However, in the end we were just scamming ourselves. All the fake back stories never made it out there to anyone at all until this article. They just worked to convince us it was a good idea, and now it is as real as anything we have ever known or could imagine.
Format: Most people think of Amsterdam’s stereotypical aspects: the cafes and the red-light district. What is life in the city actually like?
Julian: Amsterdam is really bogged down by the connotation of sex and drugs that are synonymous with this city. Honestly, there is a lot of both of those things here: cheap sex, great drugs, lots of free time to do both if you have any free time. But whatâ€™s really here, at the heart of it all, is a great city with people that are ready to come out of the shadow of sex and drugs.
We are offering up a different kind of sex to people, and a new kind of drug. The city is deeper than any of us can imagine, and hopefully if we are doing our job right, then different elements of Amsterdam and NYC will have a new place to come and experience each other and wake up to the untapped energy that is all around us. Amsterdam is a perfect setting for Wolf and Pack. It is immensely tolerant, open minded, artistic, and yes, completely addled by vice.
Format: Your brand seems to walk the line between fashion and art. How well are these scenes doing in Amsterdam right now?
Julian: Our brand is centered on the idea of the mobile canvas. You can’t really take a wall with you, so as a canvas it has obvious physical limitations. A shirt though, is so innocuous, that it can slip in and out of so many situations without ever having been noticed. Clothing moves with you, bringing that element of response that you rarely see outside of an artistic context with you to dinner, school or work.
To me, art is 99% based on the interaction between the user and the piece and seeing that interaction in new settings is interesting and surprising. This energy plays a large part in our design choices, and was a major factor in making sure the shop contained a full rotating art gallery as well. People who like cloth find art, people who like art find cloth.
Format: Europe continues to see different trends compared to North America. Is the style that you see on the streets of Amsterdam changing?
Julian: Trends are trends. I do not concern myself with them, as they are inherently transient and unstable. There is always a chance to be in the limelight, but does that make you a trend? Does it take anything away from what you are accomplishing? People’s tastes evolve constantly, but that does not necessarily mean they are trend hopping. It just means their focus is moving to the ethic or style that they want to associate with at that time, often in reaction to what was just hype and over saturated.
We eat sleep and live this to the most nine days a week. This scene is not a passing trend in my eyes or the people I work with. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m alone in this view. People are looking now more than ever for newer labels that are doing it for the right reasons, instead of losing sight of your original intentions through the tinted windows of your Bentley. I see people with style all over the place, and most of them are cluing in from what they see on TV, from their mixed up ideas of what black America is.
There are real brands out there, people doing this because they love the game and the hustle. It is what they want to do for the love of the thing. If there is glory down the line that rocks and rolls, but you must love the process that gets you there, and not just the rewards you seek down the line.
Format: From a personal standpoint what inspires you to continue making clothing?
Julian: We are contributing something new and exciting to the world scene with what we are doing out here at 232 Spui Straat. We just want to continue to do our own thing and not just rehash old glory, but to push boundaries and fuck shit up. Our motto around here is “GO LOUD” and it can be found on the clamp of each of our shirts. It is a concept that has driven us for a long time now. Keep it up, push harder, do what you think is right, even if it is not what is cool or popular in the moment. There is a lot of room for growth and change in this game, and we feel that we have the potential to add something: our voice, crew, vision.
Format: Even with the proliferation of countless streetwear blogs it seems that most of them are focused on American or Asian brands. Do you see Europe playing a larger role in the near future?
Julian: First off, we are a New York City label. That is where it starts for us. Our intentions and inspirations are very much a reaction to our lives in NYC, but that’s a whole other story.
To get to the question at hand, production is hard out here. There are no where near as many places to print Tâ€™s and sweats. Back home a group of kids with a dream can go get 50 tees printed for $80 and sling them out of the trunk of a car and become the next big thing
Another reason I would think that the scene is dominated by US and Asian countries is that there is light-years more money being spent in those markets by consumers than in the EU. The scene here is still small, young, and is being processed and assimilated all the time by an ever-expanding group of people showing interest in it. Out here itâ€™s all those great things that you remember about the old days of the street scene in the US, but it is happening now. I think that in a few more years we will see a lot of brands emerge from the EU, but only after the scene has been pushed and processed a little more on a cultural level.