Monumental. That’s the very essence of CTRL Clothing. And for a clothing company based out of Helsinki, Finland, one must learn to make monumental moves in an industry of aesthetically sound innovators. But there’s more to the story. Possibly working with Greenpeace, salvaging skateboard culture, and kicking it with drop dead gorgeous women – that’s the real pay off. I know, right?

This isn’t your dad’s fall flannel wear; it’s the remix to the remix, so get with the program kids. They’re in it to win it, oh, and did I mention, save the world in their spare time. Freeman (just Freeman, like Madonna or Prince, cool right?), CTRL Clothing art director, had a chance to sit and talk with Format Magazine about the finer things in life; dope fits, world dominance, humanitarian work, and milking the fashion industry for every last penny. He’s definitely in the business of making monumental moves, to say the least. One thing’s for certain, CTRL definitely has the game on lock, or in their case – control.

“Shallow street culture is like sitcom, it’s enjoyable, but doesn’t really give you a hard on, like porn…”

Format: For those of us who don’t know anything about your clothing line, can you tell us what CTRL stands for?
Freeman: CTRL stands for blood, sweat and tears. In other words, skateboarding and fashion, but fashion only if there are beautiful and pretty girls involved. It’s about the troubled, all-the-time suffering teenagers. It stands for destroying cities. It stands for a huge, epic clothing line for boys and girls around the world. It stands for what M*A*S*H* stands for, it’s about the painless suicide – Hawkeye, Trapper, Hot Lips, Vietnam and the whole process of a brand like CTRL taking over the far east and the whole world. It stands for the dare to resist drugs, speaking with a megaphone and the top three stairs of the pyramid. And it stands for control, too.

Format: How did you get into the fashion industry and how long has CTRL been around?
Freeman: CTRL has been around for a little bit more than ten years, since 1995. CTRL has always been a skateboard company, and CTRL will always be a skateboarding company, with a twist. But it’s not the skateboarding industry we’re milking here, but the fashion industry, that’s where all the pretentious money is. So, we give some fashion and take some money and then we give some money back to skateboarding by doing boards, hard goods, special events, even stickers and keeping our skate team in gear. Also, everybody knows that it’s the fashion world where all the best girls hang out. We invented our own fashion – about 13 collections – four years ago, before that we only did boards, hard goods, tee-shirts and hoodies. We kind of just added our own version of fashion in the mix in the form of a huge clothing line.


Format: Do you consider this your passion?
Freeman: This is my passion. Collecting stuff and fly-fishing is my passion as well. Saying ‘saving the world’ without it sounding corny could go as a passion too. I think one man can have, and should have, many passions in life.

Format: What is the motivation behind CTRL Clothing?
Freeman: The opportunity to stay 29-years-old for life and the fact that we’re getting a lot of attention from the most interesting, beautiful, twisted girls, and okay looking, honest girls too. Also the motivation of keeping skateboarding alive and our friends dressed up the way we feel they should. It’s about love, fame and money for nothing.

Format: CTRL’s style is quite unique – from the bright colors to the patterns, what, or who, determines the themes we see in your clothing line?
Freeman: I am responsible for all the graphics and patterns for CTRL. The themes basically come from anywhere. Everyday life is a good source, sleeping, Google, all unhappy personal life experiences, in general, relationships and so on. I’ve put a lot of frustrating things from my personal life into my designs, it’s therapy in action. Basically, it’s me and Esa together doing the cut and sew part. We always have some awesome random chicks helping with the girl cuts, meaning that we usually have a visiting female designer to help us with the girls line. There’s still so much we don’t know about girls yet, so we really do need a helping female hand creating the girls collection. Lately we’ve also been thinking of using the help of a super gay dude to see if CTRL would really hit it off in the catwalk scene that way. For some brands it did help.


Format: Does CTRL consider itself part of the streetwear community? Or do you prefer to be grouped into another category?
Freeman: We’re definitely part of the streetwear community, but we don’t feel like labeling ourselves in one category since we feel like we’re more like a well made mash-up of different things taken from here and there, maybe even mainstream. A collection of things we like. This is not a category, but we want to be huge and cool, at the same time.

Format: In one of Format’s previous interviews, photographer Lynette Astaire said, “pushing outward appearances is really a big thing right now.” She believed that creative clothing lines, much like CTRL, add to the problem street culture has with superficiality. What’s your take on that?
Freeman: Which part of modern day pop culture as a whole isn’t shallow? The art world? Come on man, it’s all shallow. What about Damien Hirst’s $100 million diamond-encrusted platinum skull? Shallow? For some reason the times we’re living in don’t produce genius minded God-like creative people, like Andy Warhol for example. The heroes of our times are the people behind the scenes, the ones concerned with everything but the appearance, the people who have made the Internet possible, for example. The same dull people who made mobile phones, laptops, or time-traveling machines are the people considered non-creative, when in fact those people are super creative. They believe in content before form, whereas in pop culture it’s mostly the opposite way. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel shallow is always evil, or if it is then it is the necessary evil. People need shallow things to get by. Shallow street culture is like sitcom, it’s enjoyable, but doesn’t really give you a hard on, like porn, never shallow, always edgy.


Format: Do you think CTRL is adding to the problem we have had, and continue to, with superficiality?
Freeman: Yes, and no, because we support the skate scene and skateboarding is content to the streets; it’s living the city, discovering the city in a unique way, but that’s a whole other long story. The other thing is that we’re looking for ways to use the products of street culture for a good cause. Collaborations with humanitarian organizations, why not?

Format: What can we expect to see next from CTRL?
Freeman: Our store on the Internet selling clothing and healing stones, and our physical store somewhere, but not in Helsinki, and maybe, shoes. Also, the will to do a lot of good, with Greenpeace, Amnesty or any other organization with good intentions and heavenly goals. We feel guilty being part of something un-ethical and we really want to do good things in life. That’s the message we want to spread with CTRL. ‘Hello Africa, tell me how you’re doing?’

Format: Anything else?
Freeman: That CTRL is not being sarcastic, or ironic, even if to some it might sound like it. One love.


Jason Parham

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