FLY53 surfaced in the mid ‘90s through music, art, associated culture, and a failed band attempt. Will Rigg, Creative and Managing Director of FLY53, cornered the market at an early stage with his band merchandise tees and a shit load of passion. Always inspired by positive change and music, Rigg has developed the brand to a global status while learning through trial and error. Today, FLY53 is an internationally recognized label outfitting “the children of the resistance.”

“It has soul, creativity, and a meaning of its own. I imagine it is very similar culturally to the ‘60s except the drugs and methods of communication are different.”

Format: Please state your name and role at FLY53.
Will Rigg: Will Rigg, Creative and Managing Director

Format: You began as a limited series t-shirt collection. How did the brand come about and who were the key players at the time?
Will Rigg: I was playing in rock bands in the early ‘90s; I had just completed a degree in textile designs and naturally created and printed my band’s own merchandise tees. A few of our contemporary bands on the circuit at the time saw how well we used to do with these tees and asked me to do theirs, which I did. A few of these bands got pretty massive at the time and my business producing tees grew and overshadowed my own band. At the time, streetwear in the UK was a band tee, so by accident I had the market cornered. From doing the merch artwork it expanded into designing sleeves etc. We soon got bored and started putting our own designs on tees with no particular plan other than we liked them. Soon we got ambitious and started making clothes the hard way, learning by trial and error.

Format: You seem to be a very lifestyle-oriented brand. Can you paint a picture of the lifestyle that your consumer leads from Thursday to Sunday?
Will Rigg: Our customer generally works hard in the week, be that in a job or at school. Come the weekend they blow out and get involved in all the things that interest them culturally. Work hard, party hard. They spend the weekend indulging in both creative activities and complete wanton partying. It’s a hedonistic lifestyle that is irreverent to the standard lifestyle that surrounds them. It has soul, creativity, and a meaning of its own. I imagine it is very similar culturally to the ‘60s except the drugs and methods of communication are different. It’s a classless thing, everyone loves music and likes to party and feel they are creating something they can identify with.

Format: You’ve collaborated with various musicians and artists. Please describe.
Will Rigg: We are all musicians ourselves and have a genuine obsession with music. We like to incorporate this into our brand, and other artists and musicians recognize this. This solid link with artists, whether we know them or meet them, allows us to work with them with integrity and not as a cynical brand marketing exercise. We work on many levels. We have musicians designing collaborative clothing collections with us, and we have a three-way project with a famous instrument maker to create signature guitars along with our favorite musicians. We also have an evolving project—the T-shirt shed, where we ask an artist or musician to curate a project and ask their favorite people to design a t-shirt and create a collection—kind of a t-shirt ATP or Meltdown.

Format: You say that you inject integrity into an increasingly bland corporate market. Please explain.
Will Rigg: We mean everything we do. Everything we do is creative, considered, and original. We stand out amongst the passionless mainstream product. We essentially stick to the Punk Rock spirit we started with–even if it means taking the hard road.

Format: How are you contributing to the environment?
Will Rigg: All our manufacturers are checked to ensure they adhere to decent environmental standards. We don’t use environmentally damaging product. We don’t shout about organic principles as we think it should be a given. And unless it is completely environmentally sound in every way you should not shout about it. Too many companies say “Hey, organic denim” then you find out they airfreight goods halfway around the planet; or “Look, organic cotton” when the dyestuffs used on it or the laundry process uses polluting chemicals. Too often it’s marketing bullshit. Only a few companies go the whole hog, many pretend. Again it’s the Punk in us—don’t say it unless it’s real.

Format: What separates FLY53 from other collections?
Will Rigg: We’re British for a start. Creativity, quality, and individuality. Our heritage and lifestyle.

Format: How does the UK streetwear scene differ from other streetwear scenes around the world?
Will Rigg: The UK is way behind the US. Until now it’s all been about sportswear brands. Now streetwear is coming through. The styles and silhouettes are very different here. It’s more about fashion in the traditional sense—evolving seasons and the product range is much wider and we have a consumer who wants more than a tee, hoodie, and jeans. Canada is more similar to the UK. Japan is all over the place–there is an element of wild fashion but for the most part it’s quite conservative and follows and replicates global trends.

Format: You are distributed mostly in Europe. What are your current efforts in further becoming a global brand?
Will Rigg: We started an international push eighteen months ago and now have distribution in almost twenty countries: all of Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Australia. We tend to not rush but wait for the right partners to approach us. We find if someone seeks us out and has passion for the brand then we do well together and build long-term relationships.

Format: Please explain “Outfitters for the resistance.”
Will Rigg: We outfit the children of the Resistance. We believe in passive resistance: changing things for the better with clever and sometimes subtle moves. We like to think every wearer of FLY53 partakes in this resistance.

Format: Tell us about the FLY53 ‘08 Tour.
Will Rigg: Again, it’s a music obsession. Simply, we pick artists we like at the time, sometime eclectic, sometimes a genre. Book a load of venues and take them on the road. We cover all the costs and the FLY53 family gets to come for free. But you have to be part of the family to get in, that’s the hard part—becoming part of the family. Haha we like to be elusive. That said, there are now 68,000 family members in the UK.

Format: You partner with some of the UK’s hottest events. How do you make your selections?
Will Rigg: Christ, I have no idea, some things just seem right. The people are cool and the vibe fits ours.

Format: What can we expect from FLY53 for SS09?
Will Rigg: Galactic Dominance. Well, more of the same just better. Always getting better.

Jules C

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