Through slightly broken English, but with much Parisian intellect, Lionel Vivier speaks to Format of unexpected heroes, new challenges in street-wear, and friendship-based collaborationsâ€“a few key components that make up Sixpack France. Garnering strong distribution in Spain, Japan, America, and many other parts of the world, the French brand has seen only steady growth since its inception in 1998. Coming up on its tenth anniversary, the label produces rare and timeless designs proving to be one of Formatâ€™s favorite collections.
â€œIt was quite easy to produce this hoody; all-over print is easy to print. From now on the challenge is to do attractive garments without patterns, no?â€
Format: Who is Sixpack France?
Lionel: We are a French-European brand. Our company [is] ten years old [and] we love design, music and family. We built ourselves at the record store and listen to pop rock, noise, Detroit techno, Motown, and hip-hop and spraying the streets. From now on, we are a brand [that wants] to spread our references and cues through our garments, combining business lucidity and personal pleasure.
We have heroes such as Neil Young, Thurston Moore, Chris Ware, Peter Saville, Roland Topor, Saul Bass, Dario Argento, and Goblin etc. We love and assume our references but hate people who are trapped in their old past references.
Format: Who is on your team and what are their roles?
Lionel: We are five at Sixpack. Fanny [is the] sales manager, Benoit [is] logistics and shipments, Anthony [is the] graphic designer, Simon [does] strategy and development and Lionel [is the] brand manager, art director, and marketing [department]. My friend Akroe has been recently [teaming] up [with] help me in my functions. We [are] working together on a Sixpack premium line. We will develop a real complete line with jackets, knit, shirts—a line dedicated to our logo. It will be more mature and with a minimal radical graphic aesthetic direction.
Format: Your history on your website is one of the more abstract descriptions Iâ€™ve ever read by a brand. Why such a conceptually written history?
Lionel: Iâ€™m surprised because I tried to write the history as clear as I [could]. When I wrote it, I didnâ€™t think, â€œHey, Iâ€™ll try to write the most abstract biography ever.â€ I tried to explain our background with my words. We [will] celebrate our ten-year anniversary. It was important to tell people where we came from and why we are doing things. The brand has [its] own history and our clients should know about it.
Format: Where do you think graffiti fits into the world today, and how do you feel you are helping keep it alive?
Lionel: Nowhere, I guess, and thatâ€™s cool; it should fit in the street. The writers seem to like to play with the fashion industry. I donâ€™t [try] to help graffiti at all, the thing is, some writers have bought computers and [have] evolved from graffiti to graphic designs and its logic I guess. 123 KLAN and FINSTA are the best examples. We love working with artists who have a graffiti background mixed with a 2008 graphic design vision.
Format: Speaking of those artists, youâ€™ve worked with 123 KLAN, Cody Hudson, and Mike Giant. We have featured a few of these the artists on Format. How did you link up with them and how do you decide which ones you’d like to work with?
Lionel: I met Scien a long time ago at a graffiti jam. I booked a show for Cody Hudson in Paris. Same for Mike Giant; things came naturally. I discovered Cody Hudsonâ€™s work four or five years [ago] through the Chocolate Industries compilation records cover and in the VAPORS number 0 graffiti mag. We feel really close; his art and his aesthetic: abstract, corrosive slogans, colorful and minimal.
Format: How does the Parisian fashion scene compare to the US?
Lionel: The problem with the Parisian street fashion scene is they want to be American. We love US brands, but with Sixpack, we want to defend our own European values. We have our own background and history we [even] work with US artists. Contradiction is apart of Sixpack too.
Format: In 1998 you opened your first store. Did you have the Sixpack label immediately or did you start out by selling other brandâ€™s t-shirts?
Lionel: We started selling French streetwear brands like Homecore, Triiad etc. We stocked Stussy, Freshjive etc. The idea was to do a concept store without any concepts, just selling things we had in our teenagers bedrooms: posters, t-shirts, sprays cans, books, and records. Some called it a concept store when the toy-mania came. Hahaha. We stopped the store to focus on the brand; we feel now more free and flexible.
Format: How are you bringing French, English, German, and American artists together as a community?
Lionel: Talented people come from all over the world, and itâ€™s [through] this aesthetic diversity [that] Sixpack [has] built [its] own. So yes, we can talk about community. We finally realized [that] we share [the] same culture, same tastes and mutual interests. Internet had a big role [in] helping us break the boundaries.
Format: Tell us about the Institubesâ€™ record label.
Lionel: I [knew] Institubes founder TACTEEL before Institubes. We come from the same place, Corsica. We love Above The Law and Detroit techno—two big reasons to be friends. Institubes and Sixpack evolved together without any marketing opportunism, more based on real friendship history.
We grew up very fast and we have new projects [on] the pipeline. You will hear about Surkin. His album will be one of the biggest musical events [of the] year.
Format: Your Cody Hudson Moderne Hoodie is dope. Please explain the process in creating a piece like this.
Lionel: It was fun to work on the Cody Hudson micro line. Very Modern Kunst line is an abstract tribute to psychedelic rock and pre-rave area. This is our first logic line. We plan to develop [a] real line. I want artists [to be] involved in graphics but also in stylism; it opens new doors. It was quite easy to produce this hoody; all-over print is easy to print. From now on the challenge is to do attractive garments without patterns, no?
Format: You recently held a KRSN exhibition, “Prbleoms,” at Off the Hook in Montreal. Tell us about it.
Lionel: The Off the Hook guys are friends and they have a gallery—same things no plans, just friendship. They run a nice shop with a very good brands selection. KRSN is one of the illustrators I [most] respect. His characters come from a world [that] heâ€™s the only one to [have] the keys. Hands cut, no eyes, head full of poetry—and I assume sometime very dark. The show was based on our struggle of [the] every day. PROBLEMS!! Big up to Off the Hook.
Format: Where in the world are your biggest markets?
Lionel: Actually this is French market, but Spain grew fast. We just started Japan and it started really well. Greece and [the] Netherlands are great too. We donâ€™t have [a] US distribution [company] but we work with nice shops like Reed Space in NYC, and they have great [sale] feedback [on] our t-shirts [that] sold out in about two weeks. Wait and see.
Format: The images on your main page are off the wall. Who came with these concepts?
Lionel: We worked on the concept with my friend Fake. Heâ€™s one of the CLARK art directors. CLARK is a French lifestyle magazine. Fake is a great talented designer. Heâ€™s a typography killer and back in the day, a great writer.
Format: You just did a book with Steven Harrington. It looks like fabric on the cover; was it actually made of fabric or was that an illusion?
Lionel: This is an illusion and itâ€™s not the final artwork. The book will come with another cover. Sixpack will bring Steven Harrington to Paris for a show at the Lazydog gallery. We will celebrate our first 180-page book dedicated to Steven Harrington. The show will travel in four countries.