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Fashion Anthropologist William Wright: Zero Cool's Passion for Archival Street Style and Modern Day Flair
NCO 055
2023-04-19
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Introducing Will Wright, the gifted photographer and the creative force behind Street Flash and Zero Cool, two platforms that skillfully capture and share the vibrant essence of streetwear and its ever-evolving subcultures from the 90s and early 00s. Inspired by iconic style-bibles of that era like FRUiTS, Sleazenation, and STREET, Will's work not only holds a prominent place in the world of fashion and photography but also highlights the vital role of archiving in preserving fashion's rich tapestry.

D: Hello, Will! Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, and your creative journey that led you where you are right now? What initially sparked your interest in fashion and specifically in street style?

W: I have a background working in print magazines, and one of my jobs used to be commissioning and styling shoots that were based on emerging street trends, which is something I had always been naturally drawn to. The more I was working on those kinds of briefs, the more I wanted to expand my contextual knowledge about the kinds of subcultures that many of these trends would be using as references. So, I began collecting as many archival books and magazines on street and style-oriented culture as I could get my hands on! It's definitely reached the point now where I have more old books and magazines than I have places to put them, yet somehow I don't seem to be able to stop...

D: Could you share with us how you go about selecting certain content over the rest, and what criteria or guiding principles you use to make these choices?

W: I try not to post too frivolously on my Zero Cool account and keep it as more of a research-based project than a 'mood board' kind of page. I really enjoy the anthropological aspect of looking through the old magazines that I make my scans from, and a big source of inspiration is in identifying people in different issues or cities who appear to have shared style references or be part of the same subcultural group.

I like to create posts that are based around these kinds of 'connecting the dots'-style contextual themes, which is essentially the same way I try to approach my Street Flash photography work too.

D: Do you see yourself as a collector? Which one was the first magazine you acquired?

W: Yeah, definitely, I think the instinct to 'collect' is really fundamental to anyone producing work with a strong anthropological, archival or even photographic component.

The first magazine I ever got as a kid was probably a comic or something, but I was always obsessed with video game magazines when I was younger - I usually didn't even own the consoles, I just liked looking at all the graphics!

In terms of actual style-specific ones though, I honestly can't remember. If I had to guess, it would probably have been an issue of Sleazenation or The Face - I used to religiously buy every issue of both back in the day, which was my gateway for getting into fashion.

D: What's the difference between Zero Cool and Street Flash?

W: I've loosely touched on it already, but Zero Cool is essentially an archival/research project documenting styles from the past, while Street Flash is my zine and photo project documenting the styles of today. Since Zero Cool came first, it kind of created the original context for my street photography work.

D: What are your main sources of inspiration and your biggest fashion/music heroes?

W: This is tough because there are so many! Firstly, I always use Fruits Magazine and Juergen Teller's 'Go Sees' book as the two poles I aspire for my work to sit between. I love Martin Margiela for the way he was able to playfully bring conceptual art approaches into fashion, as well as the beautiful simplicity of the campaigns Mark Borthwick shot for him.

Takahiro Miyashita's work at Number (N)ine is another favorite because of its emphasis on subcultural references. Photographically, I really appreciate the work of Hans Eijkelboom and Exactitudes for their respective anthropological perspectives... Music-wise, Goldie and the Metalheadz record label changed my life when I was a kid in terms of me discovering this underground culture that was so distinctly 'London'... Actually, London, in general, is definitely a massive influence, my friends... we could be here all day!

D: You have recently released your first Zine! Congratulations! Can you tell us about its creation process and what's featured there?

W: Thank you! Yes, I just did a launch with my friend Daisy (aka @Hysteric.Fashion), who was also launching their new 'Hysteric Snaps' zine. In simple terms, Street Flash is a London-focused street style mag in the vein of Kerouac, Street, Tune, and all those other amazing titles from the past. More specifically, it compiles a variety of different photographic series that I've been working on over the past 12 months, so along with the classic street style stuff, there's 'Hair Wars' documenting some of my favorite cuts and styles I've seen over the last year, 'Straight Ups' which is a sort of homage to the series of the same name that featured in 80s issues of i-D, a section on designers wearing their clothes, etc., etc. The best way for anyone to find out more, though, is to head to streetflash404.com and order a copy ;) I'm already getting excited for the next one...

D: And lastly, what are you up to today? ;)

W: Answering these questions, then I'll be out shooting as usual and most likely meeting a friend after. Maybe I'll let myself get scammed for an overpriced smoothie if I'm feeling crazy. Nothing too out of the ordinary, though.

All images courtesy of Zero Cool.