Since the Young & Laced programme was introduced back in 2013 it has had a hugely positive impact on the lives of several young creatives in various fields, providing a platform & support to help them pursue their ideas. Back in 2015 the programme re-focused their efforts towards skateboarding in a bid to discover young creatives surrounding the culture and in doing so found Mikey Krzyzanowski, a young skateboarder from Oxford, and his project – Goma Collective. Through art, design, film & photography, Goma has been responsible for several projects of their own, as well as introducing a concise but strong line of clothing and hard goods inspired by the work of the young creatives around them. With help from Mentors Bobby Pecotic & Jerome Campbell, alongside working with photographer Tom Delion and illustrator/printmaker Gaurab, Mikey’s Goma collective continues to grow and explore new areas in which they can raise awareness and have a positive impact towards various communities across the globe. We were lucky enough to catch up with Mikey following the release of the brands Nepal project to find out more on the origins of the collective, the importance of sustainability and plans for future projects…
For those that aren’t too familiar, could you give us a bit of background on Goma collective and how it came about?
Goma is a growing collective of creative heads. We’ve been working together to produce limited releases of product, with a minimum of 5% of our profits going to community projects. I started it through a project called ‘Young & Laced’ that I was part of last year. It’s pretty early doors but I’m really stoked on where it’s going.
What’s the inspiration behind the logo and name?
My dad had a friend called Robert Loughlin who was an artist in New York, he had a face that he drew everywhere and I love the idea of having an image like that. He was a big inspiration for the logo for sure. I worked with Gaurab Thakali on it, he painted it based on Jazz drummer Max Roach.
The name means a lot of different things, but that’s not why I chose it.
Who currently makes up the collective?
The kinds of people that make up Goma are illustrators, photographers and filmmakers, musicians and we’re even working with some guys in the food industry at the moment too. I want to keep it growing that way, it broadens the horizon in terms of what we kind of project we can do.
A large focus for the collective is sustainability. Do you feel there is a lack of sustainably conscious brands in the market?
There is a lack of them yeah. I think the reason why is because a lot of people look at ‘sustainability’ as some weird hippy thing haha. They see it as a niche not necessity. For anything to change, brands need to be approached in the right way. You can’t expect everyone to immediately want to save the environment. It’s difficult for some people to want to do anything if the case for change isn’t right there in front of them. I think more time should be put into making ‘sustainability’ more relevant to brands. You’re going to get nowhere by just telling people they’re doing it wrong.
You spoke in your interview with Grey Magazine on your intention to use Bamboo blanks. Has this idea developed any further since then?
I thought Bamboo blanks would have been a good idea because Bamboo can grow much faster than Maple, so it’s less of a problem to cut bamboo down. We’re going a step further and recycling old boards into new ones. This way, we won’t actually be cutting anything down haha. As fun as it’s been making boards that people can actually skate as well as put on their wall – the next boards we do will be much more of an art piece. More time and effort will be going into each board, they’ll be super limited.
Do you feel skateboarding has played an important role in developing Goma?
Yeah definitely. There’s a lot that can be learnt from skateboarding, aside from the products and content that companies put out. A lot of the people involved with Goma are skaters, so there will always be some kind of influence, but it’s never going to be the driving force behind what we do.
Are there any other brands/people that you look towards for inspiration or who share a similar ethos?
Patagonia is a big one for me, they have been for a while now. Their brand is built on a lot of really good principles and on top of it all, they give 1% of their sales to organisations working on preservation and restoration of the environment. They’re definitely doing it right. Satta, is another company that I think is setting a good example in terms of ethos. Other companies that I’m backing are Dime, Quasi and Carpet Company (they’re a new one from the states).
As a DIY brand, what have been the biggest hurdles to overcome?
The thing that’s been a bit annoying is not being able to make certain products because they aren’t widely made out of organic cotton. That’s definitely the biggest one. Something that I’m always working on is making sure that people are backing us for the right reasons and that as many people possible understand what we’re doing and why.
Has keeping the product to limited quantities helped to build the brand?
Yes and no. All our products have been produced never to be reproduced and they’ve been made in low quantities as well. I think that builds a small but strong base of people who really respect us for what we’re doing. This way people know they’ve got something a bit special, whether it’s a screen-print a skateboard or a t shirt. Equally it restricts the reach of our product a lot, it works both ways.
Prior to starting Goma did you have any previous experience in screen printing? Are you self taught?
Yep, a few years ago I printed T-shirts with my mate Joe at his house. We went really DIY and built all our own screens, exposure units and even a carousel. We were self-taught and it was a long process but it was a good feeling when we actually printed our first tee haha.
You currently have the Nepal project which is available now and have also announced the Brazil Project which is set for release later this year. Why did you choose these two locations for the projects?
Gaurab was the first artist I wanted to work with for Goma. His trip to Nepal pretty much coincided with me starting Goma. It was a prefect thing to base a project on, I knew that trip would mean a lot to him and we would be producing something with actual meaning behind it. Brazil was a country I always had in the back of my mind when I was growing up. Last year I spent two months working and living in Rio. I was based in a place called Rocinha, it’s a favela in the south of Rio. It’s hand down the most visually stimulating place I’ve ever been to, and I was really inspired by the surroundings there, as well as the people. I left there wanting to show people what that favela was really like. A lot of people have a stereotypical image of guns/drugs and madness happening on every corner, which is really not what was going on.
What’s the inspiration behind the designs for the Nepal Project?
Gaurab drew all three images whilst he was in Nepal. At the time, there had just been two big Earthquakes, so there was a lot of reconstruction going on around him whilst he was there. However, for this trip he decided to focus on what was still standing, which led to him focusing on structures around him that are easily passed by.
Are there any other destinations that you would like to visit for a project?
There’s nowhere specific, but Rocinha definitely set the tone for me. I think there’s a lot to be learned from communities like that. They’re very cohesive and look out for each other. I’m definitely on the search for those kinds of places to find interesting community projects. Those communities definitely exist in England as well though; it’s not the kind of thing I have to get on a plane to discover.
You have a new collaboration with artist Loyle Carner. Could you tell us a bit more on the project and how it came about?
The project we’re working on with Loyle is definitely a good indicator of where things will be going in the future. We started off the project with the idea of designing a collection of products, and using the money we made from sales to start a community project, a cooking school for young people with ADHD. He’s diagnosed with ADHD, and growing up he found cooking to be the one thing that would allow him to chill out and concentrate.
The cooking school is now the main focus. We’re still producing products but they’ll be on the back end of things. So, with our team of 8 young chefs, we’ll be have a month to train them up for a public dining experience they’ll be hosting in London. It’s been a lot of work so far, but we’re working with some great people and having just announced it online last week, it’s been amazing to see people’s comments about it.
Aside from producing the tangible goods you’re also very active in the community with events etc. Would you say that the clothing/hard goods is just a part of what is the ultimate goal for Goma Collective?
Definitely. The plan at the start was to make these products and use the money from the sales to do something good. The community projects are going to take more of a front seat in the future though.
The clothing for Goma will be taking a less important role after the Brazil project is released. It’s just not what I’m focusing on with Goma.
What’s next for Goma? Any more projects on the horizon?
Besides the cooking school and the Brazil project, I can’t say what else we’re working on, but you can expect a lot more to come from us in the new year.
Words: Kieran Sills
Imagery: Michael Owen (Top Portrait), Sirus Gahan & Joshua Gordon (Bottom Portrait)