Nate Hooper on What’s Next After REBEL8
Nate Hooper, a designer and graphic artist from San Francisco, California, announced Friday, May 14th, that he would be departing from the San Francisco streetwear giant, REBEL8, as their Creative Director.
This wasn’t the dramatic break-up which one would expect from those in the fashion industry given the egos involved. It was respectful, and celebratory, as Joshy D, the owner of REBEL8, and Hooper have been friends since childhood. Working with the brand since 2008, Hooper was instrumental in REBEL8’s expansion from just t-shirts and stickers to incorporating a very successful cut-and-sew line as well as major expansions in their graphics program and accessories line. Hooper initiated many impressive collaborations: Vans, Mishka, Actual Pain, Flying Coffin, Benny Gold, Dickies, FTC, Morning Breath, Starter, and FM$ to name a few. The San Franciscan directed eleven seasons from fall 2008 to spring 2011, cementing REBEL8 as one of America’s premier counter-culture independent brands. It is obvious that although Nate Hooper may no longer be the creative director of the label, this is only the beginning for the San Francisco, California native.
Splitting his childhood between growing up in the heart of San Francisco and his dad’s commune/farm in Northern California, Nate Hooper saw the dichotomy between the American city and country lifestyles first hand, which helped shape the aesthetics that show up in his work today. Hooper worked most of his teenage years at San Francisco’s premiere skateshop FTC. In 1998 he enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University to pursue a Fine Art degree but later dropped out to study photography at Central St Martin’s College in London in 2001, later returning to graduate from CMU in 2002. In 2004, after a bevy of dead-end jobs, Nate started working as a designer for the boutique design agency Ordinary Kids back in San Francisco. Around 2007, he left his home town and worked as a designer in Amsterdam; however, no matter how far he strayed from home, the former R8 creative director always kept San Francisco, California in his heart.
mashKULTURE: So, in a nutshell, what’s next?
Nate Hooper: Well, basically, I’ve been working Sixty hour weeks for two years straight so I need a bit of a vacation first (Laughs). Besides that, I ended up having to turn down a lot of work when I was at R8, so now I look forward to working with those people as well as working on my own personal projects.
mK: So does that mean brand collaborations?
NH: I’ll definitely be talking to a lot of brands we worked with when I was at REBEL8, but you have to remember I have only been gone for three days (Laughs), so I’m still just trying to figure things out… I’d say that I’ve definitely built some pretty cool relationships with people in the industry through REBEL8 though.
mK: Your prior work ranges from Old Navy, to Ordinary Kids, and then REBEL8; will your future work carry a combination of the edgy and Americana aesthetics?
NH: Working with Ordinary Kids was kind of my gateway into design in general. They’ve worked with everyone from Stussy to adidas to HUF, so needless to say working with them was pretty cool… and REBEL8 was of course an amazing experience. Basically right now, I’m just looking forward to doing my own thing for a while. As far as Americana goes, I am genuinely attracted to heritage aesthetics as well as history in general, and I think looking at those kinds of themes through a streetwear lens could be really interesting.
mK: When you worked with FTC and Ordinary Kids, a majority of your work played on your experience as a skateboarder growing up on the west coast of the United States. Will we see that again?
NH: Yeah, I really hope to work with more skate brands, for sure. Working at FTC for so long you really learn how critical people are of products in general, so you always want to bring your ‘A’ game!
mK: REBEL8 is known as a premiere counter culture brand in the States. Is there anything you learned at R8 that you will carry into your next venture?
NH: Absolutely. Working at REBEL8 I was really able to learn the entire process of how a brand really works. From conceptualizing a product to sourcing, to production, to dealing with pricing issues, to shipping, to promoting that product, to product placement, etc… I feel like I now really understand how much energy and work goes into making a brand thrive.
mK: The city of San Francisco played a major part in your work the last two years. Will we see your home town pop up going forward?
NH: San Francisco and Northern California in general has really rich and extensive history. I think moving forward, especially with personal projects, I will definitely be trying to incorporate San Francisco’s heritage as well as all the amazing production resources we have available at our fingertips living here.
mK: You’ve been working in the American fashion industry for over 12 years, playing every part from Retailer to Creative Director. What keeps you interested?
NH: I have found that as you develop your skill set and develop your voice as a designer, things just become exponentially more interesting. As you get better, things get better. Now, working in the industry for me is really fun… If you told me ten years ago that I would be the creative director of REBEL8 I wouldn’t have believed you.
mK: You went to Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh; do your college days ever play a part of your art now?
NH: Art school for me was a very good way to develop a certain way of thinking. It was a great way to learn how to get a message across without having to be quite so literal. It taught me how to think in terms of nuance, to make things that are more interesting than just the run-of-the-mill straight-forward shit. However, I feel like I gravitated towards design almost immediately out of school, being that conventional art doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to reach a lot of people.
mK: You post a lot of weird, nostalgic stuff on your tumblr blog, Slurricane; is this the kind of stuff we can expect from your future pieces?
NH: Absolutely, working with REBEL8 was great, but a lot of the art work was being told through Mike Giant’s hand. The imagery that I am personally attracted to, I haven’t really had the chance to bring to fruition in my own work. I’m really just looking forward to just being on my own, working in a small design studio with a couple of friends and start banging out quality work.