BACKWARDS AND FORWARDS WITH PERKS & MINI

In Melbourne in the early 2000s, an explosion of creativity and commerce collided. St Jerome’s was a laneway, before it became a festival. Brands like Perks And Mini were bubbling up, finding shelf space in new retailers like Fat. There seemed to be a new gallery opening every week. Everyone was in a band. Every band had a zine.

From day one, PAM was about blurring the line between streetwear and fashion. And being from Melbourne, they didn’t really know that there were rules they weren’t meant to break. “In the beginning,” says co-founder Shauna Toohey, “We offered a t-shirt that was pink and that was just radical. And to us, it was like, ‘No, pink is a nice color.’”

It was in these heady days that PAM founders Misha Hollenbach and Shauna Toohey met Misha Glisovic, who had founded a streetwear label called Schwipe. They think maybe they had something in the same exhibition. They had the same name. Why is this important? Well, Misha G (as he will be known in this article) took what he learnt from 9 years running Schwipe and brought it to his role as Creative Director at MAAP.

Shauna and Misha returned to live in Australia in 2020, after spending 5 years living in France. PAM had become an influential streetwear and lifestyle brand, stocked on Parisian boutique Colette and pulling off collaborations with Nike, Bathing Ape’s Sk8thing and the late American artist Mike Kelley.

One of their first calls back home was to MAAP. They’d put a cycling crew together during lockdown and wanted a team kit. MAAP’s Misha G returned the email from PAM’s Misha H. They realised their connection. That talk about a team kit became so much more. In 2021, we will see the first PAM X MAAP capsule collection.

Off The Front caught up with Misha G, Misha H and Shauna to talk about cycling, Melbourne, champagne in jerseys and the upcoming collection.

"We wanted to explore this space between apparel, not traditional cycling or traditional fashion, but something in between that we both wanted." – Misha Glisovic

Off The Front: PAM, when did you first become aware of MAAP?

Misha Hollenbach: We were cycling with friends in Europe and one of my friends who's Mexican from Berlin, living in Paris was wearing MAAP when we were cycling. So I didn't know what the brand was at all, but had clocked it.

And then when we came back here, we wanted to do a team kit for PAM and we spoke to MAAP and it turned out that Misha wrote back and I was confused, like ‘Wait I've written back to myself?’. And then it turned out to be Misha, ex Schwipe.

Misha Glisovic: And it stayed confusing for every email since.

OTF: So how did the collaboration come about?

MH: So that was very serendipitous actually. And the fact that Shauna and I had returned to Australia and we've already been doing a lot of collaborations with people all over the world, but to come back here and launch into one with another Melbourne company accidentally is pretty amazing. And the fact that both Misha and I share a name, and also the PAM/MAAP backwards thing. And so all of this was encapsulated in one moment. It was quite bizarre. We want to do a team kit, all of a sudden there's some back interests with MAAP. It's Misha from Schwipe, it's PAM backwards. So it was a little flurry or something like a whirlwind.

Shauna Toohey: It was very serendipitous.

MH: And within one conversation we sort of thought of a much bigger picture, which was amazing as well. So it was very natural and very easy and very comfortable and exciting when things like that happen. It's just exciting because it wasn't planned and it wasn't all these sort of steps and all these small details are actually what makes it even stronger. I guess.

ST: Don't you think the fact that it wasn't pushed like sometimes when you really want something and you push for it, it's the worst, but when things just naturally click into place and it just makes sense? It's always the best outcome.

MG: Even that first chat, we pretty quickly decided that we thought it had legs and something more than just a team kit. And we wanted to explore this space between apparel, not traditional cycling or traditional fashion, but something in between that we both wanted.

"It's not about borders and categories. It's actually about breaking borders and categories. So whether it is gender or race or age group or interest or music, or musical subculture, we're always trying to break those kinds of categories, that's really important." – Misha Hollenbach

OTF: PAM is from Melbourne. MAAP is from Melbourne. What does coming from Melbourne mean for a brand?

ST: I feel like the commonality between things that come from Melbourne, particularly what Misha G has done in the past and what we've done in the past, I feel like Australia is the wild west. Like we don't realize that there's a rule book that says that you shouldn't do this, or you can't just walk into a shop and say, ‘Hi, I like what you do, can we do something together?’ That's unheard of. So we're kind of wild west. And I feel like it's a fresh attitude where we're open to things and we don't have the weight of history and expectation on our shoulders.

MG: And that's so appropriate in cycling as well. Because that's part of MAAP, it is really the old world heritage cycling, Italian made and all that stuff, which we tapped into for the quality and experience. But the sport is very stuck in heritage things, heritage styles, heritage references to the sport. Whereas I think the distance helped us in that way as well.

MH: We have a pioneering spirit. So, our land, and even when we talk about cycling, we're cycling into regions where humans have hardly been. The wilderness is so wild and untapped here, and that kind of pioneering spirit comes through. When you cycle in forests in Europe, they last for like a few kilometers until you're at a really good cafe or another village or something. So, I think this pioneering spirit is also something that MAAP and PAM share.

OTF: PAM, how long were you thinking about getting involved in cycling apparel?

MH: We weren't! So cycling has been part of my life, definitely since I was a kid, but really like, like quite consistently, especially in the last sort of 15 years, at least. So cycling things have always cropped up in PAM collections, those logo play or ideas like ‘Fuck Cars’, for instance, we just did that thing now. So there's always been reference to cycling, but no real sort of cycling apparel.

And right now, to be honest, being back in Australia, cycling is very, very real for us. And for me, especially it's working on that and having a meaning and a real love for it, it just feels very natural and makes a lot of sense to be doing this stuff, especially as we're seeing a lot of people around us that are perhaps not the middle-aged male in Lycra. It's younger kids, it's girls, and it's perhaps more artsy kids. People that are interested in fashion or other sorts of cultures other than the sport of cycling. 

It's not about borders and categories. It's actually about breaking borders and categories. So whether it is gender or race or age group or interest or music, or musical subculture, we're always trying to break those kind of categories, that's really important. 

OTF: Misha G, that’s what MAAP is kind of based on right?

MG: I think the sport's generally growing. Initially when we started, there were even fewer options and it was all about the traditional, heavily branded team kit, which is always a barrier for me and (MAAP founders) Ollie and Jarrad as well.

We wanted to bring a different perspective to cycling. As the sport’s evolved and as it's growing, for us it’s about showing people there is an option and just providing more people access to the sport. To show them that it is more inclusive. 

And with a background in apparel and streetwear design, I always wanted to get MAAP even closer to what we wear off the bike and merge those two worlds together. Projects like this are bringing it even closer to home, which is exciting.

OTF: Provocative question – is cycling fashion...bad?

MH: I think it depends on the period also. 80s cycling was so amazing because it was wild and there was this explosion of....

ST: They were drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

MG: Cigarettes on the bike.

MH: Well, I'm talking about the clothing, or the logos and things. But the sport in the 50s was probably the most amazing. The Tour de France in the 50s, they were smoking and drinking champagne. They had bottles of champagne in  their jerseys. And there's always been an element of cycling, which is about freedom and about an escape in a sense.

MG: Maybe the bad bit that you're talking about is just that perception – a road bike was an expensive bike. Middle-aged man, midlife crisis. It had a bit of that tinge. But I think that was just one element and there were always other ways of riding, if it was a fixie or with some other bike. I mean, a BMX was always a cool way to ride a bike.

OTF: OK almost done. But I would love to just get in a sort of short couple of words, what this kind of first collaboration between PAM and MAAP is going to be and what it's going to look like.

MG: A burst of creative energy that propels cycling forward.

MH: An explosion of energy. It shows our excitement of coming together. I think.

ST: It's like the doors are opening. This is like, let's see, and then we can see what's inside. This is step one.

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