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Skating meets music and photography at Element’s new store

In London’s buzzing Seven Dials, the streetwear brand open their flagship – complete with live blues, red cups and walls lined with vinyl

Last Thursday night, a host of skateboarders-slash-artists, photographers, and musicians invaded the cobbled streets of London’s Seven Dials, where Element were marking the opening of their three-story flagship. An almost exclusively hip-hop soundtrack (the brand’s founder, Johnny Schillereff, admitted he was “such a hip-hop head”) poured from the store, which served drinks from American-style red cups and had its basement-level walls lined with Biggie, Dr Dre and The Smiths vinyl. Its ever-recognisable tree logo became a running motif for the impressive 2700 square foot layout, whose three floors exhibited a sturdy trunk structure, with exposed wood throughout.

London was the final destination on a European tour that took the team from Berlin to Barcelona for the Road to Wolfboro exhibition, where photographer Brian Gaberman’s ethereal images were showcased. Gaberman, who is “a bit of everything” for the brand, sees Element as a force that heavily nurtures his personal artwork. Heaving with Element’s chosen crop of skateboarding ‘advocates’ – including a blues singer, multi-instrumentalists and photographers – the evening felt like a nerve centre for the best in skate and creative talent.

Later on, the audience got a live taster when Element advocate Bastien Duverdier (who goes under the musical guise KéPA) took to the stage. Armed with two resophonic guitars, he busted out a raw, blues-inspired set that would never have happened if it wasn’t for a skateboarding accident. Badly injuring his back a few years ago, Duverdier had to look elsewhere for a hobby. “I discovered these deep blues from the south and just fell in love,” he explained. This meeting of talents is a recurring theme for the advocates, whose life of skateboarding frequently intersects with their creative work. “I think skateboarders, like artists, are opinion leaders in our society,” Duverdier added on the subject of the art and skate culture overlap.

Ray Barbee, a skateboarder who also took to the stage to perform a jazz-inspired jam, affirms that creativity lies at the heart of the subculture. “Skateboarders are creative. These guys shoot photos, they play music, they edit films, they do films, they do artwork,” the Californian born record-breaker told us. “It’s been going on forever. Element’s just saying ‘let’s tell their stories.’” As the store’s dynamic fusion of art, music and fashion indicated, there are many threads – not to mention an abundance of talented individuals – making up skating’s youthful culture. 

Check out Brian Gaberman’s Road to Wolfboro images below and visit Element’s flagship at 13 Shorts Gardens, London.