Meet the young artist and model combining collaging with skateboarding

Connor Kawaii turned a forced break from skating into a new company and career

To celebrate its AW18 collection, Dazed has teamed up with Gucci to spotlight three young British artists using their art to spark conversations around identity, freedom and self-expression.

While he may be the younger brother of former Dazed 100er, designer and artist Ryan Hawaii, 19-year-old model, artist, and skater Connor Kawaii is becoming well known in his own right. After a skateboarding-related injury left Kawaii with a broken wrist and doctors orders to rest up for a month, he spent his time longing to get back on a deck. It was during this time he decided to turn his attention to a new venture.

Noticing a gap in the market for inventive skate decks, Kawaii experimented with collaging and began transferring these onto decks. “I started experimenting with collaging which I’d never tried before and I thought why not combine the two? Skateboarding and collaging.” The decks, which are carefully layered with text and imagery, are sourced from various books and magazines – such as a coffee table book of golden-era Playboy editorials, of which the skater-cum-artist cuts his way through the glossy pages with the intention to build his next deck.

Modelling has been a successful side-hustle for Kawaii, and while many see him as an ‘alternative’ model, he thinks a little differently. Signed to Anti-Agency, the modelling agency celebrating the alternative, Kawaii spoke on the idea of him being labelled this way, mentioning “now people with dreads aren’t necessarily considered ‘alternative’ models, I’d say they’re becoming the norm now. About five or so years ago we would be the weird-looking alternative models.”, but while he believes there has been a shift, Kawaii acknowledges that there’s still some way to go, adding “they need to carry on in the direction they’re going in and continue pushing the boundaries by doing what they think is right and not what they think is cool.”

Here, we speak to Kawaii about his biggest influences, skateboarding, and starting his own company.

Who is the biggest influence for your work?

Connor Kawaii: My brother. And Jason Dill from Fucking Awesome.

What is your main form of self-expression?

Connor Kawaii: Skateboarding – I started about three years ago. There isn’t a crazy story of how I started or anything, I just did. But also, I’ve never been the arty one, Ryan’s always been the arty one. I (was) the sporty kid and he’s the deep-thinker with the creative mind, so this is all quite new to me. I’m still perfecting my craft and the methods I use to make these skateboards. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far and I want to continue doing it and pushing the boundaries.

“I started experimenting with collaging which I’d never tried before and I thought why not combine the two? Skateboarding and collaging” – Connor Kawaii

What was the driving force for starting your own company, Radius Skateboards?

Connor Kawaii: Breaking my wrist and being away from skateboarding for about a month. I was watching skate videos and that, but it wasn’t enough – I wanted to still do something. So I started experimenting with collaging which I’d never tried before and I thought why not combine the two? Skateboarding and collaging. I was seeing a lot of people doing this just from being out with skaters, but no one was tapping into the business side of it. I see some guys from America like @watchyoudie and @yungspliff, they do the whole art stuff too, but the way I do it is more intricate.

What mediums do you use?

Connor Kawaii: I collect books that I think are interesting, cut them up and start collecting the images in a wallet. I start fishing through it and think about what pieces would look good together, lay them out on a board and stick them down.

How have you found breaking into the creative industry?

Connor Kawaii: It’s been quite hard, to be honest. It’s real hard building up a following. I model part-time and it’s way easier to gain a following that way because people want to see a pretty face so they’re more likely to follow you. But, if it’s a photo of a skateboard it’s quite hard for everyday people to relate. It’s about building up that support and fanbase, then eventually dropping stuff and that’s what I’m working at.

What is the best thing about living in London as a creative?

Connor Kawaii: Everything’s at your doorstep – there’s so much stuff to do. So many skate parks, as well. London is littered with it, there’s still so many I haven’t been to and I’ve been to a lot – I like seeing different parks and the different architecture they all have. There’s always stuff happening in London, good club nights and events – there’s always something to do.

Gucci's AW18 collection is available now, you can shop Connor's look and shoes.

Director: Joe Ridout
Camera Assistant: Rory Mclean
Stylist: Ben Schofield
Grooming: Roku Roppongi
Producer: Lauren Ford