LA label Drought is gaining followers online for converting Internet Explorer, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Limewire into slouchy clothes and hypeworthy homeware
Long before the E-girls and E-boys logged on, millenials were busy downloading a torrent of tunes on LimeWire, unironically using MySpace, and broadcasting on BBM. Apps had a certain aura and the internet was more interesting; where the floating icons for Instagram or TikTok now just emit a cheap hit of dopamine, the visual language of software once had a naive, playful innocence. Paperclips were animated, winky emojis were used in earnest, and most MSN messages looked a little bit ℓιкє тнιѕ.
Drought, an LA-based label headed up by Jake Olshan, taps into this aesthetic of the past. Spreading by word-of-mouth throughout the city’s underground scene and via eager reshares, it’s flooding feeds with a deluge of drops. Starting with graphic tees referencing Nickelodeon, Looney Tunes, and Call of Duty, it stamps its mobius-strip logo and internet visuals onto boxy tees, slouchy shorts, and intarsia knits.
Now, it's diversified into accessories. On the line-up right now are enamel Internet Explorer belts, a Web Surfer bracelet hung with a string of old-school Napster, Quicktime, and iTunes charms, and a selection of statement printed rugs – meaning you can not only wear Y2K’s hottest aesthetics, but bring them indoors too. Kitted out with a password-protected webpage and packaging that mimics retro interfaces, Drought is an Esc capsule to the golden era of downloading, messaging, and pirating. To hear more, Dazed caught up with Olshan – though sadly not via MSN.
Hey Jake! Everything Drought does taps into nostalgia for old technology and games – why do you think there's such a collective interest in this?
Jake Olshan: Nostalgia is a natural human experience and emotion. It will exist in everyone at one point, some people experience it often. I think it’s about remembering where you came from and not letting go of that. I think it is less of a collective interest, and more of a natural tendency. Older technology and games are what shape a lot of people’s early experiences. But this happened when we were young, we weren’t really aware of it. Now we're older, and the only way to remember it is through memory. I like to take those memories and make them into tangible, physical objects.
How do old logos and icons make you feel, and by extension, us?
Jake Olshan: When I was in kindergarten, I had an obsession with archeology. I loved the idea of finding old material remains of an earlier time. Rediscovering these old logos and icons make me feel the same way. Recycling these symbols in my work is a way of preserving them for new generations to discover. I like the idea of someone wearing the Web Surfer bracelet in 50 years with all of the symbols. Who knows if the symbols will be obsolete and forgotten by then, but the bracelet is a way of keeping them alive.You’ve used visuals from Internet Explorer a lot. Why is IE so sexy?
Jake Olshan: Internet Explorer is like a primary source artifact. While the E symbol reminds me of the era where I spent countless amounts of hours exploring the web as a child, it’s more than that. Internet Explorer did a lot for the internet; it paved the way for it to be generally free. Early on, competing web browsers would actually charge users for using the internet. IE didn’t charge, and since it was so popular, competitors had to follow suit. Browsing Internet Explorer was one of the earliest forms of freedom I felt. Getting lost in the digital world as a kid hugely impacted the way I see the world and why I like the things I like.
How did the Web Surfer bracelet that went viral come about?
Jake Olshan: I had read sometime in January 2022 that Internet Explorer was going to be discontinued in June of that year. I knew I had to create something to pay homage to the soon-to-be late internet browser. I wanted to create an item that told a story of my early internet experience. From Napster and MS Paint, to iTunes to AIM, these were all highly impressionable applications that I used to navigate my early childhood. Drought is about holding onto that inner child in oneself. It’s about capturing that energy and channelling it into one’s daily life. Wearing that bracelet helped me do that, and I wanted others to be able to feel and do that too.
You’ve recently started making rugs. Why is it an interesting medium?
Jake Olshan: I’m 26 years old. A lot of people in my age group only started living on their own in the last five years. Some after high school, some after college, and some before or after both of those. Having your own apartment, being able to curate and design it, and display a rug is a right-of-passage. I am interested in creating rugs inspired by perspective illusions. Our early rugs were based on trading cards and video games. Seeing these as an image online, people were often confused and thought they actually were a card or a disc. I enjoy creating items by taking its original form and challenging it, repurposing it into something new.
Who's the typical Drought buyer?
Jake Olshan: Someone who may have collected a Blue Eyes White Dragon, downloaded a song illegally on Limewire, watched Spongebob’s SB-129, trick shotted on Highrise with an Intervention, watched Yeah Right! on a DVD, or someone who might just be interested in art and design.
What's loading right now for the near future?
Jake Olshan: A research database to keep an archive of the information that inspires our items, a more sustainable approach to packaging, a handful of insane home goods, clothing, and accessories, a pair of shoes and an internet museum pop-up style thing later this year.