Eric Haze Talks Collab With G-Shock & Why Today's Street Art Isn't Graffiti
Thirty-five years ago, Casio introduced the world to the G-Shock. Despite the genius inner mechanics of the watch (it featured a the breakthrough notion of resisting shock), the fun outer design has kept the brand on the wrists of fashionable folks for decades.
On Thursday (Nov. 9), the brand hosted their 35th anniversary at New York’s Madison Square Garden with hip-hop fashion-forward definitives A$AP Mob, T-Pain and trend icons Ronnie Fieg and Nicole Miller.
In the midst of the brand’s exclusive press conference stood Eric Haze. While remarks were made by Casio president Kazuo Kashio and G-Shock founder Kikuo Ibe, Haze’s aurora helped gain the attention of the urban landscape which continues to push the brand forward.
Haze, a longtime partner with with the company, returned to design the new limited-edition men’s GA700 watch. The legendary designer took heed to his history in street art in the design by creating a stylish black and white brush stroke color scheme to pair with the watch’s super illuminator LED light.
Before the conference, VIBE linked with Haze to get a deeper understanding of his creative process.
The watch really takes a liking to your signature aesthetic. What was it like creating the design while maintaining the brand’s reputation with the “cool kids?”
This is what I would say is the first watch that had little conceptual effort (in terms of translating my work into the product). From top to bottom, I consciously wanted the watch to feel grown and sexy. You know, it’s got enough elements and reflection of my brand and style to cater to the cool kids.
As I’ve gotten older, my taste has changed a little. So I wanted to create something that’s also sophisticated enough to be attractive to 50-year-olds.
What does the 35th Anniversary G-Shock watch mean to you?
I feel like what we've done is a culmination of a lot of different things. I’ve been working with G-Shock for 20 years. For the 10-year [anniversary], my work was simple such as jewel case and logos.
I think the fact that they're working with me as a designer, as an art director, as an artist, and as a brand not only allows me to sort of operate on all cylinders, but it speaks volumes to their range. G-Shock is willing to step out of their comfort zone to crossover culturally to music art and fashion. We know them as the world’s best tough sports watch, but for the last 10 years, it has seen what I would call a natural growth in culture.
I'd like to think that I bring something special to their table and they certainly bring something to mine. No where else have I seen this, all tied together in a bow so well.
How would you describe your relationship to Graffiti in 2017?
I would start by saying this it’s not graffiti anymore. Arguably, I was one of the first legitimate graffiti writers to take their 'Once Upon a Time' tag and create a brand out and around it.
But to be honest, I'm getting a little tired of everything being tethered by the word “Graffiti” 35 years later. The last time I really wrote graffiti was 1983. Since then, I've pushed myself to develop as a graphic designer, art director, brand director and pointedly over the last 10 years as a painter as well.
I find it a little unfortunate that all of these elements and all of these mediums I work in get distilled into the word 'graffiti' in people's heads. I don't necessarily consider myself of the street art generation. I believe that public perception is certainly that I am part of this movement now. I've been ahead of the curve for a few decades. I'm just quick to remind people that though I am true to my history as a graffiti artist. I honor those times and places. The essence and style and all that good stuff that I brought with me from it into the professional world. I closed that statement with the same thing, IT'S NOT GRAFFITI ANYMORE.
Being friends with NYC art legends like Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat, what were some of the lessons you've upheld in your career from them?
You know, just sort of took the baton from Andy Warhol in terms of understanding that you could play the high game and the low game at the same time. He took great risks by creating affordable product. It might compromises value in the art world but in the end, it did not.
With Jean, it’s pretty different because I returned with a great passion to painting 10 years ago. It only really became clear to me over the last few years that spending so much time in the shadows of so much greatness with Keith and Jean actually intimidated me a little.
I always looked at them and said, 'It comes so easily to them. If it doesn't come that easily to me, it must not be my role.' But I've have shedded that feeling over the last few years and in some ways, I embraced the light that shined off them. In a way I finally lost my fear of flying as a painter that is in many ways thanks to both those good friends and pioneers.
Did you learn anything new about yourself in the process of making the watch?
Yes actually. Look, this is the first time I put my name instead of my tag on the back of the watch. I don't know if I learn something new as much as this reinforced something that I always felt which is that you have to take a little risk.
This watch was sort of developed almost two years ago. I was heading down the path as a painter and I was not entirely sure or confident, but I saw the future enough to apply this style to the watch. I have sort of gained the confidence that I might not have had a year and a half ago. At this point in time, the style of the watch and where am heading personally as an artist has converged nicely.