All images courtesy of HUF
A mouth purses open, revealing a tooth with a gold cap in the shape of a yin-yang symbol. A surrealist dragon curls around a purple-skinned pin-up model. Mushroom caps stretch towards the heavens, featuring caps adorned with 8-balls. Though you'd be incorrect for assuming these are flash tat designs, you're not far off: these images comprise the "psychedelic escape" that defines HUF's Summer 2018 capsule collection, designed by the tripped-out artist Chloé Kovska.
The Melbourne-based Kovska has built a name for herself on both sides of the equator with her illustration work informed by tattoo culture, bootleg cartoons, vintage erotica, and (again) psychedelia. Though she doesn't skate herself, Kovska's artistic sensibilities speak to the visual vernacular of underground cultures, making her a natural fit to design a line of vines meant to appeal to skaters.
The clothes, titled "The Last Resort" collection, were inspired by the cues and symbols associated with road trip traditions —wanderlust-filled voyages "where it's all about the journey, not the destination." Tellingly, the lookbook features images of (admittedly dreamy) skaters at cheap motels and sitting on vintage cars in a way that channels equal parts Ralph Steadman and William Eggleston.
As we at MERRY JANE are fans of both mind expansion and skateboarding, it's pretty obvious why the threads appeal to our THC-addled brains. Therefore, we felt compelled to shout-out the Summer '18 line and learn more about HUF's latest release, resulting in an email interview with Kovska where we discussed her past design work, as well as how her dank collaboration with the skate institution came to fruition.
MERRY JANE: How did the collaboration with HUF come about? Have you worked with any other designers in the past?
Chloé Kovska: A really awesome fella named Hanni at HUF had scoped my paintings out and reached out to see if I'd be interested in collaborating on a project. I don't know how the industry works but it kinda happened that way — and I was so happy to be on board!
I haven't worked with many other designers, as I wouldn't call myself too much of a fashion kid and had never envisioned my stuff being on clothing. I've worked with another cool brand called Goodworth & Co, a really awesome Melbourne brand called Crawling Death (check them out!!), and Red Temple Prayer in the UK on wide range of stuff from clothing to homewares. Red Temple Prayer were one of the first companies to give me a go, and I'll always have a special place in my heart for them.
Do you skate? Regardless if you do, what's your relationship with skate culture, generally?
This is going to be a bummer of an answer, but I don't skate and have no balance in anything! I've grown up with lots of skater mates from a yooouunnng age and remember when my mum bought me some Rowley shoes to wear in school at age 13 or so because I thought they were so cool! And also watching stuff like the Flip Sorry and Really Sorry videos, as well as SOTY, with friends when they weren't skating. I still have many guy and girl friends who skate now. I think it's an amazing talent. Although I don't skate, I've always been around it somehow throughout my youth. I'm still around it, which has made me develop a soft spot for skateboarding.
The Summer 2018 HUF collection is titled "The Last Resort" and is said to be "an exploration into the pioneering spirit of road trip-tradition through uncharted locales along the great American highway." Can you talk about your personal relationship with road-trips?
I've traveled here and there in the USA, but I've done more road tripping in Australia! I've done a few different routes and I always take different sources of inspiration from each trip! Some road trips were aesthetically beautiful, knowledgeable, and good bonding experiences, whereas others have been more tedious to be honest ! I don't think those type of trips directly influenced these paintings though [laughs].
I read that the graphics are inspired by a "psychedelic escape from disillusion." Can you elaborate on that a bit?
When you look at the range of designs, most could seem like a 'psychedelic' escape from disillusion, especially the mushies, but in general most of my paintings — even out of the range — are always an escape from reality or a twist on the norm.
A lot of your work nods at vintage subcultures, such as tattoo flash and pulp erotica. In that sense, the skateboarding collaboration makes perfect sense. But what about your style do you think appeals to skateboarders themselves?
I think a lot of skaters just like what they like — well, ones I know anyway. They all have their own thing going on. Bootleg/old cartoons, vintage erotica, and tattoos are things that have always been around. I think due to the world of social media, and how easy it is to connect, has allowed us all to keep many of those cultures alive and birthed over and over. But I don't know, maybe the things that might appeal to skaters in my artwork could be the same reasons as anyone viewing the paintings. Appeal being more like a gravitational pull, which usually comes from your own reasons inside, or ways to relate to what you're looking at.
Which image or clothing item is your personal favorite from the collection? What about it stands out?
I love the whole collection and am blessed with how it all turned out. Seeing the dragon image come to life on the t-shirt was pretty amazing. The skate deck also turned out really awesome and I certainly looooove the hot pink mushy socks. Big thank you to everyone at HUF for being such an amazing team to work with.
What other upcoming projects do you have in the works?
At the moment, I'm just cruising. I haven't planned too many big projects coming up. When I get home, I'm hoping to buckle down and start pushing my paintings into new directions conceptually and to become a better painter/drawer. Definitely have my mind on doing some of my own clothes, though, as well as the goal to play around with more creative mediums.
For more on the HUF Summer '18 collection, visit the skate brand's website here
Follow Chloé Kovska on Instagram