Brett Dalzell’s Matériel Supply Skatewear Is Pure Street
Apparel companies are like time capsules and have the potential to be representative of certain eras. While there are brands that emerge looking to take advantage of the latest trends, there are also those that come about with the ability to be timeless. Matériel is one of the latter. It is a brand that melds the worlds of skateboarding, creativity, and progressive thought. We got a chance to speak with Brett Dalzell, the man behind the brand. He sat with us and spoke on the new collection, what inspired the creation of Matériel, and also explained how Ralph Waldo Emerson and transcendentalism come into play.
Can you speak a bit on the new spring collection and what inspired it?
Where I live in Brooklyn is right off the Long Island Rail Road, so out of my back bedroom window I see it parallel to where my bedroom is, zooming by every day. To me it’s just this action of hearing the train coming and knowing that the city is coming alive. If I didn’t hear that train I’d just know that something was seriously wrong. It’s almost a sign of a new day; things are in motion, time to get up and get it. I’ve always been inspired by urban architecture. Where I grew up in Massachusetts is right by this area called Walden Pond. This was where Ralph Waldo Emerson and a lot of early poets wrote their stuff. They developed the idea of transcendentalism, which is essentially about being in the woods, enjoying nature for all its natural forms, and vibing out with the birds and stuff. I always explored the idea of becoming a transcendentalist, but an urban transcendentalist, so I take that same approach that stems from where I came from and bringing it to the city.
What I love is the repetition of all the train lines and the shadow cast by the Long Island Rail Road going by. I try to see these naturally beautiful elements in the urban environment. That’s where some of the logos and graphics come from, especially the repetition of the bars with our latest collection.
Yeah, coming from a bit of an art-historical background I noticed that. Diagonal lines often signify movement and progression, that’s the sense I got from seeing the collection…
In addition, when you look up the word matériel, it is defined as “…an essential item in a process of events.” It really comes from a nautical and military background. For example, at a shipping port the matériel may be the crane, the most necessary element. Without that crane, you wouldn’t be able to move the cargo off of the boat onto the dock, thus making it the most important thing. With the brand, I flipped that into, “What’s your matériel?” If you’re a painter it’s your paintbrush, or if you’re a seamstress it’s your sewing machine. It’s about thinking what your tool is and making it a catalyst for your creative progression, that’s what the true foundation of the brand is. Which is cool because everyone has something like that. If you’re a creative or a thinker everyone has that item that is their true bread and butter.
Matériel, it’s based out of NYC and Boston?
I’m from outside of Boston. I still do my screen-printing and use that kind of stuff to tie me back home and play back into the skate scene back home.
Is this the first collection from Matériel?
No, this is the fourth collection that we’ve put out. The first run consisted of some logo tees, one or two graphic tees, and a run of snapbacks. It’s almost been two years strong. Last year we did some baseball jerseys with snapbacks, kind of chilled through the winter, and then for the spring came out with this latest collection.
Tell us a bit about the Matériel Vimeo page. It features a skate video along with a few other video pieces. What’s going on with those and how do they supplement the brand?
I came out with those shorter edits. They’re my take on short and funny art films where it was like a seamstress or a painter or a photographer showcasing their matériel. We were kind of experimenting with this idea of Matériel being more than just a skate or a street style brand, I wanted it to represent people in the creative industry as well, like myself. Being a graphic designer I never really saw another brand taking a lane that was for graphic designers or stuff of that nature, or like for a painter. So a lot of the graphics and the concepts are from some of my favorite artists from the `40s and `50s. I’m not just trying to riff off of modern day streetwear hype, I’m trying to sample some stuff that’s from art-history. The first mixtape plays on the fact that skating was a huge element in my life and I wanted it to be a part of the brand, which was a project that I filmed and made.
Are you referring to the video of the burning Lamborghinis and Audis? Or do you mean the piece that was more of a skate video?
There’s one little video of the burning Lambos, my homie made that, and the three-dimensional intros. The mixtape was more of a situation where we had this “artist foundation” but for everything to stand strong we needed to have that authentic skating backbone. I went out filming and was actually sitting on the footage for a few months and considered releasing it as a non-brand project. Then, the more I thought about it, I said to myself, “This can only be seen as a positive for the brand.” For me it just made sense and was a positive move.
One of the dopest parts of that skate video may have been when one of the guys hit a nollie heel, and then you zoomed in on the shot and ran it back in slow motion…
I’m all about taking a bit of an abstract approach to things, thinking abstract. The same way Three Six Mafia has their “Hypnotized Minds,” I want to be like “Abstract Minds.” To me, that was an instance where once you zoom in it’s not even skate footage, it then becomes this cropped motion, especially with the frames being so slow. I kind of like experimenting with my work in that fashion.
While many may see your brand as another in the revolving door of skate influenced streetwear companies there’s something more, can you expand on that a bit?
If you’re familiar with the artist Duchamp, Dadaism, and the idea of found materials… Like, Duchamp took a urinal and put it in a museum and turned it into this art object. It’s this idea of taking an object and giving it conceptual worth. By doing this, he and others that were part of the Dada movement turned everyday or commonplace items into art. Being a skater, I see that when I look at ledges and random flat bars all around the city, where it’s this inanimate object that means nothing to anyone but to me as a skater it’s exactly what I need. Duchamp said the object became art. That’s a lot of the brand to me, taking found materials and repurposing them, changing the context of things, and making them your art.