Pilot Apparel: Series Made
Independent fashion brand Pilot Apparel brings brings Danish polish and Hackney sway to Kent’s street scene
Streetwear is a term that has long been snatched up by corporate brands as they attempt to get their products the concrete credibility of the independents.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, in fact it shows where the real innovation and initiative is coming from in modern relaxed fashion – the ground floor.
Streetwear and skatewear has had a blurring period in recent years with the likes of the Adidas Originals making their way into the drained swimming pools while Vans has left the alternative for the mainstream.
Somewhere in this mix of styles under the banner of urban clothing, Kent’s own Pilot Apparel is carving out a little niche of its own.
The brainchild of Canterbury-based designer Jasmine Graham, Pilot Apparel has taken off, and who knows, it could be set for a runway in the near future. Okay, enough with plane puns, as Jaz explains to me that the name is f**k all to do with flying.
“It came about when me and my friends were hammered, and one of them suggested Pilot, as in the pilot of a TV show, and it stuck,” she says.
Having studied prints and textiles with business at Brighton University, Jazz started Pilot Apparel in her second year as starter project, but it was her experience in the industry after studying that rekindled her brand.
“I did a placement year where I worked in the fashion world for free as an intern,” she says.
“I quickly realised that I didn’t want to be part of this crazy world, where I had to start at the very bottom as an intern and work for free. I knew what I wanted to do.
“I have always wanted to set up my own business, because both of my parents had, and I’ve always seen the benefits of it.”
But it was a combination of Jazz’s childhood in Hackney, watching skaters and admiring the look of brands like Carhartt, smashed together with a three-month placement in at fashion printers Fusion Copenhagen that led to the first full range of Pilot Apparel in 2017.
“The streetwear there was so inspiring,” she says. “All the kids looked supreme, from head to toe, all the time.”
Influenced by the Danish minimalist style on fashion, furniture and architecture, Jazz headed home to set up shop in her parents shed – now the Pilot Apparel printing studio which can often be seen on Instagram Live (just be prepared for the occasional expletive).
The first collection, Organa - named after the Danish word for ‘bodies’ - incorporated Jazz’s hand-drawn abstract designs with the valuable, limited edition feel. The designs are gender neutral, something that Jazz is certainly a champion of as she looks to battle fashion stereotypes.
Organa was a hit and spawned a Fall/Winter 2018 Lookbook featuring a group of skaters, beer and all natural docu-style shots.
The original pilot episode quickly became a legitimate series with season two’s The Japan Collection out now.
“It all spurred from research on Generation z (defined as people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s), by WGSN (fashion trend forecasting website),” she says.
“I’m interested to know what it’s like growing up as the Instagram generation, having had a phone in front of them since day one and having all these bright lights pointed at them. That started me thinking about Tokyo and Japan.
“I’m making a collection aimed at that generation, using the bright lights and putting them on something a bit more neutral, and a bit more removed from it.”
‘cene magazine shot The Japan Collection around the basketball court and skate hangouts in Kingsmead, Canterbury, but Jazz is flying out to Japan to show off the collection more this summer.
But first, Pilot Apparel has secured its first shop location.
“It’s called Circle Collective in Dalston and Lewisham,” explains Jazz. “It is primarily a skate shop and also a charity, and their profit is reinvested in getting young people back into the work.”
The honesty and rawness of the first shop resonates in the Pilot brand, with Jazz underlining the importance of being open and honest.
“I felt like there was so much competition in independent clothing and streetwear and skate brands, but I wanted to set myself apart by being a completely transparent brand where you can see the whole process,” she says.
The ‘Inside Pilot’ tab on her website shows her workings, from design evolutions and the countless drawings that didn’t make the cut, through to the final inking process.
“Everything is completely hand drawn. I don’t ever use illustrator and I am really proud of that.
“With many other brands you don’t know their back story. I really like the craft behind textiles and I try really hard to push part of my website where you can see the way that I work.”