From Rolling Stone to Forbes Magazine, the media in recent years have loudly proclaimed that ‘DJ’s are the new rockstars’. Not so says Larry Tee, one of the most influential figures in music and pop culture of the last 30 years. Tee is a renowned DJ and producer who has worked with artists such as Fischerspooner, Afrojack, Cher, Steve Aoki, and Santigold. More recently Tee has become known for the 2010 track ‘Agyness Deyn’, an homage to the then model of the moment in which he rhymes ‘Flick your bean, Agyness Deyn’, and for shaping the nightlife scene of Shoreditch East London, where he now resides and runs record label Carnage, as THE place to party for anybody who is anybody with his notorious East Bloc parties that attract celebrities, popstars, fashion folk and club kids alike. Now, Larry Tee is venturing into uncharted waters; Tee states that “fashion designers are the new rockstars” and with the launch of his fresh, club kid inspired clothing line TZUJI, Tee aims to show the World yet another facet of his cultural diamond.
Launching your label Tzuji, why did you decide to move into fashion and why now?
You know, I have to credit my assistants; they were constantly challenging me, something I love about London in general, always asking me “What is it you are passionate about”. I had begun to feel that in music I had nothing left to prove, my club nights are doing amazing and so I also felt that I had conquered nightlife so to speak. Then it came to me; fashion! Larry Tee is fashion. So much of my music has been about or involved with fashion; Agyness Deyn, DJ’ing for KTZ, and at my SEPM club night, designers such as Basso & Brooke were DJ’ing my parties! If designers could DJ, then why not flip it. The DJ can become a designer. I think I always wanted to be a fashion designer. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted my own jeans company, something iconic like Fiorucci, who invented the first skinny jeans. And you know what? Fashion design has filled a gap in my soul that I didn’t even know was missing!
How does Tzuji reflect your own relationship with fashion?
I have ALWAYS had the best clothes, but I was beginning to notice a gap in the market. As a DJ it is important to always look fabulous but I was beginning to find that I couldn’t find the types of things that I envisioned myself as a DJ wearing. So I started making my own, and that’s what Tzuji is; my vision of fabulousness! Tzuji is not just a clothing line; it is an ideology and a concept, a new way of approaching fashion. It means something to me and it is something I believe in very much!
Originally I was going to go with ‘Zhooshy’, its Polari, the old secret language of queers used to evade persecution, which basically means showy or to die for stuff! I played about with it in my head and came up with Tzuji, which to me is more phonetically pleasing.
In your own words, describe the Tzuji collection and aesthetic?
I follow my own vision; I want to be a designer who makes art. It is technically minded, for example pieces that are detachable to change the look, it is vibrant in terms of colours and graphics and so forth. Tzuji is Asian rockstar, in which the silhouette moves away from the skinny, to a more voluminous opulence. Above all, Tzuji is a new look, inspired by club and street culture, and it is what I myself want and do wear.
Are you influenced in particular by any other designer or individuals?
You know I often think in terms of celebrities, what does say Rihanna want to wear? I design for drama queens! Walter van Beirendonck is a huge influence here, his W<, Wild and Lethal Trash line that dominated the Paris club scene in the 90’s. There is also Kohshin Satoh, a Japanese designer from the 80’s and 90’s. He is amazing! His clothes were used in the original Miami Vice and Andy Warhol walked in his shows as a model. I have a huge archive collection of his original pieces. Truly a brilliant designer!
You mention the 90’s. You are well known for being a big part of the 90’s Club Kid movement, tell us about that?
For all the bad that came out of the club kid, Disco 2000 Party Monster era, it’s still a big part of who I am, and the influence of those times is very evident in my designs of course. We have for example Clara the Chicken print. I wouldn’t say I’m proud of those days, I’m a reformed character and much of that time for me is a bad memory, but I’ve made my peace with those times. Rather than glorifying it, instead I ‘capitalise’ on my involvement and association through ways that give back and do something good, like my Charity Monster events. Everybody is still so fascinated by those times, so they are still very influential in an underground sense.
In many ways yes it was; “I’ve been called ‘the hipster before there were hipsters’”. There was already a small burgeoning creative and party scene in Williamsburg, I spotted its evolution, and decided that this was the place to move my own parties. It was the post apocalypticness that flourished for a while after 9/11. So I started my own parties, which really gave it its name and boom! Everybody from Hedi Slimane to Susan Sonntag came out to my parties to see what was going on, just what the cool kids were up to. Also at that time, the electronic music scene really sucked, but I knew all these amazing under the radar bands like Scissor Sisters and Fischerspooner, and I didn’t want them to disappear. I wanted to create a scene to specifically foster this new style; and so Electroclash was born, and in my electroclash menagerie Fischerspooner were really the jewel in the crown, seeing them perform was like hearing angels sing!
Throughout your very prolific career, you have obviously always had your finger on the pulse; pop culturally and in also at being in the right place at the right time. Many people say London and New York’s creative scenes are waning. Where will be the next big place to be, creatively speaking?
LA! Without a doubt it will be the new New York! All the cool kids were in Silver Lake, but now they are flocking to Downtown LA. It’s a boom town. For fashion, London is still the most amazing place to be, where creativity is actively fostered, and Berlin is just fabulous, especially the music and club scene. I’m looking for a place in Berlin; I want to spend more time there too, as well as here in London.
What words of wisdom do you have or regularly share with your flock?
I don’t follow trends in life, just as in fashion; I do and design what I like. I think people should do what they want too, not what other people tell them. I’m also a big believer in the power of social media, the doors it can open and the windows of inspiration it provides. Also, if you’re going to spend money, don’t show your butt!
What do you envision for the future of Tzuji and what will your next collection involve?
I don’t want to say too much about my next collection just yet, but what I can say about my vision for Tzuji is; If you want a hamburger, you’re going to go to where there is a McDonald’s and Burger King. You want fabulous, you will go to Tzuji!