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The considered approach to design, style, and retail by Brisbane-based Contra has slowly but surely been getting them the attention they deserve. A sign of that attention is their new collaboration with Copenhagen-based label and store Soulland. The two have come together to create ‘Madness’ a tshirt and sticker set that will be releasing at both retailers this weekend. Contra’s Matt Kyte gave us the lowdown on the collab and how it’s giving the finger to the churn and burn hype machine that’s taken over modern culture.

How’d the Soulland collab come about?

Soulland was one of the first brands we signed on for Contra. From the very beginning I think our vision and inspiration aligned really well with what Soulland has been doing since 2002. When it came time to consider brands we could work with for our first real collaboration Soulland was the logical first choice.

What is it about them that made you want to collab?

I think the brand’s approach is really in alignment with how we do things. Soulland’s background is coming from that of skateboarding, hip-hop, and streetwear but it’s being translated through the lens of Danish design and I really identify with that.

Can you walk us through the design elements?

So the story behind this concept was drawing from a Dutch market phenomenon in 1637 known as Tulip Mania. It’s a pretty long-winded story but basically for a very short period of time the wealthy people of Holland were obsessed with a very certain type of tulip to the point that they were paying the equivalent of millions for a single flower. The whole thing came crashing down within a few months and people were left in ruins.

The term “madness” itself was derived from a Isaac Newton quote that went along the lines of “I can calculate the motion of stars, but not the madness of men” after he’d lost a great deal of money in a similar market crash in the 1700s with the South Sea Company stock. It was a similar situation to Tulip Mania where a trend permeated to the mainstream which caused everyday people to basically put their life savings into stocks creating a fake bubble which obviously burst resulting in mass bankruptcy and economic depression.

I’ve spent a bit of time working in the sneaker/streetwear industry and I felt that the current influx of overnight sneaker entrepreneurs had smacks of similarity so the concept for the Madness tee design stemmed from that. If you zoom out a bit further though it seems like “hype” in general is the current trend, it’s no longer good enough to have a product or idea that is simply good, now it has to be hyped. It seems that if there isn’t a line of people queuing to get your product on the first day and it’s not sold out within five minutes it’s considered a failure. To me that’s not sustainable.

Was the design process hard?

Not really, it was pretty simple from a design aspect as it was pretty clear and concise in execution and idea. If anything the accompanying sticker sheet posed more trouble. The hardest part of the tee was executing the idea in physical form; it required different printing techniques being used on the one tee and it took about 5 samples to get right. I think in the end though it turned out great and that’s testament to the skills of our printer who’s based here in Brisbane.

Soulland is based out of Copenhagen while you guys are in Brisbane. What’s it feel like to have your design sold on the other side of the world?

It’s pretty cool to know that. It really hit home when I told one of our customers about the upcoming release to which he sadly replied that he was going to be in Europe during August. When I told him Soulland was going to have them as well he was pretty stoked and vowed to go and pick one up in-store. Similarly some other guys we know in Denmark are going to be there wearing Contra tees at the release which is really cool. It’s also quite cool to think that not only is Soulland happy to let us do something with their name on it, but they want to have it in their store alongside everything else.

Is Brisbane the southern hemisphere’s answer to Copenhagen?

[Laughs] I don’t think so. I don’t think you can compare the two at all, but then I wouldn’t know ’cause I’ve never been! I feel like if anything they’re quite contrasting at least from the surface. That being said I think Copenhagen and Brisbane have similarities in that I think they’re both still a bit underrated by many and I think that we’ll be hearing a bit more in the future from both.

CPH has started to really make a name for itself in the fashion world in the last few years (rightfully so) and we’ll continue to show people what that entails through our Danish labels. I also feel like Brisbane is starting to get some recognition within Australia for young upcoming creative kids who don’t just want to move somewhere easier but instead build something here for everyone. I think Brisbane is beginning to define itself and I’m excited to think that we can play small part in that.

The Soulland x Contra “Madness” t-shirt set releases Saturday, August 26 exclusively at Contra and Soulland.

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