Photographer Ricky Powell – a prominent figure of the prototype, 80s hip-hop community – has designed a shoe (as well as small collection of tees) for American sports brand PONY. We spoke to Powell about the collaboration – set to launch in September – and his reaction to friend Adam Yauch’s (of Beastie Boys fame) recent passing.
Describe the collaboration with PONY – what does it involve?
It was a combination of the two of us, it was almost like two fish finding each other in the ocean once we linked, we were locked in. They came to NYC last fall with samples of sneaker models, fabrics and what not, I described what I personally would like in a sneaker and we blended like a serendipitous parfait swirl. One thing I love about my PONY sneakers is that they’re “animal friendly” …They’re made of canvas rather than leather or suede… I love animals.
What interested you about the project?
Well, I liked that PONY is the only sneaker to come out of Brooklyn and I love that they originate from NYC. PONY actually stands for Product Of New York. We’re perfect for each other, and I like the new team at PONY – very cool peoples. They even sponsored my big 50th birthday photo exhibition, ‘The Rickford Institute All Star Classic” at MILK Gallery in December. It was utopian!
What are you designing for the project?
Well I was very fortunate to be involved in the Def Jam fam’. I liked the music and the artists, that’s what I followed as a fan and happen to have access to as I always went to shows and things, so it all just clicked for me, I guess. As far as Adam Yauch passing, It’s sad he had a lot going on, but I hadn’t been in touch with him for like ten years.
You’ve done a lot of work for Def Jam’s roster and are a fixture in New York pop iconography – you must have been asked this question quite a few times recently, but how did you react to Adam Yauch’s death?
When I heard of his death, it was like hearing of an old friend passing. Someone text me early in the morning that he died and I was like “wow.” I later went to cover an art show in Brooklyn. The iconic NY graff crew RTW (Rolling Thunder Writers) and people were talking about it there. A lot of people hit me up on Facebook expressing their condolences to me. It was weird, like I mentioned before, I haven’t spoken to him or any of the Beasties in years. We went our separate ways. But I have a lot of respect for Adam – he inspired and influenced me in different ways and I care to just appreciate the good times and laughs we had between 1985 and 1998. I’m like a lone wolf, clique-free. I’ve had a number of friends pass. As JFK once said, “life isn’t fair”. I had a close call in 2000 myself, and I sort of consider my time since then “bonus time” given to me. Having achieved a lot of growth and success in the time since, as well as a lot of unexpected struggles. I’ll say this though; Adam has left behind an infinite legacy and that’s something to be noted and proud of. Respect.
Words: Jack Mills