Swatch have collaborated with popstar come illustrator Mika on a series of limited edition watches.
Mika is the next in a long line of creatives, ranging from Keith Haring and Kiki Picasso, to Fafi, Rankin, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Moby to work alongside Swatch and create “art for the wrist”. We spoke to Mika at the collection launch in Venice about the collaboration.
WONDERLAND: What attracted you to working with Swatch?
They have this crazy tradition of making artist series and if you look at the artist series they’re inherently anti-commercial which also involves an element of trust because sometimes they can be like ” yeah do whatever the fuck you want” and then you can’t, you can’t spend money, you can’t do anything because they tie your ends. I have a studio with my sister, The Mika Studio, it’s just us two and we design a tonne of stuff. Huge dolls in Japan and Hong Kong. We’ve been doing it for about ten years now, a really long time!
So they approached you purely as an artist rather than a musician?
Both, they were also using some of my songs for their other campaign and as a result the song became a hit across Europe so it’s a strange duality. They understand that the music and the drawing is exactly the same process and one is an extension of the other. They wanted both. One thing we always make sure whoever we’re working with understands is that we work in narrative. We were using this little bit of plastic to tell the story and I think they were into that. We used it as this canvas to tell the story on, they liked that and not many companies would.
So the visuals and the music all tie-in?
Yeah I guess so, I’m a musician and I have this design thing which doesn’t go away. I’m now collaborating with Studio Job and in my opinion they are the best object designers. Studio Job are some of the most famous designers in Europe right now. They’re making the new stamp for Belgium, coins, sofas, to materials, the new land rovers…everything. They’re a Husband and wife team. It’s all based with the same idea. Everything we do is narrative based. It tells a story so I can approach it like writing a song.
Do you feel that the watches are a representation of you and your music?
I think they really just represent all of my fears. Everything I draw is like airing my dirty laundry in public. Anyone who works for themselves always seems to find inspiration from things that they hate about themselves or what they’re afraid of. I don’t write a diary specifically because I’m terrified that I won’t have any other ideas.
What were the inspirations behind the designs?
All the elements to these designs have things that have existed for ages. I’d done 15 designs for Swatch and I came to the Venice Biennale with Swatch as a guest. Nothing here is for sale, it’s not like Frieze where everything is a shit-show of wealth and it’s the most bloodsucking, depressing thing you can witness. It’s just one price tag after another, they put something up, they take something down. At the Bienalle it’s completely different, it’s political in a sense. It’s one of the few places that you can get art and you’re not looking at the price tag. It’s engaging conversation that’s to do with the aesthetics of the art. The only other place you get that is The British Museum. I came across all of this tribal stuff and thought maybe a way of dematerialising the idea of a watch was the idea of these tribal references and instead of doing something that’s just a copy of a copy. I mixed a lot of African patterns and aboriginal techniques. It all comes from stuff you’ve seen a million times before but it’s put together in a different way.
How was it working with the design team at Swatch?
Carlos the head designer gave me an incredible amount of freedom. He watches over everything but was surprised at just how much we do on our own and how far we go in delivering finished things, he’s not that used to it especially when he’s dealing with musicians rather than full-time designers. I think he was engaged by us because we did so much and went so far.
Who would you say is the Mika 4 Swatch girl?
The Swatch girl would be wearing something from a vintage shop, she’s got a pair of jeans on that she stole from her mum, but her mum got them from Gap when Gap was cool. The jeans are coupled with a top that she saved up for 9 weeks to go and buy from Celine and she’s wearing it with some awesome shoes. You can’t tell what’s cheap and what’s expensive and the only thing is that she looks great.
And the guy?
The guy is wearing a T-shirt and jeans and trainers that are kinda crap, but there’s something about him that looks good. He’s the one that everyone wants to take take out on a date and sleep with at the end of the night because he’s wearing a cool watch.
The watches look really great! Are you happy with everything?
Yeah I think its great. I like how many layers there are in this project. The best way to describe it is that it’s well illustrated so I’m very flattered to be part of it.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m making a new record! I’d love to work with Swatch again. We’re designing far too much and it’s starting to freak me out a little bit. The album will be out next year. I’m the judge of The Voice in France and a judge on The X Factor in Italy too.