At just 18, skater Blondey McCoy is more than just a pretty face. A self-confessed polymath, he’s been shot by the likes of Alasdair McLellan and Michael Mayren, exhibited artwork in his beloved Soho and started his own clothing brand, Thames. Blondey is the real McCoy. Here, he takes Wonderland through his latest collection.
Wonderland: How long have you been skating?
Blondey: I was trying to remember this the other day. It must have been like 2009.
W: How old would you have been then?
B: I guess I would have been 11 or 12?
W: It’s quite late to start, no?
B: I guess it was quite late to start… But it totally dominated my life from the get-go. I sacrificed any other opportunities that may or may not have been there.
W: You started skating at Southbank when you were quite young. Is that where the name Thames came from?
B: It was that, yeah. Southbank is where my real formative years of skating were. I remember so vividly coming up to London and being immediately infatuated with it, and Southbank itself being so much broader of a spectrum as far as the local scene went, and just being totally encapsulated by it. I’d go to school then on my way just cross it off and go to Southbank instead for like 10 hours in my school uniform.
W: Southbank also must have influenced Thames in terms of the aesthetic…
B: Massively, yeah… Thames and myself are both a product of our environment. Southbank is just so diverse and I think it really comes through with all the artwork in the clothes.
W :You seem to be more prolific than most skateboarders. It’s not rare for a skateboarder to have their name attached to a shoe, but it’s quite rare for a skateboarder to have their own brand. How did it come about?
B: It’s never been my intention to have a board with my name on it. It was a combination of being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people and having to do it. I was doing it for a long time prior to it kicking off, prior to anyone liking it, just making stickers and t-shirts and all the simplest, most unprofessional things. All my colleagues at Palace, some I skate with, some just in the office: we all just made it happen together.
W: How did that partnership happen? Obviously you were skating for them, but how did that evolve into Palace supporting Thames?
B: I was skating for Palace and doing Thames long before they wanted to get involved at all. I think Palace were starting to reach the point as a business were it would be really interesting to take on a sister company… Gareth and Lev asked me if I wanted to do boards, and I said, ‘I don’t because I have a board sponsor and my heart wouldn’t be in it’. Because you know, inevitably Palace skateboards [are] my favourite, so anything I do would be second best to that. I’d rather just do a whole different direction. It wasn’t really a question of either of us convincing one another, it just seemed really natural…
W: It seems like a healthy working relationship. How has Thames evolved since you started working with Palace?
B: It’s gotten a lot more organised, because we actually have line sheets and you have to prepare them at least a year ahead of when they come out, so it gets a bit more boring and then exciting again when you get to hear everyone’s opinion on [a design] after you’ve seen it drawn on a napkin for fucking six months… Palace is quite the charmer, I assume, because it’s all working out quite nicely at the moment.
W: And what about the design itself?
B: Aesthetically, it’s a product of my own environment. I’m in the office as much as I can be, especially right now… even if I just pop in for a couple of hours a day. I always get people’s opinion on it but as far as the graphics side of things goes, it’s all me, I do it all. I rarely work on the artwork actually in the office, because I like to be a little bit uninfluenced at the same time. I think that’s part of why Thames is so cool: it’s really quite naïve. Like me.
W: What part has London played in shaping the collection? Not many people your age live in Soho…
B: Massively. I thought Thames was a good name because it’s not just specific to Southbank as a skatepark, but the whole of London. Every artist is inspired by their city, whether you like it or not, I happen to spend almost all my time in Soho. I’ve grown up there really, and a lot of the artwork is paying homage to it, historically…
B: Yeah, culturally. I suppose from the 50s until present. Bohemian and thespian, I love the whole aesthetic of it. It’s always, as far as the entertainment industry goes and art and everything, it’s always attracted, in my eyes, the right kind of people.
W: It was also in Soho that you held a photography exhibition with fellow skateboarder, Snowy.
B: We did one in December 2014 and then we did another one in January 2015. And, like any other show I’ve done, the plan was just always be really good fun rather than anything to be taken too seriously… I was really just showing my holiday pictures and having a really good time.
W: We’d describe the collection as Old Sea Dog meets Ziggy Stardust. Would you agree?
B: This one features some collages [by] a good friend of mine, Tom Rum-Coke… It’s got a lot of embroidery, as usual… but it’s still super-graphic and it’s still, on the whole, very musically-inspired, quite punk rock. It also goes into rock ’n’ roll and pop… Then there’s a lot of really naval stuff, because it’s called Thames. There’s [a top] that says “HMS London, Rest in Peace.” It’s the oldest ship they’ve ever found in the Thames and then on the back it’s like an anagram almost, HMS is every other letter of Thames.
W: You’re 18, riding for Palace, running your own brand, modelling, and putting on exhibitions. How have you managed to achieve all this? You’re living the teen dream.
B: There’s no better time to be ambitious than when you’re 18. I suppose skateboarding has taught me that you don’t have to put yourself in one box, profession-wise. It’s just come really naturally: if I don’t do it I’ll go mad. Everything I do, from skateboarding to doing the Palace lookbook… is like standing naked in front of a crowd.You just have to take the good and the bad. I don’t think there’s any better time to do that then when you’re my age. But then what would I know? I’m only 18.