Interview with Maharishi founder Hardy Blechman

Last week saw the official launch of the latest collaboration between Casio and Maharishi at the G-Shock Store in London’s Brick Lane. Three watches were presented, showing exciting and innovative camouflage designs from the quill of Maharishi founder and designer, Hardy Blechman. Blechman is an absolute camo specialist – not least since he released the heavyweight book ‘Disruptive Pattern Material’ ten years ago. Sneaker Freaker Germany managing editor Daniel Giebel got his edition signed on site and took the chance to ask the busy Londoner some questions.

2014: 30 years of G-Shock, 20 years of Maharishi, 10 years of your book – coincidence?
Wow, nobody noticed or mentioned this before today, but you’re right: It is a coincidence. It just happens like that, you know.

How do you see the evolution of camouflage in fashion and streetwear in this period?
It’s crazy, isn’t it? I’ve had some experience with the market in terms of interaction: One was with the snow pants we did in ’96, where magazines like Arena were saying that it was one of the most copied pants of the decade. That just felt like getting ripped off and nobody giving any credit for it. But in a way that inspired me. I realized people watch what you do – and if you’re popular, they’ll copy it. So I was like, ‘Go on, copy this! I want you to. It’s good for the people and for the world.’ In 2004, after the book was published, I set up the company DPM that has a mission: to create bespoke patterns for brands and to cover the world in camouflage.
So, I don’t mind if it comes directly from DPM or if people do it organically, but it works for me that there’s more and more camouflage. It just reinforces my desire that the military are forced not to wear camouflage and that people recognize it as at least a symbol of art and design, if not also of nature. So, it’s all good, I’m happy if some cheesy drinks company makes a camo bottle or if there’s babywear, kid’s toys or whatever. Or watches!

How do you see the collaboration between a global brand like Casio and your own, comparably smaller brand?
You know, it’s good for me. Often it’s about exclusivity, we all want a part of that, we all want to be like, ‘No one’s got my sneakers, they’re limited.’ Culture kind of pushes us towards this thing. I remember when I was a kid, I’d like a band, and then I’d see them on Top Of The Pops, in mainstream TV, and I’d go, ‘Well, now I don’t like them anymore, they really got commercial.’ They’re playing the same tune that you liked last year, they didn’t change – it’s just that people got to know it. That’s this weird kind of exclusivity, of snobbery, that I’m terribly a slave to, and it’s a standard part of marketing and an absolutely necessary part of MHI, for example. And actually it’s quite refreshing occasionally just to sort of embrace a much wider community. We’re all people, and you’ve all got your flavours and style and it’s nice sometimes to not have to be in an exclusive little group that no one’s allowed in. So camouflage is allowing me actually to enjoy a much wider thing. You know, I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, but if they approached me wanting to do camouflage packaging, I’d probably be up for it. Whereas if they’d approach me for some other reason I wouldn’t associate with them.

Is camo going to get so popular at some point that you might not be into it anymore?!
I don’t think so, which is weird because normally I would, you know? I don’t actually feel that I need to stop. I can be proud that I’ve got good knowledge on the subject and that my designs aren’t really superficial and there’s a deep meaning within them. I’m not a massive fan of what I call ‘fantasy patterns’ – anything that isn’t authentic military. I use that term for any no-name, generic, bubbly shape bullshit bad colour choice camo. I don’t like it, I don’t want any of it. Of course my cousin at Christmas buys me a shitty camo something and generally I don’t want it. I don’t need it in my life. But I can still feel proud to put out the patterns that I put out, even if there’s a lot of crap around. So, I won’t stop using it. I think the military are going to stop using it before I will. It’s hardly me against them but I think it is the streetwear community and a wider culture that it is like, ‘Us against them’. It’s going to be more of us than them at some point. Or there already is, actually. So yeah, I ain’t going to stop – let them!

How do you pick your collaborations?
Well, I’m not a genius strategist, and most of what happens at MHI is pretty organic and so much of the collaborations with other brands or guest artists, almost all of it is just people I happen to meet. It happens sometimes that something relevant just pops up and I try to meet the people behind it, but I actually can’t think of an example right now where I’ve done that, but I’m sure I have. Most of the time it just flows, it’s a, ‘I don’t choose them, they choose me’ kind of thing.

How do you feel about the book ten years after?
Good, good. We made very few, we made 5000 of the main edition, that was a 2-volume boxed edition. We made another 3000 of an American edition. And it was my first experience in publishing and I made a few mistakes – like the self-publishing. I was so used to manufacturing product in terms of clothing that it I said I’ll find a printer and make a book. I took that approach and it’s not sensible! I don’t advise people to do that, you don’t need to do that, there are publishers out there, just use them, it’s way better. So, there is a plan to make a second volume, and I’ve got to get it together. I’m hoping I can just hook up with some people online and put a call out for content and ask people to submit their favourite pattern of the last ten years.  But there’s also a few good military patterns from the last ten years, it’s quite interesting how they push development. They’ve got more cash than the average streetwear brand and more incentive to make themselves unique. So the book should include what’s happening with some of the bigger armies in the world, but most importantly try and include some of the work of contemporary brands and artists. I’m kind of looking forward to putting that together. I’ve just got to find a bit of time. It would be cute if I put it out in the tenth year but I’ve got a feeling I’m gonna miss that date. But maybe next year!

Last question: Is there a Maharishi shoe collaboration coming up that you can talk about?
Alright, no one actually told me not to say anything. So I’m not going to say what exactly is coming out but I’m going to tell you enough that if you know the game you know what’s coming out anyway: MHI is going to do a little capsule collection with UNDFTD in October and there is an unnamed third partner that we’re going to do some shoes with. I guess that makes it pretty obvious!