We were lucky enough to catch up with Misha Hollenbach, also known by his graffiti tag ‘Perks’ and one half of the clothing label P.A.M (Or Perks And Mini) at the launch event of their collaboration with sportswear legends PUMA. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you first meet your wife and co-founder of P.A.M, Shauna Toohey?
Okay, so, it’s a graffiti love story. I was in Australia because I had been living in America for a couple of years doing graphics for the company Fuct and then after an art show with Barry McGee, KAWS and Shepard Fairey, got busted writing my name, and cutting a long story short had to go back to Oz.
When I came to Australia I saw this cute graffiti around that said Mini and then I found out a bit later that it was a girl. Instant attraction! We went to do a piece together and I thought the spot was bigger than it actually was, there wasn’t much room so instead of doing a Perks and a Mini we wrote P.A.M. and it was really born from that evening. That night we fell in love. We went to Europe for our honeymoon and thought it cool to make and take some t-shirts together. Sarah from Colette, an influential store at the time in Paris that really brought streetwear, fashion, books and all these things together, wanted to put theses P.A.M. t-shirts in her store.
“It’s a graffiti love story…I guess Shauna and I are living that.”
Next stop, London where we met Russel and Sofia (now Aries) and their brand Silas and Maria. They saw the t-shirts and asked to stock their new store in Tokyo, so we inadvertently started a label without any intention. It was natural and it still is, we still don’t have any intent to make it a brand, it’s about a love story and an ongoing opportunity to make things together. It’s very romantic.
There’s a graffiti movie everyone should watch called Wild Style, with Lee and Lady Pink playing ‘Ray’ and ‘Rose’. It’s a graffiti love story, I guess Shauna and I’m living that, which is amazing for me.
It looks like you’re still very much active?
In true hip-hop terms: I “won’t stop, don’t stop (the body rock)”. I love it.
Australia is known for having a prestigious graffiti scene, with writers like Gooz, Break, Nost & Porke. When did you first start writing and what aspects of the culture piqued your interest?
When I first caught a commuter train, I say trackside graffiti, and was immediately blown away and hooked. I thought to myself as a small child “Wow somebody did that!” I knew I too wanted to do that. Then to seeing the movies Breakdance and Beat Street, loving the music, the dancing, and the fashion. This blew my mind, a pre internet kid from Melbourne, one of the most remote (especially from New York City) cities in the world. NYC hip-hop was the only thing I wanted to connect to. And cycling!
So you’re an avid cyclist yourself?
Yeah completely, I’m getting close to 10,000 kms this year. And that’s mostly off road!
You’re a big fan of adrenaline then?
Yeah, I’m drawn to energy and movement.
You’ve collaborated with some serious names in streetwear, including Nike, Undercover and Vans, how did the collaboration with Puma come about?
It came through these guys called Stryk that introduced us, we told Puma that we didn’t want to do a collaboration unless it was meaningful and they agreed, so this thing that we’re doing will unfurled into PAM/PUMA BIO/VERSE it’s an impact project supported by the product we make with Puma. We’ve got four seasons which get better and better, and progressively deeper.
What was it like working with Puma? Was it a 50/50 creative process or were you given free reign creatively?
We were given creative freedom, but with needs and obligations, so they become parameters for what we were thinking. Puma has been supportive and open and we have had great conversation. Because we are working together for four seasons, there is the idea it is a relationship, this is a project together.
The collection has succeeded in blurring the lines between outdoor functionality and street style, how did you go about balancing these elements during the design of these pieces?
We designed it during peak covid lockdown, so it was a bit of a projection of the idea of freely moving through nature. Covid presented this idea of a connection to nature because, in Australia anyway, we were locked down for three months where you were allowed out for one or two hours a day to exercise or get your groceries. The Nature in Australia is very vast and accessible, which was the only thing that humans had at that point, freedom only existed in that environment. This project was born out of our hope not to lose the connection to nature we had made during the lockdown/confinement.
I think we certainly noticed that being from Leicester. As one of the areas that had the highest Covid restrictions in the UK, the way a lot of people got through it was that one hour of exercise a day as a coping mechanism.
We had a 5km radius, which seemed ridiculous in the face of this never-ending outback surrounding us.
What made you choose the Rainforest Connection & Instituto Juruá as Deep Impact partners for the BIO/VERSE collection?
Theses partners have come through friends of ours, a company called DEEP who were responsible for building the impact project. We wanted to only collaborate with Puma if we could create something meaningful and impactful. It was through developing this PAM/PUMA BIO/VERSE that we managed to connect with the rainforest and actively participate in action that supports biodiversity. The PAM/PUMA product acts as the support to be able to make the impact project. It’s a lot deeper than the colorway of a shoe, the product also holds a much deeper message and story. We want to express PAM through the products too. For us products are a way to talk to people. Another great thing about this project, is being able to make things that are affordable and accessible, it’s not luxury brand pricing. We have specified sustainable materials and treatments, which is an area that Puma is very committed to.
What can we expect from the next instalment of the collab?
The next chapter of the PAM/PUMA BIO/VERSE will support another wild place on this planet. I’ll give you a clue, there are tigers there. There will also be a different activity in focus. This season it was hiking, next season it’s…
“This project was born out of our hope not to lose the connection to nature we had made during the lockdown/confinement.”
Which piece is your personal favourite from this release and which details are you drawn to?
I like this [the camouflage fleece]. Its functional, the last weeks I’ve been wearing it, the front pockets are amazing for all the items I need for travel: passport, phone, headphones, eye mask, etc. It looks cool. It feels great! We’ve put a lot of effort in to make a nice product, not just from a design perspective, but also for wearability and functionality. This jacket ticks all the right boxes. Oh, and there’s matching pants!
“Do what you love. Spread ideas of love, of joy and connection“
If your audience could take one message away from this collection, what would you want it to be?
Joy. Connection. Energy. We love the idea of connecting with the natural world: the jungle. But also the jungle of our minds and the idea of moving and mutating.
If you could give one piece of advice for independent and aspiring streetwear brands out there, what would it be?
Follow your dreams! And do what you love. Spread ideas of love, of joy and connection. Your brand can be your voice. Share your own passion and inspiration with others.