by Blake Foster, Owner of Doomsday
Words by Silas Adler / Illustration by Sine Jensen.
Doomsday is a place to come and meet likeminded people who are interested in underground art, subcultures and menswear. Back in 2012, the people behind Doomsday decided to create a space where quality, minimalist interior and understated styling can withstand their own lifestyles, combined with the attitude of their youth when joints were a hangout spot rather than a retail environment. It invites to chill out and appreciate brands and products rooting in their perspective of growing up with surfing and skating in a less traditional environment. We talked to Blake Foster, owner of Doomsday to find out more about the concept and his generation’s way of being in the creative industry.
What’s the story of Doomsday and how did you get started?
I’ve always liked skate- and snowboard shops growing up but didn’t pursue a career in these areas. Instead, I ended up working in construction for a few years just for the sake of getting paid. However, I felt like it was a bit soulless and my interests weren’t reflected in what I was doing. Realizing that, I wanted to work with the things I was into when I was younger and eventually started working in the fashion industry. I worked as a sales manager for Herschel backpacks for a while, though it felt a bit like slanging heaps of products. The opportunity to open a store that represented my interests and what I stand for came up when I worked at Urchin together with Ed and Sam. The directors of that company always dreamed of opening a store and I kind of jumped on board and helped out to set up everything. Doomsday became a men’s street wear retail space that is rooted in the skate and snowboarding scene as well as the surrounding cultures we grew up with. At the same time it’s also place to show our favorite underground artists.
The universe you operate in seems to be a bit more curated and calculated compared to the typical store that works with skateboard culture. How important is it that you work with stuff that is very specific rather than getting everything that this culture can bear?
I think a lot of people wouldn’t think we’re a skate store because we are kind of not really but the crew behind it grew up doing that. Everything we do is reflected in that mindset and we always ask ourselves “Would we wear that? And does it feel right to us?” Sometimes this process can be quite difficult because certain brands just want to push some things on us, which can be hard to say no to. But no matter what we do, we are trying to stay true to ourselves and at the end of the day we have to feel that we did the right thing.
There is a new generation of people from the mid 80s through the 90s, which grew up with skateboarding and its surrounding cultures that now have important positions in the creative industry. Some of them also work in quite corporate companies, and it’s interesting to see how they manage to take that philosophy from the skateboard culture and interpret it into corporate routines.
It’s pretty crazy. I feel like there are so many people from our generation who grew up with that culture doing cool things these days. There’s a very unique way of working anchored into our generation, especially compared to the older ones. The way we network and interact with each other is very different. Also, the feeling of hierarchy does not exist to the extent like it has for the generation prior to us. Even the young guys who work in the store live after these rules. They are way younger than us founders but we are all on the same level because we do the same things and believe in a similar philosophy.
One thing that feels really special about Australia is that it’s so far away from Europe. Do you feel that it might be a boundary that you are separated from the other part of the West that has a similar culture? Or do you feel that is it a good thing to have that for yourself?
It’s strange. Kids in Australia are pretty on trend, especially in Melbourne. I guess it’s because of the accessibility of the Internet. I can definitely feel this separation. It takes me 24 hours or longer to meet people in Europe. I guess that’s where a lot of Australian retailers suffer. Not a lot of people have the money to fly to a trade show in Europe. The generation prior to us that we were talking about before maybe doesn’t see the importance in terms of being face-to-face or becoming friends with someone. I guess that’s where the networking comes from in our generation these days. If you’re a cool dude and get along then that’s cool; it kind of makes it easier in the industry we operate in.
It’s quite a big difference. I can fly to London or Paris in 1,5 to 2 hours or go to NYC in 6-7 hours. I can very easily and spontaneously go to these destinations while having the luxury to decide upon it a week beforehand. In that sense it’s easier for me to be here and travel around for projects and meet up with people from other cities. I can imagine the thought of travelling for 24 hours requires a bigger decision.
Definitely! It literally means travelling to the other side of the world for us. That’s why we always say, “we’re the island at the end of the world”. You do have that separation. It’s a barrier because you always end up emailing people but never really get to see them. Maybe if I hadn’t met you face to face, I wouldn’t be talking to you about this right now.
That’s my point, it’s interesting that you can communicate with people over the Internet but when you meet in person you are able to go further. I guess that the following generation who is a bit younger than us think differently as they grew up with the Internet. Maybe they don’t need that.
It’s still crazy to see how much you can actually do over the Internet. Especially in our industry, you can check out everybody on Instagram and follow what is being done. Kids can connect the dots pretty easily, they can just search for Soulland and maybe they get it.
That can sometimes be the challenge that both our generation and our business have to face. We should take the time to talk about these things, take a step back and reflect a bit more. I feel like the generation that follows us doesn’t give a shit about reflection and the generation prior to us over-reflects stuff. We are probably the last generation that remembers how it was before and after the Internet.
I talk about this all the time. For us to find out anything you had to do it or you had to go to an older guy and he would tell you “oh, you should buy this brand”. You had to live it. It’s kind of strange that kids these days can just go ahead and buy the things they see somebody wearing on the other side of the world online. They don’t have to actually figure out if that’s even in style or not; they can just tab in and out of different cultures, which creates a lot of random mixes. They just take very different elements and out them together and that’s their thing. For us, it was an effort to be into something but if you were, it influenced your whole identity. That probably also reflects on how we do buying: we kind of channel pretty hard to what we think is good and cool and right. It’s good to have an opinion and a certain focus. Sometimes it might not be the same as someone else but it seems stronger if you do.
It seems like the scene in Melbourne is blooming. There are always a lot of things going on and it feels like it has stronger ties to Europe than Sydney does.
I don’t want say anything bad about Sydney (laughs). There are many cool people but the city is a bit more corporate although there a lot of cool things happening. Many people I know have more serious office jobs because all the bigger companies set up their offices in Sydney. Culturally, I find Melbourne to be livelier. There is a strong movement within fashion and food. It seems like everybody is into food here and lately a lot of good restaurants have opened. Melbourne feels like a mix of a lot of cities; I’d say it’s pretty rounded.
You’ve done a lot of projects with artists, for example Kelly Camello and Weirdo Dave. What else did you do?
We’ve also done stuff with Gasius. They actually flew out to Australia for the show. I hadn’t met either of them until they came here. Since then we’ve become pretty close friends. When I’m in London, i can always crash on Gasius’ couch. We also remade the surfboard of Mark Richards, a professional surfer from Australia. The story behind this collaboration was that he only had like 30 dollars to get a graphic inspired by Bruce Lee movie posters on his surfboard. The person doing it didn’t finish and he had no choice but to accept the sketch and get on with it. Over 40 years later, we wanted to fulfill his dream and teamed up with Japanese artist Toshikazu Nozaka to grant MR’s original wish for a Bruce Lee inspired dragon logo.
You have a project called “The Suburbs”. What’s the idea behind that?
It revolves around a photo-shoot by British/Australian photographer Ryan Cookson, who came to our store with a loaded camera. He is very talented. He spent a bit of time in a Western suburb and went out there to capture Doomsday Store T-shirts. He wanted it to be an extension to what he is usually photographing and he tried to capture his view on Melbourne. The people that he was drawn to on the streets weren’t as responsive as he hoped but the guys were full of character and reflecting the ever growing, emerging communities that turn Melbourne into an interesting place to live in.
Is there anything in store for the future?
There is a lot of stuff on the cards. Doomsday has only been open just over two years and it feels like we’ve gone very far with it. It’s growing very quickly and we’re trying to manage and figure out educated suggestions on what we should do next. We have a bunch of cool collaborations coming up, some of them a little more mainstream than others. We are also trying to build on our ranges; we will probably look more into wholesale in the near future. We want it to grow natural too but we also want to make good stuff that we like, too. Sometimes it’s difficult to shuffle around until we can make some decent numbers on them. It’s very time-consuming but I’m open to spend more time on that because there is only a couple of us who work in or manage the store and take pictures.