It’s a relatively cool September Thursday in Manhattan when I meet up with Gino Iannucci in front of a handball court in SoHo. Post-Labor Day New York City is starting to resemble itself again. People are back from the Hamptons or wherever they sheltered for the summer, and despite the makeshift sidewalk dining areas, the abundance of graffiti and protest signage, and the majority of inhabitants wearing masks, it feels like any fall day in New York City. This is despite all the uncertainty that Covid has thrown up. I’d met Gino a few months previous to talk about Poets’ collaboration with Nike SB and its coinciding video piece. It feels distant now, not in some ‘back when things were normal’ trope but more of a commentary on time itself and how confusing it has become of late.
“Remember when you were in school and a day felt like a month?” Iannucci says. “I want just one of those long days back. I wake up now, exercise, ride my bike, do a little work, and boom—it’s 6pm.”
Like many of us with a surplus amount of time, Iannucci funnelled his into a regimen of self creativity, opening up new ideas for Poets, the brand he started initially in 2009 as a skate shop in Long Island. Much of the store’s design details were created by a skater, now a teacher who remains anonymous and is credited only as ‘Mitch Leary’, who had a knack for finding uniquely ornate ways to display products within the store. Recently, Iannucci brought him back into the Poets fold, working on some nautical-inspired board hangers and a piece called ‘The Little Hammer’, made from scrap and replicating the plastic toys you’d beat plastic nails or friends with as a kid. It’s also a nod to Poets’ running references to films from the ‘70s and ‘80s - Iannucci has an eye for detail and a casual drive to bring irreverent touchpoints to life.
The conversation spins seamlessly from the pros and cons of starting your day with an infusion of celery juice to the stories behind Poets’ upcoming line. Not in any “salesy” way, just because Poets has become a greater focus of late and the product has come together less about demographics and more about creative sparks and challenges. “One piece I’m really psyched on has a pretty long story… stay with me,” he says, laughing. “I was talking to my friend who made the board hangers one day. He asked me if I ever heard of the story of Physty. I hadn’t, so he proceeded to tell me about how his father - after hearing about it on the local news - brought him to go watch a sperm whale being nursed back to health. This happened back in 1981. The whale beached off Oak Beach in Long Island, then was towed to a boat basin at Robert Moses State Park before being set free. People were coming from all over to see him. My friend’s story inspired me to watch the YouTube video about it and afterwards make a winter hat based on that story for Poets.”
Each piece in Poets’ latest drop illustrates a touchpoint in Iannucci’s experiences and interests - subtle and often overt culture references recontextualized through a new world view, yet never demonstrative. If you’re familiar you’re smiling and if you’re green your brain wants to crack the visual puzzle on each garment.
SOUTH OAKS IMAGE
“South Oaks is a hospital in Long Island for people dealing with mental health issues. Mixed in with art from the movie poster from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Going through this pandemic and racial injustice issues over the past 6/7 months and living in Manhattan, mental health has been shining extremely bright out in the streets. So you see where this inspiration comes from.”
HAMMER TIME IMAGE
“For whatever reason, I named the hangers after a character John Malkovich played in the movie In the Line of Fire. The gun he attempted to use in the movie to assassinate the president I decided to use for a graphic. Especially with our US presidency at the moment being where it is.”
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT IMAGE
“Escape From Alcatraz uses the actual dummy head that Frank Morris made and used as part of his escape from Alcatraz prison in 1962. That mixed with the current state of the globe being at an all-time high through social media platforms etc, ‘Fake it till you make it’ seemed a perfect pun to get points across.”
There’s also a collaboration with Café Belle, the shop his girlfriend, Noelle Scala, founded and operates on Mulberry Street that’s as much about Italian iconography of the Cornicello as it is about resilience and good fortune, or at least, warding off the “evil eye.” Scala’s cookies and pastries share the storytelling of Poets through her culinary lens. And after being able to stay operational throughout an unpredictable year in New York City, perhaps the charm adorned on the Poets x Café Belle GOBBO & FORCHIL capsule isn’t Italian superstition.
Have you been skating of late? I ask whilst explaining how I idiotically ripped my foot apart skating a Jersey barrier, which I believe comes from a serious lack of pushing around. “That’s one thing I haven’t been doing much of either,” Gino says. “Something’s just missing right now.”
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