Nok Nok London was born out of a nickname given to now, fashion designer, and CEO, Angel Nokonoko when he was growing up. Nok Nok injects a fusion of London subcultures including old school punk, rock, as well as the more urban, hip-hop, R&B and trap culture. Another element of influence for the brand is based around where Angel grew up, the island of Ibiza. This is where the nightlife influence and the edginess start to shine through.
How did you first get into designing clothing and running your own company?
‘It happened very naturally. When I was in Ibiza at the age of sixteen, seventeen, I used to make T-Shirt’s and customize my jeans. I then I used to make clothes for me and my friends for when we used to go out. At the time, it was just so much fun. When we were out clubbing, I would show the DJ’s my work and ask them to wear it, and this just caught on to the point where DJ’s were asking me for the clothes, so I ended up making t-shirts for DJ’s around Ibiza which was awesome.’
‘I wondered how I could take it to the next level, I thought going to London would be a great opportunity, so I studied at Central Saint Martins for four years. That was a great experience, I loved those years, they were so much fun. I felt in a way I had brought a little bit of Ibiza here, I used to hold parties at the universities! In London, there are people from everywhere, Spain, Japan, Italy, so I felt why don’t we host some Ibiza style parties. Throughout my two or three years there, as a slight side hustle, I used to host parties.’
‘Then I went to work in Paris, I was at John Galliano & Christian Dior for some time, it was a bit of a learning curve, I saw a little bit of the high-end luxury side of the market, but I didn’t connect with it, I found it was just a little bit too shallow for me. So I came back to London where I worked for some smaller brands where I designed menswear. That was fun, we did a bit of everything, we did a bit of leather, denim, shirts. All of the clothing we produced was made in Italy, really good quality, we used to use nice fabrics and very high-end leathers. I still have some of the jackets and they still look great after so many years, I still wear them. For me, quality, sometimes you pay a bit more, but in the long run, it’s worth it as you still have great value & longevity on it.’
‘At Nok Nok, we base a lot of our collections around denim because my background is very denim focused, I’ve been working in denim for the past 10 years, so it makes sense. We make all of our denim in Italy also. ’
‘The price of our denim is high, but there is a reason behind the pricing. First of all, we make them in Italy and we use Italian sustainable & organic denim. Then we use a lot of internal details, internal prints in all of them, we use binding in the seams which are printed, then we add a lot of hand finishing. Most of the pieces are also limited edition.’
How did you develop your design skills?
‘It was a natural thing, I think you are either creative or not. For me, I enjoyed customizing clothing, I enjoyed writing things, I used to use it as an expression, it was a bit of an art form. You need the side of learning the process, of course, pattern cutting and sewing, for those you need to go to universities where they can teach you, and keep you up to date with the latest techniques. Nowadays, everything is going a bit more tech, so you have a lot of software where you can design, back in the day you had to do everything by hand, everything is more computerised now, and that takes some teaching to get used to.’
Can you remember what your first piece of clothing was?
‘I remember I had customized these wool pants, if I think back now, I don’t know what I was doing haha. I wrote in a gold pen on the crotch ‘brown sugar’. I remember I used to make a lot of T-shirts when I started which were made with denim patchwork, with the words, ‘I’m so sophisticated.’ The thing that I liked was that all the letters were in denim which I hand-stitched on.’
‘That kind of style I did often when starting. Then I did another one where I cut the pocket of the denim, then I put it on the t-shirt of the front, and then the waistband of the denim I put on the edge of the hem on the t-shirt. I used to do things like this and it gained a lot of attention early on, friends asking if they could have one. I did one for this big DJ back in the day called Smokin Jo. I did this striped black and red t-shirt, and then I had a camouflage fabric on one sleeve and then the other one was lace. I was just playing around and being creative, not even thinking about selling or not. For me, those times where you’re not thinking about selling, you are so free, you are just enjoying the process, and that’s a very important thing to remember when you’re starting.’ In the coming year, I also made t-shirts for other DJs like Loco Dice, Hector, and a few others…
You originated from Ibiza, what was it like growing up there, and what was the creative scene like over there?
‘Growing up in Ibiza, there are good parts and bad parts. The good things are that you grow in a little bubble where everything is light, you don’t have much crime, it’s very safe, but on the other side to that, you grow up a little bit naive, grow up thinking everyone is nice. If you compare Ibiza to the real world, like when you come to the City, there is so much cloud, so much noise, but in a way, I loved that side of London.’
‘Ibiza was great, you had the sea, you had the sun, it’s an easy life, and then in the summer everything just booms. I remember there was a change when I was 14/15 going on to 16 when I started to go out with my mates and you started seeing and meeting the tourists coming to Ibiza. Once we could start going out to the clubs, then it was really exciting.’
‘Because we were from the island, we used to know all the bouncers and some of the DJ’S, so we used to go out Monday-Sunday during the summer, every night we used to go out, drink, smoke, I mean I was one of the softest from my group, the other guys were way hardcore than me. This was great because we met so many people. I think that had a huge part to play in going to London as I would meet so many people who had came from London, I felt so connected with them, in the way they dressed, the way they thought,… I felt like it could be an interesting place for me to checkout.’
‘There is a lot of creativity on the island. You have lots of artists, lots of painters. For me, the most creative was the nightlife. You had all the dancers, you had the creative directors behind the dancers, they used to create outfits out of nothing, they would go to a fabric store, buy a few fabrics, cut them off and put them on the girls and boys, and then create their make-up on top.’
‘Seeing that process was so creative, seeing all the gays, all the transvestites and all the beautiful women… for me, it was just like, wow!. The whole concept of the parties was incredible. I remember back in the day there was a party called Manumission, for me that was the best party Ibiza has ever had. It was really big in the 2000s, I think they stopped in 2009.’
‘This party was creative in the way they staged the whole thing, every summer they had a different theme. The whole thing was very sexual, they became famous because the guy used to have sex with the women on the stage, the guys were from Manchester. So it was as crazy as that, I think I was 16 years old when I first went, I will never forget.’
‘That party is where Jamie Jones came from, he used to play in the toilets at that party. These things kind of stick to your mind, so for me I like to mix it all together. Just from seeing the nightlife, how the guys were dressed, how the girls were dressed, the dancers, already there was a big influence in terms of creativity for me.’