Talking Trash With Aaron Kudi

  • Photography  Max Barnett
  • Featuring  Aaron Kudi

We sat down to talk with designer Aaron Kudi about his creative process, how working with recycled materials has informed his practice, and where his creative inspirations lie. Creatives like Aaron remind us that we can follow our visions in a way that reduces our environmental impact.

Tell us more about yourself?

I was born in Nigeria, in the city of Bauchi. I grew up partially there, then in London and Devon. I studied psychology at London Metropolitan University, which led me to do an MA in Cognitive and Social Psychology. I had an interest in social dynamics and behaviour especially with the rise of social media and internet platforms, the understanding of people’s social skills, tendencies, cognitive training, and attributions. I spent two years learning to basic tailor and understand garment construction during my second and third year of uni which made me fall in love with design. I realized there was an interesting and longitudinal purpose to creating clothes, it was not just making for no reason but a form of intelligent communication and this was a dialogue I wanted elaborate on, both narrative and clothing wise.

I developed Goeie Katoen during the summer after my graduation.  It means Good Cotton in Afrikaans, representative of where some of my family is from, combined with the company’s values and ethos of providing good cotton, literally, but also good information, values and educational narratives in a cohesive way. So not to oversaturate them with the product culturing their lives, instead being there for them when they need us, building longitudinal repour, as Simon Sinek once said: “like google when you search and it doesn’t just give you one offering but exponential within what you’re looking for, and with the best at the top” I wanted it to be a forty to fifty year conversation with the customer not five or ten minutes, or even one year for me to make money. I encountered difficulties during 2016/2017. I was purchasing things that were soon replaced by something new, tangible but hollow. I actually never got to appreciate what I had, and weirdly enough this became a  cognitive way of thinking from a simple action spreading into other things in life at the time like relationships, friends, that disposable mentality became infectious without me knowing, it was like Albert Bandura’s social learning theory had literally taken place.

Something I was not happy with was that the appreciation for garments was slowly being lost. Later in 2017 my business partner Money Valentino, joined me as Co-Owner, becoming a driving force in design, recycling fabrication, a creative structure in order, whilst I learned better marketing and business acumen, primarily looking into getting the company structure in place, near the end of 2017 this was something that was necessary. We had strong foundations for the longevity we strived for, so no corners could be cut.

How did you discover recycled fabrics?

The recycled fabrics, came about when I was invited to do an art installation alongside a community organization called Ejder, in association with Appear Here. I thought about what sort of art installation I wanted to display and the mindset I was in. After discussing with my peers I  realised I was frustrated with the saturation of products and content. Everywhere things were being sold, forced onto society in different ways and there was too much noise, all this whilst nothing was really being said. A lot is taken from society but not given back. Issues at the time, mass genocide in Somalia and Cameroon, mass European deportation of immigrants, mass hunger in Yemen were pushed out of widespread attention by saturated bullshit. That was the spark. I realized I needed and wanted to translate this into my own practice through clothes. This is a medium where I can communicate other than speech,  which led me to look at ways of using recycled objects that have a story and recontextualizing them into new ones, like fragments of books.

My girlfriend and I spent one morning researching organizations that would help collaborate and offer recycled clothing and upholstery for free, as well as a company I could continue this dialogue with. We came across LMB, and at first, I thought an organisation of their size that works with a third of all recycled clothes in East London would be reluctant, but they were very welcoming, so I visited them. When I saw the space, it was then that I realised how I could work with recycled clothes, as another artist could use paint, canvas, or paper, I could use recycled clothing. It was a full circle effect because it made me and Money Valentino re-evaluate more why we want to do what we do with Goeie Katoen, and how we can look at recycling and reuse garments for collections, as we cant keep producing even if the narrative is sensational a balance must be found it meant a symbiotic relationship between my interest in art and clothing could be formed with one feeding the other.





Does LMB typically work with young designers?

For LMB this was the first thing they had done collaboratively, they are focused on doing their job and making sure the recycling gets done, it’s an unstoppable industry. When I visited they had so much clothing it was unbelievable, there were hundreds of 50-80kg bags. This was new to them, but Darren, one of the onsite workers, was exceptionally helpful. They were happy to help show me around where I could get certain knitwear and silk, tartans and upholstery. I think for most designers or creators in this period we are socio-economically in, just to visit these sort of places, LMB is very open to discussion and allowing people to visit the site as long as arrangements are made beforehand. I think it really focuses in on what you’re making, why you’re making it, and what story you are trying to tell. Visiting LMB has taken me to the extent of my thinking of the garments in the household with the customer in their everyday life beyond the feeling of what it offers them. LMB was so real and raw that I realised I can’t add to the mirage, the faux aesthetic of designing or making clothes it’s beyond money why I should do this. And honestly, god bless the people at LMB, from the staff to the directors, because they are picking up a lot of the un-necessary mess we are giving them.

How can designers interested in working with recycled materials work with them?

LMB ultimately doesn’t have any schemes in place, although that is something I have discussed with them going forward. Something like this could be implemented and even marketed in a digestible and social way so it doesn’t get lost in the noise as a lot of these great schemes do. They are open to dialogue with designers and even consumers, we should really see where our clothes and products are going, how long it takes to recycle and renew, and the process of reworking knitwear or even saving denim that can be reused. Designers should go to their website, email or telephone them – it’s honestly an eye-opening experience, and one I am humble and grateful for.

Why do you think it is important that we continue to keep opening conversations about working with recycled materials?

Ultimately, we have created this ferocious system of consumption that is reaching its apex and impacting the planet, similar to how crude oil, petrol, and fossil fuels are  Going forward we need to re-assess how we produce garments and goods. This re-evaluation is going to be beneficial in the long term and stop a lot of companies from ending up like Nokia, as innovation – like sustainability – will have a fantastic rippling effect, on not just product, but fabric innovation, machinery and factory innovation, and ways of minimising waste. The old format of machines and factory layouts wastes a lot of energy and resources. The water used during dying denim could be made more efficient, the process could be beneficial in a lot of dynamic ways. Just like the solar power development, Solar City helped Tesla create long journey electric vehicles s while also pushing the limits of renewable, rechargeable battery cells. Three different spheres are now renewable and efficient due to one pragmatic thought, and this same application could happen to industry, adding more value to clothing again in the long-term rather than a commodity they are actually an investment.





We fell in love with your work after seeing your use of recycled jeans in the installation from Lvl3 Gallery back in March, do you see yourself growing as an artist and designer in the future?

I had never really practised art or shown a piece in public so it was honourable of them to even collaborate with me. We are working on an exhibition later this year and next summer also around recycling and pushing that narrative by exploring ways of doing a fresco with this medium. I see me growing as Aaron Kudi that’s it. There are things I’m driven towards and love: information, art, design and more importantly micro social dynamics within society, this is what feeds me, but I honestly dislike titles. I think that builds an ego and an expectation. It doesn’t allow the product to be the point of conversation. If you’re bigger than your work then I think there is a problem. If one dies the other will live on and the one that does will be forgotten, all I pray is that I can learn as much as I can and always remain a student, read as much as I can be wholeheartedly happy. The aim is to provide for my future kids and give them opportunities I never had. I would also like to build foundations and community centres for future generations in the  communities I grew up in with low-level access to equipment and tech infrastructure

Everyone I look up to isn’t known purely by their title. Those who inspire me took their discipline, owned it, and they define that field so that’s more important than being a big creative director or designer. Haider Ackermann, Dries van Noten, William Eggleston, and Miles Van De Roh are designers, photographers and architects that managed to find their discipline and make it their own. They delivered art in a new way, which for me is what’s special. Titles are bullshit.

What is next for you?

We have a runway show in London next January. There is also the growth and development of myself and the brand, and most importantly getting immersed in the world and what’s going on in it. We are also preparing for an art show later this year in November and then next summer in August. Doing has always been better than talking a friend once told me and I think that’s what the world needs more of right now.

See more at https://www.instagram.com/goeiekatoen/?hl=en