Left to right: Evan Borja, Johnny Ngan, Esteban Jefferson, Andrew Valencia, Cyril Palmer and Marcello Campanello. Shot by Chris Harris
How are you involved with Canal?
Johnny: So at the moment, I am managing the webstore and our wholesale accounts. Esteban and I collaborate on design.
Esteban: I’m also filming a video right now that’s going to feature all of our Canal riders and friends, and Johnny films and edits the phone clips on Instagram.
In terms of day to day business stuff, it also shifts month to month somewhat – if one of us is busy with day job and stuff like that the other is there to pick up the slack and vice versa. It’s pretty collaborative.
Where does the name come from – Canal Street right?
E: Yeah it comes from Canal Street. There’s a biographical element, which is that we’re both born and raised in New York, and most of our friends are too, and we always hung out on Canal Street. Our friend Nabi lives near there, and there were always skateshops on Canal too. Rival Skateshop used to be on the west side of Canal Street, and that closed, and now Labor skateshop is on the east side of Canal. In the middle you’ve got a mix of everything – Chinese and African people selling counterfeit goods, rich white people coming out of the lofts, kids like us hanging out and seeing everything that’s going on. I find it to be a really interesting street that has lots of different sides of New York in one place growing up skating New York we spent a lot of time in and around the street. Aside from TF we were often down there. Plenty of diverse influences for sure.
J: Tompkins is definitely the other place that we spent a lot of time, and still do occasionally
Autumn skateshop R.I.P.
This is Cyril Palmer Doing a Step hop. New York, New York. Shot by Dominic Ming
Do you have official ‘riders’ or flow people?
J: Marcello Campanello, Andrew Valencia, Cyril Palmer, Evan Borja, Dog.chow, Anders Newman are all Heavy Hitters. Though really, yeah it’s Gang. We all vibe together. If one of us throws down that day, it could end up on the Gram.
What are your design influences? The look is super clean.
J: Thanks, we like super clean. So you could say we design for ourselves. I see a lot of interesting takes on fashion in New York. Things that may or may not catch on but are worth considering. Especially from people who are not involved with fashion or skateboarding.
As for the font and graphics, we certainly referenced designer labels. However, I’m interested in creating “unique” branding. The intention of the “Signature Script” being a unique signature.
E: I come from an art background and am really interested in mixing “high” and “low” culture. I think the distinctions between the two are often pretty arbitrary. With the wheels, I really liked the idea of mixing skateboarding with presentation usually reserved for high design items – Apple products, jewelry, etc.
So is skating ‘low’ culture?
E: I think the perception of skating is changing. It was tied to other kinds of street culture that have been looked down on by the upper class – rapping, graffiti, etc. The way all of those things are perceived is changing. Within art, skateboarding’s been cool for a while.
Do you think we will ever get back to when skating was more linked to other arts? It also used to also be linked to breaking. But now, especially in England, these scenes are more separate.
J: Well, its 2015 and there are a lot of people with a lot of different interests, and means of finding and connecting with each other. I imagine in the past you would band with people of similar interests based on proximity, I recall a similar feeling in public high school looking for friends to skate with after class. I certainly know plenty of people with interests adjacent to skateboarding but at the end of the day I’ll be skating with skaters.
E: I think since those things were all young at similar times they were all probably smaller. All of those worlds – skateboarding, rap, breakdancing, graffiti – have gotten so big that they’re probably not as linked as they once were. I wasn’t alive in the 70s and 80s though so I can’t say for sure. I think there’s a lot of interaction between those different interests though. I know a fair amount of people that skate, rap and tag.
Marcello Campanello Nose fakie with Esteban Jefferson on Vx 1000 at Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Shot by Christian Nacpil.
So how do you blend high and low aesthetics? The wheel packaging is very high end.
J: But… wheels are the initial contact point to the floor and… Wheels get dirty… [laughs] It’s about blending all our personal interests and influences from the people we have involved.
E: But more seriously, I’d say were synthesizing a variety of interests we have. Skateboarding is one, fashion is another, art is another, design is another. We pull influences from all these things.
What’s on the horizon for 2016?
J: Taking a grassroots approach. Working with core shops and distributers. Having fun on the IG. We are going to be doing more traveling. Talks of an Iceland/UK trip.
E: I’m working on a skate video that should come out in the fall. It’s all vx1000 and it’s got all of our friends in it – basically a Canal + friends video.
We made a video years ago called “Be Pretty” – this is basically the sequel. Almost all the same people, except everyone’s grown up a lot and gotten way better.
And we’ve dropped an official Canal video. We made the mini video while we were out in LA in January. We all had a week and a half or so off from work so we skated the whole time.
In terms of the brand, just continuing to make the things we like.
Why does Iceland appeal to you? It’s so rad there, it feels like the greyest place on earth. And the UK is great, Bristol is great.
J: [laughs] we just heard there were dope flight deals and we could see it on leisure.
E: I’ve always wanted to go to the UK. Going through Iceland would be a good way to get there. Black sand beaches and natural hot springs sound pretty nice too.
If we’re visiting New York where should we go to skate and eat, and where should we avoid?
E: Hit up our boy Thom Musso (Instagram “eatskatechill”). That Instagram has all the addresses to all the best spots.