FINNISH STREETWEAR PIONEERS - SACHA REMLING

 The man of the hour

The man of the hour

Hi Sacha. You have been in the streetwear game for a long time. How did you first find streetwear?

I got into ‘streetwear’ in the late 80’s. My style was heavily influenced by American hardcore and skateboarding, still is. I was fascinated by how normal clothing became stylish and special when it was used in a subculture context. Carhartt, Dickies, Dr Martens, Champion, Adidas and Nike etc all became cool when hiphop, punk or other urban cultures re-invented them, before that they were just random (albeit stylish) items of clothing. I was/am obsessed with clothing as a symbol of tribalism and belonging. Later on some of these subcultural staples (ie hoodies, ball caps and sneakers) became collectively known as streetwear. I like to think I was there from relatively early stages. It’s been a trip watching it become mainstream fashion. Fashion is a horrible word because it implies that something stylish, unique, meaningful or cool, and has been co-opted and is making money for some corporation at the mall. Don’t want to sound too dramatic but fashion is the enemy of style.

You used to handle the logistics behind importing skateboarding brands such as Etnies to Finland. Could you tell us a little about those days? 

I used to run a skate shop called Psycho Skate (the second incarnation) on Vuorikatu. It was around 92-96. It was pretty chill. Skateboarding was at one of it’s lows and a new generation of companies was starting to emerge. We used to call companies we saw in Thrasher and buy their stuff to sell in Helsinki. Skating was still pretty underground and the economy was really bad at that time, so it was kind of hard. We were the first shop to carry Etnies (and some other brands, too) and Pierre Andre wanted us to start doing it more professionally but it never happened, we were way too unorganized for that. We also had a speakeasy (salakapakka) in the basement and we had shows and raves there. It was a great time to be young, even though Helsinki was still pretty redneck and retarded back then. There were two mini ramps in the store and we partied there every weekend. Good times for sure. DJ Anonymous played his first DJ gig there and Davo Ukki (Celes) who hung out at the shop every day, played his first show there too. We also carried Fred Perry before it became a lame mainstream company again. We bought it from Cherry’s in London who manufactured it on a license at the time. At that time FP didn’t exist as a normal company at all. We just had so many punks and skinheads as friends who wanted it, so we got it. It was a more relaxed time for sure, pre-internet and all. I stopped working for that company around 95-96 and helped start a bar called the Jump Inn. Most of the clientele were old Psycho Skate locals. So it was a logical progression. Later on me and a couple of friends bought that bar and turned it into We Got Beef.

You gained a well-known reputation as a host for MoonTv back in the days. What are some of your best memories from filming the Show?

Moon TV was a independent cable TV channel. I started out as kind of a consultant. Pretty much advising on hosts and ideas for shows. I was living in London at the time 97-00, where I went to film/TV school (LGU). A good friend of mine Terja Salaspuro had started working for them and she wanted to make it into a lifestyle channel. I was into making short films with OUF (Olari Underground Films) and I went to college to start a career in film or television. So me and Terja started talking more and more, and I ended up moving back to work full-time for MoonTV as an assistant producer and a host. I moved back in such a hurry that I almost didn’t graduate. The first show I hosted was called ‘REC’ and it was basically me and my buddies watching skate/snowboard videos our viewers sent in. It was sponsored by Sprite and they had pretty cool prices for the winner. The channel skyrocketed and I started coming up with more shows that I hosted and produced - before I quit, I was the channel’s AD as well. Mustapippuri was a cooking show I did with Masa who I knew from Psycho Skate. The show was ahead of it’s time and became really popular. A lot of stuff we did at MoonTV was really different from what everyone else was doing at the time. We went to festivals, got really wasted and made shows about that. We also had a weekly show on porn. Almost like a Youtube channel. But it’s not always fiscally easy being a pioneer. The channel struggled but was doing really good, until upper management fucked it up. Sad but true. But it was probably the coolest job I ever had. I really miss those times. Luckily I’m still friends with everyone who worked there, and most of them also became regulars at Jump Inn and WGB.

The young guns might not know this, but you used to be a hardcore Supreme collector. Do you still collect Supreme and what are some of the most precious accessories/pieces you’ve ever had from Supreme? 

  Sacha’s Supreme collection ca. 2015.

Sacha’s Supreme collection ca. 2015.

I think I had one of the biggest accessory collections in Europe at some point. I discovered Supreme when I was living in London. Hideaway in SoHo used to sell it. I started going to the NYC store in the late 90’s. It was really hard to buy stuff and sometimes the store was closed. I was always cool with the bad service etc because I came from a skate shop background, so I know what it’s like. I don’t collect anymore but I always hit up the shop if I’m in NYC or LA. For years I was obsessed with it, almost like an addict. It’s kinda lame but we all have our vices. I used to be a big drinker and a bad boy, and I feel I substituted some addictions for Supreme when I became sober (7 years this Christmas). I’m not big into consumerism, but I have always been attracted to beauty and original/substantial branding. Supreme is a perfect brand. It’s totally flawless. It’s so good that ad agencies, corporations and big fashion biz have started copying them. It might be hard for younger kids to grasp this, but Supreme was just a skate shop when they started. Coming from a similar background I feel satisfaction when the mainstream panders to a culture we helped establish. Back in the day skaters and punks were looked down upon, and now they are making millions. So that means that we were right for years before basic people understood it was cool. They still only sell at their own shops and keep it relatively real, so what’s not to like? Their skateboarding videos and team riders are also sick AF. I sold off most of my collection when we moved to the US around 3 years ago. I didn’t have a job and I felt weird having all that shit around my house anyway. I’m a grown ass man and I have red nunchucks in a vitrine? Fuck that. 

In my opinion Supreme was at it’s best around 98-2008. My favorite collaborations are Budweiser, Bad Brains (LISTEN) and some of the North Face stuff.

My Supreme knowledge usually becomes most useful around Christmas when all my friends hit me up for Supreme gifts for their kids. They have no idea where to buy them and don’t want to buy fakes. Usually I help them out. It’s kinda funny. So if you read this and your parents are my homies, there’s a big chance I helped them buy you a bogo hoodie last Christmas. Unreal but funny at the same time.

What are your thoughts on how collecting Supreme, and collecting streetwear for that matter, has changed over the years? 

I have collected records, antiques, art glass, hardcore band shirts/posters and Supreme over the years. Most of it has been pretty lucrative. If you’re an early adapter and have good taste, you can usually make some good money every once in a while. 

However, as a collector, I’m not too crazy about wealthy companies limiting their stock and playing the ‘limited edt game’. I get that there’s a balance every company has to draw between supply and demand, and that you have to pull stunts to seem relevant. My problem with manufactured/engineered demand is that it mimics how stuff became rare and sought after in the first place. The first Minor Threat 7” goes for 4K on Discogs because they only had money to print up 1000 when it came out, and it fucking rules. It’s not valuable because some bs reality tv-show celebrity hypes it on IG. That’s not real. I can bet anyone 5K that no one is going to pay $1500 for a pair of Yeezys in 10 years. Why? Because the whole demand for the product is just hype. There’s zero substance in the product. It looks like something bodybuilders wore in the 80’s. And this is not aimed at just Yeezy, you can change that name for any bullshit hype releases coming out these days. 

Everyone has hobbies. I’m not saying you shouldn’t cop sick kicks if that makes you happy. Just saying that if you’re broke (no car, no house, no career) and you spend 2K on a sneaker that you got from some reseller/bot, you should stop and think. You might be in trouble later on in life and that money might come in handy. Just saying.

 Sacha Circa 91.

Sacha Circa 91.

What is your all-time favorite sneaker release and why?

Can’t put them in order. But I will just list my favorite shoes of all time. Vans Era. Adidas Campus. Nike Air Max 1. Dr Martens 1481. Clarks Wallabees. Those are shoes I have been wearing non-stop the last 30 years, and probably will til I die. Lately I have been wearing the Adidas Iniki a lot too.

What are some positive changes you have seen in the Streetwear game lately?

I think the Hypend community is something cool and definitely positive. A bunch of like-minded people acting together in a positive way. The older you get, the more you value attitudes of positivity and the importance of promoting positive attitudes. I love how there’s a strict policy clamping down on sexist and racist bullshit. I can’t tell you how important that is to me. Kudos on that. 

I haven’t really paid attention to much of the streetwear clothes dropping anymore. I’m more focused on vintage Grateful Dead merch these days LOL. I’m also an eBay addict, so selling and buying cool stuff there is where my head is at these days. I love old hardcore t-shirts and longsleeves, and there’s plenty up right now. I’m also getting a bit old so most of the stuff dropping these days isn’t really for me. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it, but it’s just not for me. Don’t want to rock the ‘cool dad’ style.

Okay, let’s talk about the Infamous WE GOT BEEF. Many consider that it was the pinpoint home location for skateboarding and streetwear culture in Finland while it was still standing. Was that always the idea behind the concept?

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In 2002 a lot of our regular bars (Soda, Jump Inn, Liekki) were shutting their doors and I was working in advertising at the time (Taivas). It wasn’t really working out, so me and a couple of friends started talking about doing something new. We ended up buying Jump Inn and we opened up WGB in April 2003. Freeman from CTRL actually came up with the name WGB. I wanted to call it ‘I Hate Sushi’ but none of my partners were feeling that name, so Freeman kinda rescued us. We also did a collaboration collection in 2004 or 2005 with CTRL. The concept was to have a bar for Punavuori locals and people who went to aforementioned bars. We were set up for success pretty much from day one. The clientele was massive and we had a huge demand. The interior was classic with a modernist vibe. Some people said they felt like they were drinking in a museum or art gallery, but nowadays all bars look like that. We wanted to be a skater bar from the get go, and I think we succeeded with that pretty good. We were also big on the community aspect so I wanted swap meets, friend sales, skate movie premiers, record conventions, Christmas markets and community meetings. I also wanted us to have a strong presence in the street, so we made and gave away shit tons of merch. That’s kinda how it turned into a small brand too.

What are some of your most rewarding memories related to WE GOT BEEF?

  Skepta in WGB

Skepta in WGB

It has to be all the sex and the drugs I got to do from it. No but seriously, all the friendships and the hard lessons learned. WGB was my life for 13 years and I’m eternally grateful for every single experience I got out of it. Some were good, some were really bad. I was a cocky young man when we opened, and when we closed I was a humbled and sober middle aged man. Very few people have had the life I’ve had.

We like to ask this question from our guests; what is your favorite food joint and clothing store in Finland? 

That’s kinda tough since I’ve been away for a while. I love how MFT is holding down my old neighborhood and they’re all homies so that’s definitely a one of them. Might also do a WGB joint with them, keep your eyes peeled for that. As far as food goes, it’s kinda tricky. I love old classic restaurants so my favorites will always be Sea Horse and Kosmos. Those to me feel like the real OG Helsinki.

You once released a Cooking-book called Mustapippuri (Black pepper). What led you to make that happen? 

That book was an offshoot of the cooking show we made with MoonTV. Otava contacted us we jumped on it. It was a great experience and I love the lay-out.

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What are you working on currently and what’s next for you? 

My wife and I moved to New Mexico over 3 years ago. We were fed up with the weather back home and my wife had kind of looked at jobs abroad for a while. She’s a fine art professional and she landed a great job as the Master Printer at Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque. So we basically dropped everything and just left, I was working at Radio Helsinki at the time doing morning radio. The first year here was pretty rough because I had so much stuff back home, and I couldn’t get a work permit here. But now a couple of years down the line were slowly getting the hang of it. I’m working as a bouncer and a bartender, which is refreshing after being my own boss for so long. I’m also doing some We Got Beef stuff that I’ve been selling on FB. Thinking about doing more of that. Eventually I want to start a bar/restaurant/brewery here. It’s kinda hard because of the local liquor licensing laws, that are even stricter than back home. Sometimes it feels like being in Finland in the 80’s. Bars close at 2am and everything is super strict. But when you walk out on the streets it’s a shit show. Kind of weird, but that’s New Mexico for you.

BONUS: Can you tell us a sneaker related story from Finland?

This is kinda crazy. When I was growing up in Puotinharju in the 80’s, I used to shop at Citymarket. One time I went in and there was a huge container (rekkalavallinen) full of Air Jordan 1 and Converse Weapons that were all selling for 10 marks ($ 2.50) a pair. This must have been in 86 or 87. I think I bought a pair of Weapons but I never used them. Someone must have bought a shitload and they looked too weird for people to buy them? Back then shoes were mostly white. Still bugging to this day how much they’d be worth now.

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Curated by: Kasper Kasanen