Interview: M.O.D.U

The original bois of da underground, M.O.D.U, are on a mission to crown anyone who’s anyone in celebsville with their every bit boom, chill, fresh and other adjectives worthy-of-urban-dictionary-status caps. Matty and Teejay’s rude boi raucoussing materialised into what we now know as M.O.D.U through their mutual passions of drawing and partying (my kinda boys). Are they really as sick as their brand leaves us to believe? Helen Turnbull confirms a resounding yes.

Members of da undaground – where did it come from? Do you fancy yourselves as rude bois? I came up with the idea when I was a young graffiti renegade, living in Upton Park; the District Line was my playground. I also knew guys who would always graf the central line and other local rails. When you’re a creative black kid, graffiti was our way of being hard and rough without jacking phones or joining dumb gangs.

Why did you decide to work as a pair? Teejay inspired me to make it happen as he was studying fine art in college and was local in the East End with an interest in putting grafs on clothes. He also had the sickest selection of hats. We met at Stratford Theatre Royal Youth Group and loved to draw and party, it was a simple as that. And I also had borrowed an old skool Ali G type FUBU string vest, that still to this day I ain’t given back.

How is it working as a twosome? It’s wild having a partner and also empowering. Lining up schedules is hectic but two heads are better than one and we work within our strengths, which all interconnects when we create our hats. A bit like the underground.

What do you each bring to the brand? Teejay is creator of the graphics and design of all our products. He has the more sophisticated and fine tuned aesthetic eye. I am pretty much the nucleus of the brand, in charge of all production and running the business. I am neither sophisticated nor classy; more colourful and grimy.

M.O.D.U was born out through your graffiti routes – how do these skills transfer into your products? When you first start to graf you teach yourself how to shape letters, proportion the size and how to blend colours and add shadows. This has been the key element to all our successful products. Accessories for us are the perfect fashion products that enable us to add our artistic graffiti elements. They complete a person’s look and allow us to put words, shapes and symbols on them – just like walls and trains.

Do you still dabble in graffiti these days or is it a distant memory? I still do the odd commission for pirate radio stations and grimey video shoots. But because we’re trying to become an established fashion brand, our underground days are very much over. If you travel around the East End a lot of our stuff is still about though!

Where do you go in London to find inspiration? The Greenway in Plaistow was our Mecca of graffiti: it was the first legal spot in the 90s where youngsters could go and practise. It’s where I learnt to tag and where I took Teejay to do his 1st graf. It’s above a 3 mile old Victorian sewer that starts from Beckton and ends in Hackney Wick; it’s incredible but very scary at night. Because of the Olympics, they have modernized the Hackney part, but there should still be some of the old sections to it which are very grotty and full of character.

Who would you like to add to your client list?
After our recent success getting Minaj to wear our hat, we are aiming at the A-list market here and in the States. I would sell my dreadlocks to get Lil Wayne in our snapback and Teejay really wants to make a spectacular hat for Kanye West. In terms of ladies, it would have to be Naomi Campbell.
What’s next on the M.O.D.U to do list? It’s been a massive achievement to have a showroom which is now our HQ of creativity, but we have so many more goals to achieve before me and Teejay get the tattoo of M.O.D.U we both agreed to have when we break through. The main desires are a concessions stand in a major department store, more stockists in Europe and then America and Asia.

Words: Helen Turnbull

Photography: Natasha Alipour-Faridani