A former Queenstown resident is starting to get noticed in Melbourne as he collaborates with Australian street artists in what is believed to be a world-first project.
Christopher Skyner, 31, was widely known in Queenstown in his capacity as hospitality empire Good Group’s events manager, being recognised in 2010 when he was named a finalist in the “outstanding hospitality personality” category in the Restaurant Association’s Southern Lakes Hospitality Awards.
However, at the end of 2011 Skyner, originally from the United Kingdom, moved to Melbourne “basically wanting to do something for myself”.
Inspired by the street art decorating parts of Melbourne, he decided to work with the artists responsible and provide a “wearable canvas” for their work. However, it took almost a year of work before his dream started to become a reality.
“I’m English, I’m from New Zealand, I have a hospitality background and I have no experience in retail.
“I approached artists for months, put proposals together, approached gallery spaces … it was a bit of a risk for them.”
Eventually, Melbourne-based street artist Steen Jones shared Skyner’s vision and the pair began working together on Authority Clothing.
Under the collaboration, Skyner locates a street space where a mural could be created, pays for the materials for the mural and finds an artist to create it.
The first mural was completed after Skyner raised more than $10,000 on Pozible, the Australian version of crowd-funding website Kickstarter.
Artwork is taken from the completed murals and used to create limited edition T-shirts.
Attached to the T-shirts are swing tags which include information on the artist along with a barcode which can be scanned with a smartphone, giving directions to the original mural.
Before the official launch of Authority Clothing last July, Skyner was invited to showcase the collection in three Melbourne runway fashion shows.
While the reaction was positive after the showings, “nothing happened”.
“I didn’t make sales for two months after that,” he says.
“I moved out of my house and took the bond from the house and moved into a hostel, putting the money into the business.
“I moved to a different hostel every three weeks and put up posters around the hostels.
“I was networking the whole time and building up the clientele. It’s a good way to build a database.”
However, recently, the brand has started to gain traction, helped in no small part by celebrity clientele giving Authority Clothing exposure.
Skyner says he was approached by a PR company based in the United States wanting to represent his brand for $1500 a month.
“I don’t have $1500 a month to throw at a PR firm in America. I thought I could probably do a better job myself.”
After learning rapper Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, was about to play in Melbourne, Skyner and a bouncer friend took a couple of his T-shirts to the venue and managed to talk his way inside, leaving the T-shirts for him, along with a note.
“It just said ‘Welcome to Melbourne, it would be rad if you could rep local’.”
Snoop did not wear the T-shirt during his show, but a few days later a photograph appeared on Instagram of Snoop wearing Skyner’s T-shirts – one he also has on in his latest music video.
Skyner says he recently held a meeting with Snoop’s agent, who told him the marketing value of the photo and video was about $125,000.
Rapper Daz Dillinger, who appeared with Snoop Dogg in the music video, had messaged Skyner asking for another T-shirt which he, too, would wear in a music video.
On March 14, Skyner received confirmation Authority Clothing would feature in New Zealand hip-hop DJ and producer P-Money’s new music video with Gappy Ranks, a British dancehall musician, filmed in Melbourne.
There was also a possibility the Authority Clothing movement would go international, with potential for a mural to be created in New York and the brand appearing in T-World, the world’s only dedicated T-shirt journal, published by Eddie Zammit, of Australia.
“It’s pretty bloody awesome,” Skyner says.
“It’s so exciting. I’ve had lots of breaks, but I work 12 to 15 hours a day, every day, seven days a week at the moment.
“This is crazy coming from someone who used to pour drinks for a living.” – Otago Daily Times