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Playing the Game with David Blogg

The parkour community has a tendency toward placing huge amounts of cultural value on athletes and their amazing abilities. These athletes of course deserve the fanfare they receive, but there are many aspects of parkour beyond the practice itself. In the Playing the Game series, I will be interviewing people I consider front-runners in parkour as an industry; pushing the culture of parkour and paving the way for more non-athletes to enjoy employment opportunities in a sport that we all love. 

My first guest is, according to Giles, the most bougie man you’ll ever meet, The man behind the Motus “boudoir,” designer of clothes, builder of couches, David Blogg, or Bloggy. Our conversation was insightful, and I am now painfully aware of how little I know about fashion, clothes, or design.

Bloggy successfully created a life for himself in parkour by following his passion for clothing design. The impact of such a decision may never be measurable, but suffice it to say that parkour culture stands to grow by leaps and bounds if we establish a style that conveys parkour intrinsically. Think skateboarding, skate fashion has so outgrown the sport that skate culture has invaded the hivemind of fashion itself. I myself own a Thrasher t-shirt, and can’t skate worth a damn. That may say more about me than anything, but the point stands. Bloggy is helping parkour find its sea legs in a veritable ocean of crappy t-shirts, exploitative labor practices, and wasteful manufacturing. Now, on to the interview.

Me: Why exactly does Giles refer to you as “The most bougie man you’ll ever meet?”

Bloggy: Hahaha Honestly, it's not actually got much foundation. I think it’s because at lunchtime I would cook more than just a tin of beans on some bread. And in my room I have some lights and plants, and that makes me bougie apparently. I’ve got some carpet and I made this sofa a few weeks ago (he says referring to a hand-crafted sofa currently beneath him.) I’ve got some art up, I mean, I don’t know.

Me: So you’re a person?

Bloggy: Haha more or less! I realized I’ve not known these guys very long, I’m kind of a newcomer, so maybe it's hazing or something? I don’t know, it’s all quite light hearted and funny. I think it’s just the oxymoron of how not-bougie I am. 

Me: When did you start working for Motus?

Bloggy: It was the very start of September, 2021. So it’s only been a few months really.

Me: Can you share a few words about your experience with Motus before working for them?

Bloggy: Well I’ve been training parkour for about 10 years now, I was one of the original members of Scruffy Boys. Me and everyone I trained with were already aware of Giles and what he’s done. Like, you know Tim Champion and Ed Scott? I’m from the same place as those guys, we grew up and trained together. And as Giles was sort of changing from his filmmaking to The Motus Projects, everyone was getting behind that, and I was sort of an early adopter of Motus gear. I liked the fact that he was doing more engineered garments, and more things to push parkour as a sport through the clothing. It’s such a big thing. But, I met Kelan once, and Max once, years before any of this. I’ve been to 4 The Love of Movement a few times and almost spoke to Giles about this. I've drafted emails before like, “Hey man, I do this stuff, and I would love to help you guys out in some way.” I could never quite get myself to do it. Then, I graduated university and I posted a few things on my Instagram about clothing that I developed for parkour. My entire collection is about parkour and travel. Because of Covid and the frustration of being stuck, I wanted to put that into this whole collection. And he (Giles) saw that on Instagram and messaged me, and I was like, “I’m looking for a job right now, I’m down to basically commit everything to this.” We had a meeting, and it was just this weird time. It’s a weird story. Basically, I had my own house, I was working, going to university, I had a girlfriend, and everything was good and then it all shattered. I finished university, moved in with some friends, and then I decided, “Fuck it, I need to do something to separate university life and adult life.” So I thought, “What’s a good mental trip?” and somehow cycling came about. I don’t actually like cycling. But my friend and I decided to cycle all the way from Land’s End to John O'Groats, and we did a total of like 1400 miles. I talked to Giles beforehand, and told him I’d be willing to cancel the trip and start work, and he told me to go on my trip. On my way back, I didn’t even stop at home to get all my shit, I just went all the way to the old workshop and I’ve been here ever since. 

Me: What was your first project for Motus?

Bloggy: The first thing I did when I started was paperwork for the factory, and that was just sorting out sizes and things for the new trousers that are coming out. Just to make sure that the sizes are all very uniform and do any necessary alterations, because communication with a factory is always quite difficult. Then the Winter Reps collection was the first real project I had to do, which is funny, because I’m not really a graphics person. I had to try and make all the graphics, thread the neck toggles on all of the hoodies by hand, hand sewed all of the tabs and printed all the labels in house. But it was really good and I felt like we had a good pace, fast turnaround, and now we’re taking the beginning steps with some more engineered garments and more in-house stuff. We’re going to try and be really transparent with people about what we’re doing in weekly updates on the workshop. We want people to know why things are happening and how things are happening. A lot of people seem to be under the assumption that when an item of clothing comes out from a brand, not just parkour, a brand, that the clothing has been developed and designed. A lot of times, a brand sees a hoodie somewhere and says, “I like that.” and they slap a print on it, which is normal practice in the fashion industry. But we want to go into more depth than that and make it more high end. Think of Patagonia, they don’t buy wholesale puffer jackets and brand them. They design it, test it, market it, and build it from nothing, which is what we want to start to do at Motus.

Me: You mentioned more transparency coming from the Workshop, is this primarily Patreon accessible?

Bloggy: So the Patreon is being changed to only 1 British pound, which makes it really accessible. But I think that predominantly means early access to polls and things. All of this workshop content I believe will be released via YouTube. No special access necessary. It will literally be like, “What are we doing this week?” and it’s developing this stuff, and testing it. Hopefully it means I can do an entire collection of prototypes, and then we can get some athletes and go, “Right, we need you guys to test this stuff, we booked flights to this place, you’re going to go there and rinse the shit out of it. And if it holds up, then it’s got some weight behind it.” We know our garments work, and that’s why people should trust them. There’s substance to what we’re doing I think.

Me: Why did you choose sportswear design specifically?

Bloggy: If I waffle I’m very sorry hahaha. So I originally went to university to study engineering and the entire time I was training and constantly thinking about doing clothes. Which is weird because I had no knowledge beforehand about how to sew, how to design, anything. I think I used Microsoft Paint once when I was fifteen to make a couple of graphic t-shirts for a local parkour team I was on. At one point, I had an opportunity to switch degrees, and I chose to do sportswear design, and that led down this whole path of developing clothes. I realized at a very early point that I love parkour, and I knew that I didn’t have any shot at being a professional athlete. Nor would I actually want that, because a career of relying on your body's a scary thing that you really need to work on. I just didn’t think I had that kind of potential. So I asked myself what I could do to stay part of parkour even as I get older, that sort of thing. I came to the conclusion that I’m not very good at making videos, I can shoot okay, photos are okay, but that’s kind of saturated already. People make graphics and things for clothes, but no one is actually designing the clothes. No one is engineering those garments to a level that’s making people say, “I’m gonna buy that!” over an Adidas or a Nike garment. 

Me: So you saw a place for what you do in the community, and then filled the role.

Bloggy: Yeah I suppose so. And getting noticed was crazy. I posted some designs on my Instagram and took a shower, and when I got out Giles had liked my stuff, followed me and messaged me. I was like, “Is this actually happening right now?” I had just finished my degree, and had no idea what I was doing with my life, if I wanted to go work for some boring brand with exploitative labor and copied designs. That kind of extends to what I was saying about transparency, most designs are copied, I mean, all artists reference other artists, it's very normal, but it depends to what degree. I was even accused of copying a Team Reality graphic that I didn’t know existed.

Me: Yeah that has to be a struggle right? Because it seems like no art is really original anymore. You can have what, to you, is an entirely original idea, and still be considered derivative of someone else.

Bloggy: Yeah, there are a few struggles in fashion design, cultural appropriation is a big one too. There are a lot of brands using Japanese Kanji calligraphy, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been called out actually. What I’m designing now, it makes reference to historical clothing, and how it was designed for a purpose, using the available textiles of the time. We can take those same principles and apply them to new and more technical clothing. 

Me: That’s a really cool design philosophy.

Bloggy: It’s all about circularity as well. If I can minimize waste, and if I can minimize the time it takes to make a garment, then if I can minimize the impact that fabric manufacturing has on the environment, then the pillars of that garment being a justifiable addition to the textile and clothing market are better, you know? If I can say “This deserves to have a place in this space,” then that’s much better than saying, “Here’s another t-shirt.” Because the whole t-shirt brand thing is overly saturated. 

Me: Yeah, because anyone can slap a logo on a shirt and give it out to all their buddies right?

Bloggy: Exactly, it’s like a side-hustle thing.

Me: That’s one thing I’ve always respected about Motus is their push toward sustainability.

Bloggy: For sure. That was the whole thing when I was at university. My professors all worked in the fashion industry and would just tell us horror stories of wasteful behavior of brands and their employees. Burberry for example, they had a year where they weren’t selling their stock, and they didn’t donate it, or anything like that. They burned, like literally set fire to over £10,000,000 of stock because they didn’t want their prices to drop. That happened, it’s quotable, and it’s fucked. My professors would always say that we had to be the black sheep and advocate for sustainability.

Me: That’s deplorable, I’m glad to know that Motus doesn’t partake in any of those shady practices.

Bloggy: Not at all. We have a thing called the “Fuck-it-bucket,” which is any kind of messed up clothes which we can’t technically sell but are fine to wear. Like if we sewed the wrong size neck labels on them or something, there isn’t anything wrong with them, but we technically can’t sell them, so they go into the bucket, and we give them out because they look just fine, and it allows us to clothe athletes and stuff. We’ve also started another account for selling one-offs and sample sales, and stuff from old collections, and that will have international shipping as well. We can’t really give it all away here, but something will be announced soon.

Me: Was parkour fashion always in the cards, or did you aspire to design clothing for anything else in particular?

Bloggy: It wasn’t always in the cards, actually. I quite enjoy climbing and generally being outdoors, and I took a lot of references for my collection from alpine climbing. Very lightweight, multifunctional stuff, and I’ve designed a lot around mountain running and stuff like that. When it comes to parkour clothing, I was the guy wearing 3XL baggy Etre Forts and I look back on it and cringe a little bit. 

Me: Hahaha that’s okay, it’s a good thing.

Bloggy: Yeah, hahaha it's like a right of passage or something.

Me: So what compels you to work for a parkour brand when you could make more money elsewhere?

Bloggy: I’ve thought about that a lot actually, because I’m living it right now. I think the size of Motus is perfect, because they’re right on the tipping point where I have a lot of creative freedom and I know the owner. I know for a fact that if I went to work for a larger company, I wouldn’t ever meet the owner, I’d just be another number. The ability that I have to sway the direction of the company is much more significant here and I’ve got the freedom here to do more. I’ve sort of unofficially told Giles that he has me for three years. This is a deadline that I’m working for, three years to make as much of a positive impact as possible. And if it goes well, and everything works out, then I will stay and keep helping Motus on its journey. If it doesn’t I’ll move on to something else. I would love to see the community get to a stage where we can do great things, but someone has to put themselves in the position to do the groundwork. Take skating for example. They took it on themselves to lay the foundation for what skate culture and skate fashion means, whereas this doesn’t really exist yet in parkour. We still take reference from other sports. There’s no real sense of “What I’m looking at means parkour.” in terms of fashion and clothing design.

Me: You’re right, it still feels very skate adjacent.

Bloggy: Exactly, it's still quite transient and we have the opportunity to shape that a bit more. We’re trying to do something funky without being pretentious about it. That’s also quite terrifying, because it also means that if I do something really bad, like absolutely tank something, then I’m completely responsible. So there’s that weight and that balance. 

Me: What does an average day at work look like for you?

Bloggy: I wake up, roll out of bed, etc. I’m usually the first one at the workshop, and I have until everyone else arrives to be ready and working. And then I’ll check the computer, check orders, print out shipping labels, and fill the orders. There’s not really an average day, but that’s the most stable part of my day. When everything is really built, then it’ll basically be orders, pattern cutting, prototyping, sewing, testing, then once we have a complete prototype, it’ll go on the rail with the other patterns and samples. 

Me: Can you take me through the lifecycle of a Motus garment from design to end user?

Bloggy: Yeah of course. I’m going to use the Winter Reps Collection as an example because that’s the most in-depth start to finish collection I've been a part of so far. So we started by looking at a few blank clothing options we wanted; since the collection was about stoicism and getting the cold, hard repetitions for winter, we wanted things to meet that idea specifically. The shirt we looked at was a heavy cut, nice draped t-shirt. We tested a few different versions with some criteria: do they feel nice to wear, do they look good, when you wash them do they shrink, and do they seem durable. Once they met those we started doing test prints, which is just testing the print types we do here in house, and testing how well the print held up on the garment, if it holds up to washing, etc. Alongside that we’ll be deciding on graphics and all of the other supplementary elements. Once that’s worked out, we’ll do a poll on Patreon about sizes, pricing, etc. When that’s out of the way, we’ll do a photo shoot, marketing, and make people aware of what the collection is about. Because these aren’t just clothing releases, there’s always a larger story behind it. It was unfortunate with Winter Reps because we were all moving at the time of release, so we couldn’t do a video to feature the significance of the collection. After the advertising comes out, we’d do an early access for the Patreon members, and then full release. And we typically produce the garments to order, so there’s no waste or excess stock. That’s pretty typical for now. It might change dramatically in the future.

Me: In what ways would it change?

Bloggy: Well right now we’re using blank shirts. But the goal is to make them from scratch. So all of our shirts will be produced in house and will be our custom fit, cut, and style. More engineered garments will be made from scratch, and the marketing of the garment will weave in more of the testing and design of the product. Again being transparent about the steps that went into making these garments.

Me: Why is what you do important to a company like Motus?

Bloggy: Well, originally if Giles wanted to release a pair of trousers, it would probably take over a year from start to finish. Because he might say to a factory, “I want some trousers like this.” and then it takes 3-4 samples, which take an average of two months between each sample process, and if there’s an error in communication it can take even longer. So I’m here to shorten that time. Primarily, I’m here so that we can put money in better places and shorten the times of our processes without compromising our principles and ultimately release a better product. Giles is a multi-talented guy, literally handling the whole Motus ecosystem, but he hasn’t studied fashion, he hasn’t studied how to make patterns, textiles, sewing, which is what I did. If Giles came to me and said, “Let’s make a bag.” We could take his ideas, my sketches and make something into reality here, rather than taking several months, hundreds of pounds and dealing with the factory. So we can stay more current and relevant with our clothing collections without breaking the bank.

Me: Can you show off anything you’re working on for Motus? (This is the moment when I realized I know absolutely nothing about clothing design. As he responded in the affirmative, he held up what he referred to as patterns. To me it was a series of cut-out shapes of parchment all clipped together in a seemingly haphazard manner. I am entirely ignorant and do not pretend to be otherwise.)  

Bloggy:  So this is a t-shirt I’m currently working on. The idea is to move friction zones on the body, so that when you do anything that involves putting your arms over your head, in active form, the t-shirt will fit you more nicely. Most t-shirts are designed with a “neutral” arm position being down at your side, but for parkour, “neutral” is arguably when your arms are extended in active form. So how can we make a t-shirt fall naturally when you’re active rather than stationary, and how can we eliminate things like your shirt riding up when your arms are extended? These are the questions we’re trying to answer. (Bloggy holds up a couple of jackets.) These pieces I’m showing you are lightweight, packable, and use a variety of materials, recycled materials, and fluorocarbon-free treatment, so a frog could lick it and it would be fine, essentially. 

Me: So final question, do you have any choice words for someone trying to enter the parkour industry as a clothing designer?

Bloggy: You will never feel like you are good enough, but  as long as you have confidence and you’re very willing to learn and put yourself out there, like really put yourself out there, it will pay off. You’ve got to be ready to sacrifice and focus intently. If you want to do something, just start it. I was bad, I mean bad at sewing, I never thought I would sew anything ever, and I just kept doing it. Just keep going and going, and don’t be a dickhead.

 

I couldn’t have said it better. It’s always a privilege to meet good people in parkour, especially those who are adding value to the community through their personal passion, work ethic, and a goal of improving the culture around this sport. Support Bloggy by purchasing the fruits of his labor and following his process on Instagram @davidbloggy and @bloggydesign, and support me by using my discount code. Also, message Giles and convince him to make “Bloggy says Don’t be a Dickhead” stickers.

 

All photos herein courtesy of David Blogg