A digital archive to tell the relationship between street style and historical culture: Archivio Slam Jam is a melting pot of cultures that keeps evolving
Archivio Slam Jam project
The term ‘archive’ has its roots in the Greek term archeion, derived from the word arkè, meaning the primal force from which everything is born. Many minds have twisted around the question of the principle of being; one of these is the idea of pluralism according to which the ‘being’ is made up of a multiplicity of elements that found it as substances of itself. The intuition is shared by Slam Jam, which in partnership with Nationhood, has built an archive of the anthropology of underground looks around multiple cultural influences reshuffled over the years. The Archivio Slam Jam project, curated by Achille Filipponi and Matteo Milaneschi, maps an atlas that upsets the conception of a chronological evidence collector that can trace a principle in a single moment: the archive becomes a liquid space where the past is not fossilized. The footsteps of the project define a path not based on a unique backward trajectory, suggesting instead a portrait of the street style culture adhering to the multiform reality that forged it. Slam Jam traces the arkè of the underground fashion in the cultural scene of the ’80s, evolving and still remixing. The archive of the multi brand company, founded by Luca Benini, is a mirror of his personal experiences condensed into three macro waves from the Romagna clubbing scene, passing through the international hip hop scenario of the early ’90s overseas, up to Japan at beginning of the new millennium. In a spatial and temporal sense, the collected material is a portion of history translated through clothes, receipts, records and plane tickets.
Archives as cultural connections
The collection of historical testimonies is recounting the cultural aspects of an era: this is the goal of Nationhood. To link subcultures and merge them is an attitude that has been developed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nationhood’s intuition is to not exclude fashion from history: a brand is not just a manufacturer of clothes, but an artisan of ideologies inserted in a specific cultural sphere. The Archivio Slam Jam identifies connections between elements coming from osmotic ways and it is thanks to this order in chaos that a collective memory as a cultural resource gives voice and image to the sociology of the underground fashion. The cultural range that is explored in the Slam Jam Archive embraces the fields from the musical to the artistic that have intertwined with the fashion scenario thanks to the intuition of certain phenomena before they became mainstream.
Luca Benini – Slam Jam
Luca Benini has built his creative approach behind the consoles of the Romagna festivals. Being a DJ has shaped his way of managing communication and identifying the right creative patchworks: finding original samples, sampling them, breaking them up and stitching them up is a constant attitude inside and outside the musical field. Slam Jam is a hybrid symphony composed of seemingly distant notes. The digital graphic translation of Slam Jam’s mestizo essence takes us to an infinite stripe in which everything is connected, «from a coat that costs 4000 euros up to a receipt for a trip from 1983». Reversing the negative meaning of Baumanian liquidity, the Slam Jam Archive is a fluid and shape-changing organism that rejects hierarchy. In the echo of the Warburg atlas Mnemosyne, all the elements of the Slam Jam puzzle are equally worthy of memory. By accessing Benini’s handouts, one encounters a multitude of ingredients that enjoy equal rights. The recipe involves the casual use of information, upsetting the chronological canons of the before and after. The digital project travels on a perpetual timeline, in the form of an associative atlas between «a four-year-old Undercover raincoat with a photo taken in LA in 1993». The juxtaposition of different styles results in a harmony of language that underlies Benini’s research character, faithful to himself. Slam Jam is a product that has evolved over time without betraying its essence; its culturalism has developed stylistically around collaborations with different partners, its attitude has never made compromises.
Slam Jam archive by Nationhood
Nationhood captures this identity and, thinking in phenomenal terms, highlights how a 2000 Nike shoe has returned from a ’90s culture proposed in Spike Lee’s films, which comes back to the feet of Futura 2000 or Keith Haring’s; or how the hyper-contemporary high-tech world has traces of the rave culture of Eastern Europe and the first New York graffiti of the 1980s. Fashion is a discipline that is constantly in progress. Phenomena influence each other making it impossible to trace an original matrix. In this sea of material, heritage of Slam Jam, Nationhood lets the user immerse himself freely, but under the cover he guides him in a systematic organization in which each product is catalogued, both online and offline. The visit to the Slam Jam Archive consists of several layers: a cover layer, intended for free consultation by a mostly young targets, is designed following a brutalist aesthetic that combines the front style of e-bay with an experience with an analogue flavour. All the items in the collection gravitate in this dimension to the rhythm of music taken from Luca Benini’s collection of albums – more than 10,000 vinyls all coded and catalogued – ranging from black music, hip hop, electronics. Each item leads to a second layer through an archive code that, in turn, reveals numbered cards in close relationship with the tangible object identifiable in the Slam Jam headquarters in Ferrara, whose collections are divided into specific categories, responding to the research of experts or scholars.
How do digital archives work
The distinction between a public part and a private part of the archive is a strategy used so as not to fall into the deception of the e-commerce, but tailor-made for the right digital experience, based on the target groups. If a young user craves knowledge of the past, he can understand it better if the archive speaks his language, and therefore the first layer is interactive: with a click you can download and share on social media. For those interested in minutiae and details, the doors to the second layer are opened. The potential of the digital world is exploited to make the archive in constant progress: every month the collection is updated, the 170 canvases increase, uploading of new material will narrate the continuation of the story without making us perceive the boundaries between what is archived from the past and what goes back to yesterday. The directional experience of the infinite scroll captures the user in a continuous magma. The enhancement of archival materials under the creative direction of Nationhood provides for a queue of side projects until 2023.
Founded by Luca Benini in 1989, Slam Jam was born to serve the underground long before the term streetwear even existed. From its headquarters in Ferrara, Slam Jam was able to hone its own unique style, using art, music and clubbing as its guide to connecting with tribes of like-minded people across the World, and becoming Italy’s first importer of then unknown brands such as Stussy. Beginning with a small warehouse on the rural outskirts of Ferrara, over the last almost thirty years Slam Jam has become a recognized cultural institution and seal of approval applied to clothing and goods that represent urban subcultures. Today it leverages its credibility and experience within the community to promote the style and attitudes of urban subcultures. Beyond its distribution and retail businesses, Slam Jam collaborates with brands as a full-stack go-to-market global partner, providing every level of service from direction of branding and design, to wholesale, retail and engagement with the community.
Nationhood is a multidisciplinary studio founded by Achille Filipponi and Matteo Milaneschi whose goal is to generate new codes and languages in the field of cultural communication. The studio, focused on editorial design, partners international brands and cultural institutions. Its activities span from the creation of magazines and book series, through the creative management of digital projects, to curatorship. Nationhood is also active in the field of university research and teaching.