was on the train home to San Diego when we chatted last week. What better time to interview him—when he couldn't escape and when the scenery matched his California-Mexican spring collection? Last season was Shaun's first at OC, and his streetwear shapes and mind-blowing technique for blending fabrics—needle punch felting (read all about it here
)—have made him an instant favorite
This collection makes use of Mexican blankets. Woven south-of-the-border-style with neon stripes, the textiles melt seamlessly into the denim jackets, oversized button-downs, and tees of San Diego surfers and grungers. Now based in East London, Shaun tells us about growing up in Southern California and where to find the best carne asada
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Alice Newell-Hanson: How come you're heading home? And what are you most looking forward to doing when you're there?
Shaun Samson: I'm on my way from Los Angeles to San Diego to attend my sister's graduation. She's graduating with her MBA and I'm super proud of her! Every time I go to San Diego, I have to go get Mexican food. I don't even go home first. I also make an effort to go to the beach at least once every visit back home.
ANH: What's your favorite plate of Mexican?
SS: Mexican food in Southern California has a very distinct and localized flavor. It's definitely an evolution of Mexican street food with an American palate. I have to say that whenever I want to indulge myself I order carne asada
fries. It's grilled marinated skirt steak with guacamole, cheese, and salsa fresca served over french fries.
ANH: That sounds amazing. How do you find the best places?
SS: The best time to get Mexican food is after a night of partying. I honestly can't even remember half of the places I've gone to where I've sworn that I was eating the best carne asada
burrito ever created on Earth, but I know it was always with good people and with good friends.
ANH: What were the most obvious ways that Mexican culture expressed itself growing up in Southern California?
SS: I think a lot of people misinterpret any Latin culture in Southern California as Mexican because Mexico is so close. There are a lot of other Latin cultures in Southern California, from the Spanish who settled there in the 1700s to people from Central America who migrated north, bringing with them cuisine, religion, and costume. I think this ethnic diversity along with the street, surf, skate, and gang culture—and the great weather—made it a really enriching place to grow up.
ANH: What do kids in San Diego wear that really inspires you? Or is it more about the way they wear it?
SS: I think all the kids I grew up around, whether they were Mexican, Vietnamese, Filipino, black, or white, all learned about fashion and clothes in a similar way to me. It was more about belonging to a certain kind of crowd and feeling cool. We didn't have to flaunt high-fashion brand names to have swag. We could do it in a white T-shirt and Dickies overalls with one strap hanging down. It was a different approach back then. That's how I still approach fashion today with the collections that I make.
ANH: With this collection, what specifically did you want to get across about that culture?
SS: I wanted to communicate a California attitude. My Spring/Summer 2012 collection references many things from grunge to the beach, surfing, urban street culture, and Mexico, amongst other things. The shape of the garments is really minimal which allowed the blankets to make a loud statement with their colors. I wanted the confidence of their colors to shine.
ANH: As an American living in England, do you think your collections have been received differently on either side of the Atlantic?
SS: I think my collections are received differently by each person, not just by continent.
ANH: What do you miss most about America when you're in England?
SS: The American Dream.
ANH: And vice versa?
SS: How accessible the world is.
ANH: Finally, we love your STUDIO MIXTAPE! What's going to be on the tracklist for FW12?
SS: Thanks! My flatmate Simon put it together. We made the mixtape for fun, for ourselves, not knowing what we'd do with it. However, we do play it a lot in the studio. The next one will have a similar vibe, but I won't say what's on it until it's finished!
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