The designers of street art-inspired clothing and accessories range Start from Zero believe in having nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Late on a chilly winter evening, a 26-year-old street artist named Dom walked past a collection of spray paint cans, gathered a bundle of thin mahjong paper and wandered into the grimy streets of Ngau Tau Kok, an industrial area in eastern Kowloon. On the paper: a silk-screened cat with the word “Abandoned” written above in hand-cut letters.
Dom and his partner Katol, 27, make up Start from Zero, Hong Kong’s best-known and most prolific street art crew. Dom got his start in the early 2000s, shortly after graduating from high school, when he started stencilling and pasting their bold, busy and self-referential work on the city’s walls. Katol joined more recently, adding his graphic design talents to the mix.
These days, many of Hong Kong’s back streets still bear their stamp, but Dom and Katol have expanded their street art empire to more than just pasteups and tags. Late last year, they opened the Rat’s Cave, a new gallery/boutique in the up-and-coming Tai Ping Shan district, where they showcase their new collection of clothing, accessories and street art paraphernalia. “We put the same theory and spirit as our street art into our apparel,” says Katol. Street artists like Shepard Fairey and Futura have made their presence felt in fashion and design, he says. “Why doesn’t Hong Kong have a representative?”
Start from Zero’s products – everything from keychains to flasks and duct tape – bear the stencilled designs of the crew’s street art. It’s a vaguely industrial aesthetic, with references to rebirth and reinvention, but also politics and current events. One of Dom and Katol’s best-known works from last year was a portrait lampooning the Hong Kong government’s secretary, Henry Tang, whom they labelled a “political reform killer” after he refused to support reforms that would increase the number of democratically-elected seats in Hong Kong’s legislature.
Above all, Start from Zero’s work is unapologetically local. The pair say their favourite product is a flask stamped with a crest they made to represent Ngau Tau Kok, a neighbourhood that has not exactly been the subject of any love songs. “We produce things from our heart and what’s in our lives,” says Katol. Plus, he says, “We love to share our alcohol with everyone.” startfromzero.org