In Eric Haze, Casio's G-Shock imprint has found its kindred spirit, muse and chief ambassador. The New York-born artist is a pioneer in hip hop and streetwear culture, having made a name for himself in the early days of the graffiti movement and designed iconic album artwork for the likes of the Beastie Boys, EPMD, LL Cool J and more. Over the past 20 years, Haze has shifted to making his mark on the world of apparel, perhaps nowhere more clearly than in his collaborations with G-Shock beginning in the late '90s.
We caught up with Haze last night at the grand opening of G-Shock's first flagship store in America— a two-story gallery space in SoHo, New York's fashion epicenter. Read our interview with Haze below and click through for photos of the ribbon cutting and after party (all photos by Evan Daniels).
Complex: You’ve been working with Casio/G-Shock for years now. You’ve also collaborated with everyone from Nike to Stussy. What was it that made you want to do a watch in the first place?
Eric Haze: You know we’re 15 years and four watches deep now. When I had my own flagship store in Tokyo in the ‘90s that was when we first built the relationship. With my brand we had the obvious stuff in streetwear and clothing and the basics, but anytime somebody presents a new opportunity or a new canvas to do something that I haven’t done before, that’s always exciting to me. When G-Shock first approached me 15 years ago, it was an entirely new playing field.
Complex: How has the collaboration evolved over the years?
Haze: If you look back at the first watch we did, it was really an existing model where we applied the logo and added a couple graphics to it. It felt like a quantum leap at the time, but where we are now is just so much more sophisticated in product and design.
The really nice subtext of this relationship is that we all know and understand how each other works at this point. I really get more creative freedom with G-Shock than with almost any other client or collaborator. And I’m not really the guy to reinvent the wheel to begin with. I wanna put my fingerprints on the wheel. So my job isn’t to reinvent the watch. My job is to take it in a new direction while still being firmly rooted in the history.
Complex: What is it that you think the G-Shock brand is getting right? What sets them a part from the competition?
Haze: The catchphrase that everybody throws around is “lifestyle.” But if you look at the arc of G-Shock’s success, you start with a great watch. First they captured the watch market. What they’ve accomplished in the last five years is sort of transcending that category and becoming a fashion brand, as opposed to just a watch brand… When you wake up in the morning and you’re getting dressed, the question you want to know is “How is this watch gonna enhance my whole steez?” We understand that. And that consciousness of style carries through.
Complex: How do you define the relationship between fashion and art?
Haze: What’s been most interesting to me over the last five to 10 years is the way that the borders have broken down between them. When I first started out 20, 30 years ago, design lived in the design world, art lived in the art world and fashion lived in the fashion world. Now we have a much more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between all of them. People in fashion have an understanding of what is considered street art. People in the art world have an understanding of sneakers and gear and streetwear. So there’s a very fertile playing field in these grey areas and these sweet spots and it has created a much broader cultural landscape.
Complex: What do you like to pair your G-Shock with, apparel wise?
Haze: I’m a simple man. Left to my own devices it’s black, white, grey, silver and a touch of red. White kicks and a black tee.
Complex: What are you working on next?
Haze: There will be a couple of other jump-offs in America and Japan for the 30th anniversary of G-Shock next year. A part from them, look for some kicks, look for a larger collection with HUF, and I’m still doing fine art painting between the cracks here and there.