Oliver "Power" Grant is the man behind the scenes that has kept Wu-Tang churning for the past 20 years. It's been two decades since the release of Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers and 18 years since the start of Wu-Wear, and now Power has linked up with DC Shoes for a collection that celebrates the influence of the crew from Shaolin.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Power and discuss the collection that drops today, and get into the boots, jacket, and hat that he designed for DC. But the discussion with Power also got into how Wu-Tang has been influential to the world of skateboarding. Not because the crew was trying to make money, but it just made sense. Take a trip through Power's design process and brush up on your Wu history, you're bound to learn something new today.
Interview by Matt Welty (@matthewjwelty)
How did your collection with DC start?
I actually seeked DC out, along with a few other companies and after doing my due diligence and just getting feedback, I figured DC was the best place to be and the most natural place to be.
How did you decide to do a boot and clothing collection?
The boot was actually DC’s idea. There was originally going to be a different boot. Somewhere along the line we switched that up, and were talking about us doing other products. I wanted to do things that were legitimately respective to the skate world and not have people confuse it with being “urban.” Things do crossover now, and I like to come to the people as the people. So for skate, working with DC was a great place to be, and great people to work with.
I know you did the boot, but do you picture yourself doing a straight up sneaker in the future, or do what to keep it a little more rugged?
It’s funny, because going to the meetings with the team at DC they would always say I’m greedy. I want to see the product with the Wu-Tang brand on it. I’ve got a habit of going in places and messing with stuff. I pick it up, I feel it, I see it. I try to feel what it is and understand it. Every product that I would gravitate towards, they would be like, “Yo, you got this down.” They noticed everything I've picked up from visiting them, and have already identified a nice selection of things that are coming out.
Can you give us a hint on that? Or is it super under-wraps?
No I can’t give you a hint on that, because they would try and kill me [laughs].
How did you want to reflect Wu-tang within sneaker culture?
Just by making dope product that fits the market. A lot of people will love the Wu-Tang and DC collection. But when you’ve got people that love the things you do, you've also got people that hate on what you do. In the future, we can push things into their respective lanes, so that it translates to the people. I wouldn’t bring a DC shoe to a guy that’s looking for a Nike because you’ll obviously catch slack. But if you put things in a lane where they belong, it becomes easier for people to understand what’s going on. And the sneaker culture is definitely all about the lanes.
It’s the same process because I implement my style, but it changes all the time and it's improvised.
You had the Nike Dunk that was limited and people still go crazy over it. And from that you went to FILA, and now you’re doing DC. Is there a difference, or is it the same process for you every time?
It’s the same process because I implement my style, but it changes all the time and it's improvised. FILA was actually the first boot I did like that, but I also did a Dekline sneaker. With FILA, it could only go a certain way, because you couldn’t really do too much with the silhouette. I didn’t get into it like I did with DC. But the process is the same. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m working with a small company or a big company because I still take the same steps and go through my creative process. Depending in who you’re working with, you have to adapt your creative process and how you work.
How did this collection reflect the 20th anniversary of 36 Chambers?
If you look at all of the design elements, other than just the basic shoe and how we actually put everything together, these are all of my ideas. DC and the creative team implemented the ideas that I’d given them, and those ideas were based on everything conceptually that I’d been doing and working on for the last year and a half. I foresaw and envisioned how I wanted things to be and how I wanted things to look. I critiqued everything to that uniform. DC added a special touch, but the boot silhouette was there already. Then I designed their boot. It was great to see everything together in one package.
The collection, it’s obviously black and yellow, which relates to Wu-Tang, but how important was it for you to get the details like the Wu-Tang photograph on the pocket of the jacket?
It was very important. The classic photo was taken by Daniel Hastings who is a buddy of ours. That photo has enabled him to do plenty of shows and work for him, because of the impact of what the group and photo represent. To use that picture was a no-brainer. We’ve been in the clothing business since 1995, and I have never marketed any of those images. No one has ever seen a 36 chambers T-shirt with graphic, because it was always so sacred to me. I could have sold 36 chambers T-shirts to make money, but at the end of the day I have a lot more sentimental value about where we came from and what we do.
Is there anything that you would like to do with DC in the future, building off of this?
This is just the place saver for us right here. All stuff that we’re going to do, we're going to use this as a platform to move forward. 36 Chambers has had its 20th anniversary, but it’s also a new beginning, so that’s just the first of many things for the next set of history that we’re embarking on, right here, and right now.
How have things changed from the first days of you guys doing Wu-Wear and now working with DC?
The game has evolved and we have evolved. Things have changed, we’ve all grown up and the things you're responsible for evolve as well, and they demand your time and attention. We have to put the same energy into it, but our legacy has already been made. 36 Chamberswill always be the 36 Chambers and the Wu-Tang will always be the same as it was in the '90s, but life goes on. Things change, people evolve, and life carries you in different directions for different reasons.
This doesn't mean that Method Man is the new Lil Wayne and he’s going to come out of nowhere trying to skateboard.
I know you wanted to do this for a skate audience being that its DC, but when you go into a collaboration like this, do you still view it as, “This is something I really want to wear myself too"?
Oh yeah, every product. I’ve said this in plenty of board meetings at DC. The game doesn’t change, just because I’m doing a collaboration with DC. This doesn't mean that Method Man is the new Lil Wayne and he’s going to come out of nowhere trying to skateboard. This is all about style. I make things so they complement each other.
What was it like when you guys first had the Wu-tang skate brand. What was it like back then when skateboarding and Hip-hop wasn’t what it is now?
Back then it was just organic, you could see the love. It wasn’t done with the intention of a bunch of money changing hands. It was the support and willingness to do it between two entities, and that happened to be skateboarding and Wu-Tang. Whoever signed onto those teams, it didn’t matter where they were coming from. They were skateboarding and listening to Wu-Tang.
Do you have a pair of Wu-Tang Nike dunks just lying around someplace?
I found out that I had left someone caring for a storage unit for me which had a lot of sneakers and things I kept on the side. I went to go retrieve the storage space and they told me I lost all of my stuff because I didn't pay the bill. That was about two years ago, and I know for a fact I had a pair of Dunks in there.