In Conversation With Benny Komala
Set to arrive on September 28th, the Nike SB x Ben-G Dunk Low presents a design that has been in the pipeline for head of Ben-G, Benny Komala, for over ten years. Showing the progressiveness of Nike SB and Komala’s creative spirit, in the lead up to the latest collaborative release we hit up Benny to discuss the latest AW19 Ben-G apparel collection, Amsterdam’s skate community and what the future has in store.
Flatspot: Hey Benny nice to catch up! It’s been a busy couple of months for you with the latest Nike SB Dunk collab and Ben-G AW19 collection being released, congratulations! We're super stoked on both projects! How did the custom Nike SB Dunk design come to light? What influenced the embossed uppers paired with green and white tones?
Benny: The idea for the shoe goes back to 2005/2006 when all over t-shirts and hoodies were the latest shit and I've always wondered why nobody ever did an all over swoosh shoe. I'd pitched it in the past for a previous Nike SB project but back then messing with the Swoosh was a no go… since then a lot of things have changed at Nike I guess, especially the last few years swoosh-wise. When I visited Portland on a Club 58 trip two years ago I had the chance to hang out with some people at Nike SB, which is when I showed those guys a mock up of what this shoe could look like and they were down to do it.
“There's not really a creative process to be honest, most ideas come when we're drunk, watching old skate videos, reading magazines, listening to music…
Flatspot: It’s crazy it’s been such a long time in the making. Tell us about your creative process for your own brand designs - who creates the artwork and where does the inspiration come from? Colour plays a big part and there’s been a pretty big dog theme this year which we’re pretty keen on!
Benny: The Ben G dog logo is actually the outline of the real Benji dog from the Disney movie so it's always been a theme within our graphics. Piet Parra made all of our logo's so it's really easy to flip those with a different colour or print and put them on the clothing… those are the safe ones!
As far as the other graphics that are not our logos… we just do what every skate brand does - steal it and flip it to make into your own. There's not really a creative process to be honest, most ideas come when we're drunk, watching old skate videos, reading magazines, listening to music etc.
I grew up skating in the late 80's beginning 90's so a lot of the stuff we make comes from that era I guess. I can't work Illustrator or Photoshop so it’s always been me saving images and ideas, then giving them to people who can. Luckily for me I’ve had this awesome guy named Bram working for me for the last few years who flips most of the graphics for us and does all the hard work.
"I just see it as making stuff for the store that I like, stupid ideas we have and seeing it become real is really fun."
Flatspot: That’s cool, it sounds like quite an organic easy going process, and you’ve had a store in the city for almost fifteen years now! For those who don’t know can you give us an intro into how you ended up launching your own brand and clothing label?
Benny: Yeah it’s been open since 2005 so I'm going into 15 years in 2020… It’s gone really fast to be honest and I never consider Ben-G as a brand… but maybe I should huh? I just see it as making stuff for the store that I like, stupid ideas we have and seeing it become real is really fun, even if it doesn't sell sometimes ;)
Flatspot: And what to you are the most important elements of running both your own brand and retail space? How have these differed since you first launched?
Benny: Well like I said before… I don't see us like that so it's just a part of the job that comes with running a retail space I guess. It is important for us to at least try to be a bit different than other skate shops (here in Amsterdam) in the sense of our selection of what we buy from the brands that we carry.
That also comes with our view on what skateboarding is to us, especially seeing what skateboarding has become over the years. My personal view on it is that 60% is a bunch of bullshit, but on the other hand it's also skateboarding. It's a double edged sword when you have a shop these days, but we try to stay true to what we believe in and which type of brands and style of skateboarding we like and want to support. For example when I see a clip of long boarder bombing a big ass hill in the French Alps it's fucking gnarly, but that doesn't mean I have to sell longboards, especially when the Netherlands is flat as fuck.
"Skateboard school NOORD - shout out to Menno Becht! - is just insane busy [...] It's pretty wild to witness it all, but also cool to see that this shit is possible these days. "
Flatspot: Speaking of which, how is the Amsterdam creative and skate scene feeling at the moment? Does the start of autumn mark the end of the Bring Your Own Skateboard Sessions (B.Y.O.S.S.), or do you have some winter plans up your sleeves?
Benny: Yeah the BYOSS is coming to an end now the weather’s getting shitty… but we are partnered with the indoor skatepark NOORD in Amsterdam so we'll just continue some events over there.
NOORD opened two years ago after not having an indoor park for over five or six years I think. It's a different challenge trying to run a skatepark, especially with rent being crazy high here in Amsterdam, but it's well worth it when you see all the new kids getting into skating. Skateboard school NOORD - shout out to Menno Becht! - is just insane busy from 10 year old boys and girls to older people who are taking lessons cause their kids skate. It's pretty wild to witness it all, but also cool to see that this shit is possible these days.
Flatspot: For sure, it seems more is possible nowadays and there are a lot of possibilities to make a difference, which ties in with Amsterdam’s creative scene and highlights some super strong like minded skate brands such as by Parra and Pop Trading Company. What’s your opinion on the future of the industry regarding the abundance of independent companies?
Benny: Pffff that’s a tough one… shit is just weird these days innit? There's so much stuff out there and everyone is doing or trying to do their own shit and that's great in my opinion. As a shop it's just hard to filter sometimes but as a consumer it must be great, right? I guess the ones that have decent taste, are serious about it and have their shit together will be there in the long run. Hopefully we will be up there together with Pop & Parra in the future! Big fan of both and really good people & buds so....
"We have some projects coming up next year but can't really say anything about it yet...!"
Flatspot: Yeah absolutely, it’s gonna be interesting to see which ones are still around in 5 years time. Do you have any big projects or goals on the horizon you've got your sights on?
Benny: Just gonna try to make more stuff with the whole Ben-G team, we're slowly expanding our line every season and hopefully people will like it and support it!
We have some projects coming up next year but can't really say anything about it yet...!
Flatspot: Sounds great and way to keep us hyped for more projects, we’ll be keeping an eye out for sure. Thanks for your time Benny, and best of luck for the rest of 2019!
Featuring a host of new season graphics, the latest Ben-G AW19 collection is available on Flatspot now. Constructed with embossed Swoosh tick white leather uppers, an off-white rubber outsole and cushioned mesh tongue, the Nike SB x Ben-G Dunk Low and accompanying apparel released on Saturday, September 28th.
Shop all Ben-G at Flatspot.