Meet Kem Mehmet and Amy Freeman: stars of ‘United by Dickies’
UNITED BY DICKIES| 25.09.2020
It’s an exciting time for us over at Dickies. We’ve just launched our first-ever global multimedia marketing campaign, ‘United by Dickies’. The campaign champions the dignity of work with our talented global community of makers, uniting them through one common language: Inspiration. If you’ve not checked it out already, you can here.
We rallied together a diverse group of movers and makers to feature in our campaign, from traditional artisans to culture catalysers, all who make a great fit with Dickies workwear. Today, our European stars are barber, Kem Mehmet, and artist, Amy Isles Freeman.
Based in London, Kem’s vision and ambition has led him to become much more than a bog-standard barber. In addition to his successful barbershop - Cuts and Bruises - he runs Basement.57, a private venue located beneath his barbershop where he hosts events for his other great passion, music.
Like Kem, Amy wasn’t happy just staying in her lane. As well as being a talented artist living in Brighton, she has her own radio show called Lady Love that champions female and non-binary voices.
Check out their campaign video below:
We caught up with the inspirational duo to talk to them about the campaign, their craft and what inspires them. Read on, they’re great; you’re going to love them!
First of all, we want to say a massive well done to you for your work on our United by Dickies campaign, you’re the physical embodiment of the campaign and you’ve done an awesome job. Can you bring everyone up to speed with who you are, where you’re based and what you do?
Kem Mehmet: Thank you! My name’s Kem aka Klipperkem on all socials, and I’m based out of London, UK. I’ve been a barber for the last 17 years and the owner of Cuts & Bruises Barbershop and Basement.57 music venue and event space.
Amy Isles Freeman: Hello! My name is Amy Isles Freeman, and I am an artist living in Brighton. I make illustrative pieces across many mediums, including clothing, print and murals, centring around themes of female sexuality and natural forms.
The United by Dickies campaign tells the stories of real people, having real moments that inspire others globally with their creativity and work ethic. What inspired you to take up your craft?
KM: I’m second generation hair, my mum was a hairdresser for nearly 40 years and was one of the happiest working adults I witnessed growing up. I picked up the tools (my Mum’s) of the trade at 15, after being told not to and haven’t put them down since.
AIS: When my sister and I were little, Mum was always drawing. On holiday, that would be our play. She would set us briefs to design a range of materials to be used for fashion and home furnishings, she would help us set up still lifes in the middle of our cafe table, and we would sit for her for what felt like hours as she made drawings of our grumpy faces. Mum's focus was commercial - she studied graphic design at Glasgow and since then had a vibrant and successful career as an illustrator, and so it was drummed into me from the word 'Go' that I should make work that sold.
My work explores female sexuality, joy and freedom, and this theme began in art school, when I dove into the world of feminist art. I loved the raw emotion, but whilst the anger in the work resonated with me, it didn't come authentically in my own expressions. Then, in 2013, I visited an exhibition of Dorothy Iannone's work, and that changed everything for me. Colourful, cheeky and hilarious, I walked around the empty show with my laughter bouncing off the walls. She used the best communication tool to carry her message - humour. From then on, I felt the freedom to make work that would illicit at least a smile, if not a chuckle. Seeing the work of a woman exploring sexuality without shame lit a fire inside of me.
From this point on my work has revolved around the female figure. In an art world where the nude is submissive, I wanted to create work that showed the active and joyful nakedness of women, often in the pursuit of other women. My art runs through my identity alongside and entwined with my sexuality, and whilst at art school in Cornwall, I relished in the opportunity to express my queer desires and dreams in a place where opportunity was thin in reality. Drawing and painting my ladies helped me find my place in the LGBTQ+ community.
A huge focus of the campaign is the exploration of the inspiration that unites us. Can you give any examples of how this has manifested itself for you? And How do you stay inspired? Any tips or tricks?
KM: I’m Inspired by almost everything around me. In the early years of my life/career I was more focused on the trade itself, putting myself behind the best in the business and paying attention to every detail, trying to figure out why they were different from the others, once I figured out this part I moved on to travelling with the trade ending up in Hong Kong, Singapore and Moscow – a chance to see how others portrayed their businesses and sharing my knowledge with them on it. That all lead to me owning my shop – a space where I could take years’ worth of influence and also project a big part of who I am into a physical space.
Tips: Make sure you love what you do, and don’t let others bring you down. Keep it moving.
AIS: I always look at the work of other artists to stay inspired. Nothing is better than sitting with a sketchpad in a gallery, staring at the lines made by another person’s hand and recreating it with my own. I have art books that I inherited from my mum, and many that I have collected in second-hand shops, and if I am ever stuck I sit with one for company and pick out colour palettes they have used, new ways of drawing I hadn’t thought of, shapes that I hadn’t seen myself before.
Do you look to any other makers for inspiration?
KM: My biggest inspirations are those around me that have/are enjoying and excelling at what they do, be it friends or family. A few businesses/projects that have been a big inspiration to me are:
@nomadbarber – Showed me how barbering differs all around the world.
@schorembarbier – Showed me how being unapologetic about the way you do things will get you far.
@rocketbarbershop – After moving back from a very corporate way of working in Hong Kong, welcomed me back to a London which I very much missed.
@houndsofthebaskervilles – These two shops are very different from each other but reminded me of what working in a barbershop is really about – having a laugh and being yourself with both colleagues and clients. Real cool family vibes.
AIS: Always. I love the work of @camperkillustration, @clairepony, @petraborner, @ashlukadraws, @sophiegloverdrawing and sooooo many more.
It’s said that having passion in your work is a path to success, would you agree with this and for anyone who might want to get into your line of work, do you have any advice that might steer them on the right path?
KM: 100% agree. Passion allows you to wake up in the morning with a fire in your belly that can’t be extinguished. It will take you further than you could have predicted for yourself and opens doors that are easy to walk through. Never chase a paycheck and always follow your gut. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they’re the best lessons you’ll ever learn from.
AIS: Passion is one ingredient, for sure, but it’s not everything. I am incredibly privileged to have got to the position of being a full-time artist. For many years I had friends and family who I could call when cash flow was an issue (often), and doors are open to me because I am white and middle class.
There were many points where the easiest and most sensible option would be to give up and get a job with a salary and paid holiday, and I am so pleased that I didn’t do that. Being my own boss, creating opportunities and being in control of my time is a way of life that I can’t imagine giving up now. It’s not easy, but the highs are so very high.
In the United by Dickies campaign, we showed that inspiration is all around us and that makers do more than just perfect their craft. What are some of your wider interests and what kind of influence do they have on the work you do, or who you are more broadly?
KM: Music, art and food are my other passions. I recently turned my tattoo studio into a live music venue and gallery space, which is located in the basement of Cuts & Bruises Barbershop.
I’ve always had a very eclectic playlist and have a lot of friends in the music industry. I love hosting so I decided to utilize my basement space (now Basement.57) into a place where I could bring it all together. I’ve been getting tattooed for 14 years now and I’m an avid collector. I love eating and cooking new foods and have always rated the likes of Gordon Ramsay – I also consider myself a good critique of flavors and service.
AIS: I have a radio show on the local community station Radio Reverb called Lady Love, which is a celebration of female and non-binary voices. I love finding new music and meeting vibrant people, exploring themes that are close to my heart and interesting to discuss. I get such a buzz from people, and because my work is often solitary, having the show gets me out into the world and interacting.
Every summer I go and march around fields for a couple of months, creating and selling at the festival season. Working in teams, meeting new people, dancing and discovering - this time is my favourite time of year. So much new stimulus to fill my eyes and ears, and so many new minds to talk about it all with.
How has it been to work on the United by Dickies campaign? Is there anything you will take away from the experience?
KM: I’ve really enjoyed working with the Dickies team on this project. Having already been a fan of the brand since I was a kid, it’s really flattering to be noticed and rated by them. With social media platforms being what they are these days, I’m very conscious of “selling-out”, so it’s great to work with a brand where there’s a mutual respect. I would definitely work on projects like this again.
AIS: I have loved being a part of the campaign. Sometimes when you haven’t seen you and your work through the eyes of someone else for a while, you lose perspective. It’s been good to understand myself through another prism, to feel encouraged by recognition.
Through your creative pursuits and work you’re obviously a perfect fit for the brand but what draws you personally to Dickies?
KM: I’ve always rated the way Dickies have branded themselves and the people they’ve chosen to associate themselves with in order to do this. Having skated since I was young and then going into a trade where the workwear still had a place, Dickies have been a brand I literally grew up with.
AIS: Workwear has always been exciting to me - the clothing you can wear when you get good enough to do something properly. A legitimising of your skill when you have got the outfit to prove it.