Hint seeks out rising stars of design
November '06

In a clash of mind-bending, cornea-melting themes, the London unisex label Cassette Playa is putting the collide in kaleidoscopic. Consider the evidence: neon-bright pajama tracksuits, sensory-overloading prints, glow-stick detailing, trippy cartoon characters, Op Art-style graphics and a MySpace page that blinks and squeaks like a spastic Japanese video game. Consider, too, the Neu Rave scene to which the 26-year-old designer Carri Munden belongs—or Carrie Mundane, as she's ironically known, because she's so not. Together with her friend Gareth Pugh, she's emerged as the designer of choice for the city's newest crop of club stars, among them M.I.A., the British-Sri Lankan female rapper once denied entry into the United States for her outspoken political views. Mundane also contributes her hallucinatory vision to i-D, Dazed & Confused and Super Super. For this interview, she wore snake-print leggings, high-tops and her signature owl specs. Yet, contrary to her spacey image, she seemed completely in control of the chaos she's created. Over apple juice, she chatted with ERICA CROMPTON about everything from her self-styled "aceeeed sartorialism" to just saying no.

How did Cassette Playa come into play?

While I was in my final year at the University of Westminster, I did a fashion show at [West End club] Kashpoint. Gareth Pugh showed, too. Nicola Formichetti [senior fashion editor of Another Man and Dazed & Confused, and the force behind the store Pineal Eye] came and bought my collection for his new store in Tokyo, Side by Side. I've been selling there and at the Pineal Eye ever since, for four seasons now.

I'm guessing you're a hit with the Japanese.

Yes, it's really exciting. I get a lot of press out there even though I'm only selling in one store. I really, really love Japan. I was there once a few years ago and it was like being inside a computer game.

Has your popularity there helped inspire your collections, what with a life-sized version of [Sega mascot] Sonic the Hedgehog appearing in your spring '07 collection?

Yeah, a little. Computer games are good fun and I'm into virtual reality, too, which seems a bit Japanese. I got to work with another hero of mine in that show, [grime artist] JME. I was so high that I didn’t come down for days.

Apart from the Japanese, who wears Cassette Playa?

All sorts of playas and geeks. It's a real mix of rude boys and indie kids wearing Cassette Playa. I see it as a unisex label. I showed at [Fashion East] MAN, but women can wear it, too.

What’s been the highest point of your short career so far?

That MAN show in February, which was my first real catwalk show. Everyone started cheering and clapping as soon as the giant snot-green pyramid appeared. Also, working with M.I.A. has been a high point. I did two videos with her, Galang and Bird Flu, and I've been making stuff for her, too, since day one. I also work with a band called the Klaxons, who might wear something of mine in the NME.

And the lowest point?

I've had only one day off all year.

What don't you like about the fashion industry as it is?

Ninety-five percent of it just ain’t the future.

What’s your history in clubland?

I went to a lot of raves as a teenager because I grew up in the countryside south of London. There’s a big rave scene there. I love the music!

Music obviously plays a big part in your collections.

It does. For my recent collection, I worked closely with London DJ and producer Silverlink. He made a schizo soundtrack of fucked-up Sega melodies, grime, happy hardcore and UK garage beats.

Do you sometimes feel dizzy or schizo from looking at your own designs?

No, that’s what the inside of my head looks like. But Tom, my assistant, might feel like that way. He says coming to work is like tripping, and when he walks out the door to reality it’s like–boom!–comedown.

I heard that the colors for your latest collection were inspired by packets of Wotsits.

Yes, I'm attracted to the colors. I love the impact of an overload of color. I love junk food and all those contrasting colors, bold graphics and plastic packaging. That and Sonic, all bright green and blue, inspired the colors of the collection. It's quite funny when I was making it. I had everyone in my studio eating junk food. Loads of cheesy Wotsits were being consumed, but we had a good excuse.

When you were a kid, did you make key rings out of the packets by putting them in the oven so they'd shrivel and get hard?

I remember that. But you could only put certain crisp packets in the oven. Some wouldn't melt properly.

You've coined the term aceeeed sartorialism, in reference to the early '90's rave scene. And you're a part of the Neu Rave scene that's been cropping up in London over the last year.

Yeah, I guess. But to me, rather than recreating the '90s, it's about tapping into the energy of the era. It's about fun and play, and being positive. All my friends come to these raves and my boyfriend plays a lot of music for the scene.

How much LSD and ecstasy do you take?

Everyone thinks I'm on drugs, but I swear I'm not. I'm just trippy. I don't need drugs. Cassette Playa is hallucinogenic design. It's about sensory overload and fucking with reality. I reference drug culture, raves and psychedelia, but it's about recreating the experience, not getting high. But I think ecstasy helps you to let go and not care so much what people think. You can do that without ecstasy, too. Either way, I think that letting go should be encouraged.

Cassette Playa is available in London at the Pineal Eye (49 Broadwick Street, +44 0 20 7434 2567) and Dover Street Market (17-18 Dover Street, +44 0 20 7518 0680), in New York at Seven New York (110 Mercer Street, 646-654-0155), in Paris at Kokon To Zai (48 rue Tiquetonne, +33 01 42 36 92 41) and in Tokyo at Side by Side, 1-11-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, +81 3 57751975).