Numéro Berlin presents the first capsule collection from choreographer, brand owner and songwriter SLip.
Spread love and inspire passion is the acronym behind his name S.L.I.P. His artistic vision roots in the idea to not only share his passion but to empower the people he can reach through his art, to motivate and help them on a travel he did a long time ago.
A travel to discover self, initiated by one of his most painful life experiences. In times that are shaped by so much external distraction, it often becomes a huge challenge to stay true to our pure and real version. The more we find inspiration through artists like SLip, whose strongest access of creation is the strongest existing internal source. It makes his art become the most natural extension of his soul and what can be more powerful than a passionate, honest conversation? You don’t have to know much about dance, fashion or music to understand, respond and share it. This is eventually one part that made SLip become one of the leading choreographers and dancers in the dancehall world, touring both throughout the United States and internationally. Beyonce, Chris Brown, Janet Jackson and Travis Scott are only a few names that fill up the list of artists he has collaborated with. But with the pandemic being a huge challenge for all of us, it has also dominantly changed SLip’s life and career. No matter how difficult times might have become, it has also prepared the Jamaican born artist for his next steps to higher levels in his career, using his talent to create a bigger vision that brings to life a whole brand. Only this year, he came out with his first two songs “Darling Angel” and “Life Trip”.
And now, there is “Cactus Klouds”: SLip’s new 8-piece capsule collection – that includes beautifully printed shirt and pants combos to mix and match – symbolizes a re-introduction of his clothing brand The Cabinett. Each piece makes you want to touch and feel it on your body, almost like the idea of wearing a second skin in the most vibrant and sophisticated way possible, wondering if you’re touching silk or polyester, or does it matter at all? Then, he clashes that softness with a cotton cargo patchwork, like as if he wants to create a distractor that makes you want to explore it even more.
When SLip decides to speak and share – not always is he in the mood to do so and he does perfectly right – he takes his time. The words he chooses and the thoughts he starts to unfold can be so intense that they soak you in completely. Sometimes he pauses and that’s when his eyes facing the floor or glancing to the distance move up, looking from one corner to the other, as if they want to access all the images saved in his memory. It is morning time in L.A., late evening in Italy, Rome, where SLip currently partly lives when not traveling through the United States. It wouldn’t be SLip you meet if he is not holding a cigarette or a drink in his hand.
Sina Braetz: Introduce yourself in three words.
SLip: Human. Spirit. Vessel.
How would you describe your spirit?
I would probably say giving but it might not be the right word to justify what it’d be.
A vessel to what?
A vessel to just bring the message to other people of what their purpose should be or what their purpose is.
You moved to the United States when you were 12, how did you experience that change?
Honestly, I was in a torn position because I look at my island with this intense vibration it comes with. America was a big change for me, I had to learn how to adapt. I certainly didn’t want to at first but when I went back to Jamaica, I think I was in a place to really appreciate where I was coming from instead of going back because I thought it’s more familiar than the place I moved to. It was like a rebirth for me, to experience again the things that are naturally me – the way I spoke, the way I walked, the food we ate. It was surreal.
What was the biggest challenge for you living in the States?
Understanding what I wanted to be. Understanding my gift and talent. I saw what my father did and wanted to do what he did. Then I looked at my older brother, he was in the military for a long time and I was thinking to do the same until I found my niche. One time, my brother asked me if I knew what my talent was. “Anything physical”, he said. So I asked him: ‘Are you trying to call me stupid? Like as if I don’t have any brains? But he is like, ‘no, that’s not what I’m saying. You’re very intelligent. But whatever it is that you decide to do physically or with your hands, you’ll be great at it.’ I picked up sports but I fell out of the love because the chemistry of the teams that I was playing with was not necessarily there and I didn’t have the resources to go to a club. Then, when I finally came to America, I saw my sister dancing all the time. I realised my love for music and the fact that I was dancing more on the soccer fields than I was practicing.
Your sister was dancing dancehall?
Yes, my middle sister Nickesha was big in the dancehall scene in South Florida. My older sister Dian was more like the fashion person, she would dress me up like the dancers, a lot of dancers were my height anyways. From around 2004 to 2010 a lot of the DJ’s in Miami or Fort Lauderdale came from Jamaica. The scene was connected because Florida is only an hour and half flight from Jamaica. In the States, especially in South Florida, you have highly diverse cultures, it’s really a melting pot of people. I think you will always find your kind somewhere, a group of them living in one area. That is why you don’t really have to learn how to speak English. If you’re from the island, you will still find one that will remind you of home. And it was my family that introduced me to my little Jamaica in Florida.
Was there a moment you really made a decision for yourself to become a professional dancer, a moment in which you saw your clear path?
That is the defining question of why I’m here now. When I was 16, about to turn 17, I got this random phone call from Jamaica from a friend of the family. I said I’m in class right now, I cannot answer the phone and went to the teacher to ask them to send me to the front desk. When I got there, I realised that my mom and my sisters were already out in the front, ready to get me. My father had passed away. That day, I think I cried once, I got up and I started dancing for at least six months straight. I would miss school, I changed schools, or if I went to school, I would stay in my dance class with my dance teacher, Miss Williams. I just couldn’t be in class anymore and realised that dancing was a way for me to cry. And I knew that my father was the type of man that would rather want me to celebrate his life, then to mourn his death. I said to myself, every time I dance, I’m celebrating his life. And that celebration led to me meeting certain communities. I got to a point where someone offered me to teach. I was 19 years old when I understood if I can find a way for me to turn something that tragic into something so positive, so empowering, then I’m sure everybody else needs a place where they can convert anything that may seem tragic but find the blessings and beauty in it too. The teaching opened doors for me to travel and since I understood the very best of my purpose, I started to make a move on my own, based on my craft that came from a very real place.
How did it then go, becoming a part of the industry? Did you feel you were still able to use your art in the way that you were discovering it?
You know that feeling when people tell you about their biggest dreams – like I want to go to Hollywood and become a star or something like this. Then, when you get there, you understand the things that you witness, that were shown to you, are not what they seem. You get to a point where you have to differentiate what is more valuable – your art, your peace or your success. I would always choose the peace of my art.By doing that, I was fortunate to have success with the people that chose their peace of art too, we became a little family. In a place that is surrounded by starving creatives or just even lost souls, that were once starving creatives, you need to find a haven that will allow you to still love what you do. When the industry becomes the source of energy for someone’s entertainment, it’s when you sometimes almost feel like a prop. Being a dancer in the industry, you don’t necessarily get highlighted as an artist. We are the visual of what people are hearing, we are the physical form of the vibrations that they’re hearing and we’re bringing that to light. It is not easy. Me personally, I know I’ve had to bounce from couch to floor to street. And it is not for the dream that I have but for the fact that I know the purpose I have. You always have to find a moment to ask yourself: Is it worth it? And if it is, why is it worth it? Your dreams can easily become a nightmare.
It maybe isn’t about chasing the dreams we have because as you said, once you taste that dream and get close to it, you also understand that sometimes it’s just an idea that has been created by people. It doesn’t exist in the way you think it exists. So it becomes way more powerful to understand the truth in your art…
Exactly. And I hope for everyone to realise that if that dream they were chasing didn’t turn out the way they hoped it would, it was probably never meant to be. The most important thing to understand is: The only consistent thing on your journey is you.
How do you manage to constantly truly understand who you are?
Well, most people, they don’t really know how to answer that question because we always replace who we are with what we do. Me, I just think about my name, my real name. I don’t think about the meaning of it but just about that it’s my name. And at any point in time, the name stays the same, no matter which person I am at any given moment. And actually, it is actually the time between two and six a.m. when I can just keep looking to the sky and everything is quiet, I feel like I can hear the world because when the world sleeps, all of our intentions and true things that we actually feel become so clear. I feel that everybody is so connected to each other that I just realize that we all want the same thing. But it’s so much louder when we are awake, so much louder when we have to get up to go to work or feed your kids or do whatever we have to do. So if I beat myself up about not knowing where I’m at or where I’m going to go, I just know that at the end of the day, when I do close my eyes, I can wake up the next day, take a breath and say I’m still him. And I’ll be him in the next five seconds or next five years and however that person looks like, they will always have the same name, Alrick White.
What do you see as your biggest talent or strength in life?
My faith. It always goes first and my skills will eventually catch up. Because once I believe in something, or I make a final decision that I believe in something, it will be all the way in the universe and it stays there and that way, it allows for my skills to eventually get stronger. The moment you stop to believe in something, the work ethic drops and then your raw talent has no discipline, it becomes very lonely.
This approach eventually allows you to create art in so many different ways. You started early with songwriting, the recording and producing only came later. Was there a certain moment where you found something through lyrics or music that your dance would not be able to express?
When I was five or six years old, I remember waking up after a dream that felt so real: I literally saw the lyrics of the song “Genie in a bottle”. Hearing the melodies and going through everything that I was feeling, I could only explain it years later. It is when I understood how music controlled my emotions. It doesn’t matter what music is playing, if the frequency is really pertained to provoke and shape emotion in some way, my body kind of follows, that’s before I was moving. I started to understand that my moods could just change as you change a song. So, music, in a sense has always been my puppet master. And my mind was always telling me stories, in a way that I could paint a picture when music came on.
Also, I had this little thing where I would mimic and imitate people. Anyone that I saw that I felt energy from and I admired as a kid, I tried to walk like them and the moment I felt the same feeling, when I saw them walk, I knew I was in their state. So having all of these things controlling my emotions or actions, I had to talk about it because this was all in my head. My imagination was just going crazy, so I started writing them down. I was writing before I was dancing, whether it was a quote, poetry, short stories, anything. It just felt like second nature. These words that I’m using on paper, I learned how to express them through my body when I was dancing. Later on, I learned how to say them when I was teaching. I wasn’t blessed with the most amazing voice, but I just wanted to be able to take these words and this pen and give it to someone else. But it was not like two years ago that I said I was probably going to seriously put my pen towards melodies.
If true emotions dictate the big picture, all the elements such as the music, the dance and the clothes can become one. Let’s look again at the element of fashion – what does fashion mean to you personally?
I can’t define fashion, there is no definition because it makes its own rules. And I am just as rebellious so I don’t have time to argue with myself. But everything goes hand in hand with an emotion, it’s a mood. It’s what we are and what we feel. Speaking personally for myself, I don’t put on clothes for the response of others. I put on clothes for what I need to match what is coming from me. If I go down the street, I want to be me. The way I walk, the way I look, the way I feel and think should all match. I believe fashion is another layer of my skin that I can actually take off and put on and change. And it’s going to make the natural skin that I’m in the best it can possibly be. Fashion is the rebel that says I don’t care what you think I should do or how this makes you feel. It’s like a trend that pushes you to jump off the cliff, to jump in the water. It’s the thing that makes you say ‘I don’t give a fuck. I don’t care how this makes you happy or upset because either way, this is me, this is who I am and you are just seeing my energy.
But then there is still this whole other level of using fashion to affect, impress or even manipulate people. With social media, this intention of fashion became almost universal…
Yes, that’s the thing that sometimes makes me feel a bit biased to my own energy when it comes to clothes. Coming from the dancehall world where you are entertaining others, using the energy in the place to get the crowd going, whether you’re entertaining them or you’re performing for them or you’re allowing them to enter the space to enjoy themselves rather than to watch you, there is an entire dress code that comes with it. There is a costume for these superheroes, their clothes have to match their stardom, you know.
It is a very special thing about the dancehall world. It feels like the parties are a safe space for whatever and whoever you wanna be in that very moment. I never felt something similar before.
Yes, I completely agree. It’s like the purest form of social media. It is a haven for woman empowerment, even if it’s only the women empowering themselves regardless of whatever is going on in the party. It’s a haven for someone being an artist, being a vendor, being a dancer – everybody is in the same place and no one is gonna see your problems and issues in life. You look the best way you can, wearing sort of a cape to feel superhuman, like you have everything in the world. It is when all the struggles that you’ve gone through disappear and the dancehall turns into a space that provides an escape.
Last year, you founded your own fashion brand The Cabinett. What made you take that step?
I thought about The Cabinett when I was 19 years old, now I’m 27. I had this idea that if I had a clothing brand, I would have things for everyone, I wanted to give access to normal people, people that are no celebrities or that aren’t offered clothes to attend events. I wanted to upgrade the word customize or vintage to where it’s not in the thrift shop – it’s vintage and customize because me or The Cabinett makes this one product for you only and will never recreate that dress again. And if you see that one dress on someone else again, you automatically know it is fake.
How did you get started founding your brand?
I met Taylor Goson, a friend of mine from New York that helped me creating my first sweaters, he showed me how to manufacture stuff etc. He was the first person I actually told about my ideas. Then covid happened and I felt like, ‘well, everything is shut down, now I have some time and should try to focus on understanding if I can realize this thing that I believe in.’ But of course I needed to be in a certain place, a successful place, especially financially. Opening a fashion company doesn’t happen like that. The pandemic forced an idea and a love that I had maybe 10 years ago before I thought it could be real, it was always there. I was only waiting for the time for it to happen. So I am learning and watching, using my resources, because majority of the things that I have ever done within my craft or career is self-taught and self-researched. And then many people came along the way that showed me how to do it better. I never really had training in anything that I’m doing, I just always had love for it. I always wanted to feel like I was here to be used, as transition into someone else’s path.
How did you come up with the name „The Cabinett“?
When you find your purpose and you find who you are, in order to feel or see something you desire, you need to open the cabinet door, the fridge or your closet first to find the thing that matches your vision. With The Cabinett, I wanted to be the source where you find your ingredient that curates your vision. It begins with you and it continues with us.
Tell us more about your capsule collection.
The new capsule collection will be introduced in the actual re-introduction of The Cabinett with people or customers already trusting in the company. It feels like its vision comes to light. I want to see how people react to it, especially to the fabrics. I want to see an emotion towards these fabrics and pieces in relation to the video and pictures we did. And I hope that people are still digging Cactus Cloud in summer 2022. It will be a limited amount of pieces, that way it has a memorabilia feeling. I really want to frame the actual sample pieces I made. The big goal then will be to transform The Cabinett into a full house production that can afford to appeal to people having all these creative ideas.
Let’s have a last look into the future: How do you think can we all be more innovative again?
For me it is about going back to being a child, to eradicate all the politics, all the things that people will say about you. To take away last year’s or the past 10 or even 20 year’s of tradition or culture within fashion, and just go back to what the thing is. The first thing that you designed on paper for example. You can always speak on things that are happening in pop culture or within the industry but nobody can actually talk about what happened to you yesterday. And if there is a big company, they have all these resources to share that unique or funny story and create a suit or some shoes based on that. Of course this doesn’t speak to everyone, that is why it’s always a fight back and forth: What has been done already, what is in demand, what are people speaking about versus what comes from a true source?!
The collection will be available for purchase online only: https://www.thecabinettofficial.org/
Interview by Sina Braetz