Following a busy few years working on projects for Umbro, Red Stripe, Red Bull, Sony Music, Domino, Boiler Room, Palace, Rita’s Bar and Dining, Bleach and NTS Radio, Toby is launching his first solo exhibition. B-Mart celebrates bold budget packaging and transforms DreamBagsJaguarShoes into a fully stocked supermarket, complete with all your branded basics – basic cola drink, basic beans and basic uniforms, hopefully on just as basic shelf-stackers, for authenticity’s sake. DreamBagsJaguarShoes will even be serving B-Mart beer. If Warhol was still alive he’d be writing himself a ‘Must try harder’ memo.
The exhibition opens on Valentine’s Day and to celebrate, Toby and I met up to talk brands and babes.
There’s a candle, some tulips, Mumford or something on the radio – we’re on a bit of a date. Ideally, where would we be?
It depends on the weather. If it’s hot, I’d just want to hang out in the park or go to the beach. If it’s cold, I’m not sure. I don’t really do dates.
I’m not sure if anyone does. I used to think they were something that existed solely within the realms of American sitcoms.
It would be something that I wanted to do – I don’t like doing what other people want to do. I’d probably go to an exhibition that I wanted to see.
Are you selfish?
Yeah, I can be.
What would constitute as a nightmare date?
Staying in watching X Factor or The Only Way is Essex.
On a good date, what’s your dream girl wearing?
Would saying, “Fuck this, let’s just go to bed”, after five minutes at the exhibition work towards or against her chances of securing a second date?
I’m a bit bored of that now – not that it happens all the time, it would be amazing if it did. But I think I’ve grown out of that a bit now, I’ve grown up – only in the last year. I wouldn’t say I’ve become more responsible but I’ve learnt how to place my responsibilities in the right places. But then, something else always drops off. At the moment, it’s my social life and relaxing.
I remember you telling me a while ago that you had so much work on that you didn’t have time for a girlfriend – is that still the situation?
Yeah, well it was more a case of not giving myself time for a girlfriend. I think it felt right, I’d make the time. But if it doesn’t feel right, I can use work as an excuse.
Are you in a relationship with your work?
Depressingly, pretty much. It’s very emotional and very stressful. It’s all the bad parts of a relationship without all the fun, exciting bits.
Launching your exhibition on Valentine’s Day is the ultimate declaration of love for your work. How have you spent Valentine’s Day in the past?
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything for Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those pretend holidays, isn’t it? Hang on, I do remember my last Valentine’s Day – I fucked it up. I meant to book for us to go to The Electric cinema on Portabello Road but I forgot to get the tickets. That was the nail in the coffin on an already struggling relationship. We broke up the next day.
When will you feel like your relationship with your work has reached its peak?
Hopefully never, I don’t like feeling complacent. If I ever won the lottery, I’d have to keep working – not to keep me sane, just to keep me level.
For B-Mart, you’ve turned Jaguar Shoes into a discount supermarket. That’s one heck of an exhibition.
I’ve been talking about doing it for ages. I just thought it would be a fun thing to do, to take over the space and see how far I could really take it. I love those garish, flat, three-colour designs – old sweet wrappers or Dunkin’ Donuts, really simplified. I wanted to do a basics range, like the old Tesco’s Basics or that old cheap, everyday packaging. There’s nothing really like that anymore. Although I understand why they’ve done it, they don’t want poor people to have to feel really poor.
Do you have any artistic or moral concerns about taking on the right clients?
I’d work with anyone within reason, you have to be able to make money. I’ve never considered myself as anything other than a graphic designer, so I don’t think of my work as an artistic battle. Any art direction work that I am getting now is because the client has asked for that, but I wouldn’t call myself an art director. There are a lot of those self-assigned job titles, especially around this area, aren’t there? I love working on my own projects, without client restrictions, but you do feel like you are putting yourself out there a lot more. It’s not that I care if someone says they think it’s shit, but I’d hope that they had a good reason for saying that.
Are you nervous about tonight then?
Yeah, I am actually. I’m trying not to be, but my mum’s coming up for it and everything.