Meeting… Caste Quality!

Making Of photos: Chris Mulhern

Interview: Benjamin Deberdt

 Chris Mulhern

Two months ago, an odd video project surfaced perfectly mixing the old and the new, nostalgia and optimism, under the name of The Philadelphia Experiment
Once people were done watching it and enjoying the interlaced skating of greats such as Oyola or Reason with the new breed of Wair, Trahan or Suciu, they started wondering: is this a new clothing brand? But those guys don’t ride for it? What is Caste, really?
It was time to track down the two characters behind the project, and ask them those questions. Two Chris, to be exact. One Mulhern, of This Time Tomorrow fame, responsible for the actual video, and one Fireoved, former Paris fixture, and clothing designer. Two Chris, and one love for skateboarding in Philadelphia, as it turns out…

How did you guys first meet?
Fireoved: I moved to the city when I was 18 and would skate this flat ground spot, Cecil, around where I had went to school at the time. Mulhern was older then I was and already had a little crew that skated there everyday but we all seemed to get along. At the time, he was filming for one of his first videos called I’d Rather Skate Cecil and we would all just meet up at this spot and go out on little sessions in the area, or take trips down to D.C. or up to New York. I remember after skating everyday we’d all go back to the apartment where Mulhern shared a room with our homie Jeff, probably like ten of us just packed in one room, drinking, smoking, everyone just huddled around his computer trying to watch little edits he was working on. You could just tell Mulhern was so bummed and really just wanted everyone to leave him alone! [Laughter]

 Chris Mulhern

When did the idea of “doing something” come up?
Fireoved: I was living in Paris for a couple years and Mulhern was out in L.A. We were both doing our own thing, but still kept in contact a bunch. We’d been talking about trying to formulate some sort of creative outlet where we could combine our efforts and develop something more substantial. Mulhern told me about this edit he was working on, an edit that was to become The Philadelphia Experiment and said he’d be down to use that video as the “launch” of the brand we were looking to create.

How did “something” turn into Caste?
Fireoved: About a year and a few floundering initial ideas after, we’d decided we wanted to do “something”, Caste was born. We went through a pretty arduous process, going through all the paper work, legalizing everything and gathering the work of the six or seven dudes initially involved in creating the brand. Mulhern had this edit basically finished and we all agreed that using clothing as our initial physical product would be something great to start with. We wanted each tangible item from Caste to relate directly to the specific visual medium we had featured at the time, so we had to create something that reflected some aspects of the video. The actual film The Philadelphia Experiment involved the idea of time travel with a military ship called the U.S.S. Eldridge. The first piece we worked on was the jacket, where we took old military fabrics and manipulated the original design into something a bit more modern, changing the fits, over-dyeing the camo, and applying our own labels. We transcended the idea of old to new or ‘time travel’ so to speak, into the Eldridge Field Jacket, just as Mulhern used this theme of transition in his video. The jacket was the first real “thing” that we, or Caste, created and sort of set the precedent on which all our future goods would be based on.

 Chris Mulhern

What is Caste supposed to be, actually?
Fireoved: I’d say Caste is more so a production company with relative physical goods. I think the benefit of Caste, is having so many different people involved and so far, everyone involved can all relate in a sense that we’re all skateboarders but, outside of that, we are all so different. Photography, fashion, graphic design, videography, web design –the list goes on– are all different directions some of our other interests are geared towards. I think what we have to our advantage is that there are so many paths we can take each project for Caste, whether it is through a video, a clothing line, a photo book, really anything that one of us shows interest towards could be the focus of the perspective project we’d want to pursue. This really erases our limitations for the future but may confuse a lot of people in the beginning, and it’s tough to make that clear.

So, you're not a clothing company, per se?
Fireoved: Not necessarily, no. Clothing was just a first step for us, or a way to introduce the brand on a material level as opposed to just the video. We are going to continue to make clothes and keep that aspect of the brand as a major point of focus, but again, we have so many additional visions of where we can take certain elements of Caste, beyond that of just clothing.

 Chris Mulhern

When did the idea of The Philadelphia Experiment develop, and how long did it take to make happen?
Mulhern: I was working on a project with Ryan Gee in December of 2011, logging all of his old Hi8 tapes from the mid 90’s in Philadelphia. I thought it would be awesome to try and track down the exact camera that Gee used in 1997, and film new footage with it today… All in downtown Philadelphia. He used a Canon A1 Digital when he was filming with Matt Reason, Serge Trudnowski and Ricky Oyola in the mid 90’s, so I bought three of them off of eBay. Of those three, one worked. The next step was to figure out a proper fisheye, but Gee had no idea what lens he used. Understandable considering it was about thirteen years ago! It turned out Dan Wolfe used the same camera for Eastern Exposure 3, so I hit him up and asked what model fisheye he used. All he remembered was that it was a super cheap .42x lens. I tried so many of these lenses out, but for some reason none of them would fully focus with the Canon A1 camera. This project was turning out to be way more of a mission than I originally thought! I started thinking of other filmers who shot tons of Hi8 during that era and RB Umali immediately came to mind. Turns out he used a Sony VX3 for all the Zoo York Mixtape era videos. I tracked a refurbished VX3 down off of eBay, and it worked perfectly with the fisheyes I had bought for the Canon A1. The body of the Sony was almost identical to that of a VX1000, so it was really easy to film with.
Initially I was just going to film an all Hi8 montage, but I had a lot of really good HD clips that I wanted to put towards something. I started thinking it might be cool to try and combine both formats, but needed to figure out a cool way to do it. I was working on a project for Ricky Oyola’s Traffic skateboards, kind of chronicling their history as a brand. One of the first board graphics they released was themed around The Philadelphia Experiment. I knew nothing about it, but started doing some research. When I learned it dealt with time travel, everything just clicked. I would start my edit in present day Philadelphia, with HD footage, and have it go back in time to 1997… the Hi8 days. I’d say I spent a little over a year filming for the project, and was editing it the entire time. I really like to edit my projects as I’m filming, just so I can constantly tweak things and know exactly what I need to shoot so that everything comes together in the end.

Should we expect more video/film projects from your side?
Mulhern: We’re about to release a short off-cuts edit with some leftover Hi8 clips, which will premiere on Live. No music, no real editing… Just some raw footage that needs a home. I think one of the best qualities about the Hi8 skate footage from the mid 90’s is the audio. The microphone on those cameras just made skating sound so good. It’s so distinct and as soon as you hear it, you can’t help but think of the past!

 Chris Mulhern

What’s in store for Caste from now on?
Fireoved: We have a few projects in the beginning stages right now, and a couple new products about to drop. We’re trying to get some trips planned for the upcoming year and just keep everything moving. Building something of value is going to take time, so we’re in no rush… Getting “there” is the best part anyway…

You can shop Caste Quality in France at Nozbone skateshop in Paris or through Magenta.
In the US and Canada, head over here.

Shops, you can contact Caste here.

To help you wait for what’s coming tomorrow, and get excited about it, here is The Philadelphia Experiment:

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