Through the LQQKing Glass with Alex Dondero

20 November 2020

Ahead of their second capsule with Vans Vault, END. sit down with LQQK Studio's founder Alex Dondero to discuss the allure of screenprinting, community and the importance of collaboration.

Inside LQQK Studio's Brooklyn print studio space
Founded in 2010 by Alex Dondero, LQQK Studio started life as a small print studio in Brooklyn with a collective ambition to develop a creative hub for printmakers and designers - to build a community that centred around collaborative working and a genuine appreciation for the craft.

Utilising a DIY approach and a free-spirited mentality, LQQK has spent the past ten years cultivating an impressive resume of collaborative projects and design work, all the while branching out into creating their own clothing brand and record label simultaneously. Celebrating the art and versatility of screenprinting, Dondero's approach encapsulates the passion he holds for the practice. Holding community close to its heart, LQQK is founded on the idea of cultural exchange and creative collaboration, celebrating the richness and the nuances of shared interests and common goals.

Having worked on iconic projects such as Drake's "If You're Reading This It's Too Late", YEEZY Season 1 and with Mike Cherman's ICNY, LQQK has forged a unique position within the world of screenprinting - maintaining their personal identity while being involved with some of the past decade's most legendary and recognisable works. Teaming up with Vans Vault for a second time, LQQK Studio offers a selection of footwear and apparel that distils the essence of the New York creative tour de force, merging it seamlessly with Vans Vault's distinctive aesthetic sensibilities.

Sitting down with LQQK Studio's Alex Dondero, END. discuss the philosophy behind LQQK, the art of collaboration and their upcoming Vans Vault capsule.

Inside LQQK Studio's Brooklyn print studio space

Established in 2010, what initially compelled you to form LQQK Studio?

I knew I didn't want a “real job” so I realised I had to take my love for print into a career. I had a deep connection to a solid art and music scene, and wanted to keep involved in those worlds. Needless to say we are still involved in art and music through print, but it has definitely turned out to be a real job!

What was it about screen printing that drew you to it as an art form and creative process?

Screen printing just clicked with me. In school, I studied all forms of print, but the science and theory of screen printing just meshed with me. I firmly believe that screen printing is the most versatile form of print. It also tends to be the most expressive due to the ability to experiment easily. We print on any material ink will stick too.

What philosophy drives LQQK Studio and its creative output?

At our core we are a rag-tag group of people who don’t want to march to the beat of the drum. We are proof that you can have a DIY mentality but produce professional work. We love the community we helped build, and being able to be part of an ecosystem of similarly driven people and brands is a dream.

Inside LQQK Studio's Brooklyn print studio space
Maybe in another 10 years we will be making furniture, but whatever we do will be from a genuine interest and desire.

LQQK studio has evolved organically from a design studio and collective to a broader creative outlet with its own clothing line and record label. Was the original intention for LQQK to evolve in this way?

LQQK Studio has never really had a mission statement or business plan. I’m not bragging about this fact, but it has helped us remain fluid and not easily fit into specific categories. We didn't plan on starting a brand, but we developed a passion for making clothing. Same with music. We turned a love of music into an outlet for unreleased tracks from our friends. Who knows, maybe in another 10 years we will be making furniture, but whatever we do will be from a genuine interest and desire.

Has forming a community and a culture around LQQK Studio always been at the core of the brand?

Community is essential. Without a community we would not be doing what we do. I have always surrounded myself with people who inspire me, and if LQQK can be the clubhouse for those people then we are happy.

With a plethora of high-profile collaborations under your belt, what is it about collaboration that appeals to you?

I truly believe that nothing is truly “original”. We all draw inspiration from our surroundings. Collaborations tend to be a great way to explore this concept. Beyond that you get to expose yourself to an audience that might not be familiar with your brand, and vice versa.

Inside LQQK Studio's Brooklyn print studio space
Vans are iconic, so we wanted to do justice to that heritage.

When seeking out a collaborator, what qualities are you specifically looking for?

Authenticity. We want to make sure that what we produce is true to our core following. Oftentimes we are working with brands larger than ourselves, so we need to make sure the fit is correct.  We don't like working with fast fashion or trends.

How does the act of collaboration influence your overall process?

It’s important to know what the capabilities are. It’s easy to get carried away in the design process, but if it’s too complex, in fabrication it’s a failure. We see this all the time with screen printing. Something might look great on the computer screen, but just doesn’t translate to print. This is where collaboration comes into play. The communication between designers and developers is essential.

What has inspired your latest collaboration with Vans?

Vans are iconic, so we wanted to do justice to that heritage. We just wanted to make timeless designs made of premium materials. 

As a kid I always busted my vans so quickly, so I knew I wanted to make a pair of shoes that would be durable without being over designed. I was really excited to use the lug sole on the mules because that will never wear out.