Lucien Clarke is an enigma. I mean, skaters on the whole are hard to pin down. A highly flexible schedule, culturally entrenched anti-authoritarian attitude, and general disdain for social conventions is kind of par for the course when you’re trying to piece together a story with their ilk. A diet of skating, partying, and generally living the life that you dreamed about as a young teen trapped behind a school desk is not conducive to arbitrarily imposed notions of schedules and deadlines. That’s just a fact of the universe – as much a certainty as death and cliché platitudes. Still there’s something about Lucien that’s compelling enough to lead us to throw experience to the wind.
The London based, Jamaican born skater personifies the revival of the raw energy that gave skate culture its initial urgent cultural energy. Not that he seems that stressed about that. Or anything else, for that matter.“London is the most lively, gully city,” Lucien tells us. Our editorial journey has taken our photographer from Amsterdam to England, and interview attempts have seen missed connections in places as far flung as Barcelona and San Francisco. It’s fitting then, that it all comes together at a Council estate in the city that Lucien loves. Aided by a couple of bottles of cheap red wine, and a rooftop climb. After all, London is where it all began for a young Lucien. “I was walking through Hyde Park and saw a bunch of skaters doing cool shit,” he recalls of the formative experience. “I was like ‘This is the best.’ I fell in love straight away. [My] step-dad got me a skateboard the next day, I haven’t stopped since.” Those early days would take him on a journey that would connect him with PWBC, the nucleus of the crew that “lived in a shit hole in Brixton,” and would go on to form Palace Skateboards. From those origins the brand would rapidly progress to its current status as one of the most coveted streetwear labels in the world, recently spotted on the likes of Drake, Rihanna, and A$AP Rocky.
Not that Lucien ever doubted that the brand he counts as a sponsor would be a success. “When [owner and founder] Lev told me he was gonna start Palace I knew it was gonna be the best shit ever,” he tells us succinctly. He remains unfazed by the brand’s newfound status amongst the cultural elite. “Palace is a very gully skate company, and they respect that,” he offers by way of explanation. The comparisons between the English company’s humble roots attitude and those of that other American streetwear titan that was also born from an independent skate scene are inevitable, and arise often. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then to find out then that Lucien also counts Supreme among his sponsors, a relationship that goes as far as several gigs as feature model in their highly anticipated seasonal lookbooks. A pretty impressive feat for a guy whose behind-the-counter retail stint at Supreme allegedly lasted exactly one day. “Everything happens for a reason,” is all we can coax from Lucien when asked about the legendary story.
“Skate culture goes hand in hand with fashion,” he posits. But Lucien remains adamant that the relationship should be a natural one, marked by mutual respect. “Everyone has there own style going on… that should just happen on its own,” he elaborates. It’s this kind of attitude that typifies the English skate community, and sets it apart from the rampant corporatisation evident in the parts of the US scene. Lucien fears that the threat of big brands lingers though. “It’s creeping into Europe, it’s there now with all the energy drink sponsors and whatnot, and [the] mainstream commercials,” he reflects. Still, warmed by cheap wine and standing on top of the estate amid the silhouettes of the buildings that make up the city that Lucien calls home, those invading threats seem a long way away. “People you see around all the time [move] on to other shit in their life, and then the next generation of skate rats [come] through,” he tells us. It seems like that for the immediate future at least, the London skate scene is in good hands.