Mikey Alfred, the perceptive and ambitious 20-year old in charge of Illegal Civilization’s clothing brand and the cinematic vision of the collective’s skate videos is really serious about film. Alfred and his crew collaborated with The FADER for their most recent skate thriller short, in which the posse of fly cool kids ride through Los Angeles, dressed in dapper pastel threads while evading an eery predator. Despite Alfred's associations with Odd Future and Tyler, The Creator, he values forming connections with all types of people. The young creative is focused on drawing inspiration from a diverse range of places and life experiences in order to learn and improve upon his innovations and goals.
Over email, Mikey Alfred told The FADER about his pushing boundaries with Illegal Civilization brand, telling stories of growth and their upcoming plans for their clothing and film.
What inspired you all to get into making narrative films?
After IC2, our most recent skate video, came out, I just couldn't stop thinking, what's next? I naturally started to hang out with people like Lionel (L-Boy, Boyce] and Tyler more than some of my friends I skate with. And I started spending lots of time with my friend Scott Venor and they all love movies. So naturally I started to just geek out on movies. But the narrative stuff came because I just wanted to advance my film skill set.
The film challenges genres on many levels. How does that reflect your vision for the brand?
The film's genre bending quality is basically what our brand is about. We push the idea and statement of "young businessmen," but to the untrained eye we look like a bunch of little skater kids. But they don't know behind the scenes we just locked in a worldwide deal for our clothes, in the works of getting a deal for our films, all our events are set up by me [Mikey] and we try to connect our skaters with huge corporations like Adidas and Nike. It's even in our videos, one IC video "Exquisite," you see us riding jet skis and airplanes in Hawaii with a Frank Sinatra song in the background. And another you see us getting in fist fights with a Rocket Da Goon song playing in the background.
Our clothes go from t-shirts that say "skate program" simply on the front, to a unreleased photo of the IC team with the USA WUG Water Polo team wearing custom IC cardigans. Everything about us is extremes, either the grimiest of the grime of the cleanest of the clean. Either we mess with the biggest artists or the ones you've NEVER heard of, the most OG legend skaters, or the skaters that no one else wants to mess with. We love to be polarizing, either you LOVE what we do or HATE it, not be average.
“I hang around people who have goals, who are positive, and who are focused. If you’re around me it means you bring value, no dead weight. And we have to connect, it doesn’t matter how rich you are or how big you are. If you me and you don’t connect we won’t be friends.”—Mikey Alfred
What's the balance you're trying to achieve in maintaining a streetwear brand, skating, and pursuing other creative endeavors like film?
The film stuff comes first always. That's what I've been doing since I was 11 years old. I have like six full length skate and music films. Only 4 of them though people really know about "The Spark of Life-2011", "IC1-2012","Tyler, The Creator Making of Wolf Documentary-2013" and "IC2-2014".
With the clothes that's my easy place to get my message across—"School is cool" or "You can't fit life into a phone" on the blue longsleeve shirt. How you dress dictates how you think and feel, so if you’re dressed like you’re ready for business, people will take you more seriously in a meeting. But film comes first, my dream for the next five years is to have a couple scripted shows going on different networks that I'm actively directing. I want to do skate films where I have some filmers all around the world putting work in with the skate team, and then have the music documentaries going when I'm not directing stuff for television.
In the film, you talked about how you play water polo on Mondays with people who don't know that you skate. You went on to say that you think only hanging out with people because of their popularity or things that they're good at isn't a cool way to live, even though a lot of people do that. What types of people to you hang around? How do they inspire you?
I hang around people who have goals, who are positive, and who are focused. If you’re around me it means you bring value, no dead weight. And we have to connect, it doesn't matter how rich you are or how big you are. If you me and you don't connect we won't be friends. I don't force friendships with anyone. My good friend Andrew Kimble told me this and it stuck with me, "Your immediate friend group should be like a board of directors at a corporation. Each board member has to serve a purpose, even if one of ‘em just makes you laugh, or another always knows about great music, or fun parties. They need to all bring you value."
What type of stories do you want to tell?
I love to tell stories of growth. I love to inspire people to move on with their life. Because I used to be scared of advancing, of moving on. I used to feel bad because i would want to work on writing scripts instead of skating every single day until I realized, "Hey I need to do what I want with my life" and I figured out how to include my friends in advancing. I got them all to start practicing acting, we all know we suck right now (at acting and directing), but we will get there. Just like skating, a few years ago we were at the bottom tier of the skateboarding world, and now we're in the top of the pyramid. And that only happened because of persistence, positivity and a willingness to learn.
What projects are next for Illegal Civilization? Are you doing any collaborations?
We're working on a scripted show, a new music film I don't want to give away details on yet, and a new skate video with Kevin White, Olan Prenatt, Ryder Mclaughlin, and the Cavi Club. But for the clothes, might as well announce it here like fuck it, for the next collection of clothes we're doing a collab with Mac Miller, Earl Swavey, and Slow Hollows.