Footpatrol x Hotel Creative Communi-T | Interview with Mitch Crook

If you’ve not come across the name ‘Hotel Creative’ before you’ve most definitely still seen their work. Operating as a multi-disciplined creative agency, Hotel Creative often work with the likes of Nike and Converse and have redefined retail installations in the process.

Having produced some extraordinary work for us in the process (including our Nike x Off White ‘The Ten’ and Givenchy Jaw instalments), we thought it was only fitting to include Hotel Creative in our Footpatrol Communi-T project, which is available in-store and online Saturday 20th April.

To commemorate our collaboration we sat down with Hotel Creative head honcho, Mitch Crook, to find out more about his design background and love of Nike.

For those who are not familiar, please can you tell us who you are and what you do?

My name is Mitch Crook and I am the Creative Director of Hotel Creative, a multi-disciplined creative agency in London.

Where did your passion for design originate from? And what led to you opening your own studio?

Honestly, my passion originated from my school Art teacher Dominic Culkin, who I have remained in touch with and is still a huge influence on my art and design tastes. He drops into the studio every now and then to see what’s going on and gives me recommendations of artists and exhibitions to check out for inspiration.

Studio wise, I just wanted to do something new, something I’d not seen before. When we started Hotel I wanted to elevate creativity in the retail marketplace, and that’s what I feel we have done; slowly, discreetly, kind of under the radar.

When launching Hotel Creative who were some of the first brands you worked with?

We went to Nike and presented a plan that impressed them about how to ‘up’ the retail game in the UK and they supported us 100%. In fact, they gave us our first job on the day we started the studio.

You work with a lot of different brands but predominantly people know your work with Nike. Did you know you always wanted to work within sportswear?   

I can say I have always been a fan of streetwear, more than sportswear. I’m really into product, both Women’s and Men’s fashion and I’ve always been especially fascinated by footwear. The biggest shoe that impacted my life when it came out was the Air Max 95; aesthetically it blew my mind. As a kid, I begged my mum to get me them – she wouldn’t. So I had to save, I remember working hard to get them and once I did the reward spoke for itself.

I can honestly say that moment has helped me in business and that drive and desire for product makes me understand what the consumer wants. Yes the system has changed now, but then it was basically having a miracle in your hands. It was the first time ever that a product affected me that way.

Your team have produced some amazing work for us from the Miniswoosh vote forward campaign, to a complete ‘The Ten’ takeover and to the most recent Givenchy Jaw! Can you speak a little on your experiences of working with Footpatrol?

We LOVE Footpatrol. We don’t do enough, which seems a shame, as we are just up the road. I was a consumer back in the day at Footpatrol in St. Annes Court, it was so tiny and amazing and I loved the cages and the spacial design of that old, thin original store. Over time we have been asked to work with Footpatrol through Nike which has allowed us to build up personal relationships to work directly with the FP Team. It just seems organic with them, they get it, we get it, it’s easy and professional. I personally love the collab heritage that FP has. We have used multiple FP Air Max in our installations over the years for Nike. We need MORE!

From seeing a lot of your projects in the flesh, the attention to detail and the creative ideas are always second to none and continue to amaze us. What is it that keeps you dreaming big and pushing the boundaries?

Ha, well I’d like to up the level of production, but unfortunately the constraints of time and budget affect this. We have worked with great production houses in the UK over the years and want the best.

I love Art production, we have worked with both Jeff Koons & Tom Sachs and seeing their quality in the flesh is just stunning. We also have great relationships with production houses all over the world and there are some super talented makers in these companies. We always push harder, as Nike pushes us to use new materials and techniques that have never been done before.

From working on event spaces, store takeovers to most recently the D.O.U van – what’s next? Are there any mediums you would still like to explore?

We started in retail which we love and always will, as we love to shop. But we have been taken in to different places with the brands we work with. We actually do way more than people think – strategy, concepts, art direction, all sorts at a global level – we’re just not allowed to share it all publicly. Lots of the work we do happens far ahead of what goes live in the marketplace, and sometimes it doesn’t even happen. But we only really post work we’ve activated and helped produce, where the quality of the end product is something that meets our standards. 

Maybe next steps for us is about applying our skills and experience to different types of brands. We’d love to do more fashion for sure. We already work with Ami Paris (who we love) and thanks to you guys we have now started to work with Givenchy. As the lines between fashion and streetwear have blurred, we are able to apply our knowledge to the fashion houses which may not have been possible when we set out. We are pretty fussy about who we work with, but not in a snobby way. We recently worked with Benetton which we’d love to do more of, and I’ve always said I would love to do for McDonalds what we do for Nike. I think for us we just have to really connect with a brand or a client, and that has to go both ways. 

But mediums we haven’t done yet? Hmmmm. Not really sure. I’d like to do the inside of yachts, the interiors of the oligarchs. I think we’d be good at that. I’ve always wanted to design a roller disco. We’d also love to do an actual Hotel as our Converse One Star Hotel was over too quick. What about a Nike hotel? How good would that be! Who wouldn’t stay there? The Gym would be a performance lab, the rooms would be amazing! The Cortez Room, the Air Force 1 Room, The AM95 Room. Maybe one day…. 

What is it about physical installs you prefer to producing digital work?

It was a conscious decision for us as an agency to actively move away from everyone going digital. In the early 2010s every agency was going digital, and everyone was saying the high street was dead. We disagreed. Magazines were going digital on iPads, tablets and smartphones. Everyone was saying print was dead, and we disagreed again. As we saw it, the digital revolution just meant that retail experiences had to be more inspiring, and that kind of informed our pitch to Nike at the beginning. And now as digital engagement has become more and more throwaway, physical experiences in real life have just become more valuable. People have started to appreciate physical things more. In a retail context, a lot of focus is now on creating the right balance, where physical and digital work seamlessly together. But when it comes to really inspiring people nothing beats a real-life experience, and when you do that right, there is a huge social media pay off.

Are there any project(s) that really stand out for you or your team?

I always say the job that made us was the Nike x Liberty Collection we did in 2011. The Purple and Gold one. It was the first time Nike did a physical installation and pop-up shop in Liberty London. It created a big impact for us. This was before Social Media is like it is today and it was harder to break through. No one had ever seen anything like this, especially for women and especially for basketball. The concept was ‘feminine basketball for the Vogue reader’. The shoes used archive Liberty fabrics applied to vintage Nike basketball styles. We were inspired by the heritage of Liberty vs modern icons of basketball, we gave them a sport-lux twist.

It was just this weird amazing feminine / Nike mix that felt new and fresh, and I certainly had not seen anything like it, then or since. The basketball chandelier in the atrium was incredibly impressive, to this day it remains one of my favourite pieces. We sketched it, then rendered it and the final chandelier looked almost identical. I would have loved to have produced it a bit better, but our old foes time and money were against us.

On to the Communi-T project t-shirt, how did you come up with the design and what inspired the style?

I believe we are the first collaborator to do a black t-shirt, which we love, as all our branding is set on black. It’s a metaphor for us working at night. We design during the day but our creations are installed at night. The pink is a colour which we love and the neon sign as you enter our studio says ‘Hotel’ in pink. The Neon has been our logo since day one – a simple keystroke based on old school hotel signage. People often say that all you can do is neon, which I find funny (as we can’t get enough) but it has been a prominent figure in our work since day one. Neon is also the language of Soho; the gay clubs, the sex shops, the strip joints, the jazz and drag clubs, Raymond’s Renvue Bar, Bar Italia. They come alive at night. As do we. And the t-shirt is a tribute to that, us and Footpatrol who have always had a neon in store since opening on Berwick Street.

What piece of advice that you’ve received has stuck with you throughout your career and what would you pass on to the younger audience who are trying to get into the industry?

Oooooof, I’m not sure. I would say that one thing we’ve always tried to do is something new, something you’ve never seen done before, try to push it. It doesn’t always happen but that should be your aim. So there’s one piece of advice “always try and do something you’ve never seen before”.

I guess the other would be to always work to evolve your style. Let it grow, don’t just find a formula and hit repeat, try to improve all the time. When you look back at our portfolio, the level of quality is pretty consistent but, the constant evolution over the years is really clear and that takes conscious effort.

And finally a question we like to ask all Communi T partners.. please describe your style in 3 words?

Pinnacle, Immersive, Over-Budget (technically 4 but I’m going with it)

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