How did you start, and what was the reasoning behind it?
We didn’t think it through at first. We just had the idea to open a skate shop as we were fed up with the money spent on skateboarding not going back into it. People needed a skate shop south of the river, so we went with it; there aren’t any skate shops in South London which is crazy considering how popular it is nowadays. It was pretty hectic starting up. Neither of us had worked in retail before and had no clue how it worked.
We didn’t only set up Brixton’s Baddest to make money. We have different ethics than most shops, and helping and assisting the London community is just as important. We’ve had to compromise at times, but skateboarding is a beloved community to us, not just a business. If a kid comes with a broken board and has no money, we have a pile of second-hand boards they can help themselves to at any time. We want them to skate and have fun rather than be held back by money.
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Most of the brands you stock are local and independent. This is quite rare for a skate shop.
If you look around the shop, we stock pretty much 90 per cent independent London brands. We stock REUP, Cometomychurch, With Section, Palace, Blast Skates and Wayward, all legit skater-owned companies. Let’s stock local brands from people we meet so that real London skateboarding stays alive. It was an organic decision.
We moved into Selfridges a year ago and decided not to give in. Bringing these brands to an entirely different market was a huge risk that paid off. It was a bold statement to bring only skater-owned brands into a retail environment like that. We had Trippie Redd come in and buy clothes from us, which is pretty funny. He came out of Selfridges wearing all local London skate brands, which would never have happened before.
Also want to shout out Palace as they have supported us not only with the product but on a personal level, most people don’t know how much they do for the community and grassroots skateboarding.
You have a unique and creative shop team full of characters. How do you choose your team?
We got bare girls on the team, which is banging; we’re half female-owned, so picking the girls in the team was a natural process. The girls we sponsor currently are Aurora Dee, Amy Gillingwater and Ever. They are all sick and not on the team due to their gender. It’s down to their skating and their persona.
Adidas recently brought Nora Vasconcellos over and did an event with all the girls and us; it was great to meet a skater like her, who is such an influential person but also down-to-earth and fun.
Of course, the rest of our team are all sick skateboarders – how they skate their personality massively, and we want these people to represent us for that reason. We do this and live this. There is nothing fake about the shop or people on our team.
The shop is directly linked to Stockwell Skatepark, arguably London’s original heritage skate park. How important is the survival of the park during a time of mass gentrification?
Public spaces such as Stockwell skatepark are so rare now in London, especially as it so old. It’s been there since the 1970s and is so iconic. It’s been in endless music videos and films, and it’s even in Jackass! It was originally a church that got bombed in the war, and after that, the land was gifted to the council.
One day, a guy called Lorne Edwards came with a digger and started digging holes and pouring concrete without permission. He had gotten back from America, seen what skateparks were being built in America, and tried to replicate something similar in the heart of South London. The park wall represents the border between our own self-governed space and the everyday London civilian – we have ensured to maintain our own safe space for everyone.
Skateboarding is becoming a monster of an industry, and you guys are managing to keep it as ethical and core as possible. What issues do you see in skateboarding right now?
One of the biggest problems is the old companies losing touch and selling on to people who aren’t involved in skateboarding. Some of their tactics in business are lame as fuck. Some of these companies are completely over-producing, and that’s wrong and unethical. We aren’t looking to run a skate shop if, by the time we’re 40, we don’t even skate anymore. It doesn’t make sense to us.
One of the biggest problems is the notion that you must be good at skateboarding to keep pursuing it. You don’t have to be good at anything to enjoy it, especially when it comes to skateboarding. Another thing is it doesn’t matter what age you start skateboarding at, people outside of skating often think it is for kids, but as owners of a skate shop, we can tell you it isn’t.
Brixton’s Baddest is at 154 Stockwell Road and on the first floor at Selfridges. The team are always happy to advise new skateboarders on the best equipment for them and how to approach skateboarding properly.