Gabber Eleganza: The future is now

Words by:
As told to: Rachel Grace Almeida
Live photography: Ewen Spencer for MCQ
Portrait photography: Harriet Blake

Inspired by the spirit of rave, FANTASMA is a new collection – or ‘icon’ as the label calls it – by MCQ.

The project was created by MCQ in collaboration with producer and DJ Gabber Eleganza, designer Randa Kherba, photographers Viktor Naumovski and Ewen Spencer, and David Rudnick’s design studio Terrain. The first of its kind, the pioneering fashion label, operating under the house of Alexander McQueen, is an ever-shifting collective, giving its collaborators uninterrupted freedom to interact with every aspect of the icon, from product design to experimenting with cutting-edge technology including a heat-map print captured at a previous MCQ party at Peckham Audio.

Here, Gabber Eleganza reflects on formative club experiences, dance music’s tension between history and futurism – and how it all feeds into FANTASMA.

© Harriet Blake

The first time I ever went to a rave I was 15, so technically not allowed in. It was about 7000 capacity, maybe more, in this huge American-style discotheque. It looked like a Roman villa with a marble dancefloor. All these Dutch gabber and hardcore DJs would play.

@mcqRave to this. Join MCQ and @odellmun for the FANTASMA rave #whenwecanrave♬ original sound – MCQ

I went with some friends and, on this day, they didn’t ask me for ID. It was a Sunday afternoon and there were already 3000 people inside – there was no space to dance and the music was so loud that I started to feel this kind of anxiety because I was completely overwhelmed by the loudness of it all. The ceiling was dripping with condensation and everybody was shirtless, people dancing in a way that was just wild. I thought, ‘OK, this is an alien place’ but it was the first time I immediately felt at home. It was like a baptism. I instantly became addicted.

© Ewen Spencer for MCQ

So I started digging around the internet for rave culture media. I paid five euros per hour to use a corner shop PC and challenged myself to one hour of discovering as much as possible. I was a shy kid so the internet helped me discover a lot of stuff that I was too afraid to ask other ravers or DJs about. I compulsively began to collect everything that I found, and I still carry this impulse with me, because last week I bought 100 magazines and my wife threatened to kick me out. In my discoveries, I’ve found there has been a lot of misunderstanding surrounding gabber; a lot of shitty pictures that are just too ironic. On the one hand, I understand the funny side to it. But on the other, it’s a subculture, one of the last pre-internet ones, that’s rooted in European folklore and rave culture. I wanted to show a different perspective.

I realised that I could reposition something that is always thought of as a classic cliché. Something that could sit at the intersection of rave culture, a youth movement and larger society, because if I tried to change what people think of gabber and hardcore and be inclusive, it could be also a reflection of our contemporary climate somehow. I don’t want to be seen as a gatekeeper, though. I just want to share what I like because I’m a part of this scene.

@mcqRave to this. Join MCQ and @kirrasan for the FANTASMA rave #whenwecanrave♬ original sound – MCQ

The use of fashion is especially important in our subculture. Some people just care about the music, some just want to dress to impress – but like everything, the truth is in the middle. When I started raving in northern Italy, we used to move to the rave in packs of scooters, all wearing 90s streetwear. It was a funny sight but quite powerful. This is how I came up with the concept of the Fantasma collection – which means ghost in Italian – and channelled the bubbling feeling of the calm before the storm. Or, in our case, the journey to the rave. It’s about the ghosts that are still stuck in your memories. Rave fashion is evidence that you are part of a tribe. The purest moment of expression is when someone has the space to be creative as part of their scene; that, for me, is the essence of hardcore.

@mcqRave to this. Join MCQ and @anniorwhoever for the FANTASMA rave #whenwecanrave♬ original sound – MCQ

What I love about archiving rave is that there is so little you actually know – you’re always learning something. You think, ‘OK, I have the internet, I can find anything I want.’ But maybe you go to a flea market or get in touch with a guy that, of course, you met on the internet, and discover a new world. The power of archiving is that it helps you understand the past, but at the same time, it’s a reflection on the contemporary because you have tools to do something new. And then you see how it all has evolved. Sometimes you think maybe it was better in the past. But truthfully, I’m not stuck in the archives. I’m actually really into the future. Maybe not aesthetically, but as a thinker and as a person. Archiving is good to immortalise the past but also helps you understand the direction of the future – that perfect balance between the two.

© Ewen Spencer for MCQ

Find out more about FANTASMA here and join MCQ’s community platform at MY.MCQ.COM

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