Raf Simons and Diesel Alums On Their Badass Biker Brand
Keith Hioco and Rob Harmsen, the founders of Eat Dust, are kind of anomalies in the fashion industry. Where the majority of today’s most sought-after designers are just barely out of fashion school, Rob and Keith each have about 25 years of experience under their belts.
Born in Neunen, Holand, Rob started out working for Diesel and then Levi’s—opening up and decorating stores for the denim brand—before teaming up with Keith to start Eat Dust. Keith, for his part, started out working for G-Star and then Lee, before working for Raf Simons for six years as his assistant and senior designer. But after 25 years of working for such bold-faced names, Keith and Rob—rather than allowing themselves to get caught up in the paralyzing and often soul-destroying glitz of the industry—returned to what they love most: skateboarding, motorcycles, and denim.
Founded five and a half years ago and based in Antwerp, Eat Dust has the type of finely tuned aesthetic that could only be born out of such prodigious experience. Years of working in the industry taught Keith and Rob both what they want and what they don’t want in a their careers. And it seems that for them, they’re happiest when they’re consumed in their deepest passions.
Go on their website and you’ll be greeted with photos of motorcycles and bikers, but to label them as purely a biker brand would be selling them far too short. “In the summer, we always go more towards a streetwear, skate-meets-’60s-and-‘70s, motorcycle revival kind of thing,” Rob told me. “In the winter, [the aesthetic] becomes more like western motorcycle, but still [with] some skateboard touches. We’re kind of a crossover between streetwear and ‘60s biker gear.”
Ultimately, their label is a marriage of both their prodigious experience and their passions—and, as you might expect, it does not disappoint. Read on to find out how years of working with Raf Simons has informed Keith’s work today, why they decided to make Antwerp home base for their label, and what makes the Eat Dust clothes so special.
You both obviously have a ton of experience working in fashion. How do you think you’re applying what you’ve learned to Eat Dust?
Rob: You learn what you don’t want. You never want to be a Diesel or something. I mean, it’s kind of harsh to say that, but I don’t know.
I learned a lot, being in contact and being at trade shows. [I learned] how a line is built up because I was involved in the design part always. I know how the whole industry works really well. But we have always had a love for motorcycles and denim. We like Japanese denim, selvedge denim. [For Eat Dust,] we didn’t want to produce the cheaper jeans, we didn’t want to produce anything in China, we want to [produce] everything out of Europe, which we’re doing right now.
Keith: Raf always does what he wants. So he kind of never gave into what is commercially working, you know? It was always like, it’s Raf’s decision, and if someone says, “We need this because it’s going to sell,” Raf [will say,] “I don’t want that in my show,” and he won’t do it. We do that a little bit as well. We put stuff into the collection that we’re comfortable with and we’re not going to cut corners so we can make something commercial, or say “Oh we need to make a lot of money so let’s quickly put that into the collection.” We try to keep it very pure and just [make] the stuff we like.
And can you tell me a bit about the particular type of denim you use?
Keith: We now use Japanese denim, selvedge, and it’s just because the Japanese are really good at reproducing and making. They’re very punctual and always want to do it right. So we kind of looked around a lot before we chose the one we liked.
Rob: We like the look of it. That’s almost, like, the thing that we went for. And the fact that it’s made [with] old machines—that kind of appeals to us
Keith: It’s an old process, it’s slower.
Rob: Yeah, they take really [good] care of the weaving. We look for ring spun denim, which means that they twist the cotton yarn—and when you twist the cotton yarn, [it’s] a lot stronger than if you use a yarn that’s not twisted, basically.
Keith: We don’t use any fabrics that are made in low cost countries, we produce everything in Portugal, the factory [workers] are all Portugese people, they get a decent wage, they don’t have slavery hours. [We’re] just try[ing] to make it a little bit right. There’s already enough shit going on in the world, the time is right to not take part [in] the whole mass production industry.
How do you feel about the influx of new, young brands?
Keith: Honestly I think it’s never bad to have some experience. We both have about 25 years of experience, if not more. [And] it’s still hard for us to figure stuff out and to get our collections done on time. Maybe in the U.S. it’s a bit easier to get a business started, but over here it’s really not easy.
Rob: I think it’s good that they’re [around]; they definitely make the world more interesting. It would be quite boring [without them] because you’d only have high street fashion, which is really not that exciting I think—to say the least. But they’re going to learn the hard way like we’ve done, and then with even less experience. So it’s not easy, but it’s definitely good that they’re [around]—at least they give some flavor to any other boring shit that’s going on right now.
How does working out of Antwerp inform your design process?
Keith: I think it’s more of a Belgium thing. I talked with Raf a lot about it and I know Dries has the same feeling. [The Belgian designers] all go to Paris to show but they’re always happy—and it’s [the same] with us—to be back in Antwerp because it’s small and it’s not loud and it brings you back to reality. There’s no fashion parties every weekend, so it’s kind of nice to come back to a certain quietness, I must say.
Rob: yeah, we travel quite a bit and then when we come back it’s nice to hang out. And there’s a good motorcycle scene here.
What do you guys think about Raf leaving Dior?
Rob: I think Keith can better answer that.
Keith: That’s the cool thing about him—when he’s had enough, he’s had enough and then he just says, “ok, I’m done.” You know? He’s a humble guy and I think, yeah, he’s never going to give in to like for money or whatever or for fame. If he doesn’t like it anymore, then he stops. I was maybe a bit surprised, but I know that if it’s done, then it’s done for him. He’s not going to go [whiney voice], “Oh, I need to do this.”
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All photos by El Cheapo Sven De Wilde and James A Grant.