You’ll recognize Romeo Cachuela Espeleta Jr. from afar; his distinct style and eye-catching tattoos make him stand out in a crowd. He’s long been a fixture in the creative circles of Copenhagen, and just before launching his newest venture, Ace & The Harmony. We met up with Romeo in the city he calls home to visit a few spots: from the store where they sell Romeo’s most recent project Decorative Source to his favourite tattoo shop Taioba and the legendary Thorvaldsen’s Museum to look for inspiration. Because Romeo finds inspiration for his print work in pretty much anything and everything, translating it into unique products in collaboration with his business partner Sille Emilia Birkegaard.
Caroline Berner Kühl: What is Decorative Source?
Romeo Cachuela Espeleta Jr.: It is a re-creation of old Sunflower styles. We wanted to create an entirely new universe based on it. It came very naturally to me, this idea of re-creating something that already exists. It was a process of going back to some references in music and the concept of customization. Growing up, it was what we would do; discovering something on MTV, trying to copy the look by painting and drawing on my clothes. I am not sure it looked as good as I imagined. Customization can be anything from putting a sticker on your laptop to stitching patches on your clothes or adding pins to it. The small details that you add to make something your own. This was the feeling I wanted to adopt with our collection: setting a mood, taking inspiration from my own wardrobe, and making people come together to create something visual and aesthetic that matched my ideas. Essentially, I hope it feels original.
C: I guess the name says a lot, Decorative Source, taking something, decorating it, and making it your own?
R: We had agreed to do the project, and had created all the constructions and prints, and we were about to send it off to the printers, when we realized that we needed a name. I am inspired by Japanese streetwear brands, with names that seem intuitive and not too overthought, so I looked at my references and synonyms, and went with what felt obvious.
C: Not overthinking it often seems to work best…
R: Follow your intuition.
C: And Rich & Hanc is the only place to carry it?
R: Yes, it is a one-off project, a spontaneous one, and a great way for me to understand what it means to have a brand. I love fashion, and style, and I care about it. But putting yourself out there… It is scary. I am used to just being in my own world; my vibe, my universe. Suddenly, you share it with people. It was a good way to understand what that means.
C: It is very you and your aesthetics, so it becomes very personal.
R: In that sense it was a great way to express myself. Because even though I am out there and seem extroverted, I am essentially rather shy. When you look at Decorative Source, you might notice small bits of me, and music that I listen too. It was important to me to be authentic and stick to what I like.
"Our ambition is to spark imagination with our prints, to give children something to talk about."
C: Which is a concept that has become quite vague, because so few are authentic, even though everybody wants to be. It’s a great word because it is so loaded. It means many things at once and we all have an opinion about it.
R: Another thing that I loved about the project was creating styles for certain vibes. Take the jeans as an example – going from watching an old music video, let’s say with Jack White, and then you find these white pants, and by adding stars, and patterns, it becomes a pair of jeans he would wear. In that way, many of the styles are inspired by stage performance clothes.
C: It makes sense. The references are somewhat obvious, but then they exist in a new context, bridging different worlds.
R: Some people will know the references, and some won’t, but it gives us something to talk about. It is a way of telling stories.
C: It also dissolves the idea of something being a trend because it looks both back in time and to the future. Personally, I believe we need that to make something great.
R: It is a bit like a band tee. It never goes out of style, and the more worn out it is, the better.
C: Which is why I like Decorative Source, because even though it is rather colorful and loud, by referencing history, it becomes something that we would have worn 20 years ago – and will wear 20 years down the line.
R: It draws on different subcultures, which is where the prints come from. There are references to tattoos, rock, oriental details, Tibetan patterns, and rockabilly culture, which are aesthetics and cultures that have existed for so many years. Taking all of this and creating a new universe, you get something that is timeless.
C: Absolutely. We visited a tattoo shop earlier today – what is it about tattoos and tattoo culture that attracts you?
R: I have been passionate about tattoos for a long time, following specific artists and styles. Before Instagram, I was buying magazines about tattoos. Once, I was going to Barcelona to be tattooed by someone that I had seen in a magazine. At that time, it was such a unique experience – it is so different with social media now, where you almost feel like you know the person. It was really exciting. Being tattooed, discovering the tattoo scene in Barcelona. Discovering other tattoo artists in Europe, in a very traditional sense by worth of mouth. It instilled respect in me. I’ve explored different styles, but I love to see it all flow and become one.
C: It sounds like it is kind of the same as with the clothing – taking inspiration from different references and styles…
R: And mixing it up to distill it.
C: then it becomes one’s own…
R: Exactly, and that’s the way it should be. And I’ve been lucky, I guess. Early on I met some legendary tattoo artists. I gained priceless knowledge about the culture. As such it has been an ongoing inspiration in many of the things I do – from my graphics to how my notebook looks.
C: We have to talk about the kids’ clothing too. While Decorative Source is more of a one-off project, this is the big thing, right?
R: As you might know, I started a T-shirt brand about four years ago, called Ace & The Leftovers. It evolved out of a meeting with a Danish guy named Rune, who ran a screen-printing workshop in the suburbs of Copenhagen. I love all the technical details of printing. What was mostly just a project for my spare time became a real thing during lock down. Like most others, I was bored, and decided to give this brand a real push. Having become a dad in the meantime though, I was looking for a way to pass it on to the next generation, passing on knowledge about different cultures through prints, and thus redirected my idea and made a kids’ brand.
C: How does that work?
R: It is based on conversation topics between kids. Our ambition is to spark imagination with our prints, to give children something to talk about. The prints are rather crazy and psychedelic – and adults might recognize some of the references whereas kids will make up their own stories.
C: And in a sense, kids are much more psychedelic than us…
R: Absolutely. It is a perfect match. And it gives me an opportunity to approach some communities that I’ve not worked with before. I want to make connections, and the collaboration part is key. I am not looking to work with other brands necessarily, but to find more random set-ups.
C: It sounds like it is quite a cool kids’ brand?
R: The idea is to make it for every kid. And to eventually expand into other industries. Imagine having a children’s cinema, but retro and cool?
C: Again, taking references from different times and places. It sounds like it will be a visual language that speaks to many different people, making it relatable?
R: You cannot mess with nostalgia. It will always be here. You might listen to other music for a while but put on Rolling Stones or The Doors…
C: It lasts forever. Rolling Stones never go out of style.
R: They are simply too iconic.