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Pretty In Pink

Evan Mock on surfing, skating, and high fashion. From TSJ 29.4.

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Evan Mock is pretty. Like, really pretty. Double-take, stop-you-in-your-tracks pretty. Pretty enough for Louis Vuitton to make a mannequin out of his figure, for Calvin Klein to take pictures of him in their briefs, and for Dior to put him on a billboard in Times Square.

But to credit Mock only for his facial symmetry and the pink dye in his hair would be a real undersell. Like da Vinci of the Renaissance, Mock has his hands in a variety of creative folds. His personal taste in garments has translated to his very own rhinestone-heavy streetwear line, Sorry In Advance, that sells out within minutes of release. With a camera, he’s shot campaigns for a slew of Condé Nast’s flagship titles, debuted an exhibition called No Time for Insecurities in a Los Angeles gallery last year, has a coffee-table book in the works, and shot the stills for Travis Scott’s Astroworld Tour. And on a skateboard, there aren’t many people on earth who can pick a better line in a pool. He’s every bit the modern man.

And why should any of that matter to surfing? Because underneath the mink coats and nail polish, he’s very much one of our own. Before he ever strutted down a catwalk or shot an ad campaign or pushed around on four wheels, Mock was a surfer.

Born on Oahu and raised a few houses back from the sand at Gas Chambers, Mock’s surf bona fides are well founded, equal bits nature and nurture. His father, Steve, has been hand-foiling fins under the Island Fin Design label for over 40 years, providing traditional rudders for Barry Kanaiaupuni and Gerry Lopez, and more progressive designs for Bonga Perkins and Josh Kerr. And so it was all surf growing up, and Mock ran with the pack that would come to define the North Shore’s new breed, including the Florences, the Rothmans, and the Moniz family, among others. But once Banzai Skatepark was poured when he was 11, Mock shifted his focus from water to concrete. And he got real good, real fast.

The last few years have seen him on a stratospheric rise from skate rat to runway star. Backings from the big fashion houses play their part, but so do co-signs from Tom Sachs, Hedi Slimane, and Frank Ocean, all of whom seem to just dig Mock’s get-down. He’s recently left Hawaii for the bigger and brighter and faster lights of New York City.

That’s where I catch him on the phone in late January, the day after he’s returned from a maxed itinerary at Paris Fashion Week. In conversation, he’s energetic and honest and humble. He’s also charmingly confident for a 22-year-old.

If any or all of Mock’s layers seem silly from the outside, well, so what? Surfing can be pretty silly at times, too. That might even be the whole point. Mock’s working with what he’s got, just like the rest of us. Only he seems to be having more fun with it. Could there be a better lesson?


How was Paris?

It was hectic. I mean, it was everything I thought it was going to be and more. But it was the craziest couple of weeks. Originally, I flew from Hawaii to Milan to see the Prada show and the Ferragamo show. Then I flew to Paris with my stylist and the rest of my team, and we just went nonstop. It was kind of a blur. Next time I’m going to pick, like, five shows that I want to go to, and I’m not going to do anything else.

What were you doing, exactly? How does your time break down out there?

The first couple of days were fittings, which can be overwhelming. You go in and there’s ten different racks of clothes to choose from. I know what I like, but at the same time it’s hard to piece together entire looks when you’re doing five different fittings a day. Then we spent the rest of the time watching shows, doing interviews, and going to dinners. Just one thing after the next.

The world of high fashion is obviously very different from life in Hawaii. Are you ever taken aback by everything you’re doing now?

Sometimes, for sure. I never thought I’d be where I am now. Growing up, I wasn’t even aware of things outside of the North Shore. Like, Hawaii always catches on to things a year later than anywhere else. It’s funny, though, because I didn’t know how special of a place Hawaii was until I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18. Like, I didn’t know that the waves weren’t as good everywhere around the world as they are in Hawaii. I just thought that’s how good waves are. I didn’t even know some of the guys there that are kind of heavy. They were just my neighbors. Things like that just didn’t connect until I got out of there.

You grew up in what’s probably the most wave-rich stretch of coast in the world. How’d you end up a skater?

As a kid, all I did was surf. I was homeschooled, so it was surf, eat, maybe do some homework and then surf again. Every day. Even if I wasn’t surfing, I was always hanging down at the beach with my friends. My friends were basically professional surfers already back then, and way better than I was. I mean, shit, my sister rips harder than I do. But then they built Banzai Skatepark. I’d never gone to a skatepark before, or even had my own set-up, but I started going every single day. I got so instantly addicted.

So just a full-on change in focus?

Yeah. I got so hooked on it for the fact that it was there every day. Because in Hawaii, you know, it’s going to either be rainy or sunny, and if you just look outside you know if you can go to the skatepark or not. It was like a perfect wave that was always there, but still a totally new experience. It allowed me to keep surfing fun, and skating became the thing I could excel at and learn from. Not that I thought it was ever going to be a job, but it was just something I could be the best at. Like I said, all my other friends were so much better than me at surfing. Skating was a way to prove to myself that I could do something, too.

Do you think surfing and skating are as similar as everyone likes to make out?

I think so, especially in the mindset of the types of people who do them. In most cases, it engulfs their entire life to the point where they start planning vacations to a surf spot they saw in a magazine or skate a spot they saw in a video. They both become full-on lifestyles like that. But you could say the same thing about, like, soccer nerds or whatever. People will wear a shoe because some soccer player wears it. Deep down, I don’t think it matters what someone does or is into. The reasons that they get into something are all the same, whether it’s surfing or skating or whatever. They like the lifestyle of it.

Fashion is obviously that way for some people. Was it that way for you?

I never put any thought into it, to be honest. I think just being in the scene and in ads for my sponsors, people saw me and then they wanted to cast me for certain things. It just fell into my lap. Photography was the same way. I got into it to document what I was doing. No agenda, just shooting. It’s all about candid stuff for me, freeze-framing what I was getting into with my friends. Anyway, I feel like a lot of the reason I’m getting hired is because I skate and surf and take photos, not just because I look a certain way. Like people find out I do photography, and they’ll ask if I want to shoot whatever we’re working on. And who am I to say no?

Did you ever deal with any blowback from modeling or working in fashion? Surfing and skateboarding can be pretty unkind to anything that’s not considered “core.”

I did at first, but now people can see it’s validated by working with actual crazy-big brands. I think they see that it’s more legitimized, I guess. But everything that I’m doing, all those things fit into each other. Fashion blends with photography, photography blends with skateboarding, and skateboarding blends with surfing. All those worlds mesh together, to where it makes sense for me to do all of them. Plus, I would be so bored if I had to just focus on focus on one thing, hence why I found skating after surfing, then photography after skating, and fashion after photography.

And if you like doing different things, why not do them?

Exactly. Look, nine times out of ten, someone who is known for one thing loves other things, too. And maybe they put it out there, and maybe they don’t. But these days the more versatile you are, the more you’re going to be in different worlds where more doors will open up. And I think it’s good to have balance in life, in terms of what your interests are.

What have been the highlights?

I think it’s just being able to work with some of my people that I’ve always looked up to. Designers like Virgil Abloh and Kim Jones, and musicians like Playboi Carti and Travis Scott. Those are people who have certain visions, who have screamed their visions out to the world, and in a way have come to really shape what’s going on today, whether other people know it or not. They just have that aura with what they do, in the same way Andy Irons did to surfers or Dylan Reider did to skaters. To have them be stoked on what I’m doing, and think it’s radical and cool, is just beyond my wildest dreams.

Does it ever feel like it’s happening too fast?

Not really. I’m seeing the fruition of having my own vision of what I wanted to do, and I’m finally doing it. And it took a lot of time and work that people might not be able to see from the outside. It wasn’t like I just walked into a room and all these people took instant notice. Whatever you want to do, it takes work. Look, I didn’t finish high school. School just wasn’t for me. I just had an idea of what I wanted, and so I went for it. It might not work for everyone, but it worked for me.

But being out in the world and trying new things can be its own form of education.

One hundred percent. Just going for it, fucking up, and trying something else. That’s kind of how I got here, being outside and learning things in the street as opposed to a classroom. At 18, I definitely didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I knew what I was into, and that I could fuck around and be something else if I wanted or get into something else if I wanted.

What else do you want to do that you don’t already?

I just want to take what I’m doing right now further. I still want to learn new tricks, and I want to film a really good part. I really just don’t want to be boxed in. On, like, a larger level, everything I do is to show other kids from Hawaii that they can do the same thing. Maybe not exactly what I’m doing, but at least light a fire in them to do whatever they’re into. To just actually really hone in on their craft and not sell themselves short, even if it’s doing something that seems weird or isn’t what everyone around them is doing.

How much are you skating and surfing these days?

I’m not skating any less because the places I go usually have killer skating, whether it’s London, Paris, Barcelona, Australia, LA, or here in New York. Those are the carousel of places you go to in the fashion world. And I’ve got homies that skate in each of them, so we’ll go around and hit different spots. With surfing, I definitely cherish the moments I get to do it more than when I was in Hawaii and had nothing else to do. When I go back to the North Shore at the end of the year, I get in the groove of when I lived there. I’ll surf every morning and afternoon. It’s the nicest rotation.

Do you think you’ll ever move back to Hawaii?

I think that’s where I’m going to end up one day. But Hawaii is just too slow for me to live there at the moment. I do enjoy going back, obviously, because my family and everyone’s there. Right now, though, I need to be in a busier place that’s a little more ahead of the times.

And for anyone that might want to upgrade their closet a little bit, what labels impressed you in Paris?

The Balmain show and collection as a whole was great. Matthew Williams at ALYX can do no wrong. Both of Virgil’s lines were fantastic, Off-White and Louis Vuitton. And what Kim Jones did with Dior this season was insane.

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