The Block

Music — 1 year ago

Creating A New Underground With Tech Couture

Club collective Tech Couture on community, aesthetics, and the landscape for London nightlife. 

 

Throwing their very first night on the eve of the UK lockdown, in February 2020, might not have been the luckiest timing, but Tech Couture weathered the pandemic and returned stronger than ever.

 

Though the duo behind “London’s juiciest rave” – Bessie Armitage and Ollie Hajjar – have been throwing parties for over four years, Tech Couture is a slight departure from their past parties: a response to a gap they spotted for the less self-serious side of techno. “In a nutshell, you can imagine Tech Couture as less of an industrial everyone-in-black techno night, but a more colourful, vibrant and inclusive techno party,” they say.  

 

Here they discuss everything from their inspiration for the night, to how they curate lineups, to what makes a good party. 

 

Shop Tech Couture’s T-shirt here.

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Everpress Team
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Photography by Flo Husseini & Laura Olesen
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Courtesy of Tech Couture

Can you talk a little about the very first night you put on?

TC: Although we have been putting on parties for over four years now (before Tech Couture, we were working on another promotion in a warehouse in Haringey), our first party as Tech Couture was actually in February 2020…fabulous timing!

We hosted Gigi FM, Blasha & Allatt, Nur Jaber and Tommy Holohan. At 10 PM we were having pizza with Gigi FM and Blasha & Allatt, with no idea how the night would go. 9 hours later, we still had hundreds of people on the floor as the lights came on and Tommy played his last track. Sweat dripping, happy faces, and loosened up bodies still gagging for more! It was quite the debut party, and it still sends shivers down our spines to this day.

Since that first party, we’ve had the drive to keep growing this community and curating a sound that, not only do we love, but we felt was lacking in London’s scene.

We really felt like London was missing some crucial things

What prompted you to start Tech Couture, and at the outset, what did you think the future of the night might be?

TC: When we started thinking about Tech Couture in the summer of 2019, we really felt like London was missing some crucial things that, for us, are what make a party. We felt like although there was plenty on offer in London, nights had a tendency to become super niche, and that perhaps there was a part of the community that was getting left behind. We wanted to create a safer space where everyone can dance together, regardless of who you are or where you come from.

The music itself is one of the most important things for us, we were starting to feel uninspired by what was on offer, so we thought we would take matters into our own hands. We felt like there was a complete lack of the sound that we like to promote, which is the groovier and sexier side of techno and trance. 

In a nutshell, you can imagine Tech Couture as less of an industrial everyone-in-black techno night, but a more colourful, vibrant and inclusive techno party.

Photography by Flo Husseini

You celebrated your second anniversary back in February. How did the night fare through the pandemic?

TC: We have to humbly admit that from the get-go the party was rocking as we carved out our purpose, vision, voice and soul before even thinking about the launch. My background is in art direction, and Ollie’s is in marketing so we know how important it is for us to have a really clear voice and be able to properly communicate what we stand for – which is why I think we instantly connected with that community of people that came to our first event. Throughout the pandemic, we communicated messages of togetherness, inspiration and support whilst also doing our first Everpress campaign with a charity donation. However, we laid low during that period and focussed on what we wanted to be when we came out of that darkness. We managed to have a return party like no other in August 2021, and luckily the community seemed as strong as ever. People were absolutely gagging for it!

And more broadly, how has it grown and changed since its inception?

TC: We feel like the past few years have been about establishing ourselves in the London scene. Letting people know who we are and what we stand for. Next on the horizon is growth but remaining true to our roots which is ultimately the music and community building. The party is definitely solid with a great base, but when it comes to change, we feel like we are only just getting started!

We feel like we are only just getting started

Photography by Laura Olesen

What’s stayed the same?

TC: It’s always about the music. The lineups always have to make sense sonically and tell a story to our punters, and we always have to ensure that the curation is balanced, experimental and future-focussed. We always want to be adding to the culture and developing, otherwise, you are just staying stagnant and still. This often means bringing over artists for their London debut, giving people longer set times, doing b2b’s you wouldn’t expect or inviting artists to play at times they aren’t usually used to.

When it comes to carving out a club space of your own, what’s more important; exclusivity or inclusivity?

TC: This is a very interesting question and something that we discuss regularly when daydreaming about what a Tech Couture club would look like… and I think we have landed on this notion of inclusive exclusivity.

In one way, when you look at other countries that have door policies, you understand why when you are on that dance floor. To be able to be free and let loose in a safer space, surrounded by people who are there for the same reason as you, is such a precious experience.

We have to ensure that the curation is balanced, experimental and future-focussed

That being said, music is ultimately all about forming connections. Whether that’s with yourself and your inner child, with the people around you, or with the DJ taking you on a journey. It seems hypocritical to limit those experiences to whom ‘deserve’ it, or fit a specific category.

Overall, it’s probably better to always be inclusive over exclusive, but you want to make sure that your crowd is going to give to the space, rather than take away from it.

So in an ideal world, we would want a door policy which does the bare minimum to ensure that everyone coming understands the rules and refrains from judgement of any kind, leaving their ego at the door and getting fully immersed in the vibe.

We’ve been lucky enough to breed that environment at TC and are forever thankful to our community for bringing the energy.

Photography by Flo Husseini

And is there a way of achieving a balance between the two?

TC: I think there is a sweet spot. For example, for us, an ideal situation is being able to see if someone has come to your party before or if they are connected with the lineup or genre of music in general. That should really be the bare minimum. It’s not really about what you are wearing or what you look like, but more about your vibe. If someone is super intoxicated and aggressive, they most likely shouldn’t be permitted entry as they will take away from the vibe rather than add to it. If someone hasn’t been before, but they seem positive, then they should come and experience it!

Line-ups can make or break a party. What’s important when it comes to curating a lineup for Tech Couture, and what do you look for in your artists?

TC: All of our lineups are specifically curated to form a solid, sonic journey for our punters. Whether the artists have been around for years or are up and coming, we book people who have honed their craft and will always fit within our key criteria: fast, groovy, pumping and sexy. We’re proud to give many artists their London debut, and we’re not afraid of taking risks. Of course we always want to make sure the lineups are equally balanced, but most importantly all lineups need to make sense and form a story together.

We book people who have honed their craft

Nightlife, and in particular cult club spaces, has always been a space for fostering like-minded communities of creatives, and scenes. How important do you think clubs are to artistic communities?

TC: Obviously, going to these events with like-minded people is the perfect place to foster relationships. I guess you could liken it to a spiritual experience in a certain way. The joining of community spirit. But I also think that you find yourself on the dancefloor. Whether it is artistic ideas or solutions to problems, some of our most enlightening and meditative moments have been on the dancefloor!

We’ve met some of our closest friends in these spaces and they are people from all walks of life. You start to realise how similar you are no matter where you come from or what you do. It’s a powerful thing and it’s incredible to see the connections made during our parties.

Photography by Laura Olesen

For you, what’s the definition of community?

TC: A place where a group of people meet for a ritualistic encounter. It can be for religion, sport or, most importantly in our case – dance. To grow a community, new people should be welcomed with open arms, if they are willing to contribute to the energy. Again in our case, it’s important that our crowd dances and loses themselves in music. If you come to a TC party, you’ll meet loads of lovely people and the community will continue to grow stronger. We’ve seen many people form lifelong friendships and deep bonds on our dancefloor.

To grow a community, new people should be welcomed with open arms

Couture playfully riffs on Juicy Couture, but it also speaks to aesthetics. How important do you think the visuals, and style, have been in carving out an identity for your night?

TC: For us, fashion and music come hand in hand as they are both forms of self-expression. When we initially started TC, other than the sound, what was important to us was creating a space where people could be unapologetically themselves, but not take themselves too seriously. Bringing in this sort of silly bootleg of a fashion brand not only connects us to this industry that we are deeply a part of, but encourages a sense of fun and silliness, as well as creating a sense of nostalgia. In my work, for instance, I’m constantly influenced by underground culture of the past and different communities, whether it’s the Juicy Couture gang of the naughties, or the Versace drenched legends of the garage scene. Our nod to fashion is a way of conceptualising this and creating our new underground. Dress to impress hunnies but make sure those boots are steel-capped because we are going to be stomping all night long!

Photography by Flo Husseini

London nightlife has long been under threat, and especially in the last couple years with the pressures of the pandemic. How do you approach the challenge of finding venues for your parties?

TC: For us, we try to find venues that align with our vision and take safer space policies seriously. FOLD is easily the club that aligns most with our vision and has really given us a platform to express more through our parties. We’re forever thankful to be able to work with them. Special shoutout to Venue MOT also, for always providing us with a unique DIY space to host our parties.

We definitely think that London is lacking a more diverse clubspace that has the kind of mentality we feel is important. It’s a shame because we live in the cultural capital of the world but the government doesn’t seem to deem these spaces/practices important. Hopefully in the next decade there will be more of a shift to creating spaces that nurture our scene and unlock London’s creative potential.

Read More: INFERNO: The Nicest Party In London

Everpress Team
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