Sheltered in the tender shadows of 19, Arran Horton at Select Model Management is the wandering mind of a new generation. In this first interview-focused feature, putting the spotlight on Generation Z, we ask a group of boys the same set of questions. Who is generation Z and what is important to them?
With a soft-spoken eloquence, he opens up the pandora’s box of growing up as technology blur into a continuation of humanity. As his legs continued to grow, so did the digital sphere that absorbed him and his peers. Making the migration from suburban Exeter to the pit-stops of London life, he beams about the vast planes of opportunity that are open to the young spirit. The evolution of social media has bred a collective of young minds who are connected by screens and a shared zeitgeist; he is a vision of modernity, taking influence from this global network of creativity.
The tangible meets the invisible, almost mysterious force that is the Internet - and teenagers like Arran are cultivating it to expand and educate themselves. Picking up on the radar of bygone times, from 1980's expressionism and lo-fi skate films, he has birthed the concept to better himself in a wavelength of artistic outlets. Parading a hoodie emblazoned with handwritten text in stylised forms, he discusses his original design that has stemmed from the comfort of his bedroom.
Ever-emerging dunes of thought push him towards new routes of exploration; that’s what makes him so unique, it’s his almost innate need to push forward into all mediums. Nestling at the core of his dreams to start his own fashion brand is a melting of childlike curiosity and the work ethic to succeed. Being raised on a diet of dial-ups and WiFi networks, he has learnt to craft the paradox of reality versus the virtual to his advantage.
How would you describe your generation?
I think my generation is quite creative and there’s a lot of innate images, because we’ve grown up with a lot of images. I think that’s one of the biggest differences. I mean, I wasn’t alive to see how it was back then, but I feel like we kind of understand imagery quicker because of social media and stuff like that.
What are the good things about being your age at the moment?
Having a lot of opportunities through the Internet, you’re able to put yourself out there and actually make something of yourself just by being you.
What do you think the challenges are?
I think it’s easy to become too engrossed in it as well and get distracted, and that could work to the detriment of actual human relationships. I feel like it’s easy to get addicted, the Internet kind of defines our generation. It’s a balance, we could let ourselves get addicted to it or we could reign it in a little.
What are your personal passions?
I started skateboarding about nine years ago, that’s my biggest passion, and lots of things have lead from that. It got me into photography, film-making and making art, and it also got me into fashion - making clothes. I did start a fine art degree at Goldsmiths, but I’ve deferred it now to pursue fashion. I know it sounds cliche, but I dropped out of uni to pursue fashion, basically. When I was doing fine art, I was really inspired by the 80s conceptualists movement.
In terms of skateboarding, what’s your favourite thing about that culture?
I think it’s mostly, because it’s so diverse and you’re able to have a creative outlet that backs up so many things - you can be a skateboarder, but you can also be an artist or a fashion designer or a model or a photographer or an architect.
Do you think that’s a defining feature of your generation then, the opportunity to be whatever you want to be?
Yeah, definitely and being really versatile as well with our skills.
How would you describe yourself?
I feel like I kind of know myself, I guess I always have ideas - I’m just full to the brim of ideas. I mean, I’m not much of a doer, so I don’t actually make anything of the ideas, but sometimes I do if it’s a really good idea; I work really hard at it if I believe in it. I spend a lot of my time in my head conceptualising.
How would you describe your current lifestyle?
On a daily basis, I am…worrying about money haha. Usually I’ll go skating, but I’m quite busy - and if I’m not I’ll go and see my girlfriend.
So you make it work on a tight budget?
Well, I make it work on a negative budget, haha.
On that note, what would you like your life to be like in 5-10 years?
Well, I’m currently trying to start a fashion label and hopefully it will be more established. It’s called ‘Free Hugs’, at the moment I just have this hoodie. It says ‘patience’ on it, which is handwritten.
Are you a bit of a hippie?
Nearly, I’m not sure. It’s slightly ironic I think, it is genuinely about unity, but I don’t want it to be defined by its name. I don’t often put ‘Free Hugs’ on T-shirts, although I quite like the idea of putting it on there, and then there’s an invitation for interaction on the street.
What’s the style of your brand?
I do mostly streetwear, but I want to give it a bit more of a conceptual edge, so it’s a bit more fashion. I design it all myself, I’m just working on getting some more money to get better hoodies to print on and stuff like that.
Who do you see as the main influencers of your generation today?
I’m mostly inspired by relatively unknown people who I follow on instagram - mostly skateboarders who are doing some sort of creative thing. There’s this guy Alex Olson, he’s a skateboarder in New York and he’s got a clothing brand called 917, he’s quite a big inspiration for me. There’s others, like a guy called Pontus Alv from Sweden and he’s got a brand called Polar Skateboards - and they just kind of approach things in a different way. They do things a little differently from the norm and it’s refreshing.
On a broader scope, who do you think is influencing your generation in general?
I think there’s so many influencers it’s difficult to say one person, but I think in a way we all inspire ourselves and each other - it’s collaborative for sure.
How do you think that social media is affecting your generation?
It’s allowing us to be more creative and we’ve got more opportunities than previous generations, but it’s also a big distraction I think, there should be a limit. I think that it should be controlled by us, we should maybe consciously put our phones down for a little while. You can be on your phone walking and you’ll end up somewhere and you just think; 'how did I get here?'. You haven’t bumped into anything, but you had no idea where you were going. It’s strange, I think it’s interesting to see our other senses at work while we’re looking at our phones, but it’s also pretty frightening.
What do you do to make yourself happy?
Mostly just going skateboarding with my friends or working on something that really interests me. You go out with your friends and maybe film something and create a film - or just have a really good time skateboarding together.
Would you say you’re an emotional person
Yeah, fairly. I mean in general men are a little bit more closed off about their emotions, but as a guy I think I’m quite emotional compared to most people.
Do you think with your generation it’s changing for men a bit?
Yeah, I think so. There is still a long way to go, but I think it’s definitely the beginning of something.
Do you feel comfortable sharing your emotions with other people?
Mostly, but it tends to be that I share my emotions with my girlfriend, she’s the one I can tell everything to. I do have other people that I can tell stuff to, as well though.
How do you express your emotions, do you cry?
Usually I just do it through talking, but it’s often quite difficult to express emotions through words, because they often don’t really do them justice. It’s difficult I think.
Do you think you have control over your emotional reactions, in terms of outlets?
Yeah, mostly. Sometimes I don’t think I have that much control, but mostly I’m able to take a deep breath or immerse myself in something for distraction.
Sometimes when I’m stressed I don’t help myself that much, but I try. My dad is a zen Buddhist and I think growing up with him teaching me how to relax myself really helps, with breathing techniques and meditation and stuff.
That’s so cool! Are you able to forgive yourself when you make a mistake?
I am quite hard on myself, but I think that’s quite a common thing - everyone does it.
With mental health being a buzzword at the moment, is that something that is close to your heart?
Yeah, I think so, I’ve known people who have had really bad mental health issues. To some extent I do and to some extent maybe everyone has in some sort of way. I definitely think that there needs to be more help and discussion around it.
As gender is becoming a bit more fluid within fashion and in general at the moment - how do you feel about gender identity?
Yeah, I feel more comfortable. I can wear most things and feel comfortable. I mean, I wouldn’t go out on the street on a regular day in a dress or something, but I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing it for a shoot. I feel like nowadays it is more accepted to be more fluid.
Would you say that masculinity is changing in your generation today?
There’s so many different forms of masculinity, I think there’s not this one media representation of masculinity now. We’re able to look past that and let other forms of masculinity come to the forefront.
Do you think that it means that men today can now ask for help when they need it?
Yeah definitely, I don’t feel the need to have big muscles or to go to the gym as that doesn’t define my kind of masculinity.
You mentioned that your dad is a Buddhist. Are you spiritual or religious?
I’m not officially but I read Buddhists texts and I’m interested in the philosophies of it. I mean I was christened a Buddhist, so if I was going to say I was a religion that would be it but I wouldn’t call myself one - I’m just interested in lots of different ideas.
What do you think from Buddhism that you’ve applied to daily life, how has that helped you?
Trying to stay in the moment and not worrying too much about the past or the future. Just trying to be happy and live in the moment.
What is your ultimate dream or goal in life?
I want to have lots of different creative outlets that can hopefully have some impact. I want to do lots of different things, mainly I want to be a fashion designer - I just want to be able to express myself creatively and somehow make money out of it.
Words by Matthew Regan
Photography by Cecilie Harris