This article is taken from Issue 39 of Proper, copies of which should still be attainable here
Ladi Kazeem has lived a wild, turbulent and successful life. The Middlesbrough-lad has spent time in Manchester which is how we got to know him, but he now resides in the North East of England, where he runs his vintage reselling business from his studio is Saltburn.
It hasn’t always been fun and vintage: many of his formative years, both as a young adult and during the foundations of his business, The Vault, were based around sofa-surfing, sleeping in cars and hustling in the rough. The hard work paid off, and Kazeem now counts Kanye and Kendall Jenner amongst his clientele. But it isn’t really about that. For Kazeem, selling t-shirts, merch and posters (Surrealism Habituary, if you’re after some less wearable art), is about connecting to people, his family, and the wider world.
Vintage t-shirts (and all memorabilia, really) are a vehicle for a message. They speak of a place in time or of a significant moment. When people see these bits of iconography, they relive them. In a way, Kazeem has carved out a place for himself in the world that enables people to access these moments.
We grabbed Ladi for a hot second to quiz him on five of his favourites.
What’s your favourite way to relax the mind?
I love football. I’ve played since I was 6 and this is probably the first season ever where I haven’t been fully immersed in Saturday football.
I signed for a team at the beginning of the season but didn’t get a look in, and by the time I decided to move on, half the season was over! So I wrote off this season and focused on playing Sundays for Marton CCFC, which wasn’t a bad decision as we won the league, went undefeated (by default as a few teams folded along the way) and we’re currently on course for the double, so that’s been the silver lining this year.
What’s your favourite vintage t-shirt find?
This one is a little bit more difficult as I can’t remember a day in the last 10 years where I haven’t been out hunting for vintage. To be honest, I keep surprising myself, especially when I go through dry periods, which have become more common due to the magnification of vintage these days.
I’d have to say that my favourite most recent find was around 9 1995 BJORK post-deadstock t-shirts which are pretty rare and sell quite frequently in the thousands.
The funniest part was another dealer found 2-3 a few weeks before me and I recognised the deadstock packaging, but I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d seen it. It was bugging me and then I was at my friend’s office talking about how I hadn’t found anything meaningful in a few months and then it hit me where I’d seen the packaging before.
The next day I went to the spot, grabbed a few t-shirts, but there were no Bjork tees there. I left, and then a few hours later I thought actually I’m going to have one more look and I went back and rooted around through all the boxes and finally found a small box full, so that was pretty amazing.
Years gone by I’d have posted my find all over my socials but there’s actually a lot more value in keeping stuff like that to yourself.
What’s your favourite bit of memorabilia?
My mother was a hoarder and struggled to part with anything. I grew up in a 4 bedroom house, with one room full to the ceiling with Coca-Cola merch, corgi fire engines and vintage teddy bears, all of which I used to be embarrassed by. I’m sure they’d all be worth a mint now.
I remember that my mother’s room was full of books and annuals and even more vintage style teddy bears, very similar to the Ralph Lauren Polo bears that are quite sought-after now.
I was too busy running around like a lunatic child to ask why she collected all these different ornate trinkets, but if she passed anything onto me it would probably be the inability to let things that I think are valuable go.
I’ve got a pretty extensive vintage 90s Coca-Cola merchandise collection in storage that I haven’t looked at or added to in about 5 years, so I’d say that’s my favourite bit of memorabilia as it reminds me not only of my mother but my childhood.
Your favourite album ever?
G-Unit – Beg for Mercy.
Those who listened to it when it dropped will most likely know the album – like myself – word for word.
And most recently: Bibio – A Mineral Love. It came out in 2016 but that’s my go to.
Your favourite brand?
I’d probably say Adsum NYC. I’m fortunate enough to have spent some time with the boys over in Brooklyn on a few occasions, and they’ve always looked after me and we’ve worked on a handful of projects together and hopefully more in the future.
Pete, Ricer, Matt and everyone else associated are all good people.