Christopher Boots in conversation with Dana Tomić Hughes

Following the studio’s 11th anniversary Christopher Boots sits down with Dana Tomić Hughes, founder and editor in chief of Yellowtrace, for a candid conversation about living your truth, dealing with grief, and the importance of looking back to move ahead.

 

*Please be advised this interview contains profanities.*

 

PART 01

Dana
Hey CB! We made it.

Christopher
Is this thing being recorded? Yeah, baby.

Dana
It is, but I’m not going to share it… except, maybe, with the whole world. It’s like this conversation is completely private, but everyone will probably know about it. Hahaha! So… Tell me everything!

Christopher
Hahaha! Confession box.

Dana
I haven’t seen you in such a long time. I think the last time was in Milan in 2019. But I feel like I’ve really gotten to know you a bit better over the last couple of years through your personal Facebook, and all the things you’ve shared there—I got this beautiful sense of who you are. You’ve had some tough things you’ve gone through recently, haven’t you? How are you? How’s the grief? How are you dealing with it? [Christopher’s mum passed away in November 2020 after a brief but aggressive battle with cancer.]

Christopher
It’s kind of… amazing, because it is a process of adulting. I’ve spent my 20s being a fucking rainbow artisty type. Like—”Yeah, I’m never gonna be like a normal person.” Next minute—fucking mortgages, fucking responsibility. So this is just the process of life laying on all these things. And I’ve realised I’ve got the skillset to deal with it, and I need to apply all the learning. Even with mum—she was completely no bullshit. Very direct, very unapologetic. And I’d always apologise for her—like, “sorry, she’s a bit much”. And then afterwards, the crystallisation of—when all the family dynamics shift, because she is now gone—I realised that actually, she was completely right about a lot of things. And maybe her delivery was a bit blunt. But with her, when you cross her, she was like—”You’re out. You’ve actually crossed the boundary”. And I’ve realised that women like her who have been through a lot of shit are just, like—don’t fuck with me.

Dana
“Do not fuck with me” is my life’s motto. Respect!

Christopher
Yeah, respect. Because of our culture, as you’d know—she had to get married when she got pregnant in 1979. Pregnant, married in August, and I was born in November. And back then, there was no other option.

TROVE 2.0 - SALONE DEL MOBILE, MILAN. PHOTO: MATT MCQUIGGAN, 2022.

Dana
That was the only way to save face. And the family.

Christopher
Oh, the family! “What are they going to say?” And that’s why I always say—fuck people’s opinions, mate.

Dana
Do you feel like your heritage has had a big impact on you and what you do? It must have. Were you born in Australia?

Christopher
Yeah, I was born here, and then we moved to Greece for two years. And then they divorced because mum didn’t want to be a woman at home just cleaning and rearing a child. She was a party chick in the seventies. So after they divorced, she came back here with me. She was an independent woman and kind of a feminist, but not your classic type. She wasn’t academic.

Dana
Feminism has many faces. You don’t have to have a huge platform or go to protests for it to count. She raised an independent young man and empowered you to be who you are. I was actually just reading our chat from 2012 on Yellowtrace, which I completely forgot about. We did a little Q&A in the early days of your business. I’m revisiting your words now and your strength and the strength of your mum is absolutely all there. She raised you to be very strong and opinionated. You’ve always been that, but perhaps it’s now even more evident than before. And, to me, that’s what feminism looks like. You know—what a legacy.

Christopher
Totally! And that’s a running theme with anything I do. We’re just building on the people that have come before us. And the really crucial element is to honour that because nothing exists in a vacuum. Things are always either a continuation of something that’s come before. Even when we’re faced with questions like—”how are we going to work out if this design is any good or not?” I always say that my opinion doesn’t mean anything. All I’m looking at is the criteria that’s already set, things that just make sense. I’m not really anyone, at the end of the day. I’m the accumulation of all the experiences, and things I’ve read and seen. That’s it. So, what makes me more important? People say—”Dieter Rams. Look at this? Fucking nailed it. Decades ago. Done! Oh, geometry. Wow! Yeah, done!” We’re all just reinterpreting at the end of the day. I’m going through it all now because I’m writing a book.

Dana
I did not know about the book. That’s cool.

Christopher
Yeah, I’m trying to just shut up as you don’t want to say too much, because then the energy kind of peters out. It was meant to be done for last year, but I take a little bit of time to do things.

COLLECTIVE DESIGN FAIR, NYC. PHOTO: ERIC PETSCHEK, 2018.

Dana
It takes a long time though to write a book. From what I hear.

Christopher
Fucking hell. I mean, I always speak and write things out, or whatever, but actually making a cohesive story about the first 10 years of Christopher Boots is a massive job.

Dana
Fair enough. So is this the big thing that’s consuming you now?

Christopher
Yeah, it’s pretty hectic.

Dana
Let’s just go back a little. What made you start your business? Why did you decide to do it? Or did you even realise what you were doing at the time? Did you set out to build all this… or did that just kind of happen?

Christopher
“I wanted to have some fun.” I just read that out from the book, from the first draft, hahaha! That’s also part of why I want to write a book. I get interviewed all the time, and I’ve reflected on everything a lot and this is how the book idea originated. But the start of the business was really back in 2003 or 2004. I bought my website name when I was still at uni. At high school, everyone always shortened my name to Boots, and I thought that’s kind of a cool name. So I bought the website for shits and giggles, and got the Gmail address and the Hotmail address, you know—back in the day.

Dana
I still have them too, hahaha!

Christopher
So funny. That was almost 20 years ago.

Dana
That shows your vintage. And mine.

Christopher
Oh my god. What year were you born in, babe?

Dana
77. I think I’m older than you. You were born in 79. Yeah? I’m so old!

Christopher
No, you’re not! Is that why you sign off as Mama Yellowtrace? I thought—oh she’s transitioning to Mama vibes.

HERMES, NYC. PHOTO: LAUREN COLEMAN, 2015.

Dana
I’ve actually been Mama Yellowtrace for ages. I started to call myself that after becoming a mum to Luka ten years ago—it was just a little off-the-cuff name. But our videographer in Milan, Giacomo, who you’ve met, said—”I really like Mama Yellowtrace. It suits you, because you’re the mum of design, not just a mum to your boys. You take care of your people, your audience, you know?” I thought that was so sweet. I didn’t see it that way, so I thought—okay, I’ll just lean into that.

Christopher
It’s a beautiful archetype. It’s nourishing, guiding, caring. Really. That’s stunning.

Dana
It’s something I’m learning about as well, being a mother—it’s such a big job.

Christopher
How old are your boys?

Dana
They are 10 and 3. It’s a big challenge and the most beautiful thing. And you know, I read your words over on Facebook—I was so touched by what you were writing about your mum and how you were grieving her… and you still are. It all felt so significant to me because of my own children. As you say, we’re all so connected, and I felt really connected to your grief and humanity. It was so beautiful how you shared it all; I felt like I learned a lot. In a way, I’m also anticipating grieving my own parents one day. I know that’s coming, but we don’t talk about these things enough. We talk too much about shit that’s actually not that important. So I was right there with you, even though I couldn’t be there, especially through all the lockdowns. You have, in a way, excluded yourself from the world through COVID and grief. Do you feel like you’re ready to emerge again? Where are you at right now?

Christopher
When the pandemic first hit, actually, even before—towards the end of 2019, I said, “I think I’ll take Milan off next year. I need a break.” Travelling is great, and spending three or four months a year overseas, with my friendship networks, especially in Los Angeles, New York and Paris. But I was feeling a little bit tired. I needed some time off to regroup. It was coming up to 10 years of the business, and I needed a reset, because life isn’t linear. It goes through cycles, and I think that’s possibly what I’ve learned from having a single mum. There are different times to do things. And then the pandemic hits, and I said—”Oh, I’ll see you all in 2024″. And everyone’s like—”What do you mean, don’t be so depressing?” But I’m not depressed. I’m just a realist because—unfortunately, I do things like study history, and I know a little bit about pandemics and stuff. Five years, easy. Four or five years. People couldn’t conceive of the idea something could be so long, which is natural human denial. We like to think—”ok, by Christmas, I’ll be fine, or in the New Year.” Cool, okay. You believe that, and I’ll just do my thing over here.

OURANOS TEASER. PHOTO: MATT MCQUIGGAN, 2022.

It can be difficult for self-brands to navigate this, as my ex-boyfriend 10 years ago said—”You’re not a person, you’re a brand,” and I couldn’t really unwrap that, but I was learning to understand the concept of—What is me? What is my curated public perception of me? What am I aside from this thing that’s created, this thing I didn’t expect to create, because all I wanted was to make some shit and have fun with it, and then all this global pandemic shit goes off. And so, in that kind of context, I thought—yeah, just have some fucking time off, disappear a little bit.

I love having a little whitespace in life. And when I say white space, the last one I did, which was in 2011—in just two weeks, I left the previous business that I managed, which was Mance Design; sold a house that I co-shared with a friend who owned it; broke up with my partner of nine years; and moved out. Gone. So all these elements that made up who I was up to that point—I fucked it off, mate! When I moved out of my ex’s house, I left everything except my clothes. I thought, it’s just stuff. Start again. Fuck that shit. Fucking leave it. So that was my start of 2011 in two weeks. And then spending three or four months just staring out the window drinking green tea. I moved in with my friend Volker Haug then.

So, coming back to the idea of having a hermit phase. I think, actually—no, things won’t go back to normal. And we need the phase of being pruned or chrysalis in order to fully rebuild to re-emerge. You cannot just try to stitch together the tatters of what you’ve left. You can’t hold on to something that fundamentally needs to change.

Dana
You’re absolutely right. People are scared to think of change. I mean, I’m terrified to think—shit, I’ve got to let go of certain things. It’s like we all need to know that we can hang on to something. And actually, the less you do, the better it is.

Christopher
We want certainty.

Dana
But you kind of have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable… with the uncertainty. It’s amazing you’ve had that insight so early on. Speaking about it now, we’re three years into the pandemic, or however long it’s been, and I can see you’re absolutely right. But perhaps if we had this conversation in 2020, I would’ve said to you—shut the fuck up. Anyway, you’ve touched on something very interesting before. This idea of you as a person and you as a brand. This is a fascinating concept, and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot myself. Do you feel like you’ve come to terms with it now? Is it something you consider day-to-day? Like, how do you do this thing? What does being a brand look like in your head? What does that all mean, anyway?

HARKAWAY RESIDENCE - STUDIO DEL CASTILLO, MELBOURNE. PHOTO: TIMOTHY KAYE, 2022.

Christopher
To me, what it means is that basically, you know, I’m going to be gone one day. Like, whatever. So a lot of the things I do is that I’m collating bodies of knowledge, to pass that baton on to other people—that I feel is my obligation. You know, like, with Geoffrey [Mance] ‘s passing, he was a really good friend of mine, he taught me about lighting and putting things together and experimenting and trialling, and he was fucking hectic, and all this kind of thing, but that was really cool. And over the years, I realised—oh, that’s what they used to do in mediaeval Europe as a guild kind of concept, passing the training from a master to an apprentice. And this is how you keep these skills alive. I realised that’s my job. So my fundamental operating system with the business is that I’m just a name or a representation of that kind of stuff. I feel so grateful that my life has ended up like this. And you can’t just piss that away. You need to get it together somehow to hand on to the next gen. I’m a gay man who won’t have kids, but I can still hand them over the knowledge…

Dana
I’m going to start the article with—”I’m a gay man who’s got enough kids at work already.” This is my pull-out quote, hahaha!

Christopher
Hahaha! Oh no, that actually reminds me of the first article that was published about me. It was in the Age on some social page, I think, and it said—new designer Christopher Boots. And they just had a quote—making cool shit. That was it. I was like, wow. I love making cool shit. That’s great, fucking hell.

Dana
Wowzer. That’s all they got from your chat? Goodness.

Christopher
Right? And I’m here now writing a book, trying to curate things a bit more, so none of this points out of context, please!

Dana
No, I promise—nothing like that. Anyway, as you said before, we’re all standing on the shoulders of others that have come before us, and you’ve already referenced some people who have been important in your career, like Geoffrey. Is there anyone else who’s played an important role in your work? What about John Tsiavis?

Christopher
John! He’s great. Have you met him?

Dana
I’ve never met him. He’s shot a lot of your campaigns, the iconic ones that come to mind when I think of Christopher Boots. You know, there’s smoke, there are men, there are butts. Oh, there are lights there too, hahaha!

EARLY DIAMOND RING PROMOTIONAL SHOOT. PHOTO: JOHN TSIAVIS, 2012.

Christopher
Hahaha! Yeah, John is always pushing the envelope, he’s really driven, and he also knows what that space needs, you know—HBO and Disney in LA. He’s always been a good friend, obviously, because—we’re Greek. We’re gay. We’re out. This is our friendship.

Dana
You have a deeper understanding that goes beyond your work.

Christopher
Yeah, 100%. And I think that’s really good. He’d say to me—”Chris, we really should do this”. And I’d be like—”oh, I’m super busy”. But you just have to put your shit aside and give it to your friend to run things. Actually, I’ve been reflecting on this and how a lot of brands have their style guides. And I was, like—”I’m a little bit bored about that”, so we just did different shit every time, and people reinterpret things in a different way. I’d only think—does it communicate the basics of that you need to communicate, is that what the light looks like, is that the scale… oh, that’s interesting, where the fuck are they going with that kind of story. And that is it.

Dana
I love that, because it feels like these days everything’s a lot more structured, and if you have a brand, you’ve got to have a strategy, and you have to know everything—even the logo is not just a logo anymore; it’s a brand extension. Everything feels a lot more serious, but this is where being the brand conversation comes back. We talk about building a brand, and your brand is you. It’s a direct extension of you. You have a real feel for it—you know what feels right so that, even when you’re off breaking the rules, it’s all within the parameters of the Christopher Boots world. And that’s what makes it exciting. You’ve always had a strong brand without a branding partner telling you what that should be. It’s always felt a bit experimental. You’ve never played it safe, but I think it’s worked because it’s honest.

Christopher
You’ve got to push things. What are people going to notice? Something that’s different. Otherwise, surveillance capitalism comes in. “Ok, we found it, we’re just going to tweak the elements and now it’s going to be something else.” Are we going to be the slave to the algorithm now?

Dana
OMG, tell me about it! This very idea drives me nuts! Ok, I feel like you’re going to hate my next questions for some reason. I’d love to know what you’re most proud of? What do you feel has been your greatest achievement so far with the business?

Christopher
My greatest achievement is when people leave to start their own businesses, that also become successful.

EARLY DIAMOND RING FOR DUBAI. 2012.

Dana
Wow. Ok, that’s an amazing answer. That’s actually incredible.

Christopher
I love it when people are doing their thing. From day dot, when people came in, and I used to interview them myself, I asked them—what do you want to do? What are you here for? Do you want a job just to get around for six months, sit back, cruise, and get some money? Or are you trying to set up something? Like—what’s your career path? How can we align so you’re there doing your thing and we’re also getting what we need? And when we align things, it’s the best. And that’s happened with a lot of people—like, Oliver Wilcox from Lost Profile, Nicole Lawrence with her studio, we had Kate Steele [from Artefact Industries]. There have been so many people that have come through the Christopher Boots academy, and that’s so fucking awesome.

Dana
That’s incredible. What a legacy. And it’s only been 11 years. It really does speak to this idea of you wanting to pass on the knowledge, and being selfless with what you know, and what you’ve learned. It’s not like—”This is what I know. This is my business. This is my brand!” It’s just fantastic. I mean—that’s the shit!

Christopher
The world doesn’t work that way. Everything is changing. With open-source software, knowledge is everywhere, but the ability to translate that into practical wisdom is pretty rare. We’re drowning in data. How do you make sense of things? At the end of the day, it’s about people. Yeah, sure, the products or the place will be there, and I think I’ve said that before—”What do you wish in the future?” I wish these lights will be sold at Christie’s in the year 2200. Like, that’s awesome. But at the end of the day, the people that have come together to make things happen is cool to me. It’s not all about the capitalist attrition over here but paying back to the community, so they’re empowered, and things become dynamic. So I think having a mindset like—”Oh, it’s limited… oh, I can’t let them out because they’ll steal my market share, blah, blah, blah”. They won’t be you, there’ll be them. The market is big. You create your own markets that didn’t exist before.

NGV RIGG DESIGN PRIZE - DAVID HICKS. SHANNON MCGRATH, 2018.

Chris and I get cut off by Zoom here because, embarrassingly, I’m on a free plan, and we only had a 40-minute limit. So we decide to make coffee, and I call him back for more chatting shortly after.

 

PART 02

Dana
We’re back. Sorry about that. Bloody Zoom. I would’ve been happy to do this on the phone, but I just didn’t want to sit there and take notes. I just wanted to talk to you. Anyway, can you tell I don’t normally do interviews? It’s only for very special people. But we break the rules because we can. So, where are you right now?

Christopher
At my place. Fitzroy.

Dana
Oh, super central and close to the studio.

Christopher
I’m like a 400-metre walk from the studio. Amazing. I’m super privileged because of that.

Dana
But you’ve worked hard to enable yourself to do certain things. You’re still very fortunate, no doubt.

Christopher
Yeah, hard fucking work. It’s funny when you can tell when people grew up with money and they never had the struggle. I have struggled, which is why I overcompensate by working like a bitch. It’s like, I’ve seen what I don’t want to do, and I know what I need to do to do what I want. And it’s taken years, babe—it’s about taking on things and trying stuff out, and learning and applying that constantly.

Dana
It’s true, and I think this is also because you’ve taken a path that’s not conventional. Nobody wrote the playbook for what you have done, how to monetise something which is essentially art. Sure, it’s not just art, it’s design—it’s industrial design—and you’re making products, but it’s not conventional. It’s not selling things off the shelf. And we don’t have a long-established artisanal tradition or networks like that in Australia. Only very few people have done what you have, still to this day. There are more of them now, and, as you’ve said earlier, some of those people have come through your studio. You’ve actually played a part in growing an industry that didn’t exist before—so you have worked hard; you had to fuck up and figure it out. You haven’t chosen to be an accountant or a lawyer. There’s a clear framework for how you do shit in those jobs. But I guess what makes the rewards that much sweeter. I mean, maybe I’m putting words in your mouth. You tell me if I’m wrong.

Christopher
No, it’s true. It’s very true. We don’t have that culture necessarily. I mean, even going back to early Australian inventions—the Hills Hoist, the Victa Mower—this kind of stuff was done by people that just needed to answer a problem. So Australia’s in this very unique position where we don’t have the baggage of history like Europe that’s particularly saddled with. I have a lot of friends there who’ve studied architecture, and they’re really talented. But do you think they’re ever going to build a place there? It’s a very small chance. A lot of them end up working in the gaming industry, that kind of thing. That potential is crimped by the baggage of what is there.

But this country… it’s almost carte blanche, for the design world anyway. A unique country, unique people, unique backgrounds. And I think that’s what makes that potential quite successful. It’s immigrants that have come for a better life somewhere else. That was the homework that our grandparents and parents had. They came here to do their thing and raise the kids, where they’ll have good health care and food, and wars won’t be an issue, and all that other kind of heavy shit. Even with your background, I remember reading some of your war stories from where you grew up.

11-11-11 FILMS. JOHN TSAIVIS, 2022

Dana
Yep. Good times.

Christopher
I just call it the armpit of Europe, and that includes Greece.

Dana
The Balkans.

Christopher
It’s the Balkans. Yes, it’s the Balkanization and this, almost tribalist, kind of separatist thinking about identity. It’s really potent because and all about re-identifying—I am this, we are that. And we’ll continue to work to identify who we are individually and as a group. I find sociology and geopolitics fascinating. But yeah, I’m rambling on now; sorry Dana.

Dana
No, you’re not. This stuff is so interesting… And it’s important. It’s your own identity, the identity of what you’re doing, and what place you take up in the world. When you started your business in 2011—I’m thinking back to it because I remember that year vividly. It was the year before I became a mother and the year after I started Yellowtrace in 2010. It now feels like a different time. The world’s changed a lot since then. We were very much—in Australia—and the rest of the world was invisible. We weren’t connected like we are now with digital and social media—which have been a double-edged sword. A blessing and a curse, because I think it’s made a lot of people not know who they are, or what they want to do, this infinite possibility, it’s taken away our ability to create from within; we’re sort of creating from out there by referencing all this stuff. So I think it’s wonderful that you go deep and think this way. It’s basically who you are, and it’s because of your various interests, which you continue to bring to your work—this is why your work looks so singular, and it always has. It’s probably now been copied by others…

Christopher
Oh yeah, it happens a lot. Just the other day, we saw this thing… it was like our ORACLE. And I was like—that was back in 2012. Good on you. That’s so 10 years ago. Seriously? You know—You can steal my look, but you can’t steal my vision.

Dana
Oh, that’s amazing!

Christopher
I don’t remember who said it, but it’s so good, and that’s my take on it. It’s like, yeah, you can always try to take the façade of it, the “double tap” people who are just interested in the facade. That’s not my audience.

CHRISTOPHER BOOTS IN THE WORKSHOP. GUY LAPOIPIERRE, 2018.

Dana
Brilliant. I love that. Ok, I have two more questions for you. The first one is—what do you feel you’ve learned about yourself the most in the last 11 years?

Christopher
I think… I mean… I know that I can do anything.

Dana
That’s cool.

Christopher
I can do anything if I apply myself to it, if my heart is in it, and if a whole lot of things are guiding me in that direction. Yeah, that’s what I have learned. I can do anything if I’m applied and just keep going. With fuck ups along the way, for sure. That’s if I’m trying to condense it.

Dana
Do you feel like you don’t have any fear?

Christopher
If you’re scared, I think that’s a sign that there’s some sort of insecurity or attachment to an outcome, or a thing. I mean, that’s Buddhism 101—let go of the attachment and see what happens. It will be way more interesting than what we could have imagined.

Dana
So what are you doing now? And where to from here?

Christopher
There are a couple of massive projects I’ve got going on now that are, kind of, the next phase. After going to Flamingo Estate in LA in 2019, I was like—oh my god, this is amazing… the food, the produce, the living. I thought—this is wog!

Dana
Totally! But branded. It’s elevated wog!

Christopher
It’s elevated wog living, with the food and the goats.

Dana
Make your soap from goat milk, the oil from the olives and shit. I mean, get fucked!

Christopher
So beautiful. Plus, there was a real synergy and sense of the Japanese concept of Ikigai, a sense of purpose—what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you get paid for—that kind of Venn diagram. I was like—boom, done—here it is. That’s life. That’s a career. All this shit is actually all cohesive.

Dana
The perfect life. Everything aligned and feeding each other.

Christopher
I think that’s fundamental. The human struggle condition in this day and age is to align all of those aspects of ourselves, that are struggling to nourish our family and take care of them, to put food on the table. You know, there’s a career and an income, providing for a family but doing what we want instead of working in a shitty job, all in a sustainable way for the planet.

So I returned from that flight and thought—I need to buy a house in the country. I looked around, and I have a lot of friends in Warburton in Yarra Valley, where I’ve stayed many times. It’s an aberration there, that’s why I love it—it’s sort of like Twin Peaks; there’s something underneath. So I got off the plane and the first place I saw I thought—this it is. Done! I got the keys on my birthday in 2019. I was like—oh, this is weird. So I spent my birthday cleaning. I spent 80% of that week cleaning.

Dana
This was your 40th, right?

Christopher
Yes. My 40th birthday was spent cleaning.

Dana
Love it! Look at you. Welcome to your 40s! Good to know this happens to all of us.

Christopher
So yeah, I got myself a bit of a fixer-upper with quite a bit to do. I thought— it’s a good place to get away, I’ll put it on Airbnb, start doing the living off-grid kind of thing. And then, of course, the pandemic hits. And that was kind of prescient. Then mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the first week of February 2020. And then the lockdowns started in March…

Luckily, with Melbourne’s ring of steel during lockdowns, I was able to take mum out there for palliative care. She loved it—just the birds and the greenery. So it was really stunning to have that time together that year. It was the closure of having a parent/ child relationship. I wouldn’t fucking replace it for anything. Actually, I was joking with mum, like—”you picked a great time with the pandemic, mum!”

So that place out there was intended for bringing everything together, and I decided to do really fancy accommodation. I’m now in the concept stages with Fiona Lynch to design a hotel-grade stay.

CHRISTOPHER WITH HIS MUM - HALLOWEEN 2019. GUY LAPOIPIERRE, 2019.

Dana
Wow. You know I’m coming to stay, right?

Christopher
You are totally going to stay, babe! The next phone call after this is to the builder to tell him—pull your finger out. So it’s a pretty big project. Basically, we all work really hard in the city; we are digitally fried. We need to get out, and we need to touch the grass. Literally. So that’s this place, and it might pivot towards providing other aspects of the business becoming sensorially tangible… You can have a workshop, you could just stay with your friends, drink and make food, and do puzzles, or stay in front of the fire. This is what we’ve sort of done at the studio, but this place is meant to be where you go and relax.

And then concurrent to that—in the middle of 2020 during lockdowns on my little 5k walk around Melbourne, I’m walking through Fitzroy, and I’m like—oh, that building I like is for sale. Huge red brick warehouse near the Town Hall. So I started putting it forward, and mum was like—”Fuck it! Just go for it. You can sell your house, I’ll sell mine. Let’s just fucking do it!” So it took about five months to work this thing out and make it happen with a big mortgage. But now Chris Boots owns its headquarters. On a park. In Fitzroy. And this is a big project with this empty fucking shell that will take me years to do. And mum was just… you could just see—she was so proud. She went there once before she died, you know, me trundling her through, and she said—”Build my little thing out the back, I can stay here and after, whenever, you can just rent it out.”

Dana
How wonderful it is that she left knowing what you will be doing now. Your mum was a part of these big plans too. It feels like you’ve been in the right place—so aligned, and everything feels congruent. And… I’m really so sorry for your loss, Chris… I know that she is so proud of you.

Christopher
[Crying]… Yeah… It’s amazing… There’s always this real sense of her presence.

Dana
She will always be here. Your mum is a part of you, and she’s now part of what you’re going to continue to do. Because she saw it.

Christopher
[Crying]

Dana
Losing a parent is such a big, massive thing. We all know it will happen one day, but we are never really ready.

Christopher
We don’t want to acknowledge it. It’s always a hard thing. And it’s also one of those—what have you learned from your worst year—bucket, and it’s that this could be our last time together. And when she died, I was just like—”Oh my God, what if this is it? With everything.” I was going through the spirals, but I was actually also really fine. Things were apparent. Like—okay, this is what needs to be done. So it wasn’t depression. It wasn’t like—oh, I can’t do anything. In fact, it was, in a way, really empowering to know that every day we can wake up and make a choice. We can make things better. Let’s do it. Let’s fucking make it better for someone, no matter who it is, and that’s going to help the world. That’s how we can carry stuff on. That’s how things will progress. That’s how life will get better. So, that was really, really fucking empowering. Not easy, but empowering. I know a lot of people are very scared of that, but everyone’s in a different part of their story. You know, for many years, I was always like—I’m just going to be this fuckin’ rando. But no—it’s now like—Oh my God, Chris, you’re just gonna have to grow up at some point!

Dana
What does growing up even mean?

Christopher
It’s what we make of it. So I’ve got this place, it’s fucking big now, and I’m working with Edition Office.

Dana
Amazing. You’re really stepping shit up here!

Christopher
Well, I can’t just do it myself. I cannot be fucked, plus I have a business to run. I asked them—”Can you please do it? I’m picking you because you’re good, you’re really tight, you’re really smart, and I fucking drool over what you do.” So yeah, we will try to sequence it because I can’t afford to do the whole thing at once. So they’ll do my little caretakers thing, basically providing a space for the community. A space for salons for discussions, for performances, for gallery shows, you name it. This is kind of my legacy piece to carry on as something physical. Yeah, the 35-page brief I gave the Edition Office, you know—they were so good, they said—”ok, you’ve got Atelier Brancusi, you’ve got Donald Judd, all of these kinds of models that represent an artist-designer space, where things converge.” So next time you’re in Melbourne, come down.

Dana
I 100% will.

Christopher
It’s pretty hectic, and it’s pretty big. But it was a bit like—what do you do now? Let’s do something challenging. That’s why I’m not going to Milan next year. I know it’s really good for the brand and I will miss all my friends from the northern hemisphere…

Dana
But you’re doing something big and important here right now.

Christopher
Exactly. The future is really pivoting towards providing spaces that articulate all of these ideas that seem so conceptual, that are sitting in a physical place for the community. And then also for more intimate things that will support the idea that we do need more contact with nature, in our connection to food production, and our connection to social and community things. And to each other.

Dana
This brings a whole new dimension and deep engagement. It’s not just brand immersion—it’s an immersion in all the good things that matter. And beauty. Because beauty is essential to some. Well, to us.

Christopher
Totally! It’s like the spreadsheet approach. No wonder people are dumbing down because they live in horrible boxes when it could all be so beautiful.

Dana
Exactly. Hey, thank you for all this—for your insight, for your honesty, for being you, for your tears. I loved this so much.

Christopher
Me too. Hey, you should drop this as one hectic podcast…

Dana
I totally should, shouldn’t I?

 

 

As they say, the rest is history… We didn’t do a hectic podcast, but we brought you our complete chat, warts and all. Thanks for tuning in!

Also, make sure to check out the studio’s most recent work — 11-11-11 — a triptych of films conceived in collaboration with Christopher’s close friend and collaborator, cinematographer John Tsiavis, and under the choreographic direction of Garry Stewart. Each film sees the movements of body and space bring to life lighting objects the studio is renowned for.

Love, Boots & Mama Yellowtrace X