Read our full PAQ series and see some new shots from Notion 82.
Infusing the group with a dose of old school cool is 21-year-old Danny Lomas. “I would describe my style as ‘classic British’,” he tells me. “I find inspiration through subcultures while keeping things clean and neat.”
Having worked at a skate park for three years, you can see Lomas’ influence in the channel’s nod to British heritage brands and classic skate wear. He also leads the way in last month’s ‘How to Make Dr. Martens Look Fire’, an episode where the group are tasked with styling an outfit inspired by a music subculture around a pair of Dr. Martens, a particularly easy challenge for Lomas considering, as Elias Riadi jokes during the episode, that he was “born wearing a pair.”
Lomas hails from Driffield, a small market town in East Yorkshire. All of the PAQ boys bring something to the table, but Lomas’ ace is his respect for independent brands and artists. “My appreciation for independent brands came from growing up in a small town,” he explains. “If anyone created their own brand within our area we’d always show support where we could as opposed to just buying into all the big dogs.”
As a presenter of one of YouTube’s fastest rising style channels, Lomas will be the first to tell you about how much the internet has changed the fashion industry. “You have the whole world at your fingertips, so you can connect with people and see the styles from across the globe,” he says. “In the past fashion depended more on what your local stores carried or what people would bring over to your area. You couldn’t just order something from across the world with a few clicks.”
But the skater is also key in highlighting the internet’s compliancy with fast fashion. “Everyone is trying to keep up with the ever changing styles and ‘the next big thing’,” he adds.
Lomas’ longstanding appreciation for independent brands is indicative of a recent surge in awareness around the environmental impact of fast fashion. “The step away from fast fashion is bloody fantastic,” he says. “The idea that a garment is cool for a few weeks before everyone gets rid is so wasteful and toxic.”
“I love the phrase ‘Fashion is temporary whereas style is timeless’ and all that jazz because it’s so true,” he continues. “I’d rather keep a rotation of 5 jackets over a few years rather than buy a new jacket every week as that defines style rather than following trends for the sake of it.”
Despite being a self proclaimed “simple man”, there’s no denying that Lomas is helping to shepherd fashion-conscious youth into a new, sustainable way of thinking about style. But what does he like to do in his time off? “When I’m not with PAQ I enjoy listening to music, reading books and of course visiting the pub at every chance I get,” he laughs. “You take the boy out of the north, but you can’t take the north out of the boy…” Sounds about right.
With his silver skull rings and painted nails, Dexter Black brings something different to the fore. Usually dressed in head-to-toe black, the 22-year-old takes his style cues from goth culture. “When I was younger I used to wear black a lot,” he explains. “It depended on my mood but in 2016 I just decided to commit. It’s comfortable, simple and fun because you’re always looking for new ways to wear it.”
Although his aesthetic is somewhat nonconformist in spirit, Black leaves any style stubbornness at the door when it comes to challenges, which often require him to build looks in collaboration with other creatives. “I don’t know what I am, but I’m something,” he jokes during an episode that forces him to ditch the black in favour of double denim and a brightly coloured neck scarf to offset the palette of fellow YouTuber Nina Huynh.
But Black’s eagerness to defy expectations goes beyond fashion. Like all the PAQ boys, the artist is working to chip away at the myths that surround masculinity. Black was born with a hole in his heart along with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot. In an episode where the group have to confront their biggest fears for a shoot, he talks openly about his experiences in hospital and his anxiety surrounding the likelihood of him having another operation in years to come. “I’m actually facing this,” he says during the shoot. “I know that it might have to happen in the future, but I feel a lot better.”
Outside of PAQ, Black – who grew up with a father who made reggae rap and a mother who wrote poetry – works as a writer, musician and producer. “I’ve always loved music and used to write for fun, but as I got older it became my way to express the emotions I was feeling,” he says.
Inspired by the likes of MF Doom, Raider Klan and Three 6 Mafia, Dex’s sound is much like his style. “My music can be quite dark,” he adds, highlighting the similarities between the two. “I would say how I dress is a blank canvas and my sound is the artwork I decide to create”. But that doesn’t mean he’s in charge of the music used for the channel. “No… PAQ is a family show,” he laughs in response to this.
I finish up my conversation with Black by asking his thoughts on what the next big thing in streetwear might be. “That’s up to the youth,” he answers rather cryptically. However, in hindsight, his response is pretty fitting. PAQ isn’t a show that tells young people what to wear; it’s a platform that gives them the inspiration to decide for themselves. Predicting the next big thing would only serve to defeat that.
Shaquille Keith is a man with many dreams. With a degree in Illustration and Visual Communication from Westminster, he’s just as much about his art as he is about his style. “Visual arts was something I was born into,” he says. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in and hold dear to my heart. It’s my finest form of expression”
“I dream one day of being able to pull a Basquiat and sell pieces for more than a decent amount of money,” he continues, citing one of “three major inspirations” – Tupac Shakur, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Alexander McQueen. “Those guys changed the world and the world’s way of looking at things,” he adds.
Unfortunately, however, you’ll be hard pressed to get your hands on a Keith original any time soon, as the 23-year-old is against taking commissions for now. “My art is something that I can’t just do,” he explains. “Everything I create is off feeling. Whether it’s an animation or a painting, there’s definitely a reason I decided to create each piece I make.”
But what inspires this feeling? “The idea of changing the world,” he replies frankly. “Everything I do, I want it to be a service to mankind. It might sound corny, but when I create it’s to inspire other artists so that they can go and create art and inspire others too.”
For Keith, being a presenter of a fashion show isn’t just about brands and labels; he’s driven by a sense of self that transcends his penchant for dungarees, berets and hoop earrings. “Style is more important than fashion for sure – it’s how I express my mood,” he says. “You can tell where my head’s at from the way I dress. I’m the kind of person who wears their heart on their sleeve, and sometimes those sleeves are Coogi, sometimes they’re Helmut Lang.”
At the close of our conversation, Keith ponders what it takes to stand out from the crowd in a scene as saturated as streetwear, something that all the members of PAQ seem to do so effortlessly. And it turns out that, in all of his unique flourishes, in his desire to be an artist that inspires others, the thing that makes Keith stand out from the crowd the most is actually his ease with being part of it. “Stop trying to stand out, because in doing that you’re doing exactly what everyone else is trying to do,” he says. “Just be the best you that you can be.”
When it came to starting PAQ, Elias Riadi saw a gap in the streetwear scene and filled it with a channel that is run by a group of men who are a mouthpiece for their generation just as much as they are style mavericks.
“PAQ was built on positivity and change within a younger generation,” the 21-year-old explains. “We always continue to try to push boundaries and break stigmas and stereotypes to be positive role models for our audience. Anyone that has a platform and an audience is technically a role model because people look up to them.”
After meeting each other at various different events, Riadi brought the group together to find Generation Z’s answer to Top Gear. “We started talking about what our generation would want to see on YouTube and around fashion,” Riadi recalls of PAQ’s beginnings. “We brainstormed some ideas for the first episode and then everything seemed to fall into place from there.”
But PAQ isn’t just for hypebeasts. Riadi is determined to change the conversation around youth culture in general, and in turn he wants to give his audience the representation that he feels was lacking when he was younger.
“I feel like men are becoming more confident in fashion and are playing around more with silhouettes that are experimental,” he resolves. “Because of this, fashion brands and houses are now offering more variety that represents this. Gender fluidity is also getting bigger and the lines between menswear and womenswear are blurring – I love women’s trousers and wear them all the time!”
“We try to tackle issues and empower people,” he continues, highlighting the group’s recent collaboration with Lynx and anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label. “We want to use our platform to change and improve people’s lives.”
It goes without saying that Riadi’s style is anything but understated – his futuristic ensembles have even led him to coin the alias Astroboy. “My personal style is varied. I love flamboyant, loud prints, colours and crazy silhouettes,” he says, explaining the nickname. “I take inspiration from different eras and merge them together.”
Right now Rialdi is focused on making PAQ the best it can possibly be. “I want it to be a show that anyone can sit down, watch and enjoy whether they like fashion or not. I want to continue lifting people as much as we do,” he says. But, as is the case with all members of the group, life doesn’t just revolve around PAQ. “I’m also in early stages of working on an exciting project of my own and looking to launch my own brand,” he closes with. Something tells me that this is just the tip of the iceberg.