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In Profile: Johnson Gold & Terence Sambo

In Profile: Johnson Gold & Terence Sambo

Johnson Gold and Terence Sambo are on a mission to redefine male fashion. The founder and fashion editor are the creative force behind cult menswear magazine, PAUSE, part of a new wave of streetwear publications encouraging their young male audience to experiment with style. A focus on youth culture and urban dressing combined with their innate digital savvy and authentic messaging sets them apart from other mags. We meet in London’s West End, where they're keen to point out that they’re not ones to conform to out-dated sartorial expectations. After a day-long shoot that involved head-to-toe Gucci and Palm Angels bum bags styled by the creative duo, we sat down to talk street style, radical publishing and how to make it on your own terms.

Tell us about starting PAUSE magazine.

J: I began when I was at university. I was studying, and I got an internship at a university magazine where they let me design their layouts. That was my first exposure to anything media-related. I wanted to get into fashion because I’ve always had an interest in it – I used to dress up for my lectures, put in a bit of effort. So I started a blog called Pause4Swag. I was posting things that I liked – I’d write about things I’d seen on the street. During the internship they used to take us to visit Hearst, the publishing company. I used to go in there and think ‘wow, look at these magazines’ – but there wasn’t really one that I could relate to. So I thought I’d turn my blog into a magazine. I was thinking about what to call it, so I sat for hours, thinking, not realising the name was already there – it was PAUSE.

T: When I moved to London in 2012, I was a blogger, and I’d shoot street style. I’d always see Johnson and some of the team members from PAUSE at Fashion Week. We got in touch, because they had that medium, and later when I got tired of blogging I thought about writing for a magazine. So I spoke to Johnson, and he said ‘yeh, come on board’, and the rest is history, literally.

So it was quite an easy transition. Johnson, had you heard of Terence before?

J: Yes I had! I remember at Fashion Week, I was speaking to my friend, and I was like ‘oh my god there’s that Terence Sambo guy’, because he used to be called One Nigerian Boy. He had a blog called One Nigerian Boy, and it was huge. If you were African and into fashion, you had heard of him. Even if you weren’t African, you’d heard of him. I always knew of him and what he did, and knew he could bring some value to the magazine.

What is your vision for PAUSE, and what do you want to communicate to its readers?

J: Don’t be scared, just go for it, try new things. When I started PAUSE, men’s fashion was at a point where it was just changing. At that time, I’m talking 2012, not a lot of guys were really stylish and fashionable. A lot of guys were really scared. That’s the whole purpose of the magazine, if you like an aesthetic and you’re masculine, don’t be scared, you can wear it, you can rock it. It’s not all about sneakers and a jacket, there’s more you can do, that’s what we try to show and do in everything we create.

T: With PAUSE, we’re breaking the rules, we don’t stick to gender norms or dress a certain way because we feel like boys should dress that way. There was a period when Jaden Smith was wearing skirts and dresses. That was a really interesting transitional period for a lot of men and boys, because they look up to Jaden as a style influencer, and all of a sudden he was just having fun, deal with it. He was featured in the Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign. Screw gender norms, wear what you want to wear, even if you don’t feel like you identify as a particular gender, if you’re non-conforming, just wear whatever you want. The message is about being yourself and not being scared to try it.

Johnson wears: Track Jacket Gucci, T-shirt Gucci, Cap Gucci, Track Pants Valentino
Terence wears: Track Pants Palm Angels, Jacket Palm Angels, Bum Bag palm Angels, Cap Off White

What are the biggest inspirations for PAUSE?

T: I would say it was the normal kids, who aren’t celebs, who are just effortlessly stylish. We’ve been looking a lot lately at South Korea because we have a big following there. That’s where we find a lot of kids who are trendy, breaking gender norms, wearing women’s bags. They’re starting to inform some of our decision making about editorial and the kind of images we’re putting out there. It’s not only celebrities, it could be some average, unknown guy that’s stylish – they’ve got an eye and are able to put an outfit together. Those people are our inspiration.

J: The street is our biggest inspiration. We have PAUSE shots – that is a huge inspiration. We can collectively put all of our readership onto one platform and know that those are the people actually reading the magazine. They’re all stylish, they’re all breaking boundaries, they’re all up with the trends, they’re all about trying something new, and putting something inspiring out there for other people. It’s about the street. People like to see real people.

What do you make of the big fashion houses adopting street style in their collections?

J: That’s so funny, I was actually talking about this the other day. A lot of high end designers are tapping into streetwear. Streetwear is very relevant, it’s real and influential and it’s what people want. All of the most influential and stylish celebrities, influencers and people are rocking it. Look at the Balenciaga Triple S and how that just swifted like that. You have to be part of the culture, because otherwise you’ll be left behind.

Do you think street style has changed over the years?

J: Definitely. Look at how Prada was two years ago, and now they’ve become really streetwear. Gucci has always been Gucci, but sometimes if you look closely there are certain pieces that they provide for the streetwear market. All of the high end brands are making sure they’re incorporating it into their collections.

Johnson wears: Shirt Y-3, Long Sleeved T-shirt Palm Angels, Cap Y-3, Bum Bag Gucci

Is there something unique about UK style?

T: It’s the freedom to just be yourself. I’ve got two perspectives on UK and London style. One is from when I was an outsider, before I moved here. I always thought that London was very different from other cities – people were free to be themselves, wear whatever they want. I could see that the culture influenced style, with all the different style tribes in London. Then when I moved here and became part of the community, I knew I had to figure out which tribe I belonged to. I settled down for the streetwear and sportswear aesthetic.

I think London is unique because it doesn’t frown on anything you do, you can be as extra as you want with your style. No-one really cares, it’s okay for people to be expressive with their style. In terms of style, London is the most democratic city, where you can be yourself and explore.

How has your upbringing shaped your interest in fashion?

J: I’m not sure it has. I’ve always been very different to my family. Even the earing I’m wearing now, I went home the other day and my mum was like ‘what is this in your ear?’ But then possibly it comes from my mum because when I look through her stuff from the ‘90s, she has old Chanel, vintage Versace pieces and Gucci, old vintage designer accessories. I guess somewhat it comes from her ¬– I’ve even stolen some of her clothes for fashion week. Like her black fur coat, her long camel coat, I’ve stolen loads of coats from her. I guess it comes from my mum.

T:At home in Lagos, we didn’t have much access to fashion, so I lived my life through magazines. When the internet came along, I would look online and see what other people were doing. It wasn’t until I moved here that I feel like I was able to actively partake in fashion and style. Before my dad married my mum, he was a DJ and they had a boutique in Lagos, so maybe I picked up some of my interest in style from him. Also, my younger sister is a fashion designer back in Nigeria. I feel like my parents and siblings encouraged me. My parents always told me to do whatever I wanted to do and to be myself, as long as I could support myself.

Does Lagos have a streetwear scene now?

T: There are a lot of brands here from the UK that people wear in Lagos, because they’ve seen it online. Whatever they see, especially from the UK, if they feel like it’s on-trend, they’ll start to copy it. It might be a couple of seasons late, but they catch on. They’re very expressive and they like to show off, so fashion is a big deal to people in Lagos.

What has been your favourite PAUSE editorial to date?

T: For me, the more emotional ones are the more notable ones. Like the first time we were in Paris. When we did the first one in Paris, we didn’t have many influencers or models, I think we only had like ten boys. Because it was the first, it felt very fulfilling in a sense. That was definitely one of my favourites.

What about your favourite PAUSE interview feature to date?

J: My favourite interview was with Ian Connor. I interviewed him last year, and it was my favourite because he gets judged a lot on social media, but he was the most real and humble person I’ve ever interviewed. I remember, I interviewed him at the Ace Hotel in his hotel room. He agreed to the interview via Instagram DM, he was like ‘yeh, let’s do this, can you do this today?’ And I was at home relaxing on a Sunday, but luckily there was a photographer available so we went to Shoreditch and did the interview.

Terence wears: Hooded Sweatshirt Valentino, Cargo Trousers Valentino, Canvas Cap Gucci, Belt Bag Gucci, Trainers Gucci, Socks Palm Angels

How would you describe your personal style?

J: I’m someone who’s not afraid of colour, definitely. I always prefer to wear colour than wear black. I always used to just wear black, now I prefer to stay away from it. I’m not afraid to be different. If a brand contacts me and asks me to pick something, I always pick the item that isn’t the most popular, or the one that people are scared of wearing. That’s just me, I like to be a bit different and unique.

T: Sports references are probably the most important element of my style because I’m always wearing a pair of trainers and a cap. I prefer joggers over jeans or any other type of bottoms, you’ll always find me in tracksuit pants, trainers and a cap. I’m not scared to wear big logo or printed stuff, like the Burberry check or the Gucci double G cap, which makes it a bit unique. Because almost everyone wears sportswear, I like to wear stand-out accessories or other louder elements – it elevates your sportswear and makes you stand out. I’m not afraid to clash.

What are your favourite brands right now?

J: Gucci, Fendi and Acne Studios. Because I think Acne Studios has always been true to what it is. Gucci, I just love Gucci, it’s in the blood, I can’t explain it, but it’s in the blood. With Fendi, I just like how they’ve come back to who they are, and have become more true to the brand. They’re the luxury brands I’m feeling right now.

T: I’m always loving whatever brand is the biggest tastemaker at the time. For now, it’s Balenciaga. They can do anything, and all the other brands begin to copy. The way they use really simple elements and convert them into luxury, and people believe in it, people buy it, which shows how much influence and power they have, that really interests me. I do like Burberry as well, the Burberry check is just my aesthetic, all of the old references that I have. I really like what Burberry is, and what Burberry was in the past. Also, a lot of the new wave mid and luxury brands, like Palm Angels, I like what they represent – they have a singular vision of who they are and where they want to be. I like Off White as well, I love the accessories, and I do love Virgil (Abloh) as a person, I respect him so much, so I have a fondness for Off White.

What piece have you got your eye on this season?

J: That Gucci bag from the shoot. The Gucci womenswear bum bag. It’s amazing – the shape, the size. I wish it was available for men also. It kind of is, men can buy it too. That’s the one piece I definitely have my eye on.

T: The Palm Angels, all-over print jogging bottoms that I wore for the shoot. They feel like a timeless piece that I could wear ten years later and they wouldn’t look old. They’re very much my style – they’re jogging bottoms that I normally wear, so they’re practical.

Johnson wears: Bomber Jacket Maison Margiela, T-shirt Maison Margiela, Tapered Trousers Marni, Cap Gucci

What look has got you the most attention on the street?

J: When I was in Milan, I wore a blue shearling blazer, with striped pants and my Gucci loafers and my little docker hat. I remember that day, I was so tired, something had pi*sed me off work-wise, like an email, so I was in a bit of a mood. I got out of the car, I was on my way to the Dsquared2 show, and I’ve never been so papped in my life.

T: I think it has to be the all-over Burberry check that I wore at London Fashion Week Men’s. That got reposted so much and was in loads of magazines. I’d never done it before, I had one show, and sometimes at fashion week I get stressed out about what to wear, so I thought I’d just try the all-over Burberry check, and it was a last minute decision but it worked out fine.

Where will PAUSE go next?

J: Next for PAUSE is expansion, we’re going to be doing a lot more merchandise, a lot of events in the summer. We work with a lot of brands in the UK, but we want to expand our reach to the Asian markets to see what PAUSE can do there.

T: International expansion into new markets. We’re going to try to expand into Scandinavia this year, also Poland, Amsterdam, and Belgium. It’ll be great to see what collaborations we can do out there. I’m really excited about the potential with the merchandise. We spend a lot of time telling people what to buy, now we can provide it.

Terence wears: Jacket Gucci, Polo Shirt Gucci, Track Pants Gucci, Trainers Gucci

Photography: Ollie Ali, Words: Florence Trott