Growing up on a diet of surf movies, punk music and skate culture, Emil Kozak has always loved creating things from scratch. As a teenager, he could be found diving into the waves that curl against southern Denmark with a bodyboard made of foam that he’d sourced from the local mattress factory. Other early Kozakian inventions range from lego wheels glued onto slippers, to a fussball table he put together in his grandfather’s workshop. Punk was a big influence, thanks to the “DIY ethic” that had him creating “CDs, tapes or T-shirts” for his band, and through its “humane approach to thinking” that even helped unlock his love of nature. Nowadays, that’s what captures his imagination.
“Everything from the forest to the beach to the sea, everything that represents this majestic nature, it just really inspires me.” he says, “I find peace in the feeling of being a speck of dust in the void of the universe… you can feel small in nature, I like that feeling, an insignificance.” He adds — a little more cheerfully, “I love myself a good sunset!”
Emil is our creative director, being responsible for many of the designs that work their way onto our clothing, from emblematic sea scenes to whimsical logos. Over the years he has created an aesthetic identity for the brand and continues to unify all visual elements, from graphics to advertising. His style is “minimal. Relatively clean… I just like to be as simple as possible but that people can still read it and have an emotional experience with it. That’s my goal in creative design terms.” The pinnacle of this quest for clarity might just be our whale icon, which seemed to “resonate with people”, perhaps because it provided a “totem animal, the most majestic creature of the sea and the bluest of them all.”
He still loves the ocean and views surfing as a way to reconnect with the landscapes he left behind. Having moved to Copenhagen, then Barcelona, he had started to yearn for the peace, quiet and beauty of island life. In short, he was homesick. “I took for granted where I grew up, which is a tiny town, with lakes and then the sea around it where my parents had a summer house. It’s something I’ve realised: the therapeutic aspect of going into nature. All of a sudden you really miss that.” Going to the shore gives him an outlet: “surfing here has been an escape from the city.” And even though he has taken on the legendary surf spots of Hawaii or adored California’s counter-culture and long point breaks, nothing beats “having a good session here, because I know the place perfectly. I know exactly how the wave is going to behave. There is nothing like surfing at home.”
You could say that Emil found his footing in Barcelona. He came to the city after falling in love with his future wife and quitting an ad agency job that seemed to be going nowhere — or at least nowhere he was fond of. He explains, “if you want to do something good like that, you have to pour a lot of energy and heart and soul into it.” Compelled to go his own way, he told colleagues “I’m just going to move to Spain and do the stuff that I like. I want to be making skateboard, surfboard, snowboard graphics.” At the time he was laughed out of the room. But this leap of faith paid off as he slowly attracted clients who were looking for something different, unique. He eventually met Lutz Schwenke, fellow surfer and the founder of TWOTHIRDS: “we started doing smaller projects and that just developed. We have a really good creative chemistry and he’s a fun guy to work with! Now I’m dedicated to this.” He finds it especially rewarding to be part of “a really talented team. You just realise that this is the next step in one’s progress because in creativity you always want more, you want the next inspiration.” By collaborating with this “palette” of people, what would once take him weeks to accomplish now takes days. To further underscore this, the Dane switches to his native tongue: “at løfte i flok”, a phrase that means, to act in concert, or as he translates, “a group can lift more than what a single person can”. It’s an obvious truth that carries extra weight in an age of isolation, quarantine and working from home.
Emil is simply happy to keep creating. Among a sea of other interests and hobbies, designing has been “a constant during my whole life”. For that, he feels lucky to have hit upon something that has no conceivable boundaries, “art and design, illustration: I just feel that it’s an endless, limitless voyage.”