Ariel Stark-Benz, founder of lighthearted cannabis brand Mister Green to some time out to talk through how he started the cult brand, his favourite London spots and how life over in LA has changed since lockdown...
Garbstore: What was the concept behind Mister Green when you first started the brand?
Ariel Stark-Benz: I came up with the idea around 2014 while I was working for Ace Hotel's creative team (specifically on goods and collaborations). Given that I was working in an environment of a company that was reimagining hospitality, I suppose it was nurturing for me to re-imagine weed culture. Ultimately the concept was to create a brand that would champion people who loved both weed and design. Mister Green, like many other brands, is an attempt at celebrating a unique point of view via well made goods. Given the fragile relationship people sometimes have to drugs, we definitely try to aim a bit higher and create especially nice things that draw all types of people in.
GS: What is your inspiration for when you started to design the latest collection?
ASB: It's our 8th collection, and the working title we went with is "coastal things," meaning all of the trappings of beach side living – tourists, 80s surf nostalgia, new age lifestyles, burnouts... all set to the sound crashing waves, the deep meditatives blue vastness.
GS: How does your background influence the current running of Mister Green?
ASB: I guess my upbringing with hippie parents, travel and experimenting with drugs are a few things and then perhaps more-so, being around people who have been to space far more times than I ever will. Also, naturally I've always been an art and design obsessed person, I think that lends itself very naturally to the process of creating Mister Green as a brand.
GS: What do you love about London?
ASB: As much as people (myself included) fret over globalization, whenever I am in London I get terrifically inspired by the way people approach things. A dear family friend lived in a squat for around 30 years, starting as a young punk rocker in the 70s and leaving only after having had a career for years and starting a family. When I was a kid, her lifestyle blew my mind. But on a more recent basis, I remember going to a bike retailer/repair shop/cafe years ago and thinking how genius it is that you could drop your bike off for a quick repair and have lunch while you waited. You might be reading this thinking "what the fuck is special about that?" But when you live in a major metropolis where such things simply don't exist or occur in people's minds, it's very special to encounter!
GS: Which are your favourite areas and spots in London?
ASB: Mangal on Arcola St is still my favorite restaurant in London, I spent a summer living around there in the early 2000s and I ate there at least 5 days a week. I went indoor bouldering at Yonder in Walthamstow and had a great time, I also really enjoyed the area from what I saw of it.
GS: What are the new big trends you’re seeing for next season?
ASB: Aside from face masks and leisure wear it's a tough call. The biggest trend I'm concerned with is trying to make products with the most regard for the well being of the planet, demand has given way to full expectation– it's great to see!
GS: Looking forward, what is next in the pipeline we can get excited about for Mister Green?
ASB: Mister Green Weed is in the pipeline :) for those who are legally able to access it, hopefully that's exciting for some. For the rest, we've got some beautiful hemp-based undergarments in development, super soft, anti-microbial... proper attire for your most precious regions.
GS: How are you adapting to now working from home?
ASB: Unlike before, the world seems to be going by a bit slower, so it feels more relaxing. However, negotiating 'spaces' with my partner has been challenging, no one wants to be around another Zoom call or Ryan Heffington dance workout (there's not enough space for two).
GS: How are you maintaining a positive headspace throughout everything going on?
ASB: By turning off the news and social media as much as possible.
GS: What is your go-to outfit to work in around the house?
ASB: Just a simple pair of shorts and a t-shirt, something that won't be embarrassing for a postal worker to see me in. But in general, I try to dress normally– makes me feel better.
GS: What are you listening to whilst working through the lockdown?
ASB: I've been making long vibey playlists to keep me steady throughout the day, allowing me to plug my Spotify...
GS: More time at home means more cooking - which recipes have you been trying out?
ASB: It has spanned from traditional Japanese breakfasts to steak nachos. I keep coming back to this super simple red sauce recipe from the New York Times, it's always nice to fall back on really easy, comforting dishes. Also, I went from occasional beer to almost daily cocktails. So I'm now on the hunt for cocktail tools (a Ball Jar for a cocktail shaker works good, but looking to upgrade) if anyone can recommend some...
GS: What tv / films have you been enjoying whilst at home?
ASB: The Last Dance, the Chicago Bulls documentary. I'm rewatching old Martin Scorcese movies, Robert De Niro in Mean Streets is something to behold.
GS: How have things changed in your local area since the lockdown came into place?
ASB: Thankfully people are really respecting safer-at-home ordinances, but it's been strange of course because people just aren't around except for at grocery stores. It's definitely surreal driving on near empty freeways on Friday afternoons though!
Garbstore’s Autumn/Winter 23 collection is inspired by the Mountain Grill café that once inhabited Portobello Road, the birthplace of British beatnik culture and a hotbed for underground magazines and up-and-coming artists.