Summer 2017 saw us re-release a popular past print, the Endangered Fish illustration, on new short styles the Braunton and the Buckler. We did this not only because the Endangered Fish was a popular print that many of you had asked to see again, but also (and most importantly) because the pressures on native fish stocks we highlighted when we first released the print in 2012 have not gone away. To find out more about the situation then and now, about the inspiration behind the print and how it came to be, we recently caught up with illustrator Kristine Khan at her studio in Bristol.

close up of riz boardshorts endangered fish print showing fish and a diver

Kristine, when Riz commissioned you to produce a print he simply asked you for a design that represented the brand's ethos. What made you choose the theme of the endangered fish species from UK waters?

Riz was doing a series of collaborations with different artists based on endangered species. He had seen my illustrations on surfboards and felt my style suited his vision for the next season's designs. The theme of the fish in UK waters came easily due to my sister being a Senior Marine Biologist at SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and readily having information to hand. Our mutual conversations have often influenced my designs as we were both brought up by the sea and have a real affinity with the water and everything living in it. We have seen first hand the changes of environment affecting different species, but she also has the advantage of having leading scientific research at her fingertips.

How did you go about researching this design?

The research for the design was quite straightforward. I initiated the idea; my sister then sent a wodge of information for me to sift through and pinpoint exactly what I needed. In all honesty, some of the information that I was allowed to read through wasn't even published at the time so I couldn't pass it on. Ironically it was a subject she was researching the day I came up with the idea. Serendipity.

close up of riz boardshorts endangered fish swim short print

What species of fish are featured, and why?

The fish chosen were either already receiving attention under European and U.K. legislation or being considered for protection by the U.K. government and Scottish Parliament. The featured fish were then chosen on their aesthetic credentials to fit into the design.

Featured fish: European river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis), Common skate (Dipturus batis), Angler fish (Lophius piscatorius), Ling (Molva molva), Spurdog (Squalus), Brown trout (Salmo trutta), Saithe (Pollachius virens) and Cod (Gadus morhua).

fishing boats alongside in a harbour

Are there any fish in there that consumers might be surprised to find out are listed as endangered?

I am not sure that we are surprised these days with what is on the endangered list. Since 2012 there have been plenty of reports published and campaigns fronted by celebrities highlighting the need for sustainable buying and consumption of fish. The Marine Conservation Society even has an online Good Fish Guide helping you avoid endangered species and offering alternative options for a similar fish.

I think we are all trying to be more mindful with what we buy, but a more worrying thing is a study by conservation geneticists at Salford, Bristol and Exeter Universities that found that a large variety of fish being sold under a generic name were in fact critically-endangered species from the tropics. Although consumers are getting much better at demanding information in shops, Stefano Mariani, professor of conservation genetics at the University of Salford found that around 10% of seafood served in sushi restaurants was not correctly described on the menu and 3.3% of fish in leading supermarkets were mislabeled still. Two markets in Manchester were even found to be selling parrotfish. Transparency within the industry is still needed to further help the consumer make the right decision.

riz boardshorts endangered fish print short worn by a model in front of a wall

endangered fish artwork being drawn onto a surfboard by british artist and illustrator kristine khan

This illustration was also used on a broken surfboard, giving it a second lease of life as a piece of art. Can you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Even though surfing is seen as an eco sport (being powered by the energy of the ocean) there are plenty of the surf products that are not so environmentally friendly, one being the actual surfboard. The foam, fibreglass and resins used in their production are for one not biodegradable, which means there are a lot of unrideable broken surfboards lying around unused. My idea was to collect these old and broken boards; decorate them with original illustrations; recycling them and creating unique one-off pieces of art. During this process I lived in my camper van for two years collecting the boards but also went about researching folktales and interesting historic facts to influence the final illustrations.

Usually the illustrations are hand drawn onto the boards but the Endangered Fish design was actually printed onto the deck as an experiment into alternative techniques for a surf show I was involved with. This very simple venture has created a unique boutique business, which in turn has led to me meeting lots of very inspiring people within the industry and working on some incredible projects. Let’s just say that it is the tip of the iceberg to larger ventures.

endangered fish artwork on a surfboard by british artist and illustrator kristine khan

Your Endangered Fish illustration features, swimming amongst the fish, a man wearing a mask, snorkel and fins. Is there a message in here about how we interact with the oceans and marine life?

There was definitely a presence of man's invasion of the sea within the original idea. At first I wanted a trawler net to be greedily taking all the fish but didn't feel that fitted with the design. I wanted something more timeless and thought back to my childhood and memories of my uncle spear fishing in Scotland wearing fins and a leaky old mask, thus creating something that is subtler but with a hint at how even individual choices can make a huge impact on our environment.

british artist and illustrator kristine khan drawing in her sketchbook

Can you talk us through your process and how you created this illustration?

With most projects I will create a written brief after a detailed conversation with the client. From that I usually have a few avenues to pursue for where I can take the design. Mood-boards are always a good way of visualising the ideas and communicating to the client. From that I usually know where I am going to take a design purely from gut instinct and obviously from the feedback from the clients (who are always part of the creative process). Confidence in yourself and good communication are always key to a good collaboration. Then it’s time to research, with a mountain of articles to read and sketches to draw. If I cannot get the information first hand then I will source a collection of photographs. This design was a bit trickier then the usual stuff I do, being a textile design with a never-ending pattern. I prefer to do designs in an old school manner of pencil on paper so I created a template with my drawing paper and then just got to sketching each fish by hand within the area. I had to get every straight edge to match up to another straight edge to complete the pattern. Once completed the template was then scanned into a computer, cleaned up and sent to Riz. He did a prototype of the design on the boardshort's pattern and then we added more fish drawings into any gaps we found. Alternative background colours to the pattern were then added afterwards digitally. The first run was available in white, black, burgundy and dark and light blue, however the re-release is only available in white.

riz boardshorts braunton and buckler shorts in endangered fish print and chalk colour


(Studio portrait images of Kristine photographed by Egle Vasi.)