If you follow runway trends then you’ll be fully aware of how much sway streetwear has over high fashion. What ends up with a Givenchy or Vetements label sewn into it was inspired by an oblivious man on the street, because streetwear is the blood that courses through the body of fashion.
Many influential streetwear brands remain cool by limiting everything from marketing and advertising to the actual number of garments they produce. That might seem like a flawed business model, but by avoiding embracing anything which could be considered commercial, these brands create an air of exclusivity. And that’s priceless.
Since these labels rely on word of mouth, not glossy ads, you have to be in the know to be in with a chance of grabbing this gear. Even then, you’ll have to fight to get your hands on the duds. But one way to stay ahead of the crowds is by buying into the brands that the crowd doesn’t know. Yet.
Perks And Mini
Also known as P.A.M., Perks And Mini launched in 2000, as did the relationship of now husband and wife design team Misha Hollenbach and Shauna T.
The brand produces quirky pieces that sit somewhere between skate- and streetwear, and maintains a deliberately low profile. With a strong focus on wilfully obtuse graphics, the label has it’s own visual language that longtime fans have become fluent in.
As befits a skate-influenced brand, P.A.M. excels in graphic sweats, like this season’s embroidered, Transmutation sweatshirt.
You’d be forgiven for getting this label confused with a new fashion-forward uniform policy for Tube staff, because its logo is exactly the same as that of the London Underground.
That might seem like sketchy branding, but it’s a very deliberate pillar in Roundel’s design ethos; the brand celebrates the rich British history of subcultures, a testament to the diversity that permeates London’s art, music and fashion scenes, all united by the underground.
With sell-out Nike collaborations and much more under its belt, Roundel might find staying subterranean increasingly difficult.
Think style-obsessed British subcultures, think mods. This season’s handpainted parka would look good for a dust-up on Brighton Beach, or layered over a shirt and skinny tie on the way into the office.
Poland is a country not usually associated with great menswear. MISHBV are determined to change that.
With echoes of everyone from Raf Simons to K.T.Z. in its aesthetic, the brand produces collections which are loaded with subtext and not afraid to challenge tradition.
There’s plenty of black for the high fashion crowd, but when the brand play with colour its designs take on a new dimension. This season was partly inspired by David Bowie, with the great man’s lyrics printed on T-shirts and appliquéd onto classic menswear pieces.
For that Raf aesthetic (without the Raf price tags) shrug on MSHBV’s 70s trench coat, complete with Thin White Duke graphics.
Mr Completely’s collections are ostensibly comprised of menswear staples: bomber jackets, jeans and sweatshirts to name but a few. How ordinary.
But on closer inspection, each item has a unique spin thanks to simple yet dramatic design tweaks: jeans come with staples on the hem and zips up the thigh, as well as raw edge seams and exposed threads; the zips on the bomber jackets run right around the collar; while the sweatshirts are constructed with architectural precision – oversized with cropped waists, drop shoulders and other features that exemplify the brand’s refusal to settle for the mundane.
A bomber goes with anything. But the Shell Bomber, with zip-round collar, dropped shoulders and oversized sleeves, makes everyday outfits extraordinary.
We’re not arguing with the name. Like most skate brands there’s a punk sensibility at work in everything they do. Unlike most skate brands, you get the sense that these guys would actually punch a clothing pin through their nose.
While its clothing range is fairly limited – hats, hoodies, tees, sweats – this is a brand more about attitude than an extensive product line. If you’re lucky you’ll find it in your local skate shop. If not, you can see special edition T-shirts in the new Dover Street Market store.
This is skatewear, so default to the logo tee. An in-the-know alternative to the new ubiquitous Thrasher T-shirt.
Cav Empt, or C.E., is the brainchild of a triumvirate of Japanese design heroes. Sk8thing, Hishi and Toby Feltwell have logged shifts at A Bathing Ape, Human Made and Billionaire Boys Club, but the 2011-founded C.E. is very much their own brand, big on glitchy graphics rather than cartoonish monkeys.
Well-respected within the industry, but still low-key in the wider world, it’s a label that has all the markings of another Supreme. Although from its accessible pricing and customer-focused retail strategy, you sense the brand would rather fold than see kids scrapping outside its stores.
Cav Empt elevates easy-to-wear staples with rather more challenging graphics. But even the most minimalist streetwear aficionado should find space in their rotation for a C.E. bucket hat.
FPAR (Forty Percents Against Rights) is the work of former Harajuku master Tetsu Nishiyama. This brand is intended as a kind of post Naomi Klein commentary on the media, realised through fashion.
Where most brands use logos as a way of advertising themselves, FPAR strives to use clothes as canvas for political expression. It’s not all so serious though – the label has a wicked sense of humour and many designs play around with pop culture symbolism, subverting recognisable imagery and fonts into something more meaningful.
Oh, and it looks cool, too. Just in case the medium is more important to you than the message.
The FPARMY tee riffs on US Army uniforms from the post-war Japanese Occupation, giving military uniform a pacifist spin.