youths in balaclava
Originally brought on to work on the sampling for the Youths In Balaclava’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, Arianna Aleezon (left) now heads design for the collective’s sub-line YIB Bandits while Elsa Wong, who’s been with the group since late 2017, leads its visual communications team.

What they do

Since we last shot the proudly +65 collective Youths In Balaclava – or YIB for short – less than a year ago, it’s presented at Paris Fashion Week twice; been flagged as a brand-to-watch by trade publication Women’s Wear Daily; and picked up by some of the most discerning retailers in the world. That’s a lot of growing up and development to do in a pretty short amount of time, including the way this 13-man outfit operates.

Among its quieter members are Aleezon, 23, and Wong, 21. They also happen to be the only women in the pack, but their gender and low-key mannerisms have far from any bearing on their places in it. The apparel design-trained Aleezon, for example, who was first roped in by YIB co-founder Taufiq to work on the sampling for the Spring/Summer 2020 collection now heads the design and execution for YIB Bandits, a secondary line launched late last year and meant to be friendlier in style and price. (By YIB standards, that means plenty of tees and sweatshirts with a strong DIY spirit, scrawled with witty slogans and art that reflect the posse’s unbridled youth and individualistic MO – essentially what the YIB started out and found fame with.)

youths in balaclava

youths in balaclava
A look back at the Youths In Balaclava’s visuals over the years right up to its Spring/Summer 2020 campaign – all stylised, nostalgia-laced and co-conceptualised by Wong and the group’s visual communications team

Meanwhile, Wong leads the visual communications team with two other members. Jointly they conceptualise, execute and handle the campaigns, social media content, store installations and even media relations (a new role created due to the YIB’s fast-rising visibility) for both the main, more fashion-forward line and YIB Bandits. One of her favourite projects, she says, is the campaign for Lost In Transit, YIB’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, that saw the trio working on everything from the storyboarding to the rental of lights for the shoot. Starring their friends and shot in one of their homes, the sepia-tinged images deliver a sharpened sense of the YIB’s disaffected cool and spontaneity. Reportedly, Adrian Joffe – president of Dover Street Market, where the brands are stocked, and the YIB’s unofficial fairy godfather – approves.

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Their advice for those looking to break into the industry

The best way to learn, Wong posits, is on the job. “Keep reading, watching and meeting different people. Don’t be afraid to share your work. In this age of social media, people can get connected easily and a collaboration or opportunity could come your way.” Aleezon’s manifesto meanwhile should land on the next YIB Bandits slogan tee: “Know your strengths and what you can do… Question everything. Stop talking.”

youths in balaclava

Photography Vee Chin Art Direction & Styling Adeline Eng Hair Zoel Tee, using Kevin Murphy Makeup Alison Tay, using Nars

This article first appeared in the May 2020 BTS Edition of FEMALE.