There’s streetwear – the kind that spawned hypebeast-slash-bae culture and that Pricewaterhousecoopers valued as an over US$185 billion (or S$253 billion) industry in 2019. Then there’s streetwear – the kind that some might call of a more underground ilk with an even more cult and exclusive following than the most legendary of cult streetwear labels Supreme; call them anti-hype, if you will.
Instead of trading on T-shirts and sneakers, this category’s players might incorporate sportswear elements into largely anti-glamorous designs, but what ultimately gives these brands “street” cred is their ground-up DIY attitude and authenticity that often sees them playing by their own rules; big-time success be damned.
There’s little doubt of the foothold the former has in Singapore – a traipse down Orchard Road or scroll through the accounts of top local influencers (fashion or lifestyle) is telling enough. However, in recent years, a small but seemingly growing coterie of fashion labels that find affinity with the latter category has been sprouting up here.
“I’ve been covering all the usual streetwear brands for many years now and am starting to see more of these smaller brands that look different,” says Chooee Hwang, founder of streetwear media platform Streething and an OG on the scene. “It’s very exciting compared to maybe four or five years ago when everybody just wanted to start a brand that only did T-shirts.”
Gilbert wears Ther Yang Tyvek coat and pants, theryang.com, and his own top. Claire wears Fassbender & Mellon Collie cotton lab coat and T-shirt, and Fassbender & Mellon Collie For Affix Works cotton pants, @fassbenderandmelloncollie. Marty wears Fassbender & Mellon Collie cotton top and denim pants, @fassbenderandmelloncollie. Tharra wears Youths In Balaclava leather jacket with chains, cotton T-shirt, and leather pants and boots, Dover Street Market Singapore. Elton wears Youths In Balaclava leather jacket with chains, cotton polo T-shirt, cotton breeches and leather creepers, Dover Street Market Singapore. Jasmine wears Ther Yang Tyvek cropped jacket and pants, theryang.com. Myo wears Youths In Balaclava leather jacket with chains, cotton tee and denim jeans, Dover Street Market Singapore, and her own belt, jewellery and belt chain
Take the two-year-old Fassbender & Mellon Collie, which custom-dyes sourced or provided garments and is only available via DM. It might sound like an Instagram brand, but its consistency in design and quality as well as its customer base that includes some of Singapore’s coolest fashion insiders (and not to mention a waitlist) proves it’s anything but.
Founder Ethan Lee simply refuses to stock his merchandise in boutiques (yes, he’s had enquiries from retailers). “Operating in such an unstable manner forces me to never take the safe option. And even if you don’t reach your desired outcome, the adversities that you go through help to mould and grow you into someone stronger and better,” he says.
That independent spirit also remains at the heart of the Youths In Balaclava. The most prominent of the lot that has found global fame after being picked up by Dover Street Market, this band of young creatives has progressed from its staple of witty T-shirts to offering a complete wardrobe.
Regardless of theme, its collections never fail to pay homage to elements and icons of counterculture – cue this season’s chain-embellished leather jackets and calvary breeches, for example.
Says the posse, which requests to be attributed to as a group: “People here are hungrier for something more unique and that aligns with their personal values… Streetwear is the best way for people to create their own identity.”
Now, who says that here in Singapore, punk is dead?
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