Men’s fashion: Style and substance without the label

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Constructing a label and distinguishing your own creative flare is one thing, but then getting people to wear your items, share your passion of the label and buy into the lifestyle and the vision of the brand is something else entirely. Perhaps this is the sole reason for major players in the fashion industry experiencing continuous prosperity with their creations, with hordes of customers remaining loyal to the labels which have held such long-standing success. It is this seemingly impenetrable prestige and tradition which shrouds the iconic brands and allows for their unwavering longevity.

Nevertheless, the tides are turning; smaller labels are making a name for themselves, emerging from the depths of anonymity as a result of passion, creativity and endearing tales surrounding their origin. It seems that now may be the age for the ‘back of the car-boot’ creations to stake their claim in an industry that has previously been dominated by the giants.

As a frequent viewer of high-profile YouTube vlogging channels, I was intrigued to learn of Massachusetts based brand ‘Johnny Cupcakes’ sported by some of the users. After some minor investigation, it appeared that brand founder, Johnny Earle, is the epitome of humble beginnings, displaying his creative talents with screen-printed t-shirts bearing his now widely recognised cupcakes and crossbones logo.

The design however is simply not what constructs the brand alone, rather the story behind it and the values it promotes. Now widely established across the USA, Johnny Cupcakes’ stores hold novelty status for being laid out as a perfect replication of a functioning bakery – the minute details even ranging as far as baking ovens containing t-shirts and savoury delicatessen boxes with which customers receive upon purchasing their apparel.

The brand has much more of an aura around it and evidently calls out to all those who do not wish to invest in a meaningless, albeit prestigious, label; to some the behind-the-scenes craftsmanship is equally as important as the instant recognition.

Other brands following this lead can be seen much closer to home, namely London based label ‘Serge Denimes’ as designed and produced by Oliver Proudlock and family. Whilst not as far-flung as Johnny Cupcakes with imitation bakeries, Serge Denimes shares a similar emotional presence with the stories behind their produce. A line of ‘Serge’ t-shirt for instance, carrying the collection name ‘Rio De Janeiro ‘78’, embodies a period of which the designer spent travelling around rural Brazil, finding inspiration amongst the simple, modest and in some cases impoverished lifestyles of the people and thus immortalising this via an exquisite fashion-line, promoting vibrant colour and simplicity.

Although appearing as polar opposites, ‘Johnny Cupcakes’ and ‘Serge Denimes’ both promote what it means to immerse yourself in a brand that has a tale to tell, that incorporates style and culture and that doesn’t merely wish to gain a cult following due primarily to pretentious preconceptions. It is these smaller labels, rising to prominence via their craftsmanship and passion to carry a tale, who are attracting a whole new wave of young, vibrant audience, allured by the creative drive and ambition to avoid the generic. Ultimately it may not catapult them to the heights of the respective fashion weeks of London, Paris and Milan – but given the innovative, bohemian and atypical lifestyles that the brands stand for, it’s likely they have everything they want right now.

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