Although perceived by some as a newer form of artistic tinkering, personalized customizations has been intrinsic to fashion since the very beginning. Its artistry stems from a need to disrupt customary design codes, in turn unlocking a process where contextualized inspirations are laid out to form a creative blueprint. Does that not form the basis of which contemporary styles are hinged upon? Of all the categorical subsets stashed under fashion’s interdisciplinary umbrella, streetwear has fallen prey to DIY artistry more so than any other stylistic category; thanks largely to the grassroots nature of how it came to the forefront.
Take for instance, Ava Nirui—an influential “do-it-yourself” artist keen on re-contextualizing high-end designer goods in a breadth of satirical ways. The subversive lens in which she views the world has struck a chord with Instagram’s online community, simultaneously earning cosigns from the industry’s brightest stars, including the very ones she subversively riffs on. Back in 2017, Marc Jacobs caught wind of a Nirui-forged pullover with his own name branding—playfully misspelled—emblazoned front and center. Completely taken aback by such ingenuity, Jacobs later released a full-sized run of the now infamous “Marc Jacobes” hoodie. As a result of their collaborative successes, the iconic designer later named Nirui as Director of Special Projects for his main line’s Heaven off-shoot.
A quick scroll through any one of our Instagram feeds will confirm the overwhelming presence of such artistry. As we reflect on the catastrophic events brought on by 2020, a shift towards self creation has awoken waves of artistic acuity now considered central to traditional style tenets. With more and more people confined to life indoors, a number of artists from varying disciplines are now finding time to explore alternative DIY codes. Reese Cooper helped at-home artists unleash their creative beasts through themed packs; one centered around a fully customized T-shirt and another built around constructing your own workwear-style Chore coat. Virgil Abloh, via his newly-hatched creative art subset, Canary Yellow, co-designed a set of do-it-yourself speakers alongside Ojas. Each set comes kitted out with all of the relevant hardware to build the appliance from scratch.
We scoured the far-off recesses of the world wide web in search of some up-and-coming DIY artists who we feel are primed to shake up 2021 in a big way. While not an exhaustive list by any means, here are some of our favorites:
Originating from the backyard area of a South London home comes the hand-dyed styling prowess of Stain Shade. Founder, James Brackenbury, thought to offset the lack of quality tie-dyed goods available in his neck of the woods by rolling up his sleeves and creating them himself. No longer attached to ‘70s-era hippie codes, tie-dye has enjoyed a resurgence over the past couple of years, with OFF-WHITE, WACKO MARIA, Burberry, adidas, Stella McCartney, and others, each offering noteworthy considerations.
Brackenbury opts to use a dye called procion reactive, which is known for enhancing vivid hues, while safeguarding its integrity during the washing processes. Aside from crafting eye-catching garment capsules—hoodies, long sleeve crewnecks and tees—the brand livened up a handful of Carhartt staples, in addition to embellishing an assortment of birchwood ply chairs just this year alone.
As with so many other creative minds forced to pivot at the hands of a killer virus, Juliet Johnstone found her calling while in the thick of a global pandemic. The L.A.-based artist was left feeling dejected about her place within the art space and at times questioned her artistic motives. As the story goes, Juliet ran out of canvases one day and instead reached for a pair of carpenter pants: the rest is as they say, history.
Johnstone is revered for juxtaposing hand painted images of flowers and insects against meaningful text phrases that harmoniously comes together in a carefree, flowy manner. Her life changed as if in an instant, when Bella Hadid posted a pic wearing her very own one-of-one design.
Defective Garments is the alter ego of design maestro Zac Cabrera. His operational process involved frequenting different thrift establishments in the hopes of curating an impressive spread of sartorial one-offs. Bothered by the structural abnormalities often found in secondhand clothing—stains, holes, tears—Cabrera decidedly took matters into his own hands by reworking said pieces into wearable works of art.
The brand’s tie-dye goods really began to pick up steam throughout the pandemic, before expanding its creative breadth to include more cut and sew sensitivities. Before too long, an eclectic assortment of Frankenstein-stitched crewneck pullovers began to dominate its Instagram feed. Be sure to check out Defective Garments’ social channels for a closer look at some DIY gems.
The trio forming Bentgablenits—Brenda Bent, Karen Gable and Angelo Nitsopoulos—while unorthodox, has proven a certifiable hit amongst style savvy do-it-yourself-“ers.” As the story goes, Nitsopoulos approached the duo of Bent and Gable—who run a successful design studio—after spotting a silk-constructed Nike Swoosh the pair had created for a client lying around their office one afternoon. Together, the trio stay busy elevating time-honored staples into hybridized grails.
The brand’s reconstituted Nike pullovers featuring embroidered Swoosh’s have become quite the commodity amongst sportswear enthusiasts, in a smilier manner to how its modified Carhartt jackets struck a chord with rugged workwear aficionados. Dubbed “Pretty Babies” Nike Vintage Collection, the label’s latest offering centers around a throng of Nike sweaters that see decorative Swoosh emblems laid overtop ornamental circle cut-outs.
Left Hand LA
Under the artistic direction of Julie Kucharski, Left Hand LA is an in-demand bespoke atelier who has caught the wandering eye of such creatives as Tommy Genesis, Swae Lee, Rihanna and many others. The Los Angeles-based artist is a true cut and sew maestro adept at inflecting each masterpiece with its own sartorial DNA. From ornamental crochet appliqués and tie-dye manipulation to patchwork implementation and graffiti-style scrawls, Kucharski has proven masterful at utilizing a myriad of techniques.
Earlier this year, Left Hand LA constructed a thematic capsule alongside streetwear stalwart PLEASURES. Together, the West Coast duo cooked up a process where a slew of archival staples passed through Kucharski’s reformative design prism. As a result, a handful of tonal hoodies take on portrait-style patchwork, while an assemblage of tees call attention to ornamental sleeve attachments.
DUST OF GODS
Antonio Tadrissi’s path of how he founded Dust of Gods is as unique a road to follow as can be imagined. Fostering an early obsession for all things science, the multidimensional creative eventually parlayed his love of dissecting organisms into one anchored around structural design formations. Over the years, the brand armed itself with a broad range of techniques that can easily spring into action depending upon the direction it so chooses to apply. With a serviceable bag of tricks continuously at the ready, the label’s online store likens itself to more of a diversified art portfolio than it does a clothing commerce platform.
Just last month, Tadrissi and team handcrafted “The Dusted Certified Loverboy” masterpiece for none other than Drake himself. The project included a painstaking process of stitching a horde of repurposed fabrics together to mimic Drizzy’s NWTS visual from his “Certified Loverboy” trailer.
Matteo Bastiani and Chiara Vituso of camera60studio are in the game of artful upcycling. The brand’s Instagram feed is a curated archive of eye-catching carryalls formed on the backs of everyday objects. Using commonplace goods as a creative catalyst, the brand makes use of alternate brand packaging that succeeds in drawing eyes over to a new, yet hauntingly familiar object.
The “Khanel” piece highlights the above description ever-so fittingly. camera60studio crafted a Chanel double flap shoulder bag forged from Ikea’s famed Frakta tote. Earlier this month Bastiani and Vituso converged to frame a luxe version of Dior’s Saddle Bag using an empty Nike shoe box as its base structure.
Conceptually similar to Juliet Johnstone, fatherakki is another hyper creative whose archive centers around poetic brushstrokes. The artist’s oeuvre is detailed through thematic mood boards highlighting enigmatic creatures hand painted onto an assortment of thrifted grails.
fatherakki’s subversively satirical “NIKEY FIGHTEY” T-shirt captures an action image of two individuals; one clad in bright red boxing gloves perched overtop his dejected, teary-eyed counterpart. The artist is also adept at weaving in unique style sensitivities that juxtapose swimmingly against premeditated themes. Emblazoned on the mustard-toned “lil dude with a gun & the moon” hoodie are the names of some loyal followers that were taken from a previous Instagram live session.
Of all the creators listed earlier, Phillip Leyesa aka Philllllthy, is alone in using on-trend sneakers as his main medium of choice. In fact, the 26-year-old Brooklyn native made a name for himself hand-distressing a spattering of Air Jordan 1 silhouettes, of which Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and PJ Tucker—two of the NBA’s most fashion-forward ambassadors—happily purchased.
One of Phillllthy’s latest projects involved crafting a “tattered” pair of Air Jordan 1 “Dior”s for the one and only Daniel Arsham. Both artists embrace creative forms of atrophy as a way to inflect their art, and in the process, have influenced oncoming waves of creative talent. The recreation mimics the original design in all its splendor, however, does weave in randomized scuff marks all throughout.
Unlike the lot scattered above, Daisuke is the only artist not backed by a physical brand—at least at the time of writing anyway—for the simple fact that he creates strictly to scratch a creative itch; nothing more. Even in the absence of commercial earnings, to say his masterpieces don’t hold any intrinsic value is a mistake in the grandest sense? As a matter of fact, Prada, Dior and Nike have all enquired about the Japanese designer’s professional services, to which he still remains tight-lipped about. Our guess to what such a partnership could produce is as good as yours; we’ll hold our collective breath until that day comes, if ever.
Extending beyond just fashionable garments, many of Daisuke’s masterpieces carry an air of kitschy flair. Take his lavish Louis Vuitton coffee dish set for instance. Familiar LV emblems can be seen strewn across a series of milk rings, as well as a branded cup coaster. High-end luxury vibes continue all throughout his opulent Prada bag prototype. Instead of creating a personalized hand bag, Daisuke flipped the idea of a traditional purse on its head and instead fashioned a super swanky “dumpling,” complete with fresh mint and steamed shrimp encased within.
Which DIY designer listed above best caught your attention? Who would you add to this list?
Meanwhile, in other fashion news, be sure to check out Coleman Hell’s debut capsule collection.