After seeing a baffling amount of YouTube promos for it over the last year and a bit, I just watched DJ Scripz’s factually titled The Haitian Polo Documentary, which is about young Haitian kids in Brooklyn becoming preoccupied with Ralph Lauren’s iconic output. We’ve moved on a lot from the days when I got hyped about a page or so in the Source each month at the turn of the decade to the point where it’s hard to find much on the Lo-Life crew and other boosting squads that hasn’t been told before, over and over again. Continue reading LIFE OR DEATH APPAREL
I always wondered what the mood was like internally between mega brands during the early 1990s. For years I wondered whether Tommy and Ralph hated each other and whether Calvin and Perry would join the ruck if they were left alone in a room. Continue reading RUGBY BEEF
UNDRCRWN have been doing the funny tee thing beautifully for a decade now. When you’re doing this kind of thing, there’s a thin line between smart execution and stuff so awful it makes you chew your knuckle off, and this NYC brand seems to get it right with the sport and hip-hop references. Continue reading KARL, PHIL & RALPH
Tumblr might be rife with anachronistic blends of 1990s and 1980s thrift store and eBay overspend styling, but there’s a few little spots where you can see some shots of those who were there with all the gear and some serious shoplifting skills. Having said that, is getting that throwback outfit historically correct even a thing any more? The internet has created its own timeless gang bang of reference points and music that makes historical correctness redundant. For a new generation, 1996’s iconography is as prevalent as what’s happening now. Factor in the sheer amount of homages to expensive technical outer wear and the reappropriation of rich guy garms of the 1990s and then has become fused with now like never before. Characters like Rack-Lo represent the old guard, and I never get tired of looking at the pictures from their past, as well as the different array of themed outfits you need to be up on if you rock the horse. His self-published The Lo Life Adventures of Rack-Lo book is online here and worth a browse.
Happy new year. Hold off the social media threats of impending greatness and triumphant/anti-hater sloganeering for a minute and realise that you’re not going to be as successful as Ralph Lauren in 2015. Still, it’s something to aim for in the long-term though, and this interview on YouTube with China’s Oprah-esque media mogul Yang Lan (I originally, excitedly, read the title as, Yung Lean One on One with Ralph Lauren) at his NY home is worth a watch to extract some tips from. There’s nothing too insightful here if you’re already a fan boy or fan girl, and the sound inexplicably turning mute 30-minutes into both one-hour segments isn’t too helpful either, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Incidentally, am I the only person who finds the new label in Polo gear deeply disorienting?
If you’re looking for ideas to borrow this year because you haven’t got your own, you could do a lot worse than get the retrospective of former Junya Watanabe turned solo innovator Chitose Abe’s Sacai brand from Rizzoli when it drops in April. Sacai: A to Z compiles 16 years of experiments in fit, material and design from a Japanese label that’s acclaimed but seldom explored in any great depth with essays from people who know what they’re talking about like Tim Blanks.
The Mo’Wax Urban Architecture exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall wasn’t quite as grand as I expected (newcomers to the label should pick up the book for some background), but the densely packed cabinets should make the visit worthwhile if you’re interested in early 1990s hip-hop and it’s connections to London and Tokyo. While all eyes might be on the canvases, these displays are full of elements omitted from the tie-in publication — James Lavelle’s business card hoarding seems to have paid off. I hadn’t even thought about Yankee Peddler since the mid 1990s, when he had the ads in toy magazines that promised a veritable emporium of action figures and made me wish I owned a fax machine so I could get a catalogue. That Major Force card gives me Patrick Bateman levels of envy too. I’m not sure how many casual browsers passing through the Festival Hall would care about this kind of thing, but I certainly appreciated it. Shit, I’d gladly pay to visit a show that was entirely 1985-1999 hip-hop business cards and if you’re similarly geeky, go check it out before it finishes later next week.
The only marketing I’m interesting in right now is these urgent adverts from 1995 pirate radio stations like Shockin 90.0 and Dream FM 107.6. Defunct Kingston clubs, tape packs, and things that only Brits of a certain generation will be able to comprehend, are just part of the announcements recorded here. This beats your carefully mapped communication strategy.
Port magazine‘s cover story on Ralph Lauren by Donald Morrison makes the most of a rare opportunity and it’s refreshingly free of the sycophancy that I would have brought to it (though the celebrity soundbites are full of superlatives). I was trying to fathom the influence on Mo’Wax the other day, which was influenced by Stüssy and the Beastie Boys, who were presumably influenced by the Clash who may well have taken inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s work. It’s tough to pinpoint a solitary influence in things I love, but I know one thing: Lauren’s company is the brand that every streetwear brand wishes it was, even if most of us are chasing the little pony rather than aspiring to ride a horse on a ranch somewhere. Nobody sells a lifestyle like this guy. The world density map of stores is a nice touch (there’s 474,951 square feet of Ralph Lauren stores in the States) too.
No time to write so it’s time to throw up more Polo and RRL ads from the past. It’s safe to say that the saxophone tie isn’t the strongest look from the Ralph Lauren archives — their ad spend in magazines during the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed to be enough to buy a private island. I still need to dig out that LIFE article from around this time that debuted the American flag knitwear.
There’s not a lot of stones left to shift in the quest to bring old classics back, but the New Balance M997 seems to have been resurrected the right way. It took a lot to release a shoe in 1990 that had some visual restraint that affords it an ageless quality, but NB did it with this one, despite applying all kinds of technologies like motion devices and rubber compounds with complicated names.
It’s a good time to be into the most esoteric and underexplored elements of hip-hop culture — there’s books on European b-boys posing and there’s a Shirt Kings retrospective, so why shouldn’t there be a book of Buddy Esquire’s flyer art? Born in the Bronx was a good primer, but Buddy Esquire: King of the Hip-Hop Flyer arrives in June and delves a little deeper of the man who created modern art from the flyer format before it was just a case of Photoshop and an existing iconic image.