Come Back As A Flower
Tie-dye definitely isn’t done with the world yet. The brainchild of LA-based artist Esper Knows, Come Back As A Flower (as well as having one of our ever favourite brand names) make 1/1 garments using recycled materials. The brand is still in its early days, but judging by their current output and how they’re positioning themselves, they could very quickly blow up in 2020. One to watch.
Tokyo’s D.O.X. is a mystery. Making merch for fictional nightclub ‘The Dance Paradise Club,’ they put out very little info and explain even less. You either get it or you don’t, and they don’t seem to care too much either way. What they definitely do though, is make awesome, screen-printed to death clothing, throw real parties (not in their fictional club), and hold our interest. Keep an eye on them in 2020.
Art often reflects what’s going on in the world. So it’s no surprise that the chaos unleashed by 2016’s Brexit vote has manifested as politically engaged art. More specifically, it’s manifested as “Europe’s Unofficial Souvenir Store” AKA the superbly named brand Eurotic. This is Euro merch for the lovers.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a real OG of streetwear in the mix. The way these old guards fluctuate in and out of relevance (and quality of output) is a story in itself. Currently, Fuct is looking strong, and they’re set for a little revival over here in Europe through 2020. Mix this with an outspoken approach to Instagram marketing (check out their anti-Complexcon poster), and there’s a refreshing, yet classic vibe to Fuct that’s kinda needed at the moment. Let’s be real – a lot of brands are still getting plenty of mileage from ideas inspired by Fuct and a few other originators.
Girls Don’t Cry
If this brand isn’t already on your radar after blowing up in 2018, then you must not have Instagram. Good for you. For those who do have Instagram and are thinking this is old news, we’re predicting an even bigger year for GDC in 2020, the kind of year that makes the ones before look like stepping stones. The brand’s designer Verdy is the master of enviably simple design execution – it’s no wonder he’s been dubbed the heir to the Japanese throne by Jun Takahashi and Nigo.
Good Morning Tapes
A record label first and foremost, Good Morning Tapes also happen to make some of the best T-shirts and stickers around. They have a vibe, and they’re nailing it. Do you like natural healing? Crystal magic? Cosmic belief systems? World peace? Music on outdated physical formats because they’re still better than digital despite their inconvenience (we secretly love the inconvenience)? Good Morning Tapes is all you, and their design team is enviably good too.
You know those crazy dudes who bomb hills in San Fran? The ones who made skateboarding more life-threatening? Well they have their own brand, and it’s just as rad. What was originally merch to promote a film project, GX1000 has since grown into a fully-fledged brand, finding itself stocked on the shelves of Supreme Paris and the likes. Alongside some of the best tees out there (often thanks to the twisted mind of Joe Roberts, AKA LSD Worldpeace), they make decks and release skate videos on VHS. If you don’t know these guys, sort that out.
i-D might seem like an odd addition to this list, being that they’re already well-established as one of the world’s best fashion magazines, but under the guidance of recently appointed Editor-in-Chief, Alastair McKimm, they’re pushing hard into the merch game too. And they’re killing it. Collaborations with Stüssy, AWAKE, Aries, and a bunch of in-house designs using i-D graphics old and new, have positioned i-D to have a genuine brand on their hands.
Remember that CAPO clothing brand that popped off a little while back? That was Jim Longden. He’s been quietly building his new eponymous brand since, working his way up to being stocked at the heralded Dover Street Market and putting out a collaboration with Champion. With taglines like “TOO WEIRD TO LIVE, TOO RARE TO DIE” and references to The Beatles “Nowhere Man,” how could you not love what Jim’s been up to? Definitely one to watch with a keen eye as the brand continues to grow and establish itself through 2020.
Another label coming out of Tokyo, Japan, Liberaiders are quietly carving out their place in the world. A firm grasp of typographic design, and a dedication to quality materials gives this brand a mature edge. Their tees are just a small piece of their offerings, with amazing outerwear and accessories also in the mix. The simple things done well: it’s a timeless formula.
Coming out of Lagos, Nigeria, Motherlan is easily one of the hottest skate brands to emerge in the last couple of years. Chilled in their approach, their laidback nature isn’t reflected in their success. Backed by the likes of Skepta and Metallic Inc., Motherlan has seen a meteoric rise over the last year and we’re predicting even bigger things for 2020.
Online Ceramics do not make ceramics and have one of the worst (/best – they have a ‘Links’ page!) websites you’ll ever see. Their tees look like The Grateful Dead merch, updated for our dark modern times. From the looks of their designs, there are no boundaries or restrictions for these guys – think huge prints that use endless colours and techniques, often on unique hand-dyed garments – yet somehow they keep their prices reasonable. Acid Rock merch is alive, well and tripping balls.
Fashion has a bad name when it comes to waste and production. Now, as we’re seeing a long-overdue rehaul on environmental credentials, brands that do the right thing are coming to the fore. Pangaia have taken a unique approach, not only maintaining a zero-waste circular system, but also manufacturing their tees out of bio-based fibres such as seaweed yarn. Polish it off with some good old philanthropy to offset anything else, and it’s a solid package. Their designs aren’t always quite for us, but what they’re doing definitely is, and it’s the future.
Perks & Mini
Perks & Mini, also known by the acronym PAM, have been around for a good while, and always doing their own thing in their own lane very well. Recently, the PAM design language has become even more relevant, or to put it better, the world has shifted to fit the PAM design language better. They’ve also been firing out some top-level tees of late. Australia’s finest.
A pared-down offering from Samuel Ross’s A-Cold-Wall* label, Polythene* Optics has been putting out some solid streetwear lately. Often choosing the humble long sleeve T-shirt as their canvas of choice. If you loved early ACW but felt like the more recent stuff has gone too fashion for you, then Polythene* Optics could be your answer. Retaining a lot of that signature Samuel Ross aesthetic with a more wallet-friendly price tag too.
Another brand rooted in music, Public Possession is a record label and store based in Munich. Founded in 2012, the brand is built on the idea of “emphasising the relationship between music, text, graphic design, and happening.” It’s lofty and aloof (which we like!) and that far-reaching remit translates into very cool garments, including sunglasses, and of course T-shirts.
Australia makes the list again. Pelvis started life in Sydney in 2012, an offshoot of the Pelvis DJ crew’s club night. Essentially, they make very good club merch. Pastel colour palettes and tripped-out graphics make for a fresh alternative to the often blacked-out aesthetic of European clubland.
Hand-printed zines and tees, customised surfboards, screen printed vintage Panini stickers, graphic blast-overs on dyed old Champion sweats… For us, Ramps has to be one of the coolest brands out there currently. There’s a raw energy to their output that feels so right. Their stuff shifts fast, so grab it when you can.
The Good Company
One of Lower East-Side NYC’s most beloved hangout spots, The Good Company have been steadily making waves with their own merch for years, working with the likes of Gasius, Ken Kagami, and Rob Engvall on graphics. Their more recent output has given us very welcome ‘90s skate nostalgia, in all the right ways.
How to explain Violet Town? They somehow manage to make gothic macabre cute and powerful. They’re also on point with the copywriting, so we’ll let Violet Town explain Violet Town: “Violet Town is a female-focused, unisex label… a bubble of the cute and sweet versus the strange and weird. A poetic ode to running away from this universe, to live in a new one.” It’s still early days for this brand, but if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’ve got a bright future in that new universe they’re running to.
Read More: To see where the humble T-shirt can lead, can check out our roundup of brands that started out selling T-shirts.