In 1999, along with AG and Roy, Kwamee by Francis shook up the Melbourne streetwear scene by introducing ethnic inspired designs and wild color combinations to a field of monochromatic sun wear and tropical printed board shorts. Born Ghanaian, raised in London, and transplanted to Australia at age 12, Francis’ design signature is a pastiche of multiculturalism. In his latest collection, he combines Rastafarian motifs, random patches of suede, African fabrics fraying around the edges, and textiles like tweed and cords, and other unexpected doses of chaotic, tribal detailing that echo Cross Colours (the ’90s urban wear brand) and Coogi, another Aussie export.
Influenced by a different region (and arguably planet) lies the crazy Japanese eclecticism of Alienoctopus. True to the seemingly magic-mushroom styling of Japanese streetwear labels like Undercover or Beauty: Beast, Alienoctopus boast otherworldly meanderings as design motifs. This Nipponese imagination manifests in strange hand-drawn monsters vaguely resembling genies and robots randomly cut-and-pasted on all corners of clothing to evoke surreal fantasy worlds. There is a more stripped-down version of Takashi Murakami meet Louis Vuitton sensibility. Superflat vérité, if you will. Not unlike its contemporary Vicious Threads a dose of wabi-sabi is found in the label’s deconstructed sport coats, boasting oddities such as a series of vertical embroidered lines on the sleeves or vintage rough-ups around the edges.
True to the multicultural cauldron of Australia, these designers are on the edge of Melbourne’s marsupial scene.
Photos: Kwamee by Francis