This autumn, the specter of dark romanticism was irresistible: its melancholic iconography spread to tees. Cheery animal graphics were kept to a minimum, replaced by a witty and feral spirit. The animals on fauna champion Ross Menuez’ pillows (reported in issue 64) have turned up on his Salvor line of T-shirts (a lion appears as the most emphatic figure). The Italian label P & S removes the staid medical symbolism from a Caduceus staff, reinterpreting the icon as their logo in bold fluorescents on colorful tees. Meanwhile Beard and Bangs used a deer in creating what seems to be a tracking ID for the Audubon Society. A bird perches on two hands at Corpus while its wings promote an ominous message as a Rorschach psychoanalytical inkblot at Obscurity. Birds in varying iterations are the signature character on the tees from aptly named Bird based in Milan.
The dark animal world is inching into vogue, but while this trend continues to rise, skulls and skeletons are going strong and continue to satisfy that cheeky, dark juxtaposition we crave on T-shirts. Prompted by a hospitalization for appendicitis, multidisciplinary creative Taavo Somer created a skeleton with angelic wings. At Wower, skulls are superimposed as heads on images of animals. At the Cast and Plastic People, skulls are on seductively lithe female bodies. Milton Carter‘s menacing skull wears a military cap while in Richard Kidd‘s holey offerings, skulls are placed upside-down; on one shirt, a glorious Indian headdress adorned its head. On Rogues Gallery’s washed-out tees, a sword pierces a skull’s eye.
Less obvious and more abstract presentations also reveled in this dark spirit. With a minimalist’s hand, up-and-coming label Niibo uses zippers and built in suspenders as inventive and complementary details to illustrations of a decaying plant in his collection. The deliberately faded ink prints at Howe and Robert Cary Williams supports the wabi sabi message resounding for the last several seasons while the Japanese label FFYR‘s (available a/w at Nom de Guerre) confident use of gold accented, sharp-edged white splatters on his tees suggests something diabolical. In inconsistent splatters and swirls, Six Inch Heel scrawled "Exquisite Corpse" on one shirt. At Misericordia, the legend "Los Amigos Secretos" with dripping eye was so ominous that the brand’s altruistic intentions (it was founded to benefit the poorest areas of Peru) seemed secondary to style.
Foiling the macabre sentiment in the air, some designers offered a jovial kind of nostalgia, much of it based in music. Kim Jones for Umbro recalled the 1980s with fluorescent blue and pink color blocks on tees. What Goes Around Comes Around went for Adam Ant, Harley Davidson, pyramids, and robotic prints in original and reworked fabrics. With the rights to reproduce original graphics from album, concert, and tour posters, Trunk Ltd. will sell ’80s tees with Madonna, the Cult, and Billy Idol graphics. Just Another Rich Kid depicts a KRS-One effigy and contemplative Morrissey words on their tees while the Milan-based designer Fabio Di Nicola paid homage to the new wave band Visage.
The sentimentality and familiarity of insouciant youth explains other designers’ choices. Inspired by his Latin roots, Sweatshop in Bangkok‘s Ricky Rivas printed an image of a cigarette-smoking boy from a 1940s magazine documenting Juventud Rebeldes on his T-shirts. Reminiscent of a bored student’s drawings, brightly hued illustrations of faces were on Ziad Ghanem shirts, while the collaboration between French creative collective WIG and the Japanese FAD 3 produced similarly aimless drawings placed on dingy white T-shirts. In a woodsy and whimsical rendition of their name, Nom de Guerre featured a storybook-style drawing, as did Twisted Classics, with their colorful, dream-like illustrations, and Unconditional, with cheery aquamarine polka dots.
An efficient message is conveyed through graphics, but many designers are focusing on fabric as well. Visvim’s custom-spun cotton is so fine that it appears transparent. James Perse‘s butter soft cotton tees have developed such a loyal following, it’s no surprise their new West Village store sees so much traffic. And though currently not available in retail outlets, SVSV‘s innovative bamboo and soy textiles and their fireproof carbon based tees are sure to soothe souls come s/s 2006.
- Robert Cordero
Richard Kidd a/w ’05-’06
FFYR a/w ’05-’06
WIG and FAD 3 a/w ’05-’06
Visvim a/w ’05-’06
Salvor a/w ’05-’06
Sweatshop in Bangkok a/w ’05-’06
Corpus a/w ’05-’06
Niibo a/w ’05-’06
Robert Cary Williams a/w ’05-’06
BIRD a/w ’05-’06
Just Another Rich Kid a/w ’05-’06