Streetwear is one of the fastest-growing and most powerful areas of the fashion industry. On its surface, the definition of streetwear is deceptively simple. The fashion industry defines streetwear as fashionable, casual clothing worn by followers of popular culture.
Its customer base is similarly diverse, spanning across every income level, socioeconomic status, and corner of the globe. But most importantly, streetwear flips the traditional fashion model on its head. With its direct to consumer model, it’s the consumers themselves who are deciding what’s cool and what not. Which is exactly what attracted graffiti artist Cloakwork and DJ Shawn Tan’s interest.
WHEN DID THE BRAND START?
Shawn: We began in 2015 and initially called the brand Against. But then we added the ‘Lab’ at the end to represent our multidisciplinary approach to design. You can also see that in our varied collaborations, from brands like G-Shock to creative cocktails.
IS THERE A METHOD OR FORMULA THAT YOU FOLLOW TO CREATE THE LOOKS YOU’RE GOING FOR?
Cloakwork: We’re always trying new things, experimenting with new ideas. There’s no recipe or formula yet, but we make sure we’re never afraid to try something else. But we keep things balanced by producing what consumers like. The idea is to go with your heart, follow your instincts and be as expressive as you can.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN STREETWEAR LABEL?
Shawn: The struggle is being yourself and yet, still sustaining a business. As much as we push individuality, we have to listen to our customers demands. You just have to find that balance and it’s constantly shifting.
Cloakwork: There have been times when the right thing to do is not give a sh*t and get on with what feels right. That said, we always welcome constructive criticism. Ultimately, as long as we give our very best to the creation process, we’re not going to stray too far away.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DEVELOP THOSE INSTINCTS?
Shawn: First of all, you should not overthink. You just have to start at the ground level by asking yourself what it is you really want to achieve. Part of it is expressing your art, but you also have to prove your legitimacy. This has been our mindset, from way back when till now. Cloakwork: You have to learn to drown out what the world tells you.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS FOR AGAINST LAB?
Shawn: My life long plan has always been to build a legacy brand. When we are no longer here, the blueprint we’ve set for Against Lab is still strong enough to go on.
Cloakwork: We want to stay true to our tagline — “All Endeavour, No Surrender”, which basically means to go after the things you like. When people buy our clothes, we want them to feel that they belong to our community and that means something.
Trenchcoat and jacket by Louis Vuitton