BOY London rules ok

BOY London rules ok

Aesthetically, there is not very much to the British streetwear brand BOY London.

Its staples include oversized T-shirts, caps, sweatshirts and T-shirt dresses with "BOY", as well as the brand's controversial motif recalling a Nazi emblem, emblazoned on them.

That most of the designs seem easily copied has not stopped the brand from amassing a following which includes singers Rihanna, Jessie J, Justin Bieber and model Cara Delevingne.

It boasts an impressive stockist list such as upmarket department store Selfridges & Co, multi-label e-tailer Asos and local multi-label store Actually.

The appeal of the brand seems to hinge on its deep connections to the underground punk movement and music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as its ability to provoke.

Founded in 1976 by designer Stephane Raynor, in the heart of the punk scene on London's Kings Road, the brand was the clothing of choice for many within the subculture.

The who's who of music at that time, including the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Boy George and The Pet Shop Boys, were often seen decked out in BOY London threads.

It developed notoriety for shocking window displays until it went on a hiatus in the 1990s when supply could not keep up with demand.

"It has a timeless quality about it. I don't think any other brand has got a history like BOY. People love that it's linked to so many music genres like punk, new romantics and rave," says Rhys Dawney, who is one half of the current creative duo behind BOY London.

He was in town last month with his design partner Gareth Emmett to deejay at an event.

Relocation consultant Edmund Cheong, 33, is among the brand's fans in Singapore.

"You definitely don't wear it for the design, but rather because it has anti-establishment connotations," he says.

In 2012, the brand was revived by Raynor, who appointed Dawney and Emmett as creative directors of the brand.

The self-taught designers, who have been friends since childhood, also run Long Clothing, which has a similar aesthetic to BOY London. It too produces oversized T-shirts in a black and white palette, although its latest collection features neon graphic T-shirts.

Long Clothing, which was founded in 2008, is also available at Actually at Orchard Gateway. Prices for both brands range from $69 for headwear to $125 for sweaters.

"We put every penny we made from Long into relaunching Boy. Everyone told us it was a bad idea because when you typed Boy London into Google, nothing would appear," says Emmett.

Both brands come across as slightly intimidating, as do their designers, who kept their sunglasses on throughout the interview with Urban.

"I love the fact that people are intimidated. It's supposed to be daring and you need to be confident to wear them," says Dawney.

When asked about business figures, a standard journalist's question, Emmett responds half-jokingly: "That's such a private question; mind your own business is the answer to that."

They also declined to answer a question about their age.

"You can't ask someone how much money they earn and how old they are," says Emmett, who seemed miffed.

It became increasingly clear that the brand is not about pleasing anyone.

Earlier this year, BOY London made headlines again for its logo, which, with an eagle perched on top of the letter O in the word Boy, resembles to the Nazi eagle emblem. Calls from irate shoppers for the brand to change its logo fell on deaf ears.

According to Dawney, the controversy has done little damage and, in fact, serves as publicity for the brand.

"People were offended by the eagle back in the '70s during the punk era. Being controversial is just part of BOY. We're not going to change anything about it to make people happy," he says.

"If people don't like it, they shouldn't wear it."

staceyc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 12, 2014.
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