Many people think the streetwear scene is becoming too commercial. They are right to a certain extent. None of the big brands are unknown and streetwear has become a huge culture – it is hard to describe it as niche nowadays. It began as a counter culture movement but has become arbitrarily mainstream. This was not how it was supposed to be. Originals who built the scene were wearing Supreme and Palace before you even heard of it. For me, that is the essence of the community. Helping smaller designers achieve their dreams and simultaneously expressing yourself though clothing. A mutual, unspoken agreement between yourself and the brand is made.
You don’t need Bape, Gosha, or Supreme. There are many under the radar brands that allow you to truly be you, and express yourself via the medium of fashion. Rather than succumbing to the pressure to dress in the most hyped brand’s tracksuits, there are independent brands that are holding up the culture itself and preventing it from becoming almost ‘too hyped’.
Our weekly focus on some of our favourite under the radar streetwear brands is helping you once again break away from the fray. It also provides some of the most talented designers a platform to show off their work and hopefully turn you into a fan.
This week we focus on Styletribe – founded by Kimberly Zhong (@kim.berle)
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
So I was born in Manhattan, but raised in Brooklyn my entire life. I grew up as a city kid. Since 12, I had the independence to explore the city with my friends. I’ve always loved art and have been taking drawing classes on and off since seven.
Who is the most influential person in your life?
I wanna say two people, my mom and Tyler the Creator. Haha My mom because she always made me value art and supported my creative endeavours. She came from a small rice village to the states to make something for herself. Her work ethic is crazy and I model mine after her’s. Seeing her work on the technical side of design (she’s a pattern maker), made me look and value design as a complex and beautiful process. Tyler the Creator, because as a freshman in high school, what he was saying in interviews really stuck with me. I remember he said something like if you love something learn everything you can about it. I took that to heart and tried to learn everything I could about fashion.
Tell us the most interesting thing about yourself.
I want to learn about everything, even things that have nothing to do with fashion. Everyone described A$AP Yams as being an encyclopedia of knowledge of the internet and that really stuck with me. The richer your bank of knowledge, the richer your life becomes. I love having like hour long conversation just picking at people’s knowledge and interests.
How has your interest in fashion shaped who you are today?
Fashion, especially streetwear, has traits of defiance, brashness, and independence. These are traits that I have adopted to describe me as a person.
Why did you want to start a streetwear brand?
I love all types of fashion, but streetwear has always stuck out to me. Well more in the past, but streetwear meant something. It was larger than just superficial aesthetics. It was kind of like a secret club. If you saw someone walking down the street in a certain tee, you probably knew they were in on the culture. The kid probably was into the same things as you were into. I also grew up in the Lower East Side, I went to elementary school there and my grandma still lives there. I was always surrounded and influenced by this downtown culture. Streetwear is the uniform of the youth, as corny as that saying has become, it’s actually true. It’s what kids actually wear. A lot of us aren’t rich enough to afford high fashion like that and we don’t really come from that world either.
When did you start Styletribe?
I officially launched the brand maybe a little over a month right now, but I’ve had this idea for almost two years.
How many collections do you have?
This is my first collection called The New Nine to Five. It’s idea of taking something out of context and putting it in our generation’s world. Basquiat would wear expensive Armani suits, but would have like paint on his bottoms and keep his hair wild. He wanted the bourgeois art world to react to the juxtaposition. I took unconventional fabrics and meshed them with classic silhouettes.
What distinguishes Style Tribe from all the other independent brands out there today?
There are so few streetwear brands for girls out there right now. I can list on my fingers all of them. There hasn’t been a female streetwear brand started by a kid that’s actually in the scene and is in touch with the culture today. Today, more than ever, more and more girls are getting into the scene and they really know their shit. Many new streetwear brands just hop on trends and don’t have much thought put into it. I respect the og female streetwear brands tremendously for paving the way, but I feel like a lot of them are corny and I want to continue to build and better this concept. Style tribe is coming from a genuine place, from a kid that is a consumer and a fan of streetwear. A lot these clothes are coming from older adults that are out of touch, causing these lines ending up feeling disingenuous.
Supreme often include controversial products such as the money gun (make it rain gun), the infamous brick, and even motorcycle helmets as a bit of a fuck you to consumerism. What’s the hidden or visible message that your brand aims to get across?
The brand’s name, styletribe, refer to kids that dress a certain way to show their belongingness to a subculture. Growing up, if you don’t identify with mainstream culture, you tend to latch onto an alternative culture or subculture. I know a lot of people like to say the internet killed subcultures, but I don’t think that is true. There are still scenes, if you look hard enough. When you’re a kid you don’t really have much, but those around you. We find solidarity and support from our friends. We forms these bonds creating a tribe. Clothes can be used to show our values and attitudes. There is also the little catch phrase of dress nice be nice. What I mean by being nice is just doing you and embracing your steeze.
What are your views on the current streetwear scene?
Streetwear has been saturated for a minute now. At least a couple of years ago, the hypebeasts knew a little bit more about the culture than the newer ones. I can’t wait for it to stop being trendy. I feel like today the whole aesthetic of streetwear is so far removed from the culture of rap, art, skate, etc. I don’t understand how kids can wear a vineyard vine tee on a Monday and then supreme tee on a Tuesday. You use to have to be in the know for streetwear, but now everyone and fast fashion has adopted the aesthetic leaving the culture behind that many kids found comfort in. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
What are the ultimate aims of Styletribe, where do you want it to be in 5 years time?
I hope for the brand to grow steadily and to build a solid base. There are brands that have consumers, and then there are also brands who have a real following that really ride for the brand like FTP. In 5 years I hope to have really created a unique space in fashion and have a couple of cool collaborations under my belt. The ultimate aim of the brand is to create clothes that kids want to wear to show the world what they represent.
Personal : https://www.instagram.com/kim.berle/