boutique directoryWednesday, 28 October 2020

4 of the best boutiques for mens’ streetwear


From concept store Elephants in Kyoto to Singapore’s Club 21 and I.T in Hong Kong, Asia has the monopoly when it comes to tastemaking streetwear boutiques. Whether you’re looking for cult sneakers, graphic T-shirts or designer logo bags and hoodies, from rising labels or big-name brands, our comprehensive network of the region’s best stores have every street-worthy trend covered. Here, get to know what the buyers behind those boutiques are championing this season, and the labels to look to now.


The sneaker experts: Elephants, Kyoto


Located in Kyoto’s main fashion district, concept store Elephants combines modern architecture with the design elements of ‘machiya’, or a traditional Japanese wooden townhouse. It’s a progressive aesthetic that’s matched by an equally impressive buy: an expertly curated edit of the most exciting new streetwear from the likes of Martine Rose, Stone Island and Off-White. ‘Japan is the original strong market for streetwear,’ says Elephants’ CEO, Keisuke Nakayama. ‘It’s one of the new standards in fashion, and we’ve been buying into it since we first opened. [The rising demand] has increased the number of streetwear lovers who visit our store from afar after checking out our social media.’


When it comes to the streetwear trends to know now, Nakayama says: ‘Hoodies, wide slacks and sneakers are go-to styles each and every season. No longer solely a streetwear brand, Off-White is always one of our most in-demand brands – the label’s new "Out of Office" sneaker is a key style for fall. They fit true to size and have a slightly wide silhouette that’s in keeping with current trends. I’d recommend styling them with wide slacks. We’re seeing a lot of low-top sneakers right now, inspired by late 1980s and early 1990s culture, where basketball and running were popular. When we first opened, our customers bought into iconic pieces from every brand, then our sales staff helped to develop [their style], and they’ve broadened the pieces they want to have in their closets.’


The T-shirt experts: Club 21, Singapore


Club 21 is known for championing designers with a new and authentic point of view, including an unrivaled edit of rising streetwear brands. ‘Our focus on streetwear started more than 15 years ago, as it was obvious to us back then that streetwear would rise in prominence and importance,’ says the store’s retail director, Lilian Kwok. ‘Streetwear really took its cues from surfwear; before [Stüssy founder] Shawn Stüssy, there wasn’t such a thing as streetwear. The parallel influences of the surf and skate cultures – Supreme is a prime example of the latter — were instrumental in helping streetwear tip over into the mainstream. And with the rise of normcore, athleisure and the phenomenon of working from anywhere being the norm over the past decade, streetwear has really become an important style proposition.’


The store’s comprehensive streetwear selection includes Mastermind, Undercover, Juun J, OAMC, Commes de Garçons PLAY, Off-White and Supreme. ‘We’ve seen the demand for streetwear rise over the years and we’ve adapted our buy accordingly to shifting tastes,’ explains Kwok. ‘This season, there are a few key styles: OAMC’s boxy-fit shirts with Daido Moriyama prints; Undercover’s fall/winter 2020 series with Throne of Blood graphics; and Juun.J’s Mastermind T-shirt that comes with leather strips at the sides. Style them with board shorts, sneakers and accessories like small cross-body bags, hats and jewelry.’



The jacket experts: I.T, Hong Kong


'I started buying into streetwear back in my high-school days, when my life was heavily influenced by skateboarding culture,’ says Roy Poon, merchandising manager at I.T, a contemporary luxury fashion space set in the heart of Hong Kong. ‘To me, it’s an expression of individuality and creativity. In this fast-paced fashion world, streetwear is one of the main ways to embrace a culture.’

When it comes to the season’s best streetwear brands, Poon recommends buying into lesser-known labels. ‘Brain Dead is one of my favourite streetwear brands right now,’ he says. ‘They design T-shirts and knitwear in bright colourways and their shapes are modern and functional. For me, eye-catching colours can refresh a whole look, and functional details make daily life easier — mixing up designer brands always creates an interesting look, too. I’d say the timeless, most popular streetwear pieces to buy into are wide skate shorts, a 5-panel cap and a pair of Old Skool Vans.’


The track pant experts: Artifacts, Taipei


In the heart of Dong Qu in the east district of Taipei – the capital’s liveliest and most fashionable area – Artifacts Dunnan is the flagship of five Artifacts stores, playing host to a modern mix of iconic brands, emerging designers and streetwear’s biggest names. ‘Streetwear’s rise has been one of the biggest storylines in fashion,’ says the boutique’s buying director, Stila Chan. ‘It’s a trend that’s been reflected in many of the brands and styles that we’ve carried since 2016. It’s now a part of popular culture, and covers not only fashion, but art and music, too. We’ve definitely seen an increase in demand for hoodies, graphic tees and sneakers in recent seasons – people want to wear more casual clothes. After the pandemic, sporty, comfortable pieces are key. Our customers are looking for clothes that are practical and made from soft, high-quality materials.’


'Apart from those long-established names like Stüssy, Palace and Supreme, other streetwear-inspired brands such as Off-White, Ader Error and A-Cold-Wall* are definitely among the key brands to know now,’ continues Chan on Artifacts’ considered curation of luxury streetwear labels. ‘Track pants are key this season ­– they can be styled as a whole tracksuit, or paired with a simple, high-quality T-shirt or knit.’ As for the timeless pieces to invest in season after season? ‘A pair of classic sneakers, like the original Achilles leather sneakers from Common Projects, A-Cold-Wall*’s cross-body logo bag and Off-White’s Arrow sneakers are all fail-safe buys.’


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