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Where the runway meets the street

The niche fashion market is one that generates a flurry of polarizing opinions. On one side, niche labels arouse thrill and challenge tradition in an industry that can sometimes fall victim to monotony and conformity, likewise speaking to an unspoken community of people who counter mainstream societal conventions or are bonded by sui generis interests. Yet many view niche labels as unnecessary pet projects that prioritize novelty over substance, ones that disregard the “bigger picture,” take minimal consideration for commercial value and would be better suited hanging in an art gallery rather than a store.

Now this isn’t to say that brands veering on the outré haven’t been popular in recents years; quite the contrary, in fact. Back in 2013, anti-minimalist, logo-heavy brands like Hood By Air, Nasir Mazhar and KTZ were ubiquitous on the street style circuit. Yet, as with most fads, the masses were swift to chase after the next best thing once the hype wore off, leaving behind only a diehard cult of followers, many of whom comprise the initial demographic for the aforementioned brands (people often forget that HBA, Nasir and KTZ spawned from each respective designer’s involvement within their local underground music and fashion scenes). A more recent example is fashion’s current flavor of the month, Vetements, whose disproportioned silhouettes, brazenly ironic logos and eyebrow-raising antics showcase just how far the brand as a lifestyle ethos has extended.

#Misericordia night in Paris wirh @sitabellan // ? @shadrinsky

A photo posted by DARKDRON (@darkdron_com) on

But what would the fashion industry be without its enfants terribles? Plain and simple: boring. Sure, ostentatious peacocking and overly contrived marketing tactics make dismissing the solemnity of these oddball brands easy, but if you withhold your cynicism for just one minute, you may find that these designers are more authentic than you give them credit for. This brings me to DARKDRON – a brand harvested deep from cyberspace’s shadowy underworld that seems to be swirling about the blogosphere recently.

The brainchild of Italian designer Gio Forbice, whose past credits include designing for the now defunct shoe brand Forfex, DARKDRON’s debut SS16 presentation took place where any burgeoning label would showcase its first collection – a Cold War shelter in Moscow buried over 200 feet underground. Going completely rogue from the traditional fashion calendar, a practice that’s been gaining significant traction in the industry as of late, the experiential show demonstrated a new kind of fashion storytelling; one that took little account for the contentment of its attendees. “DARKDRON is our all seeing drone that mostly shows the dark side of things. It’s not about being dramatic, but more like the mood of a scary dream, a terrifying future view or a bad experience in the past,” Forbice told me. “I’m really into sci-fi and horror films from the ’80’s and ’90’s, so you know what I mean.”

Each fashion week is faced with an unremitting sense of oneupmanship; with the vast amount of shows occurring back-to-back at breakneck speed, designers are constantly finding new, innovative ways to leave their mark. But if providing attendees with a memorable experience was what Forbice was hoping to achieve, then I think it’s safe to say that he got what he wanted. Making his dystopian fantasy a reality, DARKDRON’s SS16 show invited guests to interact with models who looked like characters from a long lost direct-to-VHS cyberpunk film, complete with a crashed motorcycle, a sobbing girl, a boy wielding an axe, chained “victims” and pulsating industrial music. To make matters even more interesting, spectators were left to roam and wander through a complex system of tunnels for over an hour just to find an exit. Try making the stodgy crowds at Paris Fashion Week do that.

At just two seasons in (DARKDRON’s FW16 collection was accompanied by a blood-soaked art performance in Paris), the brand has been amassing a small but mighty legion of followers, including avant-minded #influencers such as Sita Abellan and Marc Goehring. And while the cryptic elements behind Forbice’s vision may seem a bit farfetched (He told me that “creepy kids from country and horny girls that love to do their business” were his target audience), there’s still something refreshingly genuine about DARKDRON; after all, it takes some serious kahunas to drag people out to a random dungeon in Eastern Europe to launch your brand, all the name of preserving its “storyline.”

In terms of DARKDRON’s actual clothing, the brand incorporates many sartorial traits that are very in line with the contemporary fashion vernacular, embodying a street-meets-chic style that fuses oversized silhouettes with bold graphics, lush fabrics and bizarre, fetishistic embellishments (wallet chains, mesh, straps, zippers, etc). It taps this whole disenfranchised Eastern youth vibe popularized by Russia’s crown jewel menswear designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, but also flashes hints of motocross and late ’90s/early 2000s rave, which I predict will be hitting the streets soon if last season’s catwalk presentations are anything to go by.

Will DARKDRON become the next big thing in fashion? Who knows really. As we’ve noticed time and again, brands hyped too fast, too soon tend to die off quicker than they blow up. But the slow-burning buzz of DARKDRON may permit Forbice to really allow his label to evolve and elaborate on the story he has created.

For more on brands that we’re currently vibing, check out our latest footwear obsession, Achilles Ion Gabriel

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America
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