As we all know, London is a pre-eminent fashion capital. However, the city's new wave of designers are increasingly gifting the metropolis more opportunity to flex. One of the central brands in the patchwork of new players is Nick Biela and James Waller's Blood Brother.
Founded in 2011, the label has, in the last few seasons particularly, moved from a brand offering everyday wearable menswear staples into territory that's a little more avant-garde. You could put this down to its inherent sense of British identity, which seems to run through the brand like a rich vein of inspiration. But then you'd get trapped into clichés around so called "British eccentricity." The truth is in fact a lot more interesting.
We talked to Biela and Waller about their label, their latest collection, and who they'd call a blood brother.
First off, explain the ethos behind Blood Brother.
Blood Brother is a project founded by Nick Biela and James Waller. The Blood Brother ethos is togetherness; we believe that great things are very rarely achieved individually, and our shared support has been a key catalyst in the brand’s development.
What has been your journey to reach this point? How have you evolved into the fashion house you are today?
Our ambition was always to have our own fashion brand. We started out with just six monochromatic statement T-shirts - that was four years ago. The brand has now expanded to offer a wider gamut of product with a distinct identity.
Your collections all seem to have a strong thematic backbone. How do you settle on a concept for each new season?
It’s as much an exploration for us as it is for the consumer. Togetherness is the common thread that runs through our collections and is the salient message behind the brand – so from rave culture, space exploration or military factions, it’s the togetherness and sense of purpose that is our inspiration.
Most of your inspiration sources feel innately tied to British culture and history ('80s rave scene SAS etc.) Would you say you’re keen to present yourself to the world as a proud and profoundly British label?
We are lucky to have such a rich and varied culture in the UK; we’re both steeped in history yet also progressive as a culture. There is so much to discover when exploring inspiration for a collection, from the physical to the social to the political machinations of a particular subject, we look for inspiration at every angle.
How would you say the UK scene differs from fashion and streetwear scenes around the globe?
The globalization of fashion has meant that we now question whether counter-culture even exists. For a while the British scene has often found it difficult to be its own entity and have its own opinion on trends and movements, partially because of our underdog mentality, we always end up looking up to our big brother, the USA.
However once we have a catalyst, a muse or something present to provoke our inner spirit, we flourish and prosper. The punk scene drove us dramatically forward as a nation and a culture, and now the grime movement is doing a similar thing, hence all the tracksuits and higher energy pieces that are being produced from London brands. It’s a really interesting mentality, but to conclude, when we believe we can do something, we adapt, evolve and excel.
Tell us a little about the new collection, "Colony." What’s the story this time around?
SS16 explores the idea of relocation, in a futuristic idea of another world; recycled fabrics and scavenged patchwork sit with sun-bleached blue and dusty reds in a palette that is fitting of a lunar existence. It has a nostalgic twist with the glitch artwork referencing another time and place altogether with stories from old UK tabloid newspaper clippings, mashed together with idealized paintings of paradise. The underlining narrative is one of survival and in no place is that harder than in the city.
What’s the one piece you're most proud of?
Our design team pulled apart a WW1 military Poncho to recreate a take on a rainproof "over the head," creating our own fitted technical hood to a well-observed military blueprint, we also made this product in England as it was particularly tricky to produce.
What was the biggest challenge to produce?
We developed a custom footwear mold for our first season of footwear, this is something that we are really proud of and think looks strong. It was complex to design something that is 3D with the gradients of the tread; it’s an expensive process so we went over and over the design with countless mock-ups to get it perfect.
Last season you produced a very attention-grabbing glow in the dark trench coat. Are there any new production techniques you’ve used this time?
Interesting design quirks help make our garments have a point of difference and we take pride in incorporating new techniques each season. Last season we had great success, not only due to the glow-in-the-dark fabric but also our emboss story was particularly striking as it's on single jersey with a really high build. This season our printed nubuck bags are a highlight.
If you could pick one spiritual "Blood Brother" to outfit in the world, who would it be?
Our spiritual Blood Brother would be Tim Peake, he is the first British citizen selected as an astronaut by ESA, and the first Briton astronaut to visit the International Space Station.
View Blood Brother's SS16 lookbook or shop the London label's new arrivals at their site or their store at 10 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3DH. Blood Brother were also chosen as one of the label's showcased in the upcoming WHITE Milano tradeshow by Highsnobiety. See our coverage of the label here.