Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting a brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
The last few seasons have seen a number of fashion brands reacting to the impact of technology in our daily life. After all, for fashion to be relevant, it must reflect the times. Such shifts could be witnessed when Dior showed its Pre-Fall 2019 collection of metallic saddle bags and futuristic puffers around a giant Hajime Sorayama cyborg statue. More recently, trend forecaster WGSN predicted the "A.I. Aqua" shade of blue would be the color of 2021 due to its tech-friendly look.
From this vantage point, fashion's future looks shiny, robotic, and a bit cold.
But maybe that’s not what we need. Maybe we should get outside a bit more, water the plants, and look up at nature instead of scrolling down into the abyss. Countering our future tech dystopia is PHIPPS, a Paris-based streetwear-inflected brand with sustainable practices and an all-around enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Spencer Phipps started the label after cutting his teeth for seven years on the menswear design team at Marc Jacobs and working for Dries Van Noten in Antwerp for three. “I was the first American they had ever hired,” says Phipps of his time in Belgium. “For me, it was like this whole little world. They're all dressed really nicely in their collared shirts and they're very tidy, you know? And I'm just there in my dirty hoodie and Doc Martens that I've been wearing for 15 years.”
Just like Phipps' old Docs, PHIPPS pieces are designed for long-term wear, with an aesthetic inspired by nature. You'll find browns and earth tones on classic menswear items decorated with prints of extinct animals. A PHIPPS SS19 standout was the brand's slim-fit interpretation of cargo pants. Made using waterproof organic cotton canvas and with tonal pockets, the pants take the outdoor wear trend and elevate it with the kind of appreciation for minute details one develops while working with the likes of Dries Van Noten.
PHIPPS' first couple of seasons were themed around anthropology, biology, and physics, with one T-shirt even featuring a quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson (“We are all connected. To each other, biologically. To the Earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe, atomically”) translated into multiple languages. The quote sums up PHIPPS' fashion ethos, one of conscious consumption, empathetic communication, and sustainability.
Of course, any new brand today practically has to incorporate sustainable practices into its business model. That's just a fact of starting a fashion line on the eve of climate catastrophe. But it's something Phipps embraces.
“On a manufacturing level, we're using all sorts of very responsible fabrics and working with factories that are all working responsibly, using alternative power wherever possible," the designer says. "We basically made everything [sustainable], down to the packaging that we ship stuff to stores in — it's recycled paper bags. So our whole supply chain is vetted in terms of the way that it's set up."
The designer adds that his label doesn't just push sustainability in manufacturing and packaging; it wants to promote respect for the natural world, reignite people's curiosity about nature, and get people excited about preserving it.
Most excitingly for the label, PHIPPS has just been announced on the shortlist of eight finalists for this year's LVMH Award. With last year's award going to Masayuki Ino of Japanese label Doublet, it shows the ongoing influence of streetwear on the high fashion industry.
Perhaps this year's award will follow suit, selecting a label that speaks to what fashion is about in 2019. And with a number of sustainability-minded brands among the nominees, PHIPPS is in good company in trying to remedy some of the industry's uglier side effects. The future might look sci-fi, but it still needs to be in touch with nature.
PHIPPS is available at Opening Ceremony in NYC, H.Lorenzo in LA, MATCHESFASHION in London, Voo Store in Berlin, Slam Jam Socialism in Ferrara, Super A Market in Tokyo, Sportivo in Madrid, Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Darial in Barcelona, and SSENSE in Montreal.