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"It's hilarious — once the sun sets, they park the snowmobiles, go to their beer tents, and just get hammered."
Menswear designer Randa Kherba is talking about Arctic Man, an annual sports event (and party) that has been described as the lovechild of Burning Man festival and an Alaskan monster truck rally. Snowmobiles, booze, mountains, and thousands of people? It's every bit as extreme as it sounds.
The mixture of high-octane snow sports and hedonistic party atmosphere inform Kherba's graduate collection: an iridescent assortment of sportswear, color-changing T-shirts, and metallic rave-wear. With it, she answers her own question: "If I was hosting a race in the snow, what would the boys be wearing?"
Kherba, who produced the collection for the final year of her studies at Central Saint Martins in London, was sponsored by Stone Island — which supplied some of the fabrics — and Nike, which provided models of a forthcoming Nike Huarache for use in her lookbook.
The garments are made from nylon metal, which, coupled with the complex and precise nature of hand-dyeing (Kherba mentions lime green as the most temperamental color), is what gives the collection its supernatural chromatic appearance. The T-shirts, such as the reactive ice tee, are designed to appear wet via a complicated technique of modeling the fabric around a body with a hairdryer. The fabric is completely dry, of course, and not only that, the T-shirts change color when heat is applied, fading from sea blue to icy white, as if freezing over, morphing from liquid to solid.
"Obviously, I'm very into anime", says Kherba, who rattles off Katsuhiro Otomo's seminal Akira and sci-fi classic Blade Runner as vital cinematic reference points. It's not difficult to imagine Akira's Kaneda riding around a wintry Neo-Tokyo in one of her futuristic designs, although somehow it's all a lot more wearable than you might think.
Kherba also pulls in visual codes from video games, notably snowboard racer SSX 3 (go figure) and the Final Fantasy series. "The look with the blue trousers and the green coat was how I would imagine one of the characters from that series," she says.
Kherba describes the effect of her hand-dyeing techniques as creating a kind of frozen nylon, so it looks both soft and hard, dry and wet. Essentially, these are the kind of clothes that accommodate for all sorts of extreme behavior. The helmets even have compartments for booze, bestowing the collection with a feeling of recklessness, protection, and a slightly kitsch, tongue-in-cheek feel, exemplified by the "prepare to get plowed" slogan across T-shirts and a backpack.
It's clear to see how Kherba's visual language has been informed by the futuristic palettes of sci-fi, but the shapes and silhouettes actually come straight from real life, from the streets. "I had a massive folder of candid photos taken when I was in Shanghai for six months,” she says. “I also went to Tokyo for a bit, and any guy I saw whose style I liked and thought, "That's sick," I took photos of him. That helped with the silhouettes and the styling of the clothes."
Having formed the final part of Kherba's menswear design degree, the collection won't be available for sale. What's clear, though, is that her vision and her support from Stone Island and Nike announce her as one of the most exciting designers to have come out of the ether in some time. We'll be keeping a close eye on what she does next, and you can follow her moves on Instagram: @randa2.5d.