Black Merle

Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an emerging brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.

BLACKMERLE [blăk-mûrl] noun
A dark-coated dog with irregular streaks and speckles.

BLACKMERLE launched in 2016 and is now stocked among the likes of Y/Project and Raf Simons at H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles and INK in Hong Kong. Its founder and designer, Terry Shin, was raised in Vancouver and works out of Seoul. The brand’s name is a reference to a genetic trait found in dogs that makes their fur appear speckled, streaked, and random. It also hints at Shin’s design ethos, which prioritizes changeable elements and unusual, irregular textures.

Shin describes his designs as “neo-maximalism.” Neo as in new, obviously, and maximalist as a reaction to minimalist design as popularized by Margiela and Helmut Lang in the ’90s. To put it simply, for Shin more equals more.

“My visual world is influenced by fantasy and futurism,” says the designer. “I am inclined to creations that are out of this world.” While Shin may look to the unknown to create his futuristic fashion silhouettes (note the detachable-at-the-shin pants), his designs are rooted firmly in reality, with endless practicalities. Harnesses with connective clasps extend all the way down the body, pant legs can be hemmed in or widened via various drawstrings, and there are transparent windows on detachable sleeves for watches and other forms of wearable tech to function with full touchscreen capability. Small pouches built to accommodate smartphones and tablets can be attached via molle straps at the back, meaning they can be affixed to any part of the garment where there’s an eyelet or strap.

“The neo-maximalism I presented during the previous collection refers back to my vision of versatile and customisable design,” says Shin. “One functionality of the previous collection that encompasses this vision was the ‘docking’ design element via half zippers. It allows a literal hybridization of whole jackets, scarves, hoodies, and tote bags, all on top of one another, creating a ‘jacket-on-jacket-on-jacket’ or ‘hood-on-hood-on-hood’ look.”

Black Merle

BLACKMERLE’s SS19 collection, “bind/unbind,” arrives in a palette of charcoal, slate, silver, and gunmetal, with Shin employing a diverse range of fabrics, too. For jackets, the cotton is treated with an initial carbon coating and then given a thin layer of wax, bringing the base tone down and allowing for customizable scuff marks on the surface. Shin also uses Tyvek in the collection, a durable, waterproof paper-like material that is more often used to wrap up houses or make lab coats.

Riffing on the brand’s pursuit of infinite possibilities, Shin also employed a wax-finish nylon fabric for SS19. Its lightweight, crispy texture can be wrinkled to bring out the base color of the material in the form of a scuff mark, which can be reversed by ironing them out, essentially meaning a garment can be worn differently every day.

“Nowadays, a lot of people dress in couple of ‘certified’ looks and gear towards dressing exactly the same as the lookbook presented by the designer,” Shin explains. “I want to break this by introducing customizable elements within my design that would allow garments to exist in multiple forms, like a Transformer.”

Black Merle

Next, see what the staff at BELIEF Moscow are wearing right here.

Words by Max Grobe
Associate Fashion Editor
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