Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an underground brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
“I mean, I really love cars. I have always loved the cars. I have a Japanese race car, it’s an Italian fast and furious thing,” says Giorgio Di Salvo. The Italian designer and art director really does love cars, and his brand, United Standard, combines the masculine aesthetics of motor vehicles with technical fabrics and a penchant for the old-school version of the internet.
Di Salvo, who also does art direction for Marcelo Burlon as well as graphic design, is an all-around fashion virtuoso with his finger on the pulse of a city undergoing a fashion renaissance: Milan. Di Salvo highlights how the New Guards Group (the Italian business moguls looking after Palm Angels, Heron Preston, and OFF-WHITE) have something to do with reignited interest in Italy’s most fashionable city. “Maybe now in Milan you can find something that you wouldn’t expect,” he says. And in fairness, you perhaps wouldn’t expect technical streetwear with a distinct motorsports vibe to come out of the same city as Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, even if Italians are car-crazy.
United Standard began in 2015, infiltrating the menswear market with strong graphic sensibilities and an off-kilter selection of technical materials such as super lightweight Mylar, the insulation material more commonly used to make space blankets. The brand’s modus operandi is pretty different from the hyper-online execution of its competitors. United Standard’s website has a beta feel, like a DIY ’90s webpage with graphics and images placed haphazardly. Instead of a typical web store, United Standard can be purchased through an authenticated eBay account.
The brand’s SS18 drop features a mix of technical fabrics and practical sportswear. Tops are fitted with QR codes on the front and a repeating automobile-style insignia down the sleeves. To exemplify the mood of United Standard, Di Salvo has directed a short film titled The Malware, which can be seen here. The film, which features a scorpion and a computer virus threatening to obliterate the human race, sneaks in some cool car shots, too. It’s emblematic of the image United Standard projects through its clothing: automobiles, mystery, the future, and a bit of danger.
Previous collections have played with similar concepts. SS17, for example, showed us what streetwear would look like if it were made by a mechanic (albeit a very stylish one), with graphic references to “body shop” culture. SS16’s capsule, meanwhile, contained a range of accessories exploring the brand’s functionality-driven ideology.
For FW18, United Standard crafted a contemporary silhouette with straps and lanyards criss-crossing over the chest to give a utilitarian feel.
As a born-and-bred Milanese designer, Di Salvo has naturally crossed paths with other designers in the city, including his friend and collaborator Virgil Abloh. “The most interesting thing about Virgil,” says Giorgio, “is probably his energies. He’s super positive with a super positive point of view on everything. I mean, he’s a real explosion of creativity and energy in general.” The pair’s connection led to a small collaboration with OFF-WHITE, which you can check out in the gallery below.
Don’t expect Di Salvo to coast on his collaborations, though. Like all Italian engineering, United Standard has something special under the hood, and its engine is starting to roar.