Every once in a while a new player arrives on the global streetwear stage to challenge the status quo and conventional understanding of where dominant design culture dwells. Clan De Banlieue is on the brink of bursting through the lofty glass ceiling set for start-up brands by industry hegemony, bringing their bold aesthetic and collective approach to creativity from Rotterdam to the world.
Revolutionary ideas often begin in humble places, however, perhaps no brand embodies this more than Clan De Banlieue as they catalysed into reality in the confines of a secondary school classroom in 2014. Founders Sinan Karaca, Levie Merckens & Richard Lopes set out to create a streetwear brand as part of a class project but instead of earning themselves a good grade, they stumbled into a lifelong career that would see them grow from a local legend crafting their own brand of ‘Luxury Grime’ to an international outfitter stocked in Footlocker & JD.
After finding a fandom amongst the brick back alley bands of skaters, graffiti artists, MCs and breakdancers that pervade the bubbling underbelly of Rotterdam’s subculture, Banlieue knew that adaptation and evolution were the only way to continue inducting new members into their clan. Just like previous Dutch design heroes like Daily Paper & Patta, Banlieue boldly stepped out from the cosy confines of the known and familiar to embark on a phase of experimentation aimed at elevating contemporary streetwear in the Netherlands into a high fashion realm it had too often been neglected from.
How exactly was this achieved? Well, at the tail end of 2020 a noticeable shift happened in their visual aesthetic. A gradual phasing out of traditional dripped-out mob portraits left a gap filled by more artistically abstract, tasteful and elegantly composed photography that added intrigue and guise to a brand craving to break out of the “graphic logo T” box. As their branding and communication elevated so too did their designs.
Simplistic Banlieue emblazoned hoodies and tracksuits were usurped by layered geometric cut puffers as seen in the ‘Moving Mountains’ collection and timeless patched varsities as unveiled in the ‘Past Present Future’ capsule. Crucially, however, their path to prominence has not dissociated them from the drill-esque dimension that formed the foundations of their rise, instead elevating the entire surrounding culture with them, keeping the typical markers of boys in ballies on block central in their campaigns but capturing them in a new frame.
The Netherlands finds itself standing squarely in the global streetwear spotlight. However, Clan De Banlieue is not just changing the global regionality of streetwear relevancy, they also are reclaiming the role of Rotterdam as the subculture superhero of the Netherlands, representing what has always been a rich history of underground ingenuity on a global stage and disturbing the Amsterdam centric understanding of what the country has to offer. So, can Clan De Banlieue go from Rotterdam to the world? Look around, they are already here.
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See also: CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: AMSTERDAM X LONDON