Time was when you could immediately tell what music people listened to by the way they dressed. These days the distinctions between music genres are getting harder to make and so too are the connections between fashion and music. As music becomes more readily available and cross over genres become ever more popular you have to ask yourself whether the fashion and music industry still have the same relationship that they once did.
Brands like Hype, Black Milk and Supreme have proven that a bold name and even bolder designs are all you need to go from relative obscurity to international fame and have also contributed to the growing idea that the term streetwear can be used to encompass almost anything. So where do the artists fit in?
Streetwear has grown from a large subculture of people rejecting the mainstream and striving for independence, a journey which most artists relate to. For a lot of artists representing themselves through independent fashion labels gives them added authenticity as well as a way to tap into an already existent fan base.
Although in the 80s and 90s this was revolutionary, nowadays it seems to be commonplace. Streetwear is no longer a niche market and every man and his dog has their own independent clothing range. To an extent it can often seem that the thing these brands strived to challenge is the very thing that they have become so the question has to be asked; how can you make it work as a designer in an over saturated market without compromising your integrity and how do you as an artist choose a label that is genuinely authentic.
I caught up with the guys over at Why Not? Clothing and up and coming musician Kiera Lawlor who have done just that to see how they’ve made it work.
Born out of a drunken idea at university, Why Not? is the brainchild of Aimie Skillen and Glen Collings who have come a long way since doodling question marks on a piece of paper and thinking about how to turn that into a brand. Now based in Manchester the pair have stepped up their game and promise to deliver you more than a brand; they want to give you a statement, a way of life, a way to always remember to do what you want because after all, why not?
This is why I like this brand; you have the power to personalise the meaning behind the phrase Why Not? so although you’re buying into the label you’re also buying your own ideals. This is never more obvious than in their links with artists, skaters, photographers and musicians through their media connections and as Aimie puts it their mission “to help other people achieve their dreams whilst we are living ours”. I guess you could say they’re creating a little creative family over there and that definitely harks right back to the roots of streetwear and sets them apart from a lot of the competition.
At the forefront of this family is singer/songwriter Kiera Lawlor. I never thought that when I first met Kiera stood in the smoking area of a naff club at uni that I’d be writing about her upcoming album, when I first heard her sing however I’d have bet you anything she was going to be a success. With a voice and lyrics which scream authenticity it’s no wonder her and Why Not? are building such a believable image. This is probably due to the fact that by her own admission she only ever writes about things she’s experienced herself, a promise she sticks to so resolutely that she even asked her mum why her childhood wasn’t awful so that she would have more to write about.
The story of the past two years of her life, Bones is Kiera’s first album which has just finished being recorded and not only showcases the best of what you hear at her live sets but also gives you a different sound with added bass, piano and percussion. It will come as no shock that her album is being released on her own label Loyal Tea Records which is just another feather in the creative cap of this group of friends. As Kiera puts is “were just like this little creative group running round Manchester like mad men, playing gigs, selling clothes and most importantly having LOTS of fun!” and I guess all I have to say is why not? They do it well. They also have on board Bahh Pr with whom Kiera puts on gigs which has led to all of these creative elements pooling their talents to come up with Juke Box, a free weekly open mic night in Manchester.
It’s clear that there is still a tight relationship between fashion and music but that relationship has grown to encompass so much more. When people look to fashion and music they don’t just want to express a brand or artist ideal they want a way to express their own. Without that element clothing labels are missing the piece that makes them not only authentic in terms of streetwear but also in terms of their own integrity.
In a market where “independent label” is a term thrown around quite lightly, it’s brands like Why Not? Clothing and artists like Kiera creating these true bubbles of creative expression that keep the mantle held high and remind us of the difference between niche and mainstream. These guys aren’t just a clothing label, a singer, a record label and a PR guy they’re a unit driven by a common creative purpose and it’s that which tells me that they’re just going to keep on gaining momentum.