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Apocalyptic Apparel

10 street Labels behind the rise of dystopian fashion

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Across the runways, tactical clothing is trending with brands from Louis Vuitton to Carhartt, releasing the kind of apparel you'd expect to see in a violent protest, not a fashion store.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times we live in that the fashion trend dubbed 'warcore' is rising in popularity as the dominant design undercurrent.

We live in an age of increasing political turmoil, terrorism and unrest with governments asserting greater control over their citizens.

Nightly, we are broadcast images of pitch battles with police in places like Hong Kong, France, Argentina, and Chile.

This mood is now being reflected in fashion trends to the point it is appearing on the runways of high street fashion labels in the form of facemasks, fetishist hardware, and nylon chest-rigs.

Often described as techwear, this is clothing for a dystopian future, with a promise that with technology we can get more from our clothes.

On the runways at the Tokyo Fashion Week held in November last year, the ‘warcore’ trend was in full effect.

Miuccia Prada disclosed she was now designing clothes for “a very tough world”.

Maison Margiela’s recent collections are exhibiting dystopian neo-glamour and even Louis Vuitton seems to be exploring a dystopian beauty fantasy.

Make no mistake though, the dystopian fashion trend is one born from the street, so it is little surprise that street fashion brands are releasing protest-inspired collections in 2020.


The following 15 street fashion brands are designing apparel for the apocalypse.


Kanye West steps out in an ALYX chest rig

ALYX 1017 9sm x moncler genius

One of the first brands to bring this new brand of dystopian fashion to the runways and one of its strongest proponents is ALYX, the rising subculture brand from American designer, Matthew Williams.

In 2018, at Paris Fashion Week, ALYX debuted the chest rig, a tactical streetwear bag for men that enable quick access to your everyday carry - whether that be a mobile phone and your keys or a gas mask.

Everyone from Kanye West to A$AP Rocky has since been seen sporting the dystopian bags but they form only a small part of ALYX’s apocalyptic line-up.

Designed with the ethos of high-quality materials and subversive culture, ALYX has cultivated a unique lane.


For its latest collection dubbed AW19, "Ex Nihilo" - the latin phrase "out of nothing" - ALYX delivered a collection packed with detail and industrial influences but somehow minimalistic to the eye.  

2. Blackmerle



Black Hooded Bomber

BLACKMERLE is a label that explores the interaction between chaos and unity in its line of ready-to-wear clothing and accessories.


BLACKMERLE literally means “a dark-coated dog with irregular streaks and speckles”.


For its FW19 Collection, the Seoul-based imprint headed up by Terry Shin, dropped a futuristic dystopian collection that reworks some cornerstone military classics like the bomber jacket.


A contemporary and warcore tough label, BLACKMERLE has a design ethos of true individualism and a core philosophy of “know thyself”.


The highlight of the FW19 Collection was the Black Hooded Bomber, a convertible nylon bomber that can convert into a messenger bag.


As a bag, the bomber features an adjustable shoulder strap and large pockets that draw inspiration from the signature MA-1 bomber pen pocket.


The FW Collection also featured apparel you might expect someone to be wearing in some burnt out city several years from now.

3. Nilmance

Nilmance is a UK and Hong Kong based label with a dystopian design philosophy based on necessary function over form.


The Fall/Winter 2019 collection sees the label continue its vision with functional techwear and outerwear presented in a dystopian Lookbook in a setting where civilization as we know it has been destroyed by pollution and war.


The idea behind the collection is that in this grim future reality, fashion has died and necessity has fed a need for purely functional garments for survival.


The label released innovative dystopian imagery along with their latest collection.


The visionary and designer behind the brand, Mike Yeung has reworked the standard military aesthetic to produce garments of multi-functionality for this post apocalyptic world.


The apparel is designed for all-weather conditions and crafted from especially durable materials like the SCHOELLER made from DYNEEMA and 3-layer waterproof materials.

4. The Hundreds


The Hundreds is a 2-part project that houses a Classic Californian Streetwear brand and media platform dedicated to Global Street Culture.


Founded in Los Angeles in 2003 by Bobby Kim and Ben Shenassafar, the label is inspired by California culture including punk, hip-hop, skateboarding and surfing



For Indigenous Peoples' Day in October, The Hundreds collaborated with Obsidian, a collective of activists and freedom fighters for a unique resistance-inspired capsule.


The Hundreds produced a capsule that brings attention to the very real issues indigenous people are fighting for.


The capsule includes dystopian tactical gear, which mimics the apparel worn by resistance fighters struggling on the front lines against community injustice around the world.


“With this Collection, we are spreading the word and equipping the soldiers with pieces that share a message and serve tactical purposes,” the Hundreds said in the release.


The collection features several resistance pieces including the highlight, a utility vest modelled after a bullet proof vest with “Blood, Sweat and Tear Gas” printed on the back.


Gas masks, balaclavas and utility vests round out the capsule along with meaningfully designed graphic t-shirts, hoodies and hats.

5. maharishi


maharishi AW19 Technical Lookbook shot in Kyoto Japan

M65 Vest

British streetwear brand, Maharishi has always presented apparel that has a deep military aesthetic.


This has now expended into the dystopian, with several pieces from its recent FW19 collection reflecting the global mood with a notable highlight being the M65 Utility Vest.


The label is known for its organic cottons and the latest drop features similarly eco-sensitive materials like weather-resistant Japanese Nylon woven by Komatsu and dyed using vegetables rather than harmful chemicals.

6. Haven


Haven FW19 Combat Jacket

Inspired by Canada’s four seasons and the contrasting conditions that accompany them, HAVEN unifies premium fabrics with the functionality and timelessness of military, workwear and performance outdoor apparel.

A premium men’s apparel brand and purveyor’s of the world’s best Japanese and Internationally renowned brands, HAVEN provides a modernized utilitarian approach with often military-inspired apparel produced in Canada and Japan.

For Fall/Winter 2019, Haven dropped a collection, which fuses modern and traditional technologies and textiles, to optimize function, comfort and aesthetics.

The contemporary utilitarian collection includes a range of military-inspired garments with extensive use of premium and military-grade materials like Primaloft®, down insulation, Polartec® and CORDURA® textiles.


Dystopian highlights of the Collection include the Military-inspired Combat Jacket crafted from sulphur dyed cotton that gives an ultra-soft yet sturdy hand-feel, and a vintage wash processing that gives the garment a worn-in appearance.

6. Neighborhood

Neighborhood x Eastpak

Neighborhood FW19

NEIGHBORHOOD, the Japanese streetwear brand founded in 1994 is fond of the military aesthetic in its designs.


Recently Shinsuke Takizawa teamed up with Boston-based bag manufacturer, Eastpak for a special collection of tough, minimalistic and military-toned bags.


The two labels have delivered a collection of four bags in a muted military palette of black and olive shades, showcased in an austere Lookbook (above).


Highlights of the collection include the “NBHD Padded” pack is a reinterpretation of Eastpak’s popular Pak’r backpack, branded with “The Filth and the Fury”, a headline that vilified the Sex Pistols punk band back in 1977.


The “NBHD Vest Bag” cottons on to the techwear trend with a chest rig-like cargo rife with pockets for your EDC.


The shoulder straps and dystopian look of this pack fuses contemporary ‘warcore’ fashion and function.


Meanwhile “NBHD The One” is an update on Eastpak’s The One shoulder bag, featuring a minimalist aesthetic that filters through the entire collection.

Neihborhood's own FW19 Collection also features some military and borderline dystopian classics (right). 

8. Guerilla Group

Taking inspiration from the dystopian visions of the 80s and 90s, Geurilla Group's FW19 'Endless Rain' collection conjures memories of iconic movies such as Blade Runner, Black Rain and The Crow.


The collection combines technical apparel with a more classic military-inspired aesthetic with several outerwear options and a contemporary reimagining of the Trench Coat, Parka, Anorak, even camouflage.

The military theme also translates to the materials with military fabrics like Cordura combined with patened fabrics like Dyneema®, Protec® and Thermotron®.


Highlights of the collection include 3L waterproof and breathable garments printed with a striking M90 camouflage from the Swedish Military.

9. DR14


While ALYX’s is better known for its chest rigs, DR14 is a lesser hyped brand that has found significant success with the warcore/techwear trend.

The brainchild of Sheron Barber, DR14 is a black-owned men’s accessories label from Los Angeles.


DR14 has also found support from the hip hop community with a litany of rappers from 21 Savage, Rihanna, Young Thug and ASAP Rocky donning their clothing and accessories.


Most recently Quavo and Offset from Migos took a liking to the DR14 CT Stealth Rig.


Retailing for over $1000, DR14’s luxury chest rigs are made with fine Italian leather and hand-made in Los Angeles.

10. Carhartt WIP


Founded by Hamilton Carhartt in 1889 in Dearborn Michigan, to make work clothing for manual laborers, Carhartt is dedicated to its staple products and not usually known for techwear or dystopian apparel.

Carhartt WIP came about when European designers obtained the rights to use the Carhartt name in Europe, since the clothes weren't available there. 

Due to the arrangement, Carhartt staple products started becoming influenced by contemporary and European designs. 

These reinterpretations of classics became extremely popular and the brand became more and more creative. 

WIP eventually developed into the full-on streetwear mainstay that is today, a brand that redefines not only workwear but also subculture and military aesthetics. 

The FW19 collection illustrates how Carhartt WIP continues to evolve. 

While not a brand known for techwear, Carhartt has clearly been influenced by 'warcore" in its recent FW19 (above).

11. C2H4


FW 2015 Against All Authority


FW 2019 Post Human Era

C2H4® (Molecular Formula for Ethylene) is a Los Angeles label with design concept revolving around chemistry.


Established by designer Yixi Chen, C2H4 draws influences from both subversive culture and science, with a focus on cutting edge creativity and innovation.


The design team refer to themselves as ‘chemists’, which mix different elements to create new formulas.


In its recent collections, C2H4 has put forward futuristic and dystopian, military-inspired apparel.


For Fall 2019, Yixi Chen took the perspective as a 20th-century sci-fi fan projecting a bleak dystopian outlook.


Weighty layers along with military and utilitarian styles inspired the retro-futuristic collection.

12. Hamcus


Hamcus SS20

Hamcus is the brainchild of Chinese designer Tuff Leung. The brand’s collections are inspired by a dystopian survival first mentality and by sci-fi movies and video games.


Leung likes to call the design ethos ‘unpredictable forms’, and refers to the Hamcus as a universe rather than a label.


Hamcus is perhaps unique in that it is one of the rare Chinese manufacturers who have transitioned from producing clothing for international brands to designing their own brand.


Established back in 2009, Hamcus maintains only two designers and has around 40 people working across China, with the capability to mass-produce garments.


The design ethos is also informed by industrial influences, and Leung’s vision of the struggle of humanity to find purpose and love in a kind of dystopian dream that, in modern-day China, is not that different from real life.

Rockin' Camo ALternatives

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