潮牌風•瘋潮牌

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2010 / 1月

文‧張瓊方 圖‧薛繼光


不過才三、四年前,台灣街頭幾乎被bossini、GIORDANO 、HANG TEN…等國外休閒服飾品牌割據,年輕人身上的衣服就算沒有兩隻腳丫子 (HANG TEN),也總有一隻青蛙 (GIORDANO)。曾幾何時,國外品牌店越收越少,有些甚至撤離台灣。取而代之的,是風格多樣的潮牌服飾店,台灣年輕人不僅崇尚本土品牌,甚至引以為「潮」,一股本土潮牌風席捲而至。


「現在台灣年輕人,10個有8個會買本土潮牌,」「這也」主腦(潮牌老闆)張凱文如是說。

打敗國外休閒名牌,本土潮牌逆勢而起,「十年河東、十年河西」的潮流背後,一股不可忽視的年輕人自主意識正在崛起。

 

在青少年聚集的西門町,有條潮流店林立的「潮街」(昆明街96巷),一到假2日摩肩接踵,熙來攘往皆是打扮新奇、充滿個人風格的「潮人」。

忠孝東路4段、統領百貨後面巷弄裡也別有洞天,許多知名的潮牌旗艦店選擇在這裡落腳,方圓一公里內就有五、六十家潮流店。本土潮牌專賣店──「這也」,當然也不能缺席。

台灣潮牌中心──這也

「這也」是當紅潮流品牌,也是台灣本土潮牌的銷售平台。

2009年3月,「這也」在東區熱鬧開幕時,周杰倫、方文山、康康等多位知名藝人站台捧場,讓「這也」的知名度迅速竄升,短短不到一年,營業額已破千萬,並陸續在台北敦南、華山、板橋誠品,及花蓮、基隆、新竹、高雄……等地開了8家店,目前更已著手策劃進軍上海。

民國63年次的「主腦」Kevin(張凱文)指出,「這也」是他與好友周杰倫、方文山一起腦力激盪誕生的,因有感於台灣缺乏年輕人的服裝品牌,即使有了產品也不知道拿去哪裡賣,於是興起開家潮流店的念頭。

如今理念付諸行動,以中國風創作聞名的作詞家方文山擔任「這也」創意總監,而事業版圖跨足音樂、電影、運動鞋等諸多產業的周杰倫,則因代言其他廠牌服飾必須淡出,但事實上他已留名「這也」──「這也」品牌名就是周杰倫英文名字「Jay」變身中文的結果。

除了自家品牌,「這也」還展售「東亞病夫」、「山東」、「熱血」、「惡」、「農麗」、「魅」、「OUTER SPACE」、「STAY REAL」、「DORK」、「story」……等六十多種台灣潮牌,卻看不到一件進口服飾。

「我們堅持東方元素、本土訴求,」張凱文說,「這也」是個文化創意平台,除了開發自己的品牌,也提供本土潮牌除網路外的最佳販售通路。

潮,就對了!

潮,源自廣東話,是入時、貼近潮流的意思。「潮人」,指的是打扮前衛、追趕潮流的年輕人。

民國70年次、在流行服飾雜誌「美人誌」工作的王君文,喜歡一個叫「Pet Shop Girl」(寵物買女孩)的潮流品牌。這家位於東區巷弄中的潮流店,從服裝到飾品,全都出自一位66年次的年輕女孩之手。王君文以一件三、四千元的T恤為例,除了選料比較講究、衣服上加些誇張的裝飾外,與眾不同的不對稱剪裁,或一衣多種穿法的百搭用途,都很能吸引年輕人的目光。

潮牌雖以青少年族群為目標,但吸引的喜好者卻似乎比預設目標更廣泛,連三十、四十世代族群,也大有潮人在。

潮,講求的是個性與自我。

「穿潮牌,可以減少撞衫的情況發生,」Pizza Cut Five設計總監Issa(陳彥鳴)指出,以前從忠孝東路4段的統領走到SOGO,可能遇到3個跟你穿同樣衣服的人,讓人尷尬得想逃。以「限量」(每款約200件)為訴求的潮牌服飾,大大減低了街頭迎面撞衫的可能性。

潮人年輕,潮牌背後的「弄潮人」也多是年輕人。

「很難得看到年輕人的想法能浮上台面,」30出頭的Issa表示,比起潮牌發源地日本多走浮世繪復古風,台灣潮牌風格則顯得更多樣、有趣。

光是Pizza Cut Five的「鬍鬚張」系列T恤,目前就有三十多款,有蔣中正加鬍鬚張、毛澤東加鬍鬚張、鹹蛋超人加鬍鬚張、小甜甜加鬍鬚張…,天馬行空的奇妙組合,令人莞爾。

除了「無厘頭」的設計風格很對台灣年輕人的胃口外,潮牌設計師們更多了一份「貼心」。

「這也」張凱文以OUTER SPACE為女孩設計的一款名為「袋鼠」的T恤為例指出,這件衣服在腹部裡層設計了小袋子,隨衣服再附贈一個暖暖包,體貼女生生理期間不適的巧思和貼心,叫人很感動。

Pizza Cut Five也為自行車的愛好者在外套後背設計口袋,以便騎乘時放置手機、MP3,不受耳機線干擾。

傳統與潮流結合──農麗

2009年拿下台灣創意設計中心與英國文化協會主辦的「國際青年創意創業家獎」台灣區第3名,並受邀前往英國愛丁堡藝穗節、曼谷設計週展售的「農麗」,在台灣潮牌中屬於一眼即能辨識、風格最鮮明的。

創立於2008年7月的農麗,高舉「以農『麗』國」的口號,明明賣的是T恤、帽子、頭巾、背包…等休閒服飾,卻硬是要自稱「農產品」,暱稱農麗的愛好者為「農友」,甚至還把T恤裝進蜜餞的封口袋包裝,當成農產品販售。

民國64年次、長髮過肩、外型雅痞的農麗創意總監廖錦逢指出,封口袋的包裝除了符合農產品形象外,其實也是個方便旅人收納的貼心設計。

農麗的特色在於「傳統」加「潮流」。曾任職天下集團,廣告、設計出身的廖錦逢,轉行自創品牌,以精細工筆畫描繪鮮明的台灣主題,藉以傳達對土地濃厚的情感。廖錦逢認為,因為生活背景的差異,進口潮牌上的英文字或街頭主題較難引起台灣年輕人的共鳴,「台灣有幾個年輕人真的在國外唸過書?在紐約街頭開過槍?吸過毒?」他說,只有真正發生在周遭的事,才有感情,也才有文化。

然而,光是如此尚不足以為「潮」,還得加上所謂的「街頭」元素,像農麗的代表作──「亂耳」,就來自唐代詩人劉禹錫「絲竹亂耳」的聯想,廖錦逢讓媽祖身邊的順風耳當起了現代DJ。他說,順風耳既能察微毫之聲、聞千里之音,一隻手指著耳朵的動作又與現代DJ的習慣動作神似,因此可化身現代DJ之神。

為了找出最具代表性的「順風耳」造型,廖錦逢跑遍全台各大廟宇,研究文史資料,最後選定台南大天后宮較為「強壯」、「金剛法王型」的順風耳造型。

另一款名為「天團」的T恤,則是將代表正義、忠誠與勇氣的三國人物關公與部屬周倉、義子關平3人,KUSO(即惡搞、解構)成天上的搖滾樂團,關公手上的關刀換成鼓棒,關平手上的玉璽換成吉他,周倉則擔任主唱,歷史上忠肝義膽的戰將,成了新世代熱血搖滾天團。

「硬頸」T恤上的乙未台島戰圖,重現的則是1895乙未年間,六堆客家義民英勇反抗日軍、死傷慘重的「硬頸」精神,「步月樓之戰」、「火燒庄戰跡」,在廖錦逢的筆下活靈活現。

此外,千手觀音、台灣囍字紅盤,甚至國寶魚櫻花鉤吻鮭等,都是廖錦逢成功「弄潮」的元素。

販賣概念和創意

「潮牌賣的是概念和創意,」Pizza Cut Five設計總監Issa(陳彥鳴)說。

後現代流行解構、拼貼、破除一切界線,潮牌服飾的創牌手法、設計,也以無厘頭「混搭」吸引年輕人的目光。

玩樂團出身的品牌總監吳哲圻,因崇拜日本時尚天團Pizzicato Five,於是取其諧音,成立Pizza Cut Five潮牌服飾。2005年開始在網路上販售,直到2007年才正式成立第一家門市。

「有了實體店面,增加了想像的空間,開始想玩得更瘋狂、更有趣一點,」陳彥鳴指出,除了突發奇想地以Pizza盒包裝衣服,甚至還仿效Pizza外送方式,以「一通電話外送到府」為訴求,開店第一個月就創下60萬元營業額。「無料外送」持續了一年,話題退燒後,在成本考量下取消了這項噱頭,但業績不受影響,仍穩定成長中。

弄潮手法

有些潮牌吃的是藝人光環,只要藝人穿著在螢光幕上亮相過,就會有粉絲慕名找來。以藝人小鬼自創的品牌AES為例,一件據說穿起來很挺,看起來卻平凡無奇、大腿上還開洞的「破壞」牛仔褲賣4,200元,喜好者仍趨之若鶩、大排長龍。

物以稀為貴,「限量」讓潮牌的身價水漲船高。張凱文指出,潮牌走精緻路線,與其說是刻意「限量」,不如說是「產量少」來得貼切。通常一個款式會先做200∼300件測試市場,如果市場反應不錯,就稍做改版再出第二代。他以Nike的麥可喬登限量鞋為例,由於大受歡迎,有錢也買不到,第一代鞋現已叫價一雙十幾萬台幣,而廠商也食髓知味,迄今已持續出了三十幾代。

前些日子,港星陳冠希自創品牌的牛仔褲來台販售,祭出限量100件的魔咒,一件定價台幣1萬2,000元,果然開賣2天前就開始排隊,不少買到的幸運兒,走出店門喊價2萬元,立刻被買走。

進口潮牌及少數藝人品牌走高價位路線,但多數本土潮牌價格平實。以農麗為例,一件T恤定價880元,Pizza Cut Five近日也推出2件T恤1,680元的特惠組合。「這也」在520(我愛你)推出的情人限定版T恤,一組2件定價1,314元(「一生一世」諧音),走的是「高貴又不貴」路線。

一加一大於二

試圖讓一加一大於二的「聯名」,是潮牌最愛用的行銷手法。潮牌聯名的對象包括歌手、樂團、演唱會、愛心活動及企業等。

2006年,Pizza Cut Five與7-11合作,開發包括方形筆頭的電腦閱卷鉛筆等創意文具,還更新「思樂冰」機台、冰杯,使思樂冰更加酷涼有勁、耳目一新。可愛的吉祥物北極熊在7-11思樂冰上和Pizza Cut Five的服飾上同步出現,在聯名活動期間,Pizza Cut Five甚至將T恤裝在思樂冰杯中販售。

此外,近來老字號傳統產業也掀起「潮風」,紛紛與潮牌聯名,意圖「回春」,搶攻年輕人市場。

與潮牌聯名,是傳產改頭換面的良方,「狂買服飾是目前年輕人的消費方式,既然如此,何不讓他們透過聯名的潮牌來認識傳統產業?」陳彥鳴說。

2008年夏天,Pizza Cut Five與鬍鬚張魯肉飯的聯名,除了在創始人鬍鬚張的頭像上「惡搞」外,也開發外賣盒,顛覆了眾人對潮牌的印象,也讓鬍鬚張酸梅湯在3個月內就賣完往年一年的銷量。

「鬍鬚張原本的logo就和日本的潮牌『猿人』很像,很多人喜歡在兩者之間的關連上做文章,」Issa說,既然如此,何不乾脆>去和鬍鬚張談聯名?

「很多人說這是個大冒險,多數人認為老東西翻新可能弄巧成拙、不會被接受,」Issa說,直到產品推出的前一刻他仍沒把握,但鬍鬚張與潮牌聯名成功、驚動市場後,再也沒人敢在凡事未嘗試前就說「不行」!

傳產也「潮化」

「聯名不止是連結商品,更是品牌的改造。」Issa指出,與傳統產業聯名,是希望能傳達「老翻新」的文化傳承感,精準地針對年輕人行銷。

對台灣人來說,西式的漢堡炸雞不如本土魯肉飯來得親切,但鬍鬚張無論店面古早風味的陳設或產品陳列、包裝都很「傳統」;相同的,成立已30年、由和氣藥品公司出產的「18銅人行氣散」,訴求的對象是要「轉大人」的青少年或入伍當兵的年輕人,但企業形象卻和年輕人有「代溝」。

為了打造「金身不死、創意無限」的新銅人精神,Pizza Cut Five推出了3D立體18銅人圖案T恤,線條剛硬、金光閃閃的新銅人造型,給人強烈的未來感。後續還有18銅人公仔及年輕人常吃的潤喉丸,要讓18銅人在年輕人的心中徹底「潮化」。

行銷台灣

因為精緻化少量多樣,台灣潮牌服飾無法在大陸下單,多在本土生產,因而也挽救了一些接不到大訂單的台灣紡織業者。農麗還計畫要採用台中大甲及台南後壁的藺草、原住民的編織等,將更多具有台灣特色的夕陽產業拉進來。

除了拉抬台灣本土產業外,因為濃濃台灣味吸引不少外國客人上門,潮牌服飾還意外地扮演了「行銷台灣」的角色。

在專賣台灣潮牌的「這也」,有半數的消費者是觀光客。「很多外國人拿著旅遊手冊找到店裡來,」張凱文說。進駐台北101「Page One」書店的農麗,擺在外文書籍區旁邊,因台灣主題鮮明,也經常吸引外籍人士的注意,紛紛詢問店員:「有沒有特大號?」

農麗計畫今(2010)年元月在古蹟林立的文化古城台南開店,「在『台灣府』所在地開店,有指標性意義,」廖錦逢說,台南的老房子和農麗的產品很相襯,都有濃厚的歷史感和台灣味。

驚嘆「銷售遠超過預期」、「消費者認識速度超過想像」的農麗創辦人廖錦逢指出,農麗的工筆「傳統繪」是很偏門的東西,他不但不怕抄襲,甚至期望更多年輕人加入他的行列。

跨界、聯名、顛覆、反骨、搞怪、KUSO、個性、自我……,無論在成人心目中「潮」是什麼,它已是現代年輕人價值與生活的重要組成。

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EN

Alternative Artistry-The Rise of Subversive Streetwear

Chang Chiung-fang /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Geof Aberhart

Just a couple of years ago, foreign leisurewear brands like Bossini, Giordano, Hang Ten and so on had taken over the streets of Taiwan-if you saw a young person without the two-feet logo of Hang Ten, then they were most likely sporting the Giordano frog. But in the brief time since, stores for those brands have begun disappearing, with some brands even leaving Taiwan altogether. In their place are springing up stores for local streetwear in a variety of styles. Not only have the youth of Taiwan begun fixating on local brands, this tide of streetwear brands has become a tidal wave flooding the mainstream islandwide.


"Today, a good eight out of 10 young Taiwanese are buying local urban streetwear brands," says Kevin Chang, the brains behind the brand Jay and a leader in this new trend.

Underlying the rise of these local brands and fall of foreign ones, on the face of it part of the cyclical nature of fashion, is a rising youth consciousness that cannot be ignored.

In youth mecca Ximending lies Lane 96, Kunming Street-also known as "Fashion Street" for the veritable forest of trendy fashion stores that have popped up along it. Come the weekend, Fashion Street is thronged with fashionistas in curious, decidedly personal styles.

The alleys and lanes behind Tonlin Department Store on section four of Zhongxiao East Road in Taipei are another such spot. Many famous brands have set up their flagship stores here, and within a kilometer you can find 50 or 60 fashion stores. Local label Jay is no exception.

Jay is not only a hot brand in and of itself, but also a sales channel for other Taiwanese urban streetwear brands.

In March 2009, the opening of Jay's store in Taipei's "East District" was attended by local celebrities like Kan Kan, Vincent Fang, and Jay Chou, helping the brand hit the stratosphere-in less than a year, the company has made over NT$10 million in turnover and opened up eight stores: ones on Dunhua South Road and in Huashan Culture Park (both in Taipei), in Eslite in Banqiao, and in Hualien, Keelung, Hsinchu, and Kaohsiung. Now there are even plans to set up shop in Shanghai.

Thirty-five-year-old "mastermind" Kevin Chang explains that Jay was born from the minds of himself and two of his good friends, Vincent Fang and Jay Chou. They saw that Taiwan lacked its own youth-focused fashion brands, and even if there were any, there were no places to sell them, so they decided to open their own such store.

Fang, who made his name writing songs with a distinctively Chinese flavor, became the brand's creative director, while Chou, already an established music and film star and aspiring sports shoe entrepreneur, had to minimize his involvement due to already being contracted to endorse other brands. Nevertheless, Chou's part in the company is evident from it sharing the same English name as him.

In addition to their own brand, Jay also sell over 60 other local brands, with nary an imported label to be seen.

"We stick to Eastern elements and local demands," says Chang. He explains that Jay is a cultural creative platform, developing its own brand and providing local brands the best offline sales platform available.

All about artisanship

Twenty-something staffer at fashion magazine Beauty Wang Junwen is a fan of one brand called Pet Shop Girl. This brand, based out of a store in the alleys of the East District, is made up of clothing entirely from the mind of one 32-year-old woman. Not only are the fabrics and designs on these NT$3-4000 T-shirts exaggerated and interesting, their asymmetric cuts make them stand out from the crowd, as do their myriad different ways of being worn or accessorized.

While these brands are aimed at a younger demographic, they've proven to have even broader appeal than anticipated, with even people in their 30s and 40s turning out in droves.

Subversive urban streetwear is all about personality and identity.

"Wearing subversive streetwear brands can help reduce the odds of showing up with the same thing on as someone else," says Issa Chen, design director for Pizza Cut Five. In the past, he notes, he could bump into three people dressed virtually identically to him just between Tonlin Department Store and Sogo. The "limited edition" clothes offered by these brands-usually limited to about 200 pieces-greatly reduce the chance you'll ever run into someone dressed the same as you on the street.

And just as the fashionistas wearing these brands are young, so are most of the people behind the brands.

"It's rare to find something that really speaks to the youth mind," says the 30-ish Issa. Compared with the home of these streetwear brands, Japan, where most of them rely on classical ukiyo-e ("floating world") picture styles or retro looks, in Taiwan there is far more variety and creativity on display.

Take for example the Formosa Chang series of T-shirts from Pizza Cut Five: with a range of over 30 different styles already, and with the iconic Formosa Chang logo reimagined to resemble Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Ultraman, or even 70s manga characters, the variety and imagination is astounding.

And in addition to goofy designs that appeal to Taiwan's youth, designers also-even more so-try to keep comfort in mind.

As an example, Kevin Chang of Jay points out a line of women's T-shirts from the brand Outer Space called "kangaroos"; every design boasts a small pocket on the abdominal area. These offer a little pouch for the wearer to use to warm them up and help with menstrual discomfort.

Pizza Cut Five have also developed a coat with a pouch in the back for cyclists, giving them a place to stow their cellphones or MP3 players where their headphone cord won't get in the way.

Trendy and traditional

Third-place winner in the 2009 Taiwan Design Center and British Council International Young Creative Entrepreneurs Awards Taiwan Region, and invited guest to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and the Bangkok Design Festival, Nong-Li is an instantly recognizable, fresh part of Taiwan's subversive streetwear scene.

Established in July 2008, Nong-Li produces a range of leisurewear-including T-shirts, hats, scarves, and backpacks-that emphasizes the "rustic" character of the brand (the nong of the name means "agricultural" in Chinese), right down to the shirts being packaged in resealable bags like dried plums, as though they were farm produce.

Nong-Li's creative director, the longhaired, yuppie-looking 34-year-old Liao Jin-feng, explains that the bags not only fit with the brand's image, but are also a little touch to make things easier for travelers.

Nong-Li's defining characteristic is its combination of fashion with tradition. Having previously worked in advertising and design for the CommonWealth Group, Liao has moved on to manage his own brand. Liao's designs depict Taiwanese themes with clear strokes and fine lines, expressing his deep feelings for the land. Liao believes that because of differences in culture and lifestyle, imported brands with their English or urban themes may have trouble connecting with Taiwanese youth. "Just how many Taiwanese have actually even studied abroad? Much less fired a gun on the streets of New York or done drugs?" Only those things that actually happen around us carry any emotional weight, any cultural significance, says Liao.

However, this alone is not enough to hit the heights of fashionable appeal. You still need to make something a bit "street," as exemplified by Nong-Li's iconic design, "DJ General Clairaudient." Inspired by Tang poet Liu Yuxi's "Song of Bamboo Twigs," Liao reimagined the "dharma protector" of the goddess Mazu, Shun Feng Er, as a modern-day DJ. Shun Feng Er, a mythical figure renowned for his ability to hear the slightest sound clearly over thousands of miles, is traditionally depicted in a pose that, Liao says, is reminiscent of the poses and movements of DJs today, hence the transformation.

In order to find the most iconic image of Shun Feng Er he could, Liao scoured temples across Taiwan, pored over historical information, and ultimately settled on an image found at Tainan Grand Matsu Temple, which he felt was "stronger" and "most like a dharma protector."

For the "Guan's Band" design, Liao chose three figures from Romance of the Three Kingdoms well known as icons of justice, courage, and loyalty-Guan Yu, his subordinate Zhou Cang, and his adopted son Guan Ping. The three were then, with a subversive spin, assembled into a rock band, with Guan Yu's customary blade replaced with a drumstick, Guan Ping's jade seal replaced with a guitar, and Zhou Cang singing lead vocals. With this, these warriors renowned for their commitment to justice are transformed into a powerful rock supergroup.

"Hard Neck," meanwhile, employs an image of the Liutui Hakka Militia taking on invading Japanese soldiers at the beginning of Japan's invasion in 1895. Their pitched battle and gruesome casualties aptly illustrate the "hard-neck" spirit the Hakka are known for, and at Liao's brush great battles like the Battle of the Burning Village and the Battle of Buyuelou come back to vivid life.

The brand's other designs, including ones making use of the image of Guan Yin, the traditional "double happiness" wedding blessing, and even the Formosan salmon, have also become successful examples of Liao's subversive approach.

Concepts and creativity

"What subversive streetwear brands sell is concepts and creativity," says Issa Chen of Pizza Cut Five.

Post-modernist deconstruction, collage, and border-crossing, along with creative methods, designs, and "remixes" are what draw young people to subversive streetwear.

Brand director Wu Zheqi, a fan of Japanese shibuya-kei band Pizzicato Five, founded Pizza Cut Five inspired by the band. The company got its start selling online in 2005, finally opening its first brick-and-mortar store in 2007.

"Having a physical store has given us more room for imagination, and we've started wanting to mix it up and take it to the next level," says Chen. In addition to the creative approach of packaging their shirts like pizzas, initially they even delivered shirts just like pizza delivery at a phone call. In the first month their first store was open, Pizza Cut Five pulled in turnover of NT$600,000. They continued their free delivery service for another year before cost considerations meant they had to stop, but their sales haven't taken a hit, and have even continued growing steadily.

Alternative approaches

Some subversive streetwear brands benefit from the reflected glory of celebrity. If a celebrity is spotted wearing their products, these brands can expect business from fans specifically seeking them out. One example is AES, a brand started by celebrity Alien Huang. After he wore a pair of jeans that looked particularly good on him, flocks of people queued for the chance to buy a pair of the NT$4200 jeans, despite their looking fairly ordinary, down to the deliberately made holes in the thighs.

Scarcity creates value, and limited editions have become the hallmark of these urban streetwear brands. Kevin Chang of Jay explains that such brands try and aim for the more refined, thus being careful to call these runs "limited editions" and not just "shortages of product." Generally one design will be produced first in a 200 to 300-piece test run, and if the market responds well, the design may be revised and issued for a second generation. Chang points to Nike's Air Jordan shoes, which were so warmly received initially that you couldn't get a pair for love nor money. A pair of shoes from this first run can go for over NT$100,000 today, while Nike have thus far continued to milk it, releasing over 30 different runs.

Just recently Hong Kong singer and actor Edison Chen launched his own brand of jeans in Taiwan, kicking off with a limited run of only 100 pairs, each valued at NT$12,000. Several lucky punters, who'd been queuing for two days, walked out of the store and immediately began calling for NT$20,000 for their pair. Those pairs sold virtually immediately.

Trendy imported brands and brands started or designed by celebrities aim for the high-price end of the market, but the majority of local streetwear brands sell at ordinary prices. Nong-Li, for example, sells T-shirts at NT$880 each, while Pizza Cut Five recently began a promotion selling two T-shirts for NT$1680. Jay offered a limited edition Valentine's shirt for just NT$520 (roughly homophonous with "I love you" in Taiwanese) or two for NT$1314 (a homophone suggesting "together forever"), offering high quality without the high price.

The sum of its parts

One particular marketing method loved by subversive streetwear brands is alliances, which can create a synergistic effect. Popular partners for these brands are singers, bands, concerts, charity events, and businesses.

In 2006, Pizza Cut Five worked with 7-Eleven to develop a unique mechanical pencil and other imaginative stationery products, as well as giving 7-Eleven's slurpee machines and cups a makeover to give them a more eye-catching, cooler look. The cute polar bear mascot for 7-Eleven slurpees also began appearing on Pizza Cut Five shirts during this time, and Pizza Cut Five even offered their T-shirts in slurpee cups for the duration.

More recently, more traditional, older brands have jumped on the bandwagon, working with these subversive brands to reinvigorate themselves and break into the youth market.

Working with local streetwear brands has proven a winning formula for these traditional brands. "Younger consumers are shopaholics for clothing at the moment, so why not use that as a chance to ally with traditional brands and introduce them to the youth market?" asks Issa Chen.

In the summer of 2008, Pizza Cut Five began a partnership with stewed meat restaurant chain Formosa Chang, not only creating whimsical interpretations of the iconic Formosa Chang logo, but also designing takeout boxes and the like, subverting the image the public has of streetwear brands. They even created a new design for the restaurant's sour plum juice bottles, which sold as much in three months as the juice used to in an entire year.

"The original Formosa Chang logo looks an awful lot like the logo of Japanese clothing brand A Bathing Ape. Tons of people have already written about the resemblance," says Chen, "and so we figured why not just get Formosa Chang on board as a partner?"

"People said it was a big risk, and a lot thought trying to reinterpret something old like that would probably just be rejected," she says. They were still nervous even just before the products were ready to go, but the partnership has turned out to be an astonishing success. Now no-one's quite so ready to write off such untested ideas.

Traditional meets trendy

"These alliances don't just stop at products-they can even involve entire rebrandings," explains Chen. By coupling with subversive streetwear brands, traditional enterprises hope to give the sense that they're in on the whole "everything old is new again" style, helping them more precisely target the youth market.

Most Taiwanese are more comfortable with good old local stewed meat rice than they are with Western hamburgers and fried chicken, but everything about Formosa Chang, from storefronts to furniture to product presentation, screams traditional. Similarly, the 30-year-old Her-Chi Pharmaceutical product 18 Copper Men, an energy drink, has long been aimed at teenagers and young men doing their military service, but over the years a massive gulf has opened between the company's image and their target demographic.

To give the brand a new spirit, one focused on being "strong of body, strong of imagination," Pizza Cut Five produced a new raised 18 Copper Men T-shirt print, the thick lines and glittering golden color giving a strongly futuristic feel. From there, they also produced 18 Copper Men dolls and even a throat-lozenge version of the product. All of this effort gave the brand a much more fashionable image in the minds of young consumers.

Marketing Taiwan

Because of their refined, limited-run designs, Taiwanese streetwear brands can't order their clothing from Chinese factories, so most of it is produced in Taiwan, which has also helped those smaller Taiwanese textile firms that can't handle massive orders. Nong-Li currently has plans in place to use straw from Dajia and Aboriginal fabrics from Houbi, thus bringing in even more of Taiwan's twilight enterprises.

As well as supporting local businesses, the distinctive Taiwanese flavor of these clothes has drawn interest from no shortage of foreign tourists, leading streetwear brands to become inadvertent marketers of Taiwan.

Jay, which specializes in Taiwanese urban streetwear, has a tourist clientele that makes up almost half their total business. "Lots of tourists from overseas come in with their travel guides looking for us," says Kevin Chang of Jay. The Taiwanese style of Nong-Li's display in Taipei 101, next to the English Books section in bookstore Page One, has caught the eye of a number of visitors, with many asking if the store carries extra-large sizes.

In January 2010, Nong-Li plans to open a store in Tainan, a city brimming with history and culture. "To be setting up in a place with such history is a meaningful move for us," says Liao Jin-feng. The old buildings and houses of Tainan are a great fit for Nong-Li's products, given their historical feel and Taiwanese flavor.

Liao, who has been astonished by the unexpectedly large sales and customer recognition of the brand, says that since the finely worked "traditional paintings" they use are so uncommon he's not only not afraid of knock-offs, he's actually looking forward to more young people getting into his line of work.

Whatever subversive streetwear may signify to "grown-ups," be it alliances, subversion, personality, identity, or simple whimsy, it has clearly become a significant part of the life and culture of modern Taiwanese youth.

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