2010 / 1月
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。
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。
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。
「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。
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。
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
「潮牌賣的是概念和創意，」Pizza Cut Five設計總監Issa（陳彥鳴）說。
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。
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
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。
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。
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
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.