In geographical terms, I think we all know just how dissimilar the UK is to the likes of Australia and New Zealand; but do ten thousand miles really make that much of a difference when it comes to street culture? During my time travelling Oceania, Tayler got in contact asking if I’d be happy to document the differences, similarities, and genuine surprises that crossed my path. This progressive breakdown encapsulates Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland as I experienced them though genuine exploration or guided tours with fashion obsessed locals. As I begin I’d like to emphasise that street culture seemed a little less prominent within these countries, meaning communities were even closer as a collective. There’s no doubt that the scenes are expanding rapidly, however there’s still a distance to travel until competing with the likes of Europe, for example.
So my adventure started within Queensland, the Australian state that encapsulates Brisbane. From what I gathered, there were only two notable (independent) stores that underlined my interests. First of all I hunted down the incredibly low-key ‘Apartment’, a predominantly Japanese workwear based store focussing on clean yet simple aesthetic. As expected, brand stock included a strong WTaps, Neighbourhood and Carhartt WIP selection, as well as being QL’s Palace retailer where unsurprisingly only very small stock remained. There was a defining sense of exclusivity once inside the store, very much ’if you know, you know’ when it came to location. The coupling factor of being situated on a second level floor space shared with ‘Violent Green’ made for a differing experience to that back home. Ambience-wise the quiet, incense laden atmosphere contrasted greatly to that of ‘Laced’, the second store to be visited. Again, it was a case of finding the tiny entrance then climbing two flights of stairs past Laced Coffeeshop until you find yourself within the physical store itself; your classic Sneakerhead heaven. A whole wall packed from Asics to Reebok, limited release to GR as well as a powerful sale row. Laced seemed to be Brisbane’s sneaker-social hotspot, with the public simply walking in to converse with staff members about upcoming drops or to genuinely catch up; a persona that everyone should take notes from. To give an idea of formalities, releases whilst in the area included Asics x Mita x BEAMS ‘Souvenir Jacket’ and the recent New Balance x SF ‘Tassie Tiger’- yet staff were not allowed to hold pairs for themselves, with strict orders to camp. Crazy right? Good morals equate to loyal customers, it’s a nice change.
Now to the solidly streetwear aspect of my notes; spoiler, it’s not all that exciting. As with Europe, the genius of Boost Tech was ever-present, surprisingly the EQT over the Ultra. Overly casual outfits (t-shirt and shorts) due to 25 degree winters took the mantle, then in cooler weather Japanese brands such as BAPE or those noted above became the standard attire; however this was undercut rather heavily by local/national independent surf and skate brands. As I said within my introduction, the only locations that I could really take notes were within the stores themselves; due to this I asked resident Sneakerhead Rob O’Sully for a little more insight for those observations that I’d missed. He explained how, in hindsight there isn’t any one main influential figure. Opposed to a majority of UK Cities they tend to look for local talent, the loyal community prefer to give back to those encapsulated within the state boundaries instead of looking overseas; “it’s more of a collective mentality to better the options available to us.” When it comes to social media influence, trends throughout Asia and Europe are pulled over such as the rise in Boost tech; yet this doesn’t prevent the growth in naturally birthed skate/surf wear that reigns supreme within the city. Rob introduced me to Brisbane Sneaker Bazaar, a Facebook group run on good morals with the aim to forever enhance the sense of a tightly knit community.
The next city of interest was Sydney, where the influence of streetwear and fashion as a whole was entirely different. Here, I was led on a guided tour by Basement members Cameron Oates and Lachlan Ashton. Opposed to the small selection of stores of Brisbane, Sydney had such a vast selection that they had to narrow it down to four, this included; Subtype, Sneakerboy, Republic and SUPPLY. A primary point to mention is that higher-end fashion was incredibly popular here, which caught me by surprise. Opposed to the littering of Boost that was obvious in Brisbane, Sydney sported a sprinkling of Rafidas, Ramones, and Y3; this suggested a marginally more developed movement as backed up by the wider variety of stores. We hit Subtype first of all, welcomed by chain-strung rails dressed in Zanerobe. Unfortunately there wasn’t an opportunity to talk to staff during the set up the Careaux x Puma release party; this location specifically due to being the Cities biggest Puma stockist. Next was Sneakerboy, possibly Sydney’s most Internationally renowned ‘hyped’ retailer. Their Yeezy raffles have almost certainly plastered your Instagram feed at one time or another; similarly to the outlandish graphic as shown below. This theme was carried on throughout, sliding neon banners illuminated an enormous contrast in shelf products. They stocked everything from Rick Owens (apparel included), to CP to FootPatrol’s recent EQT collaboration, however the process of payment would have to take place on a small touchscreen pod in the centre of the room. Let me make this clear, you will not leave with a physical product… they’ll be shipped out to you. As interesting as this concept is, if I drop AUD 200+ on footwear I’d be slightly frustrated not leaving with them in hand, however admittedly I can’t see myself being their target audience. Negatives aside, friendly staff with Selfridges-esque atmosphere kitting out a relatively cool store. The Yeezy Season clothing retailer, Republic, and coincidently my favourite store was up next. It wasn’t the product that grabbed me here, it was the general aesthetic and relaxed nature of the staff that would make a customer feel welcome even if uninterested in fashion. A centre cabinet housed an assortment of BAPE accessories, whereas the apparel was slightly pushed back into large, open cabinets around edges of the main room. When asked if photos could be taken the shop floor staff member encouraged it, almost providing certain factors he felt would represent the store in the best light. Sadly, enthusiastic interaction was not mirrored into SUPPLY, those of you may recognise this name as being one of the elusive stores to stock Supreme prior to the reel of exclusivity back in 2012. In fact, there were aspects that could be related back to any Supreme store; for example a strict no photography rule combined with minimal customer interaction upon store entry. Products ranged from Stone Island, to BAPE and Palace of which they are Sydney’s lone retailer- the stock therefore was exceedingly low which is no surprise. In an opposite stance to Sneakerboy, SUPPLY hadn’t dressed their store with as much as a sign. For me, this marked an ongoing strive for a filtered customer-base, very much word of mouth opposed to hype followers. Nonetheless, most of the exciting releases sell out very quickly down to the hardcore community within the city. In hindsight staff were actually very friendly once spoken to, the store itself could definitely become a potential little goldmine in future years.
As with Brisbane, Sydney contained a presence of Boost and independent brands that could not be ignored; however many do still opt for overseas brands to maintain their stature. Something that will not come as a surprise after scrolling the store descriptions, is that higher-end fashion can’t help but remain a prominent feature in this city with the likes of Y3 gripping the fort. When it came to footwear, if it wasn’t Boost then the choice was most commonly something along the lines of a Stan Smith or Chuck II. Surprisingly, the appearance of such brands as Asics, Diadora and New Balance were few and far between; seeing as said brands are currently running a mock in Europe right now, I worked with the assumption that Australia would follow suit based upon the controlling Japanese influence paired the historical collaborations from the likes of Sneaker Freaker and Saint Alfred.
After exploring both Queenstown and Christchurch of New Zealand, I found myself in Auckland. Now, from what gathered whilst on a tour with Kermath (another Basement member) it was brought to my attention that this country really wasn’t all that fashion orientated in the slightest. With the community being even more concentrated than that of Australia, those whom were involved with the scene seemed incredibly clued up on their designers, influences and creative processes opposed to simply wearing the apparel for physical appearance. During my time two stores were presented to be the main ‘spots’ as such; first of all ‘Loaded’, the seemingly Kiwi equivalent of Sneakerboy… just with less illuminated shelving. Split into two levels, the downstairs section held some absolute gems for those whom be sneaker orientated. Stock included the Patta and 24 Kilates Gel Respecter collabs in a number of sizes, topped only by both the JUICE and Highsnobiety Adidas consortium releases which sold out quickly in most UK stockholders. The floor above contained a number of clothing brands, in particular a wall coated in Zanerobe pants and attire from top to bottom. As much as I appreciate Zanerobe, the brand itself to me isn’t all that powerful; therefore the main floor seemed far weaker than that mentioned above, which was a shame. On to the infinitely relaxed store that is Edit; again this was split into two floors, the first containing technical pieces from Y3 and the like, then the next stocking far more formal outfits as pictured below. I found the atmosphere as a whole here very unique, aspects ranging from prolonged interaction with customers to the small mini-fridge splitting a line of sweaters and button-ups enforced an incredibly homely concept. Above all, the staff were not only knowledgable but took a keen interest in the purpose of my photography and note-taking. Coming from a job within retail I personally know how reluctant a majority of staff are to step out of their comfort zone; was refreshing, a perfect way to end my toured experience in Auckland.
After leaving, I realised that I hadn’t observed current trends or influences all that carefully whilst making my way around. This may have been to the distinct lack of stores, however my assumptions resonate around the further lack of customers within these stores bar a few groups that entered Loaded. So, this led to an incredibly valuable conversation with popular fashion blogger Patrick Paredes (@patrickjparedes) who explained the current situation that I’d experienced. He started by creating an image of how difficult it is for younger generations to find their feet within on overpriced market, even between your basic brands such as Stussy and Champion, RRP would be considerably more than that back in Europe. Availability of brands like BAPE or Supreme is massively reduced, therefore those with less money look to smaller local brands instead of spending 1-2x more than we do in this part of the world. Personally this is actually a huge positive, it keeps the exclusive elusive, and supports upcoming talent. On a side note this is something I’d like to see a lot more of around the UK, highlighting smaller Cities particularly. Patrick emphasised how they don’t really have an overly recognisable figure such as the likes of Gonz, Ian Connor or Blondey to lead the movement right now- however there’s a number of Instagram personalities dotted around that hold strong presence within the community.
When it comes to influential group similarities with Europe, things really come together. Social media is seen as more than just a media of communication, more of an enormous, live archive. Obviously when it comes to obtaining pieces from from further afield there is simply no better format than a global Facebook group, however seeing others put a risky outfits together gives the youthful enthusiasts more confidence when it comes to leaving what they’re comfortable with. In a way, indirectly developing the steadily growing community that initially started through sneaker camp-outs. Potentially, there’s a lot of creative space out in Auckland, a lot of room for the culture to expand to the level of Sydney as an example, however the lack of stores really enforces an invisible barrier. If a handful were introduced it would bring the movement on leaps and bounds in terms of both cultural image and resources available to the community. Unsurprisingly, these thoughts were reiterated by both Kermath and Patrick.
You wouldn’t be at fault for climbing to the assumption that streetwear leaves a lot to be desired, New Zealand in particular. But, I’d like to let you know it’s most certainly not dead. In each city I met an incredible selection of people, simply based on a shared love for streetwear, sneakers and fashion as a whole. If it wasn’t for the ‘Cafe effect’ as a prominent feature, this stunted development could easily be bypassed. The way in which many stores sell identical stock yet present themselves differently layout-wise is just as common within the UK, a handful of your Highstreet sneaker stores per se contain the exact same products, though we’re manipulated into seeing differentiating stock due to store colour schemes. If it wasn’t for Facebook the scene as we know it would be entirely different. Groups fixating around “….Talk UK/EU” have revolutionised the way in which we sell, built and trade our collections; furthermore community orientated groups as this one push boundaries beyond the point of a simple marketplace. There is in fact a similar group steadily growing within Australia and New Zealand- admittedly may not be as powerful at the present time, though giving it two years with the equivalent Basement following can only lead to greater things.
I was shown a side to the culture out there that otherwise would not have been apparent, for that I’m incredibly appreciative. For the communities I found myself within streetwear is most definitely not dead.
Thank you to Rob, Cameron, Lachlan, Kermath and Patrick for making me feel not only welcome, but being incredibly helpful too. A sentiment to the power of social media.
Written by Tommy Corlito