exclusive: the new samizdat collection by designer yang li
We spoke to the designer about his industrial metal inspirations and why the label is like a fictional band.
London-based designer Yang Li, who founded his eponymous label in 2010, has always been obsessive about music. “Music is a huge influence for me and also Yang Li the brand,” he tells i-D. “But I wanted to create something that has a much a more kind of immediate and close contact with music, actually working with musicians, and creating the clothes or the fashion as a result of collaboration.” So that’s what he did a few years ago, creating the label Samizdat, which means “self-publish” in Russian. With the label Yang explores his love of industrial metal and different kinds of EDM -- “Not pop music, basically,” as the designer says. He describes Samizdat as a kind of fictional band -- the clothing is like merch but the band members morph with each offering.
For his latest collection, titled Cosmic Terror and being debuted on i-D today, Yang worked with a group of other music obsessives. His collaborators included musician and artist J.S Aurelius, the designer’s good friend Justin Broadrick of legendary industrial metal band Godflesh, and friends and fellow metalheads Chris Blohm, and Adam Richardson of Ramesses. “We all put our brains together and did it as a group effort. To understand the kind of dynamic of Samizdat -- it's not just me with a pen, designing,” Yang says. He’s more like a band manager when it comes creating clothing for this label. “My job is in putting together the team or the band for each collection. It's really a pleasure to work like that, it's very conversational rather than hierarchical.” The group drew on the energy, the fonts and other graphics associated with industrial metal and combined it with a tailored feel, which was influenced by military uniforms. “Metal has always been such a strongly visual genre, from the graphic design and artworks to the look of the musicians,” says Yang. “But again, it's not just the musicians, music is lot more than the artists, it's a collaboration of a tribe. A metal gig is an incredible experience.”
The cat featured on a number of items belonged to Adam Richardson of Ramesses, but sadly passed away. "While digging through our photo archives we thought it would be a mascot of the collection and a hidden tribute to the beloved 'metal' feline."
A different proposition to his more established Yang Li brand -- Samizdat isn’t tied to the fashion calendar and is a rougher, freer project. “We put on concerts with the bands and events with musicians and then subsequently the clothes come out, so it's almost reversed,” Li says. “And because of the product offering, which is more accessible and more immediate, we're able to react to that and make collections based on events and collaborations rather than thinking seasonally.”
So far, Samizdat has put on gigs and created merch with the likes of Psychic TV, Tropic of Cancer, Keiji Haino, Ramleh and KK Null. “The musicians we work with -- the number one kind of characteristic for a musician that Samizdat works with, is that commercial aspiration must not be their first and foremost aspiration. It's music that I personally enjoy, and I think is important for people to feel and hear.”
Stay tuned for Samizdat's next gig.