FILA was all the rage in the ’90s. The red, blue and white logo went places, from being seen on kids in elementary school to your favourite rap artists, including Swedish rapper Lættis Weed, who remains a huge fan. “FILA is swag and it doesn’t pretend,” he says.
The ’90s was the golden age of sportswear, but fashion came and went, and FILA fizzled into a mid-market brand that felt left for dead. It struggled to keep up with the growing power of Nike and Adidas as these brands steered into lifestyle campaigns.
Fashion is, however, in the midst of an ongoing love affair with ’90s nostalgia. Retro sportswear is back in vogue and FILA is naturally back in the game. A renewed interest in authenticity has helped heritage labels find a new audience, because after all, heritage does bring us the comfort of familiarity.
The once neglected brand engineered a turnaround a few years ago. It has since resurrected as an “it” brand, starting with an SS16 collection of nostalgic athleisure gear. It also brought back its iconic retro sneakers like the chubby Mindblower and sawtooth-soled Disruptor, and boy are they killing it. Demand’s off the charts and the latter sold better than items by hyped-up brands like Prada and Off-White.
FILA x D-Antidote SS18
FILA seems destined for high-fashion collaborations. The new retro FILA Fusion arm, featuring the creations of South Korean design label D-Antidote, is hitting all the right notes with streetwear scenesters.
D-Antidote was established in 2014 by Hwansung Park, a Central Saint Martins alumnus who spent years in London cutting his teeth at the big boys like Burberry and Alexander McQueen. The Gwanju native bagged the Outstanding Designer of the Year award at last year’s Korean Designer Fashion Awards. His social followers are growing fast.
Embracing punchy colours and utilitarian sportswear, Park wants to design for the non-conforming. Thus the gender fluid nature, free from social constructs. He takes inspiration from pop and streetwear culture of Seoul and London. You’ll find “SEOULONDON” plastered across sleeves and straps as an ode to this cross-cultural identity.
The current SS18 collection is Park’s homage to the ’90s. Plenty of sweaters, track pants, oversized shirts and hanging straps, coloured by shades of olive green and royal blue. “I grew up in the ’90s and I’d wear anything FILA, from the caps to bags,” he recalls. “I was a FILA kid. To recreate this nostalgia in 2018 is a great feeling.”
How did this collaboration with FILA come about? What do you think keeps the brand relevant for the young?
FILA sponsored the footwear at my first D-Antidote show at Seoul Fashion Week in 2016. We have maintained a close relationship ever since, and this year marks the official start of our design partnership.
The brand’s simple, compact and very fashionable, especially with the logos. Logos are back in business. It gives young people a sense of identity and it also brings back the good memories of the ’90s for the older ones.
What was this collection inspired by?
The ’90s. We get a lot of ideas from music, too. This particular collection was inspired by New Kids on the Block’s Step by Step. The next season (AW18) will take cues from the UK hip-hop artist, London Posse.
In general, my designs are inspired by cities like Seoul and London. When I was working in London, I was inspired by a “London cool”. The city’s great at regenerating older stuff while keeping originality and character. Seoul’s strength, on the other hand, lies in trends. It is speedy, dynamic and young. I wanted to create a hybrid between the two.
Do you think collaborations are gimmicky?
I feel they give brands an opportunity to present themselves in a new way. In the case of FILA and D-Antidote, we create a kind of synergy. We give FILA something fresh, and FILA lends us their heritage. It’s a win-win.
What goes into D-Antidote’s design philosophy?
D-Antidote might be marketed as menswear, but it is, in fact, gender fluid. We cater to anyone and everyone. For example, a knit-top for men can be worn as a dress by women. We also take sustainability very seriously by putting extra thought into quality and production. I want it to be the functional alternative to fast fashion.
What is fashion to you?
It is very much like a computer game. There will be obstacles, but achieve a mission and you’ll be elevated to the next level. Louise Wilson, a professor from Central Saint Martins, always reminded me that if you want something done, you have to get it done yourself. Obstacles will no longer be an issue.
Were you always fixed on fashion design as a career?
I’ve always been interested in clothes and drawing, so it seemed like a natural choice for me. If not, I might have become a doctor just like my father. We have a lot of doctors in our family.
What was it like working as a menswear design assistant for Burberry, Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen?
They are all great masters of fashion. I admire their creativity, strong identity and delicate emotion. I also learned how to reinterpret vintage styles and translate them into something modern and sophisticated.
Before D-Antidote, I also ran a menswear label called A.Hallucination with one of my best friends. It was one of the most exciting and valuable experiences in my career. I learned a lot about the process of making a collection. I discovered how difficult it was to regularly come up with something new and keep your own design identity in this harsh world of fashion.
Do you ever get designer’s block?
No. It’s all part of a routine, ingrained into my life. Every single day, I think about design, however big or small it is, even when I’m walking down the street.
How do you feel about bootleg streetwear?
I’d rather call it “twisted”. It’s a way of giving respect to the original brand. I wouldn’t mind someone doing the same to me in maybe 10 years time. It would mean we are famous enough.
What will define D-Antidote in the years to come?
I want it to be the definitive K-fashion label worldwide, like Supreme. I’ve got a good feeling about the meaning of original fame. It only means energy to go further.
Find the collection at FILA, Vivocity, B1-12
Opening photo by Anton Lim @mellowedhigh