It’s always a risk to write about something on which you’re not entirely clear. The problem with streetwear is that, on occasions at least, that’s often the whole point. I’ve been aware of RATS Japan for about 3 years now, one way or another. I was always curious as to what the deal was with them, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, they’re big on motorcycles and the biker culture, much like NBHD & WTaps. Secondly, their website is strikingly similar to the NBHD website.
Then there’s their use of similar tag-lines and slogans to the former brands such as Way of Life and Revolutionary Warfare and a general aesthetic that would suggest the brands are operating in unison, or at the very least in close quarters. I’m pretty sure Shinsuke of NBHD pops up once or twice in the recent RATS x Tenderloin video as well.
Using a combination of speculation amongst friends and general deduction, I’m pretty sure that RATS operates as a ‘collective’, with the owners of several of the high end brands coming together and releasing items. That being said, as with Erik Brunetti and SSDD, it’s just as likely that it’s another branch-off from NBHD of sorts with an entirely new set of hands. You get the impression that these guys just like making clothing and doing their thing as a gang anyway, and I feel as though they place the brands’ names and identities much higher than any of the individual contributors involved. Basically, answers on a postcard, please.
I was made aware of the latest collection by The Savage Army a few weeks back and thought the lookbook was okay, but very conceptual, as most Japanese lookbooks are. It didn’t really give the clothes that much platform other than painting a picture with them, so I held off for something a bit clearer. Fortunately their website is now loaded with information and photos, so I’ve provided a selection of photos from the lookbook as well as some shots of my favourite pieces.
It’s a proper ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ deal as far as the lookbook goes. Typical ‘greaser’ styles like open-buttons and Harrington jackets compliment a more summery scene of two lovers on the run. The outfits look sharp, especially that Panama shirt with the ‘R’ script embroidery. As I said before, however, the shoot does more to add context to the pieces than actually present them.
A closer look at individual pieces, however, reveals subtle hints to the classic scene painted before. Features like loop-button top collars, triple-stitching, gas-station imagery and fabrics like rayon & panama weave are obvious nods to that 50s greaser image. Even the colour of the washed denim looks just right in a well-worked faded blue. Graphic t-shirts continue the motor oil mode with a mix of 20th century rock & roll and bold logos.
Elsewhere there’s a really nice looking ‘College Ring’ and ‘Jam Bag’. The brand has also collaborated with Volcom to produce a pair of Surf shorts with their circular badge logo printed on the right leg. Thinking back to the recent NBHD lookbook, there’s a similar influence from deserts, beaches and highways across the board, with RATS’ guttural interpretation sitting quite nicely next to the more ‘considered’ manner of NBHD and WTaps.
RATS is interesting to me because of how ‘t-shirt heavy’ their collections tend to be. Many of us have come to expect a lot from Japanese brands when the new seasons come around. With labels like White Mountaineering, Visvim, Soph and NexusVII constantly pushing the envelope and incorporating Gore-Tex into more and more pieces, it seems strange for such a well-presented Japanese label to be selling so many graphic tees.
At the same time, however, there’s an air of spontaneity to their collections when compared to their peers by keeping pieces simple and sticking to the basics. The graphics are consistent and refreshing – how dope is that pin-up girl tee? – and the constructed pieces are what you start drooling for once the bold imagery has drawn you in. The RATS brand is really strong despite all its anonymity. It reminded me of rats themselves – living in darkness, ever growing in strength and number, appearing from the shadows now and then to remind you they’re never far. Anyway, have a look before I start over-thinking things again. You can find more photos of all of the pieces featured at RATS.jp.
RATS Japan is not currently available in the UK. The best way to find out about purchasing is to contact an individual such as Stylistics at Stylistics’ Space who lives in Japan and can perform proxy purchases. Find a man in Japan and keep your eyes on the newsletters. Best of luck!