It’s been just under four months since Stray Rats‘ Spring 2013 collection. The release was the strongest from them yet in my opinion (with some pleasant appearances here and there), and the brand has returned for August with a collection of t-shirts, tanks and shorts.
Koopz has dug once more into the cavern of ‘pfft… who knows’ that is his mind, taking inspiration from popular culture and personal influences to produce a variety of designs, adding some trademark Sewer Brigade adjustments along the way.
The trajectory is as reassuringly unpredictable as ever; from Cash Money Records to snack manufacturers; from Mickey Mouse to cult Japanese Cinema. What Stray Rats has lacked in product variety in its short life, it has always made up for in personality, with each t-shirt giving a humorous glimpse into Koopz’ neurotic and immersive character.
Firstly, I never thought I’d see Little Debbie make her way into a hardcore-influenced streetwear collection, but the ‘Snack’ tee shut me the-fuck up. Cosmic Brownies go hand-in-hand with the Sewer Crew. All the brand’s usual flavor of wholesome negativity is present, and that homely cream colourway is perfect. It’s weird what a bit of rebranding can do to a girl’s smile though. Shudder.
Two classic designs from the brand make a return with the ‘Rodenticide’ and ‘Subhumans’ logos – the former being arguably the tee that first got Stray Rats noticed, and the latter a double-nod to the synonymous punk band and Supreme’s popular flip. This time the ‘Sub’ logo appears on a pair of cotton Champion shorts in Black and Burgundy, and they’re looking pretty hard. A logo tank is also revealed, paying homage to punk merchandise with a simple chest and back print. I especially like the black/green colour combination.
Elsewhere you can see more cinematic homages. The ‘Shinebox’ tee is a great follow up from the Scarface flip back in April, while the ‘CSOY’ tee references a cult Japanese film from 1960 by Nagisa Oshima, a director who gained notoriety for casting teenage criminals in the film’s lead roles.
Finally there’s my highlight, the ‘Spies’ tee, served with a slice of childhood. There are some parts of pop culture that stick with you forever, and these guys are just the shit. The single-colour print looks strong and the inspiration is dope. The accompanying enamel badge is a nice touch too, so props to Koopz for bringing a smile to my face this evening.
The accompanying lookbook is presented in a format close to the designer’s heart, as a DIY zine. Precise and referential, the grainy reprographics and cut’n’paste aesthetics are an appropriate medium for Stray Rats’ nitty-gritty identity, and simple styling to fit the audience means that each of the designs looks solid and relevant. It’s the little touches too, like the brick patterns and shabby stock fonts that ensure this is all authentic representation.
That authenticity is unquestionably a large part of Stray Rats’ formula. The demand of releasing a variety of graphics with clockwork regularity means that designers are always under pressure to reinvent the wheel or delve further into new sources to come up with ‘fresh’ ideas.
This sometimes leads individuals down a tricky path of deteriorating quality and precision as they run out of sources that they ‘know’ and begin exploring territories and stimuli that they don’t ‘know’ or necessarily even understand – see Jeremy Scott.
Stray Rats has benefitted from Koopz’ grasp of the simple rule of representing what you know. Beyond just traipsing endlessly through the reference points of punk, hip-hop, cartoons and (overall) culture that form his lens, Koopz does something unique by offering up his own renditions, his own interpretations of what his lifestyle, and ultimately Stray Rats’ lifestyle, is.
It’s not about going ‘Punk’ and thinking ‘Punk’ and scribbling ‘Bollocks’ on an acid-green tank top and calling it a day. There’s a vibrant character that runs through the designs that celebrates everything that contributed to ‘him’. What makes it a brand is how it does the same with so many of the people that come across Stray Rats.
Stray Rats’ Summer 2013 collection will be available from their Online Store from Friday, August 2nd at 12pm EST (5pm GMT). As always, the store only ships within the Continental United States, so if you ain’t within the borders, you’d better find a buddy. Take it easy.