“Fashions come and go, style is all day.”
Wise words. You can spend your whole life chasing fashion, or you can let your personal style come to you. There’s bound to be a period of trial and error, but once you get through it you’ll establish your own signature look. Establishing that signature look is what Proper Gang, the label we’re shining a spotlight on in this edition of Behind The Brand is all about. The quote? It’s from brand founder Max Vanderwoude Gross, a man of many hats who aside from his role as founder/creative director of Proper Gang is also the current design lead at Supreme.
Proper Gang has been shrouded in mystery since its inception in 2012 and has been especially quiet lately, not releasing any official collections since Spring/Summer 2017, but the hard-to-find brand’s pieces and aesthetic boast a fervent cult following, head-turning styling that’s hard to ignore and world-renown stockists like Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony, and Union. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more media-shy label in today’s “no publicity is bad publicity” world of streetwear where seemingly the more exposure you get and the more you’re in front of the camera the better, but that’s never what Proper Gang has been about … and their reclusive, too-cool-for-school nature is a major reason behind their cult following.
What’s the brand’s aesthetic? Unique takes on classic garments. Take what you know about a sweatshirt, pair of pants, or jacket, and tweak the materials and the cut and you’ll begin to have an understanding of what a Proper Gang piece is all about. When asked about his design process, Vanderwoude Gross said he aims to create pieces that feel “authentic, relevant, and interesting without being overly designed.” Think cropped trousers with raw hems, boxy sweatshirts, and pieces like military shirts made with a combination of new and classic materials. Unlike his work at Supreme, Vanderwoude Gross doesn’t use a heavy amount of graphics for Proper Gang’s collections, preferring to let the pieces speak for themselves.
Proper Gang’s pieces offers the wearer a chance to diversify and expand their look, while not sacrificing their essential style. The reworked, remixed proportions play with the wearer’s silhouette and offer them a chance to broaden their style without having to chase current fashions, just like the brand’s mission statement aims for. That vision is furthered by the byline on their website, which states the designs are inspired by “what is the true DNA of New York, the revolutionaries, the creatives, the hoodlums, the intellectuals, the artists, the rejects, the hustlers, the musicians, the bums, the weirdos.” The name? It’s inspired by the time Vanderwoude Gross spent in an actual gang as a teenager.
In many ways, Proper Gang was (and still is) very ahead of its time. High fashion’s current love affair with all things streetwear means that the market today is flooded with odd silhouettes, bright colors, and crazy patterns … but most of the time that aesthetic is attached to exorbitantly high, borderline-offensive price tags (think Vetements or Balenciaga) or blatant copying of essential streetwear pieces. Proper Gang? They’ve been offering a similar aesthetic with much more digestible price points for over half a decade.
What’s next? It’s somewhat difficult to say, as the future of Proper Gang is cloudy. Vanderwoude Gross has seemingly delved fully into his design duties at Supreme as the brand didn’t release a F/W ’17 collection or announce any new projects so far this year. However, you shouldn’t be surprised if they come storming back in a major way, either in 2018 or later. After all, you can leave a gang behind … but the gang’s never going to leave you. Remember: fashions come and go, style is all day.
What do you think of Proper Gang’s unique aesthetic? What’s the difference between fashion and style in your opinion? Do you like when a brand is reclusive and tight-lipped, or do you prefer brands that are always in the spotlight? Sound off in the comments or hit us up and let us know on Twitter!