The love affair between music and fashion has existed since both industries began. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as both are creative means of expressing oneself, thoughts made visual or vocal and shared with an audience. The boundaries between the two worlds are often blurred, with musicians frequently making up the front row at fashion weeks, designers providing tour wardrobes, and increasingly, musicians themselves turning their hand to design. From Yeezy to Fenty Puma to Golf Wang, these projects go beyond designer ‘collabs’, and are well-received by both fans of the artist and critics alike. The most successful collections work because the artists put as much time, thought and soul into them as they do their music, which is clearly the case with NiNE8 GARMS – the London-based clothing line arts/music collective NiNE8 which drops its ‘Generation 2.0’ this week.

Based in West London, NiNE8 started out ‘as a small group of friends creating music, cover art and clothes for each other and grew into a network of like-minded creatives’. This network includes some of the most exciting new acts in the capital such as MC Lava La Rue, producer Mac Wetha and singer Biig Piig, recently named as one of The Fader’s ’15 acts to watch in 2018’. Given the group’s idiosyncratic aesthetic and DIY approach it seemed natural that they would eventually make their own stuff. The idea to start NiNE8 GARMS grew organically, from “hand crafting, swapping and re-vamping clothes between each other” to a fully fledged range of hoodies, tees, caps and more, skillfully manufactured in the UK and available exclusively through Depop, with some one-off pieces still being hand customized.

Far from being simply merch, the collection is an equally considered aspect of the collective’s creative output, with each ‘generation’ taking a different theme. Generation 2’s theme is hands, from the embroidery on the cap which shows two hands signing ‘nine’ and ‘eight’ to the distorted, graphic image on many pieces developed from a picture of in-house producer SHREDDAH OTV making an analogue beat, to the oozy “hand in your brain” black long sleeves designed by arts board collaborator KONTROL aka Giselle Messiah.

All of the ‘garms’ are given to their performers and collaborators before being made available online, so whilst the pieces are unique, they are also universal – as seen in the lookbook which shows them styled on key members of NiNE8. It is quite a feat to take a community of very different individual artists and create a visual identity that represents them all. But this is what NiNE8 have achieved, with complete creative control over their imagery and attention to the smallest details – for example, the foam heads the hats are shown on, which are each painted by ORLA – the artist whose distinctive handwritten font has become the group’s signature.

Despite their sartorial skills, the group’s musical output remains the major focus of the collective, with their recent Shacklewell Arms night showcasing the variety of acts under the NiNE8 umbrella. Stage-invading each other’s sets, creating artwork for the venue and documenting everything on analogue cameras, the eternal spirit of collaboration, and a genuine love and respect for each other’s work, was obvious. This is a group of friends who are going places and having the best possible time en route.

Discover more from NiNE8 here