Check the Label: New Black’s Progressive Swedish Style


“There is something truly beautiful in mass producing something you've designed.” The concepts of true beauty and mass production are rarely occupants of the same mental space, but most mental spaces don’t belong to Elias Gillberg. “That might sound weird but once you do it yourself you'll know.”

The founder and designer at Swedish streetwear brand New Black, Gillberg has crossed the streams of classic sportswear, Golden Age hip hop and timeless Scandinavian design-sense to carve out a unique niche n a an oft-crowded market.

Gillberg learned/earned “the experience and confidence to master any type of style” while designing for fast-fashion mega-chain H&M, before striking out to create his own label.

That mastery has taken New Black from the shops of Sweden to some of the most important streetwear retailers in Europe, including Berlin’s Overkill and Collette in Paris, the Louvre of streetwear concept stores.

“The line between art and design can be very thin,” says Gillberg. “As a teenager I started doing graffiti and that's where I got the taste for touching an audience and building some kind of brand. I loved the feeling of creating a name and brand.

“But graffiti or other more classic art forms were never gonna pay my bills,” Gillberg continues. “When I realized that is when I realized I wanted to focus on design instead. I love working towards a customer or having a brief. A lot of artists feel that that way of working will kill your creativity. I'm the total opposite.”

That tug between the forces of art and the forces of capital informs much of New Black’s design. Tiny twists of texture. Microscopic crinkles in concept. Subtle switch-ups in familiar iconography. These sort of design details that separate the progressive from the predictable are what make New Black the new hotness.

Speaking of, when asked about the most important issue facing streetwear today Gillberg did not mince words.

“I think the most important thing is to get rid of the very sad way that women are portrayed within the streetwear community,” Gillberg tells Green Label. “If a woman is featured in a lookbook it is almost always in just a tee, panties and socks.”

“I think streetwear has a history of being extremely [juvenile] and I think that is something the community as a whole should leave behind. Women buy streetwear too...Imagine trying to sell streetwear to men by using pictures of men lying on a bed in a t-shirt and a pair of underwear trying to look horny! Who would buy in to that!?”

It’s a bold stance in an often apolitical scene, but a logical one for a brand looking to grow beyond the boundaries of countries and continent. As New Black seeks out new markets (Japan is on the agenda for 2015) their progressive intuition is not just contained to the sartorial. And that’s real good look for everybody.

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