A lot of brands are starting over with new creative directors this season, and by far the strangest one is Band of Outsiders.
When we heard that the 12-year-old, Los Angeles-based brand was returning to retail, it was very difficult to envision a version of the line without its founder Scott Sternberg — because Band of Outsiders is Scott Sternberg. Or was. Not just in the cute, tailored, California-inflected, geek-chic clothing; but in all of the genius branding: the creative NYFW shows, the website (and blogs), the Polaroid campaigns, the stores. Every single detail was considered in a way that seemed effortless, inclusive and untouchably cool at the same time.
The new Band of Outsiders, unveiled at a runway show on Saturday evening, had none of that. But how could it? The new designers, Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel and Florian Feder — some cool-seeming young guys who met at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts — were hired by CLCC SA, the Belgian fashion fund that took control of Band after the brand failed to make payments on a line of credit. They are based in Antwerp, not Los Angeles, and have never met Sternberg. In fact, the designers said that they want to avoid following Sternberg's creative path. "We still work with American inspiration, but the idea of proportion and fit doesn’t reflect our aesthetic, so we felt like we had to change it in order to have credibility," Hodel told W. (Fashionista was denied an interview with the designers.)
Despite not being based in Los Angeles, the brand is now called Band of Outsiders Los Angeles, and the designers appear to have already shot a spring 2017 campaign there. The men's and women's collection, called "Class of SS17," is collegiate-inspired. That, and the fact that the women's clothes are menswear-tinged, is where the similarities between the new and old Band of Outsiders end.
Shown in a very run-of-the-mill runway format, the clothes were boxy and oversized and paired only with sneakers, meant to reflect a "laidback attitude where comfort is king [sic]," per the show notes. The aesthetic felt young, sporty and a little rebellious and obviously an approximation of what California cool is — and not a bad one, but one that tried a little harder than the original brand. To put it in "Class of SS17" terms, while Sternberg's Band of Outsiders girl or guy would have been the smart nerd who wasn't popular but was low-key cooler than everyone else; the new Band of Outsiders individual is cool because he/she dgaf and is maybe athletic but also probably smokes a lot of weed? It's not entirely clear yet. In phrasing reminiscent of "The Breakfast Club," the show notes tried to describe the new brand as thus:
Celebrating the unsung hero, the underdog & the enigma, Band of Outsiders treasures a collective memory of the city of angels. With nostalgia and respect, their intent is clear. Los Angeles is America, but it is also everywhere.
Sternberg’s Band of Outsiders never used convoluted branding language like this because it didn’t need to; you just got it. But the old and new Band of Outsiders shouldn't really be compared because they're entirely different brands. They just have the same name, which... why is that again?