#1237 The rebirth of Ksubi

Dempsey Stewart backstage before Ksubi – photos: Oliver Rose

It reads like a film script. A decade of stunts; of rockstar status and parties with supermodels; of near-bankruptcy, financial restructuring and countless fresh starts. Imagine the expectations. Ksubi’s first show in three years. The label that single handedly put Australia’s surf-punk larrikinism on the world stage. ONE VIA ZERO. Best to start at the beginning.

Like livestock, we were herded through an iron maze and into the Royal Hall of Industries, a free standing building alongside the floodlit Sydney Cricket Ground. Inside, a ring of black seats bordered the circular catwalk – a simple black line painted on the ground like a sprinter’s track. Within the circle was another – a low-hanging lighting rig. Inside it, an asymmetrical black cube scrawled with white paint reading ‘ZERO’ and ‘NON’.

Four giant screens hung at adjacent ends of the room playing short bursts of CCTV footage amidst absolute static. Spotlights flashed structural pillars, intermittently illuminating them with yellow light. A DJ played indie rock at barely audible levels.

The lights died. Onscreen, a lone black figure rolled across the ground then lay still. Static. He reappeared, holding up white flash cards like an Al Qaeda captor. Static. More flash cards. More static.

White noise grew to jet engine volume. The lighting rig flashed and rose. A beat kicked in. Then silence and complete darkness. Out of the black cube, a model emerged.

It was the rebirth of a denim brand. Pure white jackets, vests, shorts and jeans; their only distinguishing feature a crisscrossed cutout that hung like harness straps from torsos and legs.

From there we returned to the label’s roots. Vests and dresses so destroyed they were literally crumbling as the models walked past. The original Ksubi jeans were dragged behind cars to get their signature distressed look. This denim looked as if it had been ground beneath an 18-wheeler lorry. Paint dipped jeans resembled extreme stone washed denim. A belted sweatshirt came with a rat print, recalling the label’s first ever RAFW show.

Menswear was limited to three looks – each one a streetwear take on the suit, each one paired with neoprene brothel creeper booties. Who wears neoprene booties? Surfers. Who wears brothel creepers? Punks. Nothing like a little literal self referencing.

The most interesting piece was an orange denim suit that bore a striking resemblance to Prada’s recent multi-coloured camouflage coats. Up close the pattern revealed itself to be baked beans. The jacket’s back read ‘Has Beans’. Another literal reference. Almost. But something tells me these has beans are back.

It ended with a near climactic anti climax. As the final model exited the runway, the audience was plunged into silent darkness for an uncomfortably long time. Nervous coughs were heard, then scattered laughter. They should have left us there – one more stunt for the road. Instead, the lights came back up and the models walked their finale. George Gorrow and Dan Single appeared on the screens holding up a white sign. It read ‘THANK YOU’. No more, no less.

Dan Single biffing cake

They did appear a little later on, in the middle of the room with a huge rat shaped cake. Photographers crowded around to take their picture. The designers grabbed fistfuls of sticky rat and threw it around the room. Ten years older. But ten years wiser? That remains to be seen.


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