Not Looking Back, But Looking Forward

This was posed to us many times at the start of 2019: which new (or newish) brand do we think will be exceptional this year? To us, there may be only one: Ader Error

 

Adererror in Siam DiscoveryAder Error pop-up in Bangkok’s Siam Discovery in October 2018

We have always resisted making lists. This is no exception. We won’t, therefore, be looking back at the last twelve months of 2018 and tell you what we think was good, or what, regrettably, was not. But of all the new or new-to-market labels that came (and, for some, languished), perhaps one deserves mention, not because of how big they are here since no retailer brought them in, but for their very conspicuous absence.

We think that the Korean streetwear label Ader Error deserves attention even when we have never blogged about them. Although they have not received mention here, you probably have seen their wares in those social media posts that tout the very latest and hottest. Or, seen your fave K-pop stars wearing them. After all, Ader Error is reported to be “”the top choice of K-pop royalty”, such as Jin and V of BTS. They are also know for their Instagram posts, of which they have not one, but three handles, totaling 743k followers, as of now.

adererror x pumaAder Error X Puma at Robinsons at the Heeren

At this point, perhaps we should correct ourselves. It is not entirely true that Ader Error is not retailed here. In November, Robinsons at the Heeren carried the brand’s collaboration with Puma: a tiny, two-style buy of sneakers and slides. That went largely unnoticed, and are still available at Robinsons when elsewhere in the world they have been reported to sell out within days of launch. Could this be indication that we, as retailers and consumers, are slow to trends, as is the common charge? Or, simply uninterested?

While we have read of Ader Error’s meteoric rise and followed them on IG, we have not seen their designs up-close until October last year. One of Bangkok’s more forward stores Siam Discovery—once a shopping centre, now a department store—had put together an Ader Error pop-up, complete with the Korean brand’s own fixtures. It was striking and unmissable, and an opportunity for us to examine the beguiling merchandise up close. Did they live up to the hype?

ader error coatOver-sized double-breasted wool coat: classic tailoring with street cred

Hype, as we all know, is often 80% social media build-up and 20% design finesse— sometimes, for the latter, less. Hype is the engine of consumption. Hype takes us for a ride. It can be either an enjoyable one or a dud that leads to nothing. Ader Error is, without doubt, built on hype, much of it its own making (rather than, say, through third-party or fan hashtags). It is hard not to see three IG pages (excluding website, Facebook, and Twitter) put out by one brand as hype, but the noise—thankfully, not bluster—they create is commensurate to the high grade of the products they sell.

It is encouraging, therefore, to see that Ader Error has quite a healthy percentage of design flair to the equation, more than a healthy quarter, as we see it. Sure, theirs is a path well-trodden: Supreme and its ilk have ambled on with repetition and, sadly, lacklustre offerings that bank quite solely on hype. Ader Error, more than most streetwear brands, conversely use design to fuel the hype, not the other way round.

ader error pop-upAs Ader Error intended, their sleek first pop-up in Southeast Asia

Ader Error was formed in Seoul in 2014. A collective of individuals from different fields, the brand is not led by any specific design director. One Kevin Lee is reported to be the group’s spokesperson. According to Mr Lee, the group got together because they had wanted to do something totally creative. Coming from trades as different as graphics and food, they produced clothing quite unburdened by what a street wear label should be. So steep in method, as well as madness that WWD called the work they do “intellectual street wear”. However, Mr Lee prefers to call it, as he revealed to Highsnobiety, “a culture brand based in fashion”.

What we found especially appealing is the polish of the designs, with the right balance of exclusivity and mass appeal. The pieces look like there are the result of thought (much if it), not afterthought. The retro vibe, like what dominates street wear now, is unmistakable. Yet, it is subtle enough for the brand to call their hark-back “futro”. That, to us, appears to be looking at shapes and designs of the past, but with the eyes unsquintingly gazing at the present. Additionally, you sense that the people behind Ader Error are sharing a private joke, but you aren’t sure what’s funny, except the obvious: on the bottom layer of the fly of a pants, the scribbled “not yet”!

ader error merchMore than just clothing, Ader Error offers a selection of fun accessories 

While Ader Error is touted as a unisex label, it is obvious that their strength is in men’s wear. The clothes are not designed to alienate. By that we mean there’s accessibility factor to the output. Yet, you don’t dismiss them for being too commonplace. A position that will attract otaku types, fashion-leaning gamers, and even the fashion-consuming CFOs. For most, there is appeal—and comfort—in clothes that, well, look like clothes. And smart to boot.

At present, Ader Error releases only two collections a year, and, unsurprisingly, in somewhat small quantities (which possibly bait collectors the way Supreme’s encourage long lines). According to the brand’s Kevin Lee, their sell-through is more than 90 percent per collection, which is not unexpected, considering that they sell in rather small number of stores, of which only one in Seoul is their eponymous outlet, a free-form space that could easily be a karang guni man’s den.

adererror in siam discovery l2From pop-up to permanent space in two months

Apart from garments, Ader Error offers small goods or what are known as “lifestyle items”. These include cups and caddies, key chains and kerchiefs, and everything else that allow you to show those around you that you buy into their “culture”. And people do. Two months or so after their Bangkok pop-up debut in Siam Discovery, they were given a permanent corner in the men’s department on the second floor, next to Club 21. A sales staff told our Thai eyes, Nah Kwamsook, that the brand is doing well (“kai dee mak” or sales is very good), and is especially popular with “fashionable young men.”

With only one store and crackling multiple social-media pages, the brand is doing something so right that British GQ wondered if Ader Error is “the world’s coolest brand”. We don’t quite know yet, but it is rather apparent to us that Ader Error is no mistake.

Photos: Jagkrit Suwanmethanon and Zhao Xiangji

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