Hidden Characters – The Forefathers

Hidden Characters is a new wave Streetwear brand run by a shadowy group of people from America’s midwest. However some members of this organization are based around the world, such as Tepei and Hong Kong. The brand has been around for more than 3 years and immediately found a following among young adults, primarily 90s kids and people looking for a more forward thinking Streetwear brand. Most of this is due to the fact that many long time fans of Streetwear have become largely apathetic towards the current state of Streetwear. As many of the brands they used to love have grown too big and fallen away from what they originally were, becoming very generic, so that they could appeal to a broader spectrum of people. Hidden Characters has continued to maintain it’s status as an artistic yet sought after brand, as its concepts appeal to many young adult, while also being representative of what Streetwear used to mean.

At the start of 2016 HC had been riding a wave of 2 years filled with well received releases. The first half of 2016 saw another another shift in HC’s focus. 2015 was characterized with HC’s desire to create more cut n sew pieces. As a result the brand dropped a fair amount of non graphical apparel that were loved by customers. However this also meant that there were fewer graphic tees. Many initial fans came to respect the brand from their 2014 drops, which were mostly focused on creating dope designs. 2016 has seen a slight return to that form, ergo more emphasis had been put on the graphics. As well as giving their graphics a more traditional fine arts execution. Fans were hyped on the 2015 tees, though some of the tees felt a bit too perfectionist. HC has a demonstrated that it has a variety of fine art skills, but much of Hidden Characters’ style has been rooted in its affinity for asymmetrical designs and its subtle rejection of perfectionism. Regardless the 2015 tees were still loved by fans.

HC’s 2016 pre season releases included a solid gold pendent and the BDU 1.5 pants. Hidden Characters have been tinkering around with jewelry since 2015. Their first pendents were made of enamel and gold plated. It was not overly ambitious. However their second major attempt definitely was. The pendent was based on Hidden Characters Ifrit logo. Made of 14k solid gold, complete with a chain. The chains also came with another incentive, one person would be given all the items from Spring 2016. Later a preorder was also made for the BDU 1.5. These newer BDUs were made of a nylon/cotton material , making these more expensive than their previous pants, though with a different fit, better quality materials, and unique costomer customizations. Both products were well received by fans. As promised one fan who bought an Ifrit chain was given the full product line of S/S 16.

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It’s about the music, man

Spring 16 was probably one of HC’s high points. The brand was given a a few features by Hypebeast. Exposing HC to a wider audience. This further culminated to the drop selling out quicker than the last few releases. S/S 16 was broken up into 2 parts.

S/S 16 drop 1 had a nice balance of Cut n sew and graphic pieces. The Cut n sew consisted of the Split crewneck, Bleach hoodie, and the Webbing jacket. The graphic tees consisted of Ghost Army, Teachers, and Fuck Ian Conner tees.

Teachers is a tribute to Blue Note records. It is a historic jazz record label founded in 1939. Though many people probably won’t recognize the label for its artists or albums. They might recognize some of the sounds Blue Note produced. Jazz has been in existence for more than 100 years. Though the common man probably won’t directly listen to Jazz, they have likely listened to it indirectly through hip hop. Jazz is inherently tied into black culture. As with other genres of music that originated from the African American zeitgeist, it was almost always initially perceived in a negative context. Until the genre or elements of it were appropriated by white musicians. Jazz was no exception to this process. Jazz was not initially popular in America, largely due to people labeling it the “Devil’s music,” and its origins as black music. However it was popular in speakeasies during the 20s and 30s. The height of Jazz’s mainstream sensibilities were arguably the 40s and 50s. Though it would be a lie to say the genre died outright. Elements of Jazz were absorbed into other forms of music. Blue Note records is particularly important because they recorded music for some of the most notable Jazz musicians at the time. Such as Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis, among many others. Eventually the label went defunct and was later revived. Many hip hop artists have actually sampled music from Blue Note artists. Such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Yasiin Bey, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Eminem, the list goes on…Though it’s intriguing seeing HC give props to an often overlooked label that has indirectly contributed a lot of inspiration to many genres of music. The front graphic of Teachers is cover art from Wayne Shorter’s album Speak No Evil. The back of Teachers has a line of text at the top which is the title of the Horace Silver album Song for my Father. Blue Note 1017 is HC giving a nod to Blue Note’s 1500 series of albums. Below is a track listing of Blue Note songs, all of which have been sampled by hip hop artists. The graphic below appropriates art from Art Blakey’s album Indestructible! Below is a quote from prominent black poet Langston Hughes. The graphic to the left is from Lou Donaldson’s album Quartet/Quintet/Sextet. The next line of text is HC paying tribute to Reid Miles’ aesthetic. As he designed many of Blue Note’s album art, including all the albums referenced on this tee. The text below that is a flip on Horace Parlan’s album “Happy Frame of Mind.” Below that is the Blue Note logo, though in a dual colorway instead of  one. Theres actually not a lot of original interpretations by Hidden Characters on this tee, however thats likely the point. Rather than trying to create something easier for people to understand, HC chose to bring many elements from Blue Note together. In essence accentuating what Blue Note was all about. While also subtly representing hip hop’s re-appropriating of Jazz. Though as a whole Teachers was likely meant to convey that artifacts from black culture never die, but are simply adopted by more modern black zeitgeists. This tee works well on so many levels, conceptually it is on the same level as Ghost Army, and even surpasses it in some respects.

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Possibly the most well designed and hyped piece from this release was the Ghost Army tee. GA is a prime example of HC’s graphic skills. The graphic was moody, it was well designed, there were smaller designs that accentuated the main print, and it had some embroidery along with nice tags. Firstly the name itself is a reference to the actual US Army group nicknamed the “Ghost Army.” They were a special unit of the Army who were active during WWII, they were tasked with deceiving the Axis powers. Their official designation was 23rd Headquarters Special Troop. The Ghost Army were not made up of soldiers, but instead with artists. They had more than 1,000 members. They often created large and elaborate diversions. The Ghost Army accomplished their tasks by using inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions, and phony artillery. Some of their biggest deceptions occurred during the Allied landing of Normandy and Operation Plunder.   There is text found throughout the front and back of the tee, much of it is crossed out, save for the text on the corner in the front. Some of the text are just indicative of Hidden Characters, such as SRANK, HIDDEN CHARACTERS, and COMPOSITION HIDDEN C. Whereas certain key words are references to the Ghost Army such as SONIC & VISUAL STAGE ENSEMBLE, SABOTAGE SUBVERSION, and 23rd HEADQUARTERS. The text of DUALITY OF MAN is essentially the overarching theme for both s/s pts 1 &2. The back graphic is obviously a reference to war and humanity. While mankind is capable of doing great things, we also have the capacity to do great evil, war often being our outlets for committing crimes against humanity as a whole. The left sleeve has a lightning bolt, which is partially utilized from the emblem patches of the Ghost Army. The bolt came in three random colors, white (common), green (rare), and red (rarest). These colors are based off the Ghost Army’s emblem. Overall this tee had lots of time and effort put into its design and execution. The tee dropped in White, black, gray, olive, and sand.

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Left sleeve.

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WWII Ghost Army patch.

The Fuck Ian Conner tee seems to be Hidden Characters finally trying to creating some sort of logo for themselves. For the past 3 years the brand has been toying around with fonts, but seemingly never chose a particular style of text to match its overall aesthetic. The front graphic is very clean and well executed. The back has a large melting “srank” text which is possibly channeling the same art style as Salvador Dali. Dropped in blk, wht, baby blue, olive, yellow (friends&family only).

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Standard tags for S/S 16 pts 1 and 2.

As for the Cut n Sew there were a few dope looking products. First off is the grey Bleach hoodie. This was originally released in 2015 as a DC auction item in black. The Bleach hoodie is a reference to Nirvana’s first studio album called “Bleach.” The hoodie is likely grey because the album itself is an inverted black & white photo, as such the grey tones are very visible. The Webbing jacket was a nylon coach jacket that dropped in black and sand cws. It sports a sewn on Ifrit H patch, while the back has a vertical rectangle with an x in middle. Finally theres the Champion split crewneck. It was a heavily 90s inspired  garment, the split look of the crewneck was personally cut n sewn together by the HC crew. They also added an embroidered “HC” on the right sleeve, the front sports an embroidered “Hidden,” and the left sleeve has a 3M “Competition.”

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Right sleeve. Embroidered.

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Left sleeve, 3M.

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Following the release of SS drop 1. Many og and prospective fans where left disappointed. As many were unable to cop the ghost army tee. HC decided to help out their og fans by creating another version of the ghost Army tee, dubbed HB Edition. The tee was made availiabe via pre order. The biggest difference between the HB and GR version is that the HB Ed has a sewn on tag in the front of the tee. HB Ed also has printed tags instead of neck tag, and instead of having embroidered lightning bolts, it has printed HB lightning bolts. Released in the same cws as the GR version.

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Note the HB text on the left sleeve.

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Though SS drop 1 had plenty of hype, drop 2 had even more anticipation. primarily because of their lookbook. In past lookbooks HC tended to create a sort of narrative. Their SS lookbook did the same. However instead of taking photos of live model, the lookbook used clay models. Needless to say the clay figures looked very bizarre. This added another element to their lookbook’s narrative, capturing an ugliness/style that could only be expressed through clay rather then conventional photography. The lookbook caught the attention of HB and was promptly posted. HC was lauded by many newcomers, especially CLSC, a fairly respected streetwear brand.

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Lookbook.

S/S drop 2 consisted of two tees, hat, sweater, and jacket. The cactus Jack design made a return in 3 new cws. Burgundy was the most hyped and sold out instantly. The black cw was fairly sought after, and the inverted white cw sold out within a day. The inverted white cw is the most unique as HC inverted the printing process from the 2014 tee.

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The Militia tee was another design heavily inspired by the militarism. The front has a sort of cross design with the words HC and SR respectively. This small graphic is possibly invoking a feeling of WWI, possibly WWII war insignias. Below is the word HIDDEN, followed by “Trot & Guerrilla Task Force.” These last few words are important as they refer to the back graphic. Trot is possibly a shout out to that particular style of Korean music, furthermore it is probably personified by the fox on the back. Guerrilla is of course a term that describes a type of unconventional warfare strategies. Wherein a rag tag group of people attack their enemies with unconventional tactics and hide in plain sight, it is symbolized by the gorilla on the back. The back graphic is fairly big. A fox and gorilla are flying, likely, a WWII plane. The gorilla seems to be looking for their enemies, whereas the fox is identifying them. Behind the fox is a machine gun. This design is definitely playing off of the Animation style of Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943)  and it’s feature length sequel Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945) . They were both WWII Japanese propaganda Anime films. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is one of the earliest, if not the first Anime movie. The story follows Japanese folk hero Momotaro and animals as they join the Japanese military. The animals specifically join the Navy and eventually gain prominent positions. Later Momotaro leads the animals/soldiers in an invasion of the island of Celebes. The British forces are taken by surprise, the story ultimately ends with the British surrendering the island. While Momotaro and the animals plan another attack. This film is often overlooked by many fans of Anime, for various reasons, though it is undoubtedly an important aspect of Japanese Animation History.

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Momotaro plans a surprise attack.

Though the tees were well received the cut n sew was very hyped. Inner Demons returned as a jacket and the Split Crewneck dropped in a new black cw. There was also the H cap and  a pin.

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The most hype piece for this drop was without a doubt HC’s first hat. It’s no secret that HC strives to make to the best apparel that they can. However There have been a few instances wherein they designed, but did not directly manufacture their own products. The most notable being their first BIBO jackets and their gold H necklaces. Their BIBO jackets were produced by artisans, and their H necklaces were made by experienced jewelers. Not wanting to make hats with standard textile blanks, HC tapped Ebbets Field Flannels to produce some very high quality caps. They only dropped in burgundy, though it appears some black samples exist. Made of melton wool, they are very soft, have a leather strap, and have a sewn on wool Ifrit H. The hats did not have a satin underbrim, they were shipped in a custom box, and they came with a special pin that was not available for purchase.

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Special pin. “Hidden Frame of Mind”!

The hooded Inner Demons jackets was made of nylon and dropped in 3 cws: black, navy, and forest green. This jacket uses HC’s 2014 Inner Demons design. Its basically taken from an ep of Attack on Titan. The graphic is demonstrating how to kill a titan. The front has a sewn on tag. There are small vents near the pits, buttons are brass, and the graphic is 3M vinyl. Green is arguably the best cw, as its probably another lowkey reference to AOT. Eren Yeager, the main character joins the Survey Corps, a branch of the military. One of their notable characteristics is that they are often seen wearing a forest-green cloak with their symbol sewn on to them.

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Back, 3M vinyl.

Finally HC dropped a pin that was based on their snake oil design, and they made a new type of cologne.

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Its interesting to note that the most common theme for s/s pts 1 and 2 is militarism. Though more so that HC doesn’t necessarily base everything on Ameriaca. The light and subtle Japanese inspirations in Militia tee are a nice contrast to the darker Americana inspired Ghost Army tee. Back back the Cactus Jack tee was also pretty cool. Although its obvious that the Ghost Army and Fuck Ian Conner tees were the most loved out of both drops. HC’s cap was also an instacop for everyone. Though its not clear if or when it will come back, as it was not reissued last year. Beyond this there was plenty of cut n sew that many people were digging. Its a testament to HC’s growing skills outside of their graphic design skills. As such many fans, OG and new have patiently been waiting in the shadows for the next drop. As usual stay hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Character’s twitter

*Hidden Character’s instagram

*Hidden Character’s website

* Official Hidden Character’s forum

*Largest fan run forum

Ludwig VAN – Americana & Luxury

Ludwig Van is an atypical Streetwear brand. This is primarily as a result of the brand’s focus on creating quality garments instead of  mass production. Another reason tends to be that Ludwig usually distances themselves from whatever trend is going on in mainstream/corporate Streetwear. However another reason is that the man behind the brand is very active in many fields outside of Streetwear. As a result 2014 was a somewhat slow period for Ludwig Van.Of course production was still going on and there was a release here and there, but there was no regular seasonal drop. During that time the owner was doing work for the Olympics, WWE, Adidas, as well as coaching an MMA team.

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However Ludwig Van’s 2015-16 releases were definitely worth the long wait. The 2015 drop was heavily influenced by Americana. Some of the characteristics of Americana are things indicative of the 1950s in America. This includes, but isn’t limited to: motorcycles, bikers, your typical American athlete wearing sportswear or letterman jackets, classic Hollywood actors, etc. I suppose people look towards Americana because things seemed much simpler back then. America had won WWII, there was an economic boom, and the future seemed to be limitless. Many well known Japanese brands have actually appropriated Americana, of course there are many brands in America that employee this style as well.

2015: Athletes & Hollywood

Although that begs the question, what does Americana even mean? If you’ve ever watched one of those documentaries about the 70’s I’m sure at a certain point they’ll discuss how Americans developed nostalgia for the 50s. Its ironic that even in the 21st century people are longing for an era they never knew. I feel as though many people have a Romantic vision of the 1950s. Despite this era having many social issues and injustices. Seeing that the founder of Ludwig is closer to that era, I believe his execution has more truth to it, as Ludwig tends to explore the various zeitgeists which make up the era that the brand is channeling into their clothing.

Ludwig’s 2015 drop had everything, which consisted of some tees, a crew, coach jackets, snapbacks, jeans and a rocker patch. One of the must cops was the Audrey tee which is an obvious tribute to Audrey Hepburn. The graphic is a two tone print (green and blue), the pic is further modified with Audrey having a bright red ball gag. Now for starters it seems that the tee is referencing Audrey’s sexuality, as its well known that she had quite a few lovers in her day. Though its actually very tastefully in what its trying to say, there are many tell-all books about how old Hollywood was filled with rampant sexual affairs, drugs, flings, and orgies. However Audrey also had a humanitarian side which summed up the latter half of her years before she died. I supposed thats why this print has two prominent colors, Audrey was a very complex woman.

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Following this theres the varsity jackets. In particular this was done a bit differently than others, I’ve seen over the past few years. For one the jackets have a small back print, however its a clear print, instead of being a traditional ink print. beyond this Ludwig used vintage ribbing material, likewise the liner is made using Vietnam era rip-stop nylon. The jackets are finished off using a new style of label and Lampo zippers from Italy. It looks like something athletes can wear, but also seems a bit more sophisticated, probably due to the fit.

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This drop also included the Selvedge IV snapbacks. Honestly when most brands make snapbacks they tend to use very cheap and uncomfortable twill textile or flimsy denim. Both caps were made using Cone Mill denim, only top denim brands in the US buy from them. The ounce is pretty heavy so theres a bit of stiffness. The caps are lined with vintage 1980’s Pendelton flannel. Both caps are topped off with an indigo calfskin emblem.Overall they feel like quality snapbacks, and very comfortable as Ludwig didn’t opt to use cheap material.

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While we’re on the subject of denim, Ludwig finally made more denim jeans. I believe their last pair was released in 2009? Ironic considering the brand is always tinkering around with denim. Regardless its dope that they finally made some more. As to why these jeans are special, they’re a collab done with Rivi Goods, an artisan denim maker. They are constructed using 1980’s orangeline slevedge denim, think Levis, before production went overseas. If that wasn’t enough they are reinforced with og US military spec nylon webbing in certain areas. They also include a back label and calfskin patch. Americana at its finest.

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Ludwig label.

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Arguably the instacop from this release were the crews, coach jackets and rocker patch. The Born to Roll patch is on both the crewnecks and coach jackets. They are very high quality and the look is very striking not to mention it gives off a strong feeling of 1950s America. One important thing to note about them is that they are made using chain stitching, meaning they were made by hand. Almost all modern embroidery is done by machines, so think about that. Born to Roll seems to be a call be back to the early bike clubs in America, however Ludwig encouraged fans to interpret the phrase anyway they see fit. The patch is fairly large and so it would look great on jackets and crewnecks. Born to Roll crew was given a heavy stone rinse to give each sweater a unique look. The patches on the crew come with a special label. Furthermore the crews have some subtle silkscreens, which are all indicative of Ludwig’s overall theme. The coaches are also pretty dope. They dropped in two c/ws and were constructed of nylon, with a mesh liner, plus Ludwig’s logo printed on the front. Overall the Born to Roll stuff seems to be heavily inspired by athleticism, probably because the owner practices MMA. There are also quite a few MMA fighters who rep the brand, so it may be a small shout out to them.

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2016: Beethoven & Luxury

At the beginning of 2016 Ludwig released their Spring collection. This is different from the last release as Ludwig seemed to be going back to their roots. Now while the brand has done many projects that have dabbled in reappropriating vintage materials, for a time Ludwig Van was putting emphasis on their graphics. However they began to move away from being graphically driven, though the brand was still making graphic tees, cut n sew became more significant to the brand’s overall image. One of the main goals for this release was creating graphics which better reflect the brand’s overall concepts. Of course things probably won’t stay this way, which is why this release is particularly intriguing, as Ludwig Van tends to experiments and try new things with every release. The graphic aspect of Ludwig tends to reflect the current mentality of the man behind the brand or channel his artistic nature. Ludwig dropped their second collab with Rivi Goods which also took years to make, lastly the brand appropriated some well known Luxury logos to make something thats purely fun.

First off is the Regal. Now why I said this is interesting is because the Regal is the first true Ludwig graphic that has been released in a while. Thats not to say that the other tees aren’t indicative of Ludwig’s style. Its just that the regal isn’t a simple flip or takes cues from existing pieces of art. Instead It takes the core elements of the brand and juxtaposes everything together flawlessly to create something new. Such as Beethoven, Classical design, sleek motifs, a unique sense of symmetry, and  a feeling of originality. This graphic represents everything that Ludwig Van is about, without being very predictable.

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Symphony No. 5 has the simplest design of the three tees released. The print seems to be water based and feels very smooth. Its designed as a football jersey. The back graphic is big and definitely looks like it could be a jersey. The design is of course done as a Chanel flip, however it differs greatly in what others have done to the iconic No. 5 logo. Rather than mimicking the font Ludwig enlarged the 5 while keeping “No.” fairly small. The change is significant in that 5 becomes indicative of a sports jersey, however its a bit deeper than that. The whole idea of the sports jersey is that the wearer is loudly endorsing a player. However Symphony No. 5 is twofold in that a balance of Chanel and Beethoven are being channeled. Although right off the bat the musical reference is more apparent. Furthermore the tee feels a bit looser compared to the other tees, in order to better capture the sports look/feel. Regardless its a subtly complex tee that can be worn everyday.

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This last one in particular again shows off Ludwig’s graphic design prowess. No. 5 is another tee that taps into Chanel’s signature perfume, however its much different from Symphony No.5’s execution. Unlike  Symphony No. 5, No.5 is much more colorful and plays extensively with text and is riddled with references. Aside from Chanel and Beethoven overall the print is an homage to Andy Warhol, who himself made prints based on No. 5 perfume for Chanel. Below the main text is “Deutsche Grammophon,” which is a nod to an iconic classical music label founded in 1898, the name itself translates to German Gramophone. Beyond the graphic visuals the text itself retains a lot of Chanel’s signature layout, but there are also Classical elements such as “Deutsche Grammophon” and “Ludwig Van.”

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Every tee comes packed in its own reusable bag.

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Signature Violet & Emerald stitching.

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Ludwig Van label, front.

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Ludwig Van Label, backside.

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Finally, the most standout piece from Spring 16 has to be Ludwig’s second collab with Rivi Goods. Dubbed Case Shell Pants they are constructed of 1980s US Army case shells. So to clarify case shell are basically bags or boxes you store ammo inside, which may also function as a carrying case. Considering how much material was needed to make these pants, 100 were made, the case shells were likely used to carry around artillery or perhaps heavy caliber rifles. The 80s were the height of the Cold War, both America and the USSR were ready to go to war and possibly nuke everything into oblivion. The case shells were obviously used as some pants have prints or stitches on them, which has resulted in various shades of olive drab, so no two pairs are like. The primary material of the pants seems to be canvas, while also having nylon webbing as belt loops, as well as sporting nylon reinforcements in certain areas like the first Rivi Collab. The pants were given an enzyme wash in order to make the pants soft and comfortable. Rounding out the design there is a Rivi Goods tag, and another label from Ludwig Van. While this project seemingly took forever to be released, I think it was 4 years in the making, its definitely something that Ludwig wanted to make sure was executed properly. If you’re into vintage fabrics or Americana this is an instacop.

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One last thing. Ludwig also dropped another patch. Called Libertas, its a fairly decent size, 5×5 inches. I believed they were used on some jackets a few years back. Like Born to Roll Libertas is made of a heavy wool with lots of hand stitching. The quality looks very on point, and it would probably look good as a should patch for your leather jacket…or denim jacket, or tee, etc. The price price practically makes the patch a steal.

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Prints

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So overall both Releases were done very well. 2015 feels like its mostly about Americana. While 2016 digs heavily into Classical composer Beethoven while also paying tribute to Chanel. All the tees were made of fine Jersey, and washed in order to give them a softer feel and vintage look. Its important to understand that they are not made using regular blanks, instead they seem to have been custom made by Ludwig Van, this is obvious when you see the back of the tees. Furthermore I it seems that the tees were dyed after their graphics were printed on them. As you can see that the neck tags have an image of Alex de Large, which have been dyed on every tee to match their shirt’s corresponding color, save for the off white shirts. All items were made in Los Angeles. Theres something here for everybody who wants to stand out in Streetwear. Regardless Ludwig Van has delivered another great release, hopefully we’ll see more drops soon.

*Ludwig’s VAN Instagram.

*Ludwig’s website.

*Ludwig’s store.

*Ludwig’s Twitter.

*Ludwig’s Facebook.