Subcultures and Cinema: Why Brain Dead Isn’t Just About Clothes

“You make a product, and then it goes from the production company to the logistics, to the distributor in that region. By the time the customer receives the product, it can be perceived as a skate brand, or something different,” explains Fornari, “We have to make sure people go through our music, our culture, our experience, and then they check out the products. [Ng] always says our products are part of the gift shop at the end of the experience.”

Ng says wholesalers often don’t tell the brand story and there’s value elsewhere. “We can do a collaboration with a group or a rapper like Freddie Gibbs and sell 300 T-shirts [DTC] in 30 minutes.”

Recently, Ng and some members of the collective performed in San Diego in an outdoor auditorium, in collaboration with local store ACD Gallery. Hundreds of people showed up, all dressed as Brain Dead. “That’s what it’s all about – it’s cool.” He says he’s not interested in “validating himself within the art or haute couture scene. That’s not what we’re trying to do. What about his concession in the high fashion store Dover Street Market? “We’re here as a cultural space, as a cultural brand – we’re not trying to be a fashion brand.”

Push the envelope

Brain Dead relies on other streetwear codes including collaborations with major brands. Over the past two years, this has included Vans, Reebok, Asics and Arc’Teryx. A long-term deal to run outdoor brand Oakley’s research and development division, Oakley Factory Team, focused on conceptual design and experimentation led to the reimagined Oakley Flesh shoe, with people lining up in front stores, says Oakley’s vice president of brand soul and creative, Brian Takumi. “The products sold out faster than we could get them on the shelf or online. We already have more and more customers inquiring about the next delivery.”

Ng noticed military surplus and workwear stores closing during the pandemic, including his favorite store in Silver Lake, LA, where he bought Dickies and Ben Davis workwear. He approached Dickies to help re-open the store, selling Brain Dead X Dickies clothing. Named Braindead Fabrications, the store opened in 2021. Both brands hope to roll out more stores based on its success, Ng says.

Elizabeth J. Harless