Rebels Of The Fashion Underground


It’s bright down there: A sequined ensemble by Isolated Heroes.

If you find the fashion industry dull or constricting and see the runway as a conveyor belt, carrying dead­-in­-the-­eye models to nowhere, we hear you. Fashion should liberate and inspire, but oftentimes feels like a stationary bicycle, peddling preconceived ideas. Fashion design shouldn’t be anywhere near a stagnant exercise device, though that’s often where we hang our clothes. Let’s look below the surface of an often shallow industry that leaves us hanging, explore its depths and embrace its outcasts. Here are three indie designers and rebellious thinkers that need to be brought to light.

Toy Syndrome

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with all the plastic toys and pint­-sized knick-knacks you found in cereal boxes and gumball machines as a kid, here is one fashion label that is putting those disposable items to good use. Toy Syndrome utilizes three-­dimensional surface appliqué and “toy embroidery” to create a look like no other.

With an eccentric assortment of alien-­embroidered items, bug­covered crop tees and jelly-fish­-accented t­-shirts, it’s hard to imagine Moscow-­born designer Natalya Nyn ever setting foot in the high fashion studios of Oscar De La Renta, Zac Posen, and J. Mendel. Yet, these are the couture houses in which Nyn grew up. They led her down an auspicious path all her own and allowed her to craft the New York­-based Toy Syndrome in 2012. The off-beat brand is on the rise, attracting the inquiring personalities of Lena Dunham and Gevinson, all the while declaring aliens, spiders, and butterflies as a new wave of embroidery.


Bugged: Toy Syndrome’s Spider Sweatshirt.

Isolated Heroes

There is perhaps no better name for the indie fashion movement than “Isolated Heroes” and that is exactly what the pride of Scotland’s fashion underground calls itself. This indie label designs handmade creations that recall 70s and 80s glam rock, but speaks to an otherworldly plane. If David Bowie were to finally move to Mars and take up sewing, this is probably what he would create.

Founded in 2012 by indie designer extraordinaire Samantha McEwan, the brand has formed a collaboration with ASOS and attracted a healthy list of celebrity misfits including Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus. With an out­of­this­world collection of oddball biker jackets and the martian pimp daddy of long coats, Isolated Heroes has us losing touch with reality and loving every second of it. We’re infinitely absorbed in their colossal dreamscape of supernatural, sequined creations that may one day make their way down the Milky Way of runways in the intergalactic future.


Believe your eyes: The long, sequin Believe coat by Isolated Heroes.

Decadent Designs

 For the regal, goth enthusiasts, and Victorian vixens exists the world of Decadent Designs. Perusing their Etsy shop is like wandering through the halls of a medieval castle. It elicits chills, thrills, and visions of an ornate otherworld belonging to the past, but extending to the future. There’s an heir of romance, a hint of horror, and the feeling that Morticia Addams has carved out a macabre, made­to­order niche online.

The fashion enchantress behind Decadent Designs is Toronto­-based designer, Olga Lipnitski. Unable to find clothes that captured her unique sense of style, she began designing and sewing her own attire as a teenager. In 2005, the handmade brand was born to the delight of noir-­loving fashionistas everywhere. Behold the mystical designs of the fashion underworld: intricate corsets, gothic gowns, and sensual skirts made from silk, stretch PVC, and faux leather. We can just picture a Decadent fashion show featuring Elvira­styled models gliding down a runway coated in thick clouds of dry ice.


Vamping it: Black PVC and Taffeta skirt by Decadent Designs.

These three fashion rebels are a breath of fresh air in an often stuffy industry that tends to lose the human element in the pursuit of seasonal constructs. Runway couture is lovely to look at, even dizzying at times, but it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of the uppity celebrity world actually owning any of these designs. With the few and daring rebels of the fashion underground, we can find that otherworldly element we’re searching for combined with the accessibility and the individuality we crave in the real world.