The iconic MCM Cognac backpack gets a makeover

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Probably one of MCM’s most sought-after items is their backpack. You’ve probably seen one in the flesh somewhere in the world, adorned with the signature cognac of the Visetos Monogram brand.

Whether it’s for travel, daily chores, or social gatherings, everyone needs a backpack. The early 2000s saw a wave of culture and fashion spread from west to east, with the backpack becoming a sought-after item of everyday life. This rage has exploded in Asia with more and more people realizing the importance and utility benefits of this classic ship. It was around 2005 that MCM invented its functional and daring version of the everyday essentials after realizing how important the item’s presence was in every community across the world – from lifestyle to sport and music.

The German fashion house was one of the first to introduce the backpack to the luxury sector, presenting it to various department stores. It was on one occasion in London that MCM hit that light bulb moment – a backpack can be an essential luxury item. Even though he has been criticized for elevating the backpack, MCM has fought against all odds with his pioneering attitude, remaining firmly anchored in his backpack beliefs.

As MCM celebrates its 45th anniversary, one of the highlights that is undoubtedly a big part of the brand’s identity is how it has revolutionized the way we look at backpacks. Freeing people of any gender, age or utilitarian boundaries, MCM’s backpack is more than it looks.

Inspired by the existence of the backpack in the street subcultures, hip-hop music and sports communities, MCM has always focused on merging this quintessential cultural item with haute couture. After successfully integrating the backpack into this field, MCM has consistently transformed it into an essential fashion item that evolves around the ever-changing tunes of 21st century living.

For MCM, the backpack is a symbol of its heritage. A key philosophy for the brand is movement – in every sense of the word. First of all, the movement in terms of mobility that the backpack promotes thanks to its hands-free approach, but also when it comes to initiating a cultural movement with a new generation. The brand’s awareness of changing desires and ways of thinking allows it to adapt its pieces in such a way as to make them relevant and functional throughout the year. We’ve seen MCM spark shifts and shifts in the fashion scene in Asia and the US with its backpack, and the brand is determined to maintain that pioneering, boundary-pushing attitude. The signature shape of the MCM backpack has since become one of the brand’s most iconic silhouettes, emblem of its DNA.

To celebrate its long-standing staple, the Stark backpack, MCM teamed up with Highsnobiety to give the bag an aesthetic overhaul by bringing in fashion designer Duran Lantink. It’s important to note that Lantink is on the more unconventional side of design, falling under the pushing the limits category of bootleg fashion. The collaboration celebrates MCM’s construction and deconstruction ethic, as well as its approach to circularity.

“Bootleg is all about re-imagining,” says the Amsterdam-based designer. “My practice focuses on working with things I found on the streets or in stores and reusing dead inventory – Mixing clothes and recutting pieces is really the crux of the matter. We all grew up with it. magazines where you had full pages of branded product campaigns, and you start to wonder, why can’t it be more mixed? ” This ties into MCM’s unbridled efforts to always push itself and its designs to new heights, rework the silhouettes and build on its all-time classics, like the backpack.

Bootleg designers focus on reappropriating images, logos and patterns in new and exciting ways, drawing influences from what they see in their surroundings. “If you look down the street you see people combining second-hand pieces with designer clothes or mixing different brands to create their final outfit, so for me bootlegging is really about freedom and training your own identity “, comments Lantink.

This movement in the fashion landscape is not something new. The Bootleg design dates back to the late ’70s and’ 80s, when bespoke icons like Dapper Dan set out to change the paradigm of what was considered cool and stylish. Through his provocative and unabashedly daring designs, Dapper Dan redefined what luxury was, specifically targeting the hip-hop and streetwear scenes in Harlem and the rest of New York City. Dapper Dan was central to the adoption of MCM as the signature brand of the underground scene by deconstructing and remaking the Cognac Visetos for the stage and streetwear. “He did all of this without permission. He fought against the system and elevated brands like MCM by playing with his monogram,” says Lantink, “it’s so inspiring.”

The current bootleg scene is just as revolutionary as it was decades ago, with designers like Imran Potato and stylist Misa Hylton leading the movement. A former campaign talent for MCM, Imran Potato has taken the fashion music scene by storm, dressing Travis Scott, Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny with his original and bright monogram remakes.

Hylton, who in 2020 was named Global Creative Partner for MCM, is no stranger to bootleg design, of course, primarily inspired by MCM’s iconic Visetos monogram. Since the 90s, she has been a flagship stylist for classic hip hop artists, such as Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and Jodeci. During her formative years, she worked with Dapper Dan to create music videos and was known to introduce looks like monochrome outfits with matching hair, or Lil Kim’s infamous purple jumpsuit at the 1999 MTV VMAs. Having recently designed an MCM bustier-jacket-hat combination for Beyonce for her video Apeshit, Hylton uses her knowledge of the hip-hop and R&B scene to inspire her avant-garde pieces.

Lantink explains how to recreate clothes and combine different materials and brands has always been at the forefront of his practice. “I never really did anything else. When I was younger house, acid and electronic music really took root in our culture. The way people dressed in the 90s was my main inspiration since I was a child. My first design was in 2001 when I was 12. I created a skirt, which was both jeans and my grandmother’s tablecloth. This profession has always been in my DNA.

Bootleg fashion has an anti-establishment air, “it’s like fighting the wholesale culture,” says Lantink, who rides MCM’s uplifting energy to go against the status quo – 45 years later, and the brand always looks ‘what’s next’.

When some stores have pieces that aren’t sold, Lantink collaborates with them, reorienting the clothes in a way that gives them new life and meaning – and those pieces end up becoming a holy grail of enduring creativity. “You start to form a relationship with those pieces that you are looking for. Sometimes we have pieces in the studio that are already so good, and you don’t know what to do with them because they’re already so brilliant. that you want to enhance the clothes, but better to work with them than to see them end up scrapped. I think the political stance for contraband is a shift. Just don’t look for new materials and use this that already exists – it’s like telling industry, enough is enough. ”

In the same way that MCM is open to the makeover of his token backpack as a nod to his ability to stay in the present, Lantink comments on the way he approaches creating pieces has changed slightly, which may be. seen in its redesign. “Rather than putting half of a jacket with another half, I experiment a lot to completely transform things. Making pants with a coat, for example, so you can’t really tell where your roots are. original “, – or as with MCM, making a full adjustment. “The whole process was super interesting because we don’t normally work with the fabric a lot. The coat is made from MCM fabrics and then all the pockets on the sleeve are made from the backpack itself. backpacks themselves are very well made, so it took a little longer to take them apart, but everything went very well. “

Bootleg creators like Lantink, without a doubt, are making our ever-expanding fashion landscape more accessible and inclusive. Bootleg is changing the way fashion is viewed and the value of real designer clothes, and strong brands like MCM supporting this movement only add to this growing sensation.

“Haute couture trying to be more street sometimes doesn’t make sense because people in these communities can’t even afford that lifestyle. As bootleggers, we make people aware that it doesn’t. You don’t have to be dressed in one brand or have just one style – it’s all about the freedom and mixing a bit of everything. “

So what’s the next step for the backpack? It seems at this rate anything goes, and people like Lantink and enduring innovators like MCM are testifying to this creative sense of sartorial liberation.


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