Three passionate young designers, a paint splattered basement in Copenhagen, a pile of surplus military stock and a head full of exciting new ideas. This was the catalyst for the birth of a clothing brand that was to meld the attitude of punk with tailored street style. It was a brand that was to create a new, ever evolving style of streetwear that would take the world by storm. It was Punk Royal.
Born in 2001 Punk Royal soon became an international fashion phenomenon. The signature pieces of surplus military stock with innovative graphics took Punk Royal on a journey all the way from a Copenhagen basement to the fashion capitals of New York and London. Since then Punk Royal has evolved but never lost sight of its roots. The genius graphics and the distinctive individuality push at the boundaries of menswear as much now as it did back in 2001. Today Punk Royal is the result of a long and exciting journey. A journey that is far from over. The brand continues to build on the foundation of its military heritage and edgy, experimental street art style graphics as it continues to push innovation and expression to the limits.
The three designers who founded Punk Royal took their early inspiration from the Sex Pistols and Vivienne Westwood. Bored with the norm, the early punk rockers had created a style and a music that was all their own. The Clash splattered their military style clothes with paint. The Sex Pistols adorned their outrageous Vivienne Westwood t shirts with safety pins. The original punk style wasn’t created by big brand designers, it was created on the streets. The early days of Punk Royal were the same. It was as small, underground collective creating designs for a niche peer group market. As the Sex Pistols had found before them though, you can't keep a revolution quiet for long. When word got out about the amazing things Punk Royal were doing with M65s, original surplus cargo pants and graphic tees the brand exploded.
Almost overnight the young designers had orders from hundreds of clothing outlets. Boutiques in Scandinavia and across Europe couldn’t get enough Punk Royal gear. When Kylie Minogue walked on stage wearing a Punk Royal outfit, the world got wind of the new streetwear revolution that was happening. Punk Royal went global. From rags to riches, punk to Kylie, Punk Royal became an international sensation. The sudden explosion in interest in the brand meant it was now featured in top streetwear magazines, worn by celebrities and transformed from an underground movement into a full-blown fashion house. Despite inevitable changes in creative direction and new influences, the brand has retained this edgy street style throughout its long journey.
By 2015, Punk Royal had come of age. It had transformed from an underground collective into an internationally recognized streetwear brand. After a decade or more of growth, Punk Royal moved into new areas under the creative direction of British designer Scott Langton and a new home in NYC. On paper, Scott Langton looks like an unlikely candidate for a fashion designer. Before joining the British army he was a skipper’s mate on a commercial fishing boat and a keen amateur boxer. Langton soon found out that the army wasn’t for him. He wasn’t the type that liked to conform and take orders. He started his fashion career on the ground floor as a sewing machine technician in a garment factory, then an apprentice at the Saville Row tailor Richard James. Following his apprenticeship, he went stateside to head up the design of hip-hop brands Phat Farm, ECKO Unlimited, and Sean John and everything blew up for him.
When Scott Langton joined Punk Royal, he re-imagined the brand but at the same time stuck steadfastly to the core principals of the founders. It wasn’t all-change at Punk Royal, it was just the next step in the natural progression of the brand. The military undertones and edgy street style were complemented with slightly more up to date influences. Langton gave the brand a cleaner, more contemporary look and introduced new innovative graphics across the jackets, sweats and tees. His Fall/Winter 2015 collection was inspired by Formula One racing and gave a nod to the pacifist military style of Maharishi. The FW15 Punk Royal: Sport collection introduced new logos, placement prints, hang tags and repeat patterns. It was the next stage in the evolution of Punk Royal.
Punk Royal follows a long line of streetwear brands that have travelled a similar route from bedrooms to the boardroom. Many started out as small youth culture movements that grew into international fashion phenomena. Few, however, have done it in the meteoric style that enveloped Punk Royal. The term streetwear was first used to describe the comfortable clothes worn by those who were a part of the surf and skateboarding scenes in Los Angeles. The man often credited with being the originator streetwear Shawn Stüssy branched out from handmade surfboards to making t-shirts, shorts and caps with his iconic signature scrawled across them. It was the same signature he used to scrawl across the surfboards he made with a broad tipped marker. He ended up creating an international designer brand. The stories of Stüssy and Punk Royal are not dissimilar- Shawn Stüssy started out selling his clothing range out of the back of a car on and around Laguna Beach, California whilst the Punk Royal crew sold theirs out of a basement in Copenhagen.
As the casual look of California became popular with a broader range of youth culture scenes (especially the skateboarding and hip-hop scenes in New York) other brands then took streetwear to the next level. One of these was the NYC-based Supreme which started life as a skateboard and clothing store and subsequently grew to become probably the most iconic international streetwear label of them all. While Supreme can undoubtedly be credited with moving streetwear forward, there were other underlying factors at work. Peoples’ attitudes towards clothing were becoming more relaxed. Casual was the new normal as streetwear started to move into the mainstream. Fashion was also becoming democratised. You no longer had to wear certain designer labels to be cool. The big, established brands no longer dictated the rules. Streetwear did for fashion what punk rock had done for music. Now, anyone could start their own fashion label, including an underground fashion collective in a paint splattered basement in Copenhagen.
The last piece of the jigsaw which made streetwear go stratospheric was celebrity endorsements. It started with hip hop but it wasn’t long before a long line of A-listers were joining the trend, a movement which led to Kanye West with his Yeezy line and the current king of them all Virgil Abloh with Off White. Celebrities didn’t just give their stamp of approval to streetwear, they advocated it, designed it and wore it, on duty and off. Streetwear may have now received the blessing of celebrities, but it remains stubbornly hard to define to this day. As with all grassroots cultural movements, it is constantly evolving and taking off in new directions. At the root of every genuine streetwear brand, there is a common thread. It’s people doing their own thing, expressing their free will. It’s people creating exciting new trends independently of the established big brands. That’s exactly what Punk Royal has always been and, what it will always be. Punk Royal has gone through a lot of changes in its history. But, it has always stayed true to its roots. Whether it’s customised military surplus, M65 jackets or customised cargo pants, each new Punk Royal collection brings with it innovative design, experimental graphics and brand-new ideas. Punk Royal is a streetwear brand that will never be tamed.
Punk Royal continues to be as unorthodox and uncompromising as it always has been. Over the years the brand’s concept has developed and grown. It stays to true though to the original concept of a unique blend of military styles with experimental graphics. The Punk Royal range now includes shirts and t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, jackets, pants and shorts with new categories and influences experimented with every collection. Each piece is uniquely and unquestionably Punk Royal.
Punk Royal t shirts remain influenced by punk and street art, featuring bold slogans, stunning placement prints, badges or rubber prints. Jackets include M65 field jackets with paint splatter and prints, printed bomber jackets and lightweight ripstop windbreakers with placement prints. All of these feature heavily alongside iconic staples like their cargo pants with Punk Royal emblazoned across the back. The range has now progressed to include tapered slim fit jog pants, cargo joggers, cargo shorts, and paint splattered jog pants with placement prints. Hoodies and sweatshirts with bold graphics, prints and twill patches also now get the Punk Royal treatment. One overriding thing about Punk Royal as it progresses from one collection to the next is it’s never boring and not at all predictable. Challenging slogans, unique designs and innovate prints. They are all laid down on top quality, tailored garments which are the hallmarks of Punk Royal style.
From a basement in Copenhagen, to a London and New York based international fashion brand. It’s been a long and exciting journey that hasn’t been without a few twists and turns along the way. Who knows where that road will lead to next for Punk Royal. Whichever way it turns it’s sure to be edgy, new and unique. Punk Royal is a brand that never stays still for very long. It’s not a stagnating brand that will ever sit ever sit back and relax. Sure, you can take the street collective out of the Copenhagen basement, but you’ll never take the street out of Punk Royal.