Style & Grooming

Yang Li’s ‘Greatest Hits’ Have Been Reimagined by Underground Musicians

As Yang Li reissues some of his most memorable pieces with the help of collaborators from the industrial and noise music scene, we speak to four of the artists behind these new-old designs that together form “a story of underground and cult music”

Yang Li’s Spring/Summer 2020 men’s collection is entitled ‘Greatest Hits’, and collates just that – drawing on his career so far, spanning 2012–2018, it sees the designer recall his most memorable pieces and reissue them anew. He does so with the help of a series of collaborators, who mostly hail from the industrial and noise music scene – Li is an avid fan of the genre, and alongside his eponymous label helms Samizdat, the fictional noise band-cum-label he founded in 2016 – with artists like Psychic TV, Yung LeanRamleh and Swans offering their “imprint” to the previous designs. The result: “artefacts from the past, rendered new”, as well as an eventual musical LP, to which each of the various artists and musicians will contribute a track. 

“I looked at my collection this season as a greatest hits album,” Li tells Another Man. “I selected the most iconic pieces from my past collections, with the aim of paying homage to each artist I have collaborated with over the years, while also adding several exciting new artists. Each artist has put their imprint on the pieces to create this story of underground and cult music.”

Here, four of those collaborators – Chaos Junky of Torturing NurseCamella Lobo of Tropic of Cancer, Justin Broadrick of Godflesh/JK Flesh, and Michael Gira of Swans – tell Another Man the story behind each of the pieces. 

Justin Broadrick of JK Flesh/Godflesh

“If memory serves me well – which often it doesn’t – Yang contacted me regarding a project he was doing with Selfridges, London. We spoke about Yang’s imaginary industrial band Samizdat. I was more than intrigued and opted in. So, we first met in London. I’m not well versed in the fashion world at this level; but once presented with Yang’s work and aesthetic, I was enamoured by his fixation with industrial music. I had rarely seen anyone in the fashion industry represent this culture, albeit in a mutated and individual form. For this collection, Yang has utilised the graphics associated with my band Godflesh and recontextualised them into the realm of fashion – in doing so, he’s found something fresh and contemporary.

“Yang and I share many common interests and both have a dark sense of humour with the ability to laugh at oneself, which is important for me. My work often contains black humour, and if I don’t laugh I cry, and if I cry I really need to laugh.”

Michael Gira of Swans

“Yang contacted me a few years ago and asked me to perform solo in Paris for one of his collections. I had never heard of him before. I have zero interest in, or knowledge of, fashion. I was however struck by his genuine enthusiasm for my music and I was also impressed by his persistence and obvious good will. I agreed to perform and it was for me a surreal experience that I ultimately enjoyed. The first song was performed to a few dozen stone-faced fashion models with invisible silhouettes who look as if they’d float away in the slightest breeze. This was interesting, but unsettling. Following that, lesser humans entered the room and I enjoyed the normality of the performance. I was also happy to have had a glimpse of a world that to me is totally alien.

“For this collection, I provided him with slogans based on song lyrics and a few iconic images I’ve used in Swans’ designs. I appreciate the simplicity of Yang’s work – he is convivial to the extreme; a true gentleman.”

Camella Lobo of Tropic of Cancer

“I met Yang a few years ago when he asked me to travel to Shanghai to perform as part of his event at fashion week there. After a handful of intercontinental phone conversations between LA, London and Shanghai, Tropic of Cancer was onstage in China playing to a packed warehouse. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life walking out onto a stage that mirrored the halls of Yang’s mind, in a country I never imagined I’d visit on account of my music. I’ll never forget that experience. 

“The thing I love the most about Yang’s designs is how wonderfully irreverent his perspective is. There is a perfect balance of confrontation, glamour and nostalgia woven through his collections. They feel familiar but simultaneously fresh and fascinating. This results in pieces that are wide awake and relevant but with a nod to the classic ephemera that shapes his vision. The Tropic of Cancer ‘look’ [in the collection] is spot on – a play on classic romance soaked in futurism. It encapsulates the ethos of my music in a way that makes me feel seen and not just heard. He essentially translated my sound into pieces I would put on my body without any hesitation.”

Chaos Junky of Torturing Nurse

“At the beginning of April 2017, Yang was invited to participate in Shanghai Fashion Week. He wanted to do an underground noise performance as part of it, which Torturing Nurse were invited to take part in. For it, he designed two short-sleeved T-shirts for Torturing Nurse and Tropic of Cancer [who were also performing], and for this ‘Greatest Hits’ collection he redesigned the T-shirt, in the same pattern and position as my upper body tattoo. I really like Yang’s designs, especially his line Samizdat. He is a person who likes underground industrial and noise music, and really knows how to embody these elements in clothing. It is a great honour to know him.”