DRKN is the label fusing fashion and game culture

The Swedish brand takes inspiration solely from the warped world of video gaming

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DRKN AW16
Backstage at DRKN AW16Photography Arda Eken, courtesy of Odalisque Magazine

DRKN is perhaps the first-ever brand inspired wholly by gaming culture. It sounds pretty niche, but the virtual landscapes and online identities with which hundreds of millions of people engage with daily are, in fact, a global market yet untapped by the reaches of the fashion industry. But DRKN claims to be more than just fashion: it’s out to overturn cultural and social boundaries with its output, by applying the rules of virtual gaming realities to the physical world.

It’s dangerous territory. With parts of the global network of gamers being known for their misogyny, homophobia and penchant for war, the collective power which lurks online can have a darker side to it. But it’s by the good things, such as its community values, that DRKN is inspired by – and its new creative director Erik Bjerksjö wants to give these people a uniform they can wear with pride in their physical realities. The brand’s entirely unisex collection and first-ever runway show ‘Monolith’ just closed Stockholm Fashion Week for AW16, and here Dazed caught up with its creative director.

Who is DRKN for? 

Erik Bjerksjö: Any person who, just as we do, feels that they are part of a very dark and chaotic world, partly due to the online worlds they live in, will understand our inspiration and what we fight for. We want to show the world that games matter and that the gaming culture, as well as people dedicated to games, should be taken much more seriously. We believe in a world where humans are much more enhanced by technology.

You talk about the merging of online and offline realities: what examples do you see of this in physical reality? 

Erik Bjerksjö: Just the fact that more and more people choose to spend time in the virtual rather than the physical world makes this very clear. Today, people work in the virtual reality, get their income from it, it is where they build their social network and identity and have the most fun they have ever had.

One example that says it all is the fact that you can ask a random person in the street what he or she does for a living, and you might actually get the answer that she is full-time employed as a Starfleet commander in the Goonswarm clan in the game EVE Online. How cool is that?

How much power do online communities have in real life? What could they do with that power, do you think?

Erik Bjerksjö: The power we have is based upon the common values and beliefs that we have developed. When something really concerns us we are a globally connected subculture that can apply our power very quickly. I don’t need to tell you what computers can do to other computers, and it was more or less the Swedish gaming community, pissed off by privacy invading legislation and the persecution of The Pirate Bay founders, who voted the Pirate Party into the European parliament in 2009.

Do you find that social limitations fade away online? And within online communities what sorts of other limitations and constructs do you see arise, if any?

Erik Bjerksjö: Well to begin with you are in many ways anonymous when you meet other people online, which brings the best out of some people, and the worst out of others. In the online world you can always start over and become whoever you want to. So you come more quickly past all that surface and bullshit. That is also what shapes constructs in online communities as they are often based on your skill level, dedication, your equipment or leadership abilities. When you play a game you all accept the rules and goals of the game and this brings you much closer to each other.

What is a standout about your AW16 collection? How has the brand identity changed since you began?

Erik Bjerksjö: Since I entered the role as creative director I believe the brand identity is a bit broader. I strongly focused on creating a unisex collection, where you have to look at volume and tailoring a bit differently. I tried to focus mainly on shoulders and sleeves, because I think they are the most important parts of a good collection. What stands out with the collection is that it actually worked; the unisex cuts and pattern worked, the fit is the base on which the DRKN collection will be built on. 

I am a very comfortable person, I over-dress to keep warm in the winter, because I grew up on Gotland, a windy island in the Baltic sea, so this capsule collection has many layers. The collection is a fun one; you can wear it inside out or on your back in different ways. So I believe that is my identity in DRKN.

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