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Subculture as a Whole: Brain Dead’s Pioneering on the Industry

14 December 2023

Subculture as a Whole: Brain Dead’s Pioneering on the Industry

Ethan D.


Founded by Kyle Ng and Ed Davis, Brain Dead started as a whisper in the underground scene and erupted into a roar on the streets. It’s where post-punk angst meets the vibrancy of underground comics, all stitched together with a spirit of nonconformity that echoes through every thread and graphic.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill streetwear brand; Brain Dead stands as a testament to those who dare to stand out, to the mavericks who aren’t just wearing clothes but are wearing a statement, a piece of a larger narrative. And for you aspiring apparel designers, buckle up! We’re going to explore the tapestry of inspiration that Brain Dead weaves, and how you can use Mock It to bring your own visionary threads to life. We will also dive into Brain Dead’s collaborations with fashion juggernauts such as Oakley, Reebok, Converse and Vans.

So, whether you’re a die-hard Half Evil aficionado seeking inspiration or a creative mind curious about the power of design, stick around. It’s time to unlock the secrets behind Brain Dead’s iconic rise and learn how your own designs can make a statement that resonates through the fabric of culture. Ready to create your own mockup masterpiece? Let’s get started!

Table of Contents:

  1. The Genesis of Brain Dead
  2. A Cultural Phenomenon
  3. The Design Philosophy
  4. Expansion Beyond Apparel
  5. Strategic Success and Brand Growth
  6. Converse X Brain Dead Collaboration
  7. Reebok X Brain Dead Collaboration
  8. Vans X Brain Dead Collaboration
  9. Looking to the Future
  10. Mock It Like Its Hot!
  11. Conclusion

The Genesis of Brain Dead

Let me paint you a picture of a time when streetwear was a quiet rebellion, simmering under the surface of mainstream fashion. It was in this creative cauldron that Brain Dead was born, conjured up by Kyle Ng and Ed Davis—two kindred spirits united by a love for the offbeat and unconventional. Their vision was clear: to craft a brand steeped in the ethos of subcultures that resonated with them, from the gritty echoes of post-punk to the kaleidoscopic worlds of underground comics.

The inception of Brain Dead wasn’t just about creating clothes; it was about birthing a new language in the realm of fashion. Each piece was a conversation starter, a nod to a collective memory shared by those who lived on the cultural fringes. It’s this DNA that still pulses at the heart of the brand, setting it apart in a sea of sameness.

A Cultural Phenomenon

Brain Dead did not just stop at stitching and screen printing; they embarked on a mission to stitch together the fabric of a community. The brand became synonymous with a lifestyle, a cultural hub where wrestling aficionados, indie music lovers, and film geeks found common ground. It’s not just about selling apparel—it’s about selling a piece of a subculture, a slice of an ethos.

Take for instance Brain Dead Studios on Fairfax Street—a former cinema turned into a vibrant space where indie films, live gigs, and the smell of fresh iced coffee intermingle. It’s where the brand’s latest collections find their home, nestled among the buzz of creative energies and shared passions. Brain Dead isn’t just selling clothes; they’re curating experiences, crafting a world where their apparel is the souvenir you take home to remember those moments by.

photo of the front of brain dead studios with lights on

The Design Philosophy

In the realm of Brain Dead, design transcends mere fashion—it’s an articulate voice in a loud world. This brand’s philosophy is etched into every graphic tee and cap, not just as a style but as a statement. The distinctive graphics are born from a global collective of artists who spin the brand’s name into diverse fonts and styles, challenging the very notion of a monolithic brand aesthetic. It’s a visual language that speaks to the eclectic and the bold.

Brain Dead’s designs are a clarion call to the creatives, the thinkers, and the doers who see a piece of apparel not just as something to wear but something that wears your beliefs. It’s a canvas for expression, for the messages that matter to you and your community.

Expansion Beyond Apparel

When you think of Brain Dead, picture more than a clothing rack; envision a world where apparel is just the beginning. Kyle Ng and Ed Davis didn’t just expand their brand; they expanded the very idea of what a brand could be. Enter Brain Dead Studios and a flagship store in Tokyo, spaces where the line between consumer and culture blurs into nonexistence.

This expansion is a testament to the brand’s adaptability and vision, encompassing film, music, art, and even gastronomy. It’s a move beyond the norm, a bold step into a universe where Brain Dead serves as the backdrop to a lifestyle, not just a label on a piece of clothing. They’re selling an experience, an identity, a sense of belonging to something greater than the sum of its parts.

brain dead tshirt mockups in a range of different styles and colors

Strategic Success and Brand Growth

In the fabric of streetwear, Brain Dead stitches a narrative of strategic success, entwined with the threads of selective expansion and authentic storytelling. By deliberately scaling back wholesale operations, they’ve weaved exclusivity into their brand tapestry, ensuring that each piece resonates with the true narrative they aim to tell. It’s not just about being worn; it’s about being experienced, understood, and treasured.

Their growth isn’t just measured by sales—it’s charted through the cultural impact and the legion of loyal followers who don’t just wear Brain Dead; they live it. This is a brand that’s grown organically by sticking to its roots and branching out with intention, ensuring that every new line is a new chapter in their ever-expanding story.

Converse X Brain Dead Collaboration

Brain Dead’s collaboration with Converse is a perfect embodiment of how partnerships can redefine both legacy and innovation within streetwear. Tapping into Converse’s rich archive, Brain Dead reinvigorated classic Chuck Taylor All-Stars with a medley of historic patterns—camouflage from ’83, the glow-in-the-dark motifs of ’88, and the patriotic fervor of ’91.

This fusion of eras culminated in a Chuck 70 that was a canvas of chaos, a deliberate disruption in design language that elevated the collaboration to more than a throwback—it became a forward-thinking statement. As Kyle Ng put it, they aimed to create chaos with something that already existed, a testament to their commitment to conceptual design. The capsule’s reach extended beyond footwear, offering apparel and accessories that aligned with the brand’s ethos. Launched on October 26, 2018, this collaboration didn’t just pay homage to the past; it carved a new path for the future of collaborative creativity in the fashion industry.

brain dead converse collaboration photoshoot

Reebok X Brain Dead Collaboration

Brain Dead’s foray into footwear collaboration with Reebok is a striking dance of textures and earthy palettes. Taking the classic Reebok Classic Leather silhouette, they’ve injected a rich blend of materials, creating a sensory feast of fuzzy suede and smooth leather. This partnership redefines the iconic shoe with a contemporary edge—black mesh underlays set the stage for mossy suede overlays, while soft camel and vivid purple leathers add depth and a pop of color.

The transformation is complete with Brain Dead’s bold lettering and head logo, replacing Reebok’s traditional branding and affirming the streetwear giant’s identity on this classic. Accented by whimsically fuzzy yellow laces and a dual-tone midsole, this collaboration is a testament to Brain Dead’s ability to elevate a staple with its distinctive, subculture-infused aesthetic. It’s a celebration of heritage and innovation—a true collectible for aficionados of style with substance.

reebok brain dead shoe photoshoot with rocks and water

Vans X Brain Dead Collaboration

The 2017 Vault by Vans and Brain Dead collaboration stands as a vibrant homage to the eclectic essence of subculture. This nine-piece capsule pierced the fashion scene with its hieroglyphic splendor, splashing footwear and apparel with a palette that spoke in the rebellious tones of yellow, pink, and green. They reimagined Vans’ quintessential silhouettes—the Era LX, Old Skool LX, and Classic Slip-On—with a cacophony of bold graphics and satirical pictograms that echoed Brain Dead’s iconoclastic spirit.

From the short-sleeved button-downs adorned with stark graphic details to the canvas tote bag and unstructured cap, each piece was a canvas for expression. Launched globally and embraced by the edgiest retail spaces like Goodhood and Dover Street Market, the collection wasn’t just a product release; it was a cultural event, a sartorial shout that resonated with the voices of underground narratives and the colorful characters that inhabit them.

brain dead half cab vans shoe photoshoot shoes sitting on amplifier man wearing vans sitting on bed in room

Looking to the Future

Brain Dead’s trajectory into the future is not a straight line; it’s a sprawling web of cultural connections and innovative possibilities. It’s a future where apparel remains a core element, but also one where each piece is a fragment of a larger cultural mosaic. As they forge ahead, the ambition is not just to exist within the fashion industry but to be a vanguard of culture, shaping and defining it through every medium imaginable.

Kyle Ng’s vision is expansive. Brain Dead is set to evolve into not just a brand, but a cultural landmark, a beacon for those who find their identity in the cross-sections of subcultures and the arts. It’s a call to like-minded individuals to come together and create something enduring.

Mock It Like Its Hot!

Embrace the innovative spirit of Brain Dead and bring your unique designs to life with Mock It’s intuitive mockup generator. Just as Brain Dead has mastered the art of striking visuals and subculture appeal, you too can showcase your apparel designs with ease and flair. With a few clicks, transform your creative concepts into tangible, market-ready mockups that echo the vibrancy and edge of Brain Dead’s iconic pieces.

Whether it’s bold graphic tees, eclectic accessories, or classic silhouettes reimagined with a modern twist, Mock It enables you to visualize and refine your designs in a dynamic, digital environment. Present your collection with the same level of professionalism and pizzazz that has propelled Brain Dead to the forefront of streetwear. Use Mock It to craft a visual narrative that captures the essence of your brand and connects with your audience, just as Brain Dead resonates with its loyal community.

brain dead tshirt mockups in a range of different styles and colors 2


In the kaleidoscope of streetwear, Brain Dead emerges not just as a label but as a living, breathing entity that embodies the heart of subculture. It stands as a monument to those who defy the ordinary, a brand that crafts not just clothes but cultural artifacts that speak to the soul of the street.

Brain Dead’s story is a testament to the power of authentic expression and cultural connection. It teaches us that a brand can be more than the sum of its products—it can be a community, a movement, a part of the cultural conversation. It’s an inspiration to us all to strive for more than just success; to aim for significance, for impact, for a legacy.

Whether you’re a die-hard follower of the brand or an apparel designer eager to make your mark, the story of Brain Dead is a reminder of what’s possible when creativity meets culture. And with Mock It, you’re equipped to start your journey towards creating a brand that’s as dynamic and vibrant as the culture you’re a part of. Sign up, design, and dive into the world where fashion and culture collide. Your story is just beginning. Let’s weave the future together.

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