Tatler talks with the founders of Youths In Balaclava, a Singaporean design collective that represents the underground culture of the city

Hailing from diverse backgrounds that range from finance to the military, an ever-changing motley crew of 20-something year olds make up the Singapore design collective, Youths in Balaclava (YIB). Its founding members, including Taufyq Iskandar, Spencer Yeo and Long Yi Chen, met while attending Gan Eng Seng School; they sought to create a brand that represents the underground culture of the city through its edgy streetwear featuring spliced-and-diced flannel and cargo looks.

The clothes—which sometimes feature political commentary and anti-propaganda imagery—caught the attention of cult retailer Dover Street Market, which began carrying the label in 2017 when it opened a store in Singapore. Now you can find the pieces at several global e-tailers, including Farfetch and Ssense. Yeo (seated, second from right) outlines YIB’s story on behalf of the collective.

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When did you first realise you wanted to work in fashion?

We were introduced to fashion through different music and movies—they made us pay attention to how people styled themselves. We loved figuring out our different references, as they helped build our own individual styles and serve as a form of expression for us.

What were your first jobs?

Youths in Balaclava is the first proper job we’ve all had, but all of us have worked part-time for various brands or companies, where we learned the ropes and processes from beginning to end, which we then applied to Youths in Balaclava. Our motto is: unlearn past mistakes and question everything.

When was the first time you realised your brand was getting attention?

When our journey with Dover Street Market began and people were able to access us through the web store and retail stores on the other side of the world. It’s been incredible [going from] starting this from our bedrooms to having our own studio.

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What was your first show like?

It was totally surreal. We were just kids doing this for fun a few years ago, and would have never thought that we would be showcasing our work at Paris Fashion Week. It always seemed like a pipe dream to be able to meet new people we admired from all around the world and share a little bit of our home town of Singapore.

Who’s the first celebrity you have dressed—or who would you want to dress?

We have not dressed any celebrities yet, but we would love it if Pharrell Williams or G-Dragon wore our clothes.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Nature, music, creative people who aren’t afraid to explore darker themes—Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Tim Burton, Salvador Dalí, Gravity Boys, to name a few.

What is your next big goal?

We want to branch out onto more platforms for the brand to grow bigger, and to have our own runway show soon.

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