Tokyo, one of the world’s fashion hubs, is known for its love of brands. The fashionistas here love to make the statement: “look at my labels”. Supreme, Vetements, and BAPE, oh my! With the phenomenon of influencers, everyone wants to be a hypebeast—creating brand demand from the masses. Hence, the birth of counterfeit culture: it’s cheaper, it’s easier to get your hands on, and sometimes it’s damn near exact.
But what happens when counterfeit culture shifts from copying other brands to creating its own designs and labels? We speak to the lead designer of Berak, an Indonesian streetwear brand that take established brand logos like the double G of Gucci and make high quality replicas—except with their own brand name. Berak is playful and edgy, with a hint of satire.
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Brez, I’m an ex-Skinhead—well actually, I still consider myself to be in the scene. But I’ve been busy with my clothing business now for almost 10 years.
What is the story behind Berak?
There was nothing in particular at first. It started as a sort of protest that I had towards the situation I was facing at the time and then I put it into this brand.
What does the name “Berak” mean?
“Berak” means “poop” or “shit”. Those words are used as a description to something we hate, like “berak lu” means something like “fucking asshole” in English.
On your website, it says Berak has “always been triggered by obnoxious things in society”. Normally brands say they are “inspired” by things, but you have chosen the word “triggered”. Could you elaborate on your choice of this word and what it represents for Berak?
Yes, that’s right. From the first day of Berak around 9 years ago, I tried to create a counterculture my own way. If people heard the word “Berak”, they would immediately think of something disgusting, and to be honest I wanted to develop a brand that is distinctive from others that are common in Indonesia. 9 years ago, we can say that the local clothing industry was quite boring and stagnant. It was proven through my 12 designs that inscribed Berak with puns or logo parodies from big brands like Nike, New Balance, McDonald’s, Burger King, to Budweiser—which turned out to become a hit and something fresh to the market especially to teenagers in those days. I think that answers the point of your question!
Why did you choose fashion to express yourself, as opposed to art, journalism, or politics?
Well, maybe because of punk philosophy—they fight against the system through the way they dress, which is the same as my way of thinking: how can a brand express protest or make an anti-government statement in a t-shirt design?
How did you career in fashion begin?
It started with a will to have my own business in the clothing industry, which was around 2004, but it failed until I could establish my brand and then it took off from there.
Did you study fashion design?
Not at all, but I’ve always had a dream to study fashion in Japan. Bunka is my dream college, because lots of big-name designers graduated from Bunka.
Where does Berak fit in with hype brands and counterfeit culture?
The first concept of Berak itself was against hype culture and trends at a particular period of time—that’s why we always put the slogan “counterculture”, but in the end our brand was hijacked and copied by local sellers with a much cheaper price. That’s when we cried. ☹
Do you think fashion is important in terms of personal identity?
Yes, I do, because people will always judge by first impression, so fashion is the most important part in your appearance.
What are the differences between Indonesian and Japanese streetwear?
Personally, I can say that Indonesian streetwear is still influenced a lot by other cultures, like the fashion trends in Japan, Europe, or even America. So, yeah you can imagine what that’s like, right? But this year, there are lots of Indonesian brands that are popular in the streetwear world, globally.
What are your future goals for your brand?
I want this brand to continue to grow and expand until the next generation, so my children maybe could go on with this business as well, hehe. I’ve never thought that this brand would go international because it was so hard, but I keep on trying so that it can be an Asia-wide brand!
What about your personal goals and dreams?
My dream is simple: live happily and travel the world. That’s all!
Any last words?
We can be used as a bad example!
T-shirts and black dungarees: @berak_