Streetwear is now everywhere. It has really taken over the fashion world, to a point where big luxury labels are incorporating the designs into their season’s collections. Such is the hype.

For one local designer, Kioue (pronounced kayu, Malay for wood), this happens to be both a boon and a bane. As he puts it, “The internet is making fashion borderless. But you now have to compete with everyone in the world.”

His streetwear label Super Sunday seeks to communicate through compelling visuals and silhouettes. The style he offers is very much influenced by the freedom of the b-boy lifestyle and graffiti art.

“Street culture is a staple of our era. We also live in a time where basic styles are more appreciated. That’s how streetwear has come to be incorporated into everyday life,” explains the 32-year-old.

While Super Sunday has proven itself by showing at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, Kioue still has his doubts. He says that he sometimes questions himself – especially on the matter of whether he is going too far with his designs.

Super Sunday

Kioue is proud of being a self-taught fashion designer. Photo: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

“Streetwear is about freedom of expression. Yet having freedom also means that you’re not sure where to stop. These days, I feel like I constantly have to prove myself. To who? To myself.”

Man On The Street

Kioue hails from Batu Pahat. Born as Zulkifili Salleh, the man adopted his current name when he came to Kuala Lumpur and joined the art world. Back in his hometown, he was known as Bob.

“It was in 2005 that I started my art career doing graffiti. That’s when I picked the name Kioue. Because in the art scene you’ll need to have something like a ‘street name’,” he relates.

“I’ve been interested in fashion since seven years old. Back in the 90s, both my mum and dad were very outgoing society-wise and they dressed up all the time. By the age of 10, I was already sewing my own clothes.”

Kioue however points out that whatever skills he has picked up in life, it was all self-taught. He also gained most of his knowledge by just experimenting – both in art, as well as fashion design.

“I was very much exploring my creative side in high school. Back then, I was also active in breakdancing. It was a group thing. So I guess that’s where I got acquainted with the ‘streets’.”

As far as his inspiration is concerned, Kioue looks to Rei Kawakubo. The Japanese designer is the founder of Comme Des Garcons, a fashion label celebrated the world over for its avant-garde and offbeat street designs.

“She’s a woman with a rebellious nature. Really teguh (firm). Also, she’s a self-taught designer. So you could say that I identified with her. She’s someone who doesn’t bother with rules. She just breaks them.

“When I got to know of Rei’s work I wasn’t so much specifically trying to emulate her designs or journey, but more of her energy. I wanted to have a really strong character, just like hers.”

Malaysian Pride

But the question remains. What is streetwear? Sneakers, baseball caps, graphic T-shirts, denim shirts, torn jeans – these all define the look. Yet, the style is apparently not confined by rules.

According to Kioue, streetwear is constantly changing. He says this is because streetwear designers don’t play by the book. They tend to defy trends and just do whatever they see fit or like.

“Like the hip-hop or punk rock style, it follows its era. So every time something new comes along, you’ll see fashion labels – especially the big ones – jumping on it. Streetwear will definitely pass too, but I don’t think anyone can say when.”

On his plans for Super Sunday, which has its own store in Bukit Bintang, KL, Kioue says that he just wants to focus on building a strong brand. He hopes that it may one day be able to compete on an international level.

“I founded Super Sunday because I was inspired by the Bandung industry. The people there are building their own fashion brands for youths in Indonesia. So, they’re not so dependent on global brands.

“Sadly, there is this misconception that if a brand comes from a certain country it’s immediately good. Japan or the US, for example. I think this is the belief that I’m trying to break,” he states in conclusion.