Techwear here in the Philippines is slowly but surely getting attention. A bit too artsy for the streetwear heads, it’s a territory that exists for the true believers of the craft.
Enter SNK ATK Design Lab – braving the scene with their technical clothing for urban environments. Futuristic utilitarian garments with Japanese, military, and cyberpunk aesthetics. One look at their brand and you definitely know that they dont play around. Their designs are dark, well thought of and yes, only for those who dare.
The misfits, the outcasts, the forward thinkers finally have a brand to latch on to, SNK ATK celebrates the dark horse, the underdog, those who work in the shadows and we think that is awesome.
We finally got ahold of the SNK ATK Design Lab Team below are answered by the 2 of the 3 founders of SNK ATK Design Lab, Dwight (D) and Psalm (P).
The three are friends united by design and tech backgrounds, business, and gaming.
Dwight Santos is the CEO and co-designer handling the styling aspects and production of SNK ATK Design Lab. He is also the CEO of Thirty One Digital, a digital solutions company that creates websites, apps, and digital marketing campaigns.
Psalm Alfafara is the Chief Creative Officer (CCO) and principal designer of SNK ATK Design Lab. He breathes life into the designs and collections. He is also the head of Alfafara Design Co., making beautiful commercial and graphic designs for just about any medium.
Kirby Gonzaga is the CFO and contributing designer of SNK ATK Design Lab, providing business-savvy and financial prowess to the lab. He is also the CEO of Quest Rewards, an event experience app that rewards users for participating in both online and offline events.
First of all, how did the brand come about? Was it all cyberpunk feels since the beginning of the brand or was it a process?
P: Looking back, I’ve found that cyberpunk has always had a big influence on me and my work, even before I knew what it was called. Like every nerd worth their salt I’ve geeked out over my fair share of fantasy and sci-fi, but I’ve always been more drawn to themes of high technology and low-life, an idea of a rainy, gritty, futuristic dystopia.
For SNK ATK, it was an organic process for us to figure out exactly what direction to take it. While the three of us grew up in the same era and were exposed to similar books, music, movies, and video games, our tastes were different enough to each bring something unique to the table. The result of this process, the brands we liked, the things we thought were cool, naturally led us to design technical wear with japanese, military, and cyberpunk influences.
D: It’s definitely a process. The three of us come from design and digital backgrounds, so we’re no strangers to iteration, revision, and continuous improvement.
What started as 3 friends wanting to create clothing that worked with our love for sneakers, EDC (everyday carry items), and our various interests has turned into what we have so far – a “Design Lab” for clothing and apparel concepts that serve a purpose in this world we live in.
Your brand has this dark military almost anime feel, where does the brand draw inspiration from? Movies, cartoons, music? Care to share?
D: We started SNK ATK because we wanted to create clothing that suited us and our inspirations – brands such as Acronym, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rick Owens with their attention to detail, experimentation, and being vanguards of their own movement.
We take inspiration from Japanese garments and how they are crafted, as well as the discipline and culture they symbolize. Our SHADOW noragi jacket, for example, is based on the noragi. It was traditionally used by workers in the field and the cropped sleeves allowed them better movement.
Lastly, military garb has provided the utility and innovation that has always cascaded down to civilian wear. Think about it – field jackets, desert boots, etc. – all of these came from the military.
Movies, cartoons, music; even books – there’s quite a lot that we take our inspiration from. Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Snow Crash, The Division, etc.
All of this put together is about our shared experiences and who we are as designers, creatives, and problem-solvers. Our haiku says it best;
Designed in silence
For those who work in shadows
May you strike unseen.
P: I like ninjas.
How does SNK ATK define its branding from its streetwear contemporaries? Please expound on what you guys offer that streetwear fans can hop on to.
P: We don’t really spend time comparing ourselves with others – there are so many amazing local streetwear brands out there and we simply can’t compete! We prefer focusing on designing and producing things we like. We won’t make something just because it’s trendy or hype – it has to fit our vision, fulfill our manifesto, and if you like what we create, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. If not, it’s okay.
D: Like Psalm said, we’re more obsessed with designing things we want. Every other brand has their own design, principles, and motivations and we admire how everyone is at it, even during this time. If someone were to ask what we offer, it’s hard to say. It’s really clothes that fit a certain aesthetic and lifestyle.
In these new normal times, have been there certain adjustments to your product line or your social media posts? How did SNK ATK manage to adapt and make do of the challenges?
P: We pushed our collections and collabs further down the calendar because we didn’t want to expose our production line to unnecessary risks. As for adjustments, we’ve all had to deal with limited sources of fabric and hardware, but as a technical clothing company it was extra challenging for us to source materials that satisfied our design directives.
D: Before the pandemic, we had an idea of what our next few collections would be. However, what happened really derailed a lot of companies, us included. It also reinforced our belief in more carefully designed, usable apparel that allows you to move in different situations.
We see a strong anime/Japanese influence to the brand. Care to let us in on your favorite anime or manga or any Japanese icons that have influenced you and the brand?
P: Not really anime; none of us are what you’d call hard-core anime fans. We appreciate the classics, and personally I love Akira and Ghost in the Shell, if I had to name a few.
As for Japanese icons, Yohji Yamamoto is up there, as is Junya Watanabe and Jun Takahashi, all huge influences for us.
D: Maybe it’s just the noragi jacket that’s giving off these vibes, but the craft and discipline of Japanese culture is part of what we want to communicate through our designs.
Tell us about how you decide on who you guys collab with. What makes you say “We gotta collab with them”?
P: It has to make sense in terms of the brand, and we have to be able to bring something new to the table together. If we can work on not just a professional but also a personal level, that’s rare air, lightning in a bottle. But mostly it boils down to: If we like what they do and they like what we do then hey, maybe we can work together.
D: A collab, by definition, has to be something the both of you work on together. It can’t just be for clout or money. The collabs we’ve had so far are people we believe in, and also who believed in us early on.
We feel that tech wear is very much applicable in today’s challenging situation. Are you planning to create products that are designed for this pandemic?
P: We have a few pieces planned, but profit during these dark days is an idea that isn’t really at the front of our minds. At most, this is the year to survive. Dreams and plans can wait – focus on surviving, the thriving will come.
D: The recent events are definitely on our mind, but we try to stick to what we’ve always wanted to make – things we love. It just might so happen that they coincide with how we live now, and what the coming days will bring.
Your message to This Is Hype Readers. Shoutouts. Etc?
D: We’re still humbled by the support of those who saw us and supported early on – Carlo Ople, Dj Bigboy Cheng, Antishoe Expert, Lester from On One’s Own, Rab (RIP bro) and Janine Yamat from Above the Ankle, and more. You know who you are.
P: Yes, we owe our deepest gratitude to the people who were there from the very start. As outsiders in this industry we are thankful and humbled by the response to our first collections. Thank you to the early believers, the collaborators, the ones who work in shadows. We see you, we’ll do our best to make more great stuff for you.
As for the readers – stay safe out there and watch your back.