“DI$COUNT is a brand, an idea, an image, a dialogue, a strategy, a transformation, a design, this blog, a motion picture, a label, a personality, a website, a quote, a garment, an emotion and an evolution.”
That’s the kind of brand spiel that would normally have my eyes rolling. Then again, having known Di$count Universe as first and foremost, a blog that I religiously read, which then parlayed itself into fully fledged fashion brand with Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James making up and redefining the rules of how a label should be conceived, this line rings true true true. I know a fair bit about making it up as I go along. Aren’t all fashion bloggers chancers in this weird and wonderful grey area that sprung up in the early millennium?
For Nadia and Cami though, their topsy turvy, chancing dreamer path has taken them to some dizzying heights. They had set a taste level with their blog, which expounded all things gauche, funny, ironic and ultimately circumvented generic trends and mashed things up to create their own genre. It’s difficult to describe Di$count in a nutshell because they had constructed their own nut. With their blog (and with Nadia’s previous blog Foxyman) they were slowly engaging a core readership, participating and exchanging ideas and commentary. They briefly moved to Bangkok and set about working out their ideals and aspirations for Di$count the brand. At the time they were giving interviews stating they were designers (they had met in their final year of fashion design at RMIT in Melbourne) whilst slowly producing their one-off customised pieces sporadically and selling them to their blog readers. Then came the proper legit e-shop, which would routinely sell out of their one-off Arti$anal and Dead$stock pieces prompting the duo to produce a more in-quantity Tra$h line. Then came a surprise collaboration with Hello Kitty, instigated by Sanrio themselves. Then came the endorsements by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Azealia Banks, Britney Spears and now Katy Perry (pieces weren’t gifted to the celebs but paid for, straight-up).
Now we come to first truly offish fashion show in Sydney, shown off-schedule last Thursday, as the unofficial closer of the week. They did a show in Melbourne back in 2012, which was really a big holler-out to their diehard home crowd fans whereas the show in Sydney had a whiff of “industry” about it as it was styled by Aussie creative director supremo Mark Vassallo and had editors and international press in attendance. The beauty of course it that Di$count don’t necessarily need the support of the industry. In fact, the show was an affirmation of exactly why Di$count are exciting to see emerge in the latest wave of renegade larrikinism.
This eloquent post sums up the ins and outs of why Di$count don’t operate within the confines of the fashion world as we know it. They realised they were isolated just by physically being in Australia so their blog became their platform to reach out to the world. They realised that fashion wasn’t merely about putting out clothes seasonally and then tripping up when the fast fashion world churned out copies, so they put out collections whenever, wherever. They realised that fashion today is about being a jack of all trades, multi-tasking to output not just physical clothes, but image, vision and identity. They realised the power of instant gratification social media, not necessarily just by garnering empty numbers (their Instagram/FB/Twitter followings whilst sizeable aren’t huge but the proportion of likes/comments is high) but by really penetrating those platforms and engaging with their audience as they routinely sell out of items with a single post. Their customer is buying into the Di$count Universe not through seasons but through instantenous love of their aesthetic with a glance of their smart phones. They realised they don’t necessarily need boutiques to make a solid business and currently sell only to a select number of stockists. In short, they’re doing it for themselves in every way possible and give credence to fashion interloping, not by becoming industry insiders but by truly operating from outside of the industry.
Speaking to Nadia and Cami before the show, they expressed trepidation and anxiety over showing their pieces to some “international” folk, despite having had their clothes broadcasted to millions through Miley and co. They need not have fretted. Anyone can recognise strong voice, in or out of the industry. And so people emerged declaring lil’ ol off-schedule Di$count to be the “show of the week”. They audibly gasped, squealed and applauded the onslaught of bejewelled and bedazzled embellishment touching on punk, glam rock, cyber rave, mermaids, dominatrixes and showgirls – all the best things in life then. Monster eyes, lips, big birds with boobs and inappropriate slogans bring on the LOL factor. It’s love or loathe with nothing in between and that’s exactly how they like it. No guessing which camp I stand in. The majority of the pieces will be sold as one-offs as part of their Arti$anal line but bejewelled basketball shorts and glitter star shirts will thankfully be produced in multiples. Before the naysayer brigade weighs in, I will say that the aesthetic may not be wholly and entirely original but then again, what is these days? And Nadia and Cami would probably be the first ones to say they are active participants in this cut-and-paste-postmodern culture of ours. It’s the entire deliverance of what they do – blog, ideas, exchange, comments, Instagram, e-shop – that makes Di$count a unique entity.
After five or so years of admiring the duo online from well afar, I’ve finally gotten my very own piece of Di$count. It’s quite the stunner and perhaps most representative of the label’s ethos. Hardwork (90 hours of studding), vision (highlighter colour palette and biker jacket – of course) and dreaming big (the lining is a dreamscape spray painted swirl of colours). And guaranteed not to be Di$count-ed.