Gerald Tan speaks to DRx Romanelli and Cali Thornhill DeWitt—the masterminds behind an exclusive capsule collection to mark the opening of Surrender’s new store
ar ren Romanelli aka DRx Romanelli and Cali Thornhill DeWitt are two names that are tied to some of the most talked-about collaborations in the streetwear circle. Like his nickname suggests, Romanelli slices apart gar ments and reconstructs them with surgical precision. His past projects have added fresh context to brands such as Nike, Converse, Levi’s and JaegerLeCoultre. DeWitt, on the other hand, is most noted for applying his typography-heavy art to a multitude of merchandise that Kanye West sold alongside his Life of Pablo album.As part of the hype surrounding the launch of Surrender’s sleek boutique at 268 Orchard Road, the duo has created a capsule collection of jackets, t-shirts, patches and zines.The nine outerwear pieces are, without a doubt, the stars of the exclusive range—each sports an alphabet at the back that spells the name of the store when put together.
Tell us more about the vintage jackets specially created for the occasion.
Cali Thornhill DeWitt (C): It’s a continuation of other projects we’ve done that have been going on for a while.We’ve known each other for years and we’ve worked together before, so this collection sort of happened naturally. But there are also the technical bits, like making the jackets more lightweight for Singapore’s weather.
DRx Romanelli (D): The “Apple” piece was especially memorable to put together because I was told that an Apple store might open next to Surrender; so I went to source for an Apple jacket. Others I’ve had in my collection for a long time.Then there are the jackets with the Asian-inspired interiors, which I think are really rad. They resonate for me and Singapore because of her history.
How would you describe the synergy between the two of you?
D: I think it’s really high. We share a lot of similarities when it comes to how we approach life. C: Our styles are very different though. D: But I think that’s why we’re such good friends and we collaborate so well together. There’re a lot of exchanges that go on between us outside of the collaborations, so whenever we work together we already have many references as far as touch points or ideations go.
Darren, you’re known for researching, breaking apart items and then piecing them back together in different ways. Is the backstory of a clothing item something that fascinates you a great deal?
D: I think re-appropriation of imagery from an advertising perspective is something I’ve been fascinated with since young. If you look at the media as a whole, we’re constantly being fed these messages. So, as a marketer and brand consultant, I’m always thinking: “Hey, if I can personalise media, then I can create a more interesting approach to how consumers interact with brands.” Similarly, if I can personalise clothing and fashion in the same vein, I can inspire the way I connect with people creatively. And I think Cali re-appropriates imagery very beautifully with his word play, and I re-appropr iate it from a marketing perspective.This is why I love Andy Warhol so much. He makes you look at a can of soup differently, right? That’s why these jackets have a deeper meaning than just being cool fashion pieces.
What’s “new” to you? Is newness important to the both of you? C: Well, I’m not interested in recreating things that have already happened. But I don’t know if I think of it as newness, I like to feel like it’s its own thing. It’s separate, perhaps. But people usually want what they recognise. And it’s our job as creatives to help push that boundary. It’s something I think about very often. It’s surprising how many people want the same things. But clothing and art is all communication, so people are drawn to the language they already know. Social media is part of the communication landscape now. You can fight against it, but if you don’t take part, you’re going to lose the ability to communicate. Language and the ability to talk to people inspire me.
Have you sur pr ised yourself by being inspired by something you didn’t like? D: Well, I bought an art piece that scared the shit out of me. It was a clown painting. When I mentioned to the lady at the gallery about being frightened by it, she said that’s the reason why I should live with it and get to know it.The painting’s one of my favourite pieces of art now.
From top: The “Apple” jacket from the collection. DeWitt (left) and Romanelli (right) during their visit to Singapore. Besides Asian details, varsity influences abound on the jackets