Shibori Threads flexes streetwear style and strategy to elevate metal's merch game

Shibori Threads flexes streetwear style and strategy to elevate metal's merch game

- By Ramon Gonzales

Led by Leo Valeri and Kyle Anderson of deathcore standouts Brand of Sacrifice, the label is skyrocketing in popularity and redefining the standard of heavy music's requisite black tee.

In the space of heavy music, the concept of fashion can sometimes be an afterthought. When it comes to the look most associated with band merch, the standard black tee has always been the default - the safest bet when it comes to balancing subtlety and style.

Yet as extreme music and the heavy community continues to evolve, break down the gatekeeping and permeate in the greater landscape of contemporary culture, it's only natural that the aesthetic synonymous with the sound embrace change too.

Among those leading the next generation of extreme music's current renaissance include deathcore phenomenon Brand of Sacrifice. The unit's DIY ethos and genuine connection with their fans, in addition to their blistering brutality on record (please reference the heavy AF 2021 album Lifeblood and crank it immediately) has positioned the band artistic ambassadors - flagbearers that not only champion the culture, but push it forward.

Utilizing the same forward-thinking asserted in the vision and sound of the band, Brand of Sacrifice get meticulous with it, extending that diligence to every detail of the band, including merch. Even before the skyrocket trajectory of Lifeblood, BoS gear has long been at a premium. Fans would follow the band's merch drops in a way that rivaled streetwear labels. If you copped a longsleeve, a hoodie, jacket or a tee, there was an understanding it was something limited - aside from brandishing good musical taste.

Armed with a knack for merchandising and a passion to propel metal's style to be more indicative of it's artistic progression, Leo Valeri and Kyle Anderson of Brand of Sacrifice launched Shibori Threads. In line with the band's Japanese cultural aesthetic and anime-themed accent, the name of the project takes it's name from a Japanese method of tie dying garments.

Cultivating a community of like-minded artists and an emphasis on quality over qunatity, Shibori in it's short two year stretch has already become a thriving name among those in the know. With collaborative drops roping in heavyweight names like Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red, Spiritbox, Chelsea Grin and Dance Gavin Dance to name just a few, the label quickly established it's footprint and cemented it's notoriety. Far from the mass-produced rollouts of big box merch, these items are usually limited to 500 apiece and involved a detailed process that includes a custom cut, dye, and sew - underscoring the importance of quality and achieving a one-of-one kind of value.

Shibori's success was rooted in the brand's framing the fashion of heavy music in an authentic, progressive way - a brand for heavy culture, immersed in heavy culture.

Celebrating their recently announced February 2022 collection, Shibori added deathcore legends Whitechapel, along with Shadow of Intent and Infant Annihilator to their ever-growing catalog of collaborations. Despite being announced on the same day as this is being published, no doubt pre-orders have already sold out - an obvious metric that indicates Shibori is certainly just getting started.

At the helm of the passion project, Leo Valeri detailed how his hands-on experience in maintaining the brand of Brand of Sacrifice provided an ideal education to venture into the world of streetwear and how the concept of community is what fuels the label forward.

Photo by Jordy Clarke

Just to kind of better frame how fast Shibori Threads has blown up, can you take us back to the first conversation where you and Kyle decided this was going to be a thing?

Valeri - I remember the exact moment it happened: I was on the phone with Kyle pacing around my apartment in NYC, and we were talking about the rollout for the next Brand of Sacrifice album, which ended up being Lifeblood. We got on to the topic of merch and something just clicked - why don’t we take what has been so successful with BoS and roll it out to other artists in the scene? It was the height of COVID, nobody was touring and we figured it could be a great way to help support some of our peers, while also giving the fans a unique collector’s item to call their own.

The motif of Shibori takes the imagery of heavy music and injects some color into it. These palettes aren’t your traditional colorways that are usually associated with aggressive music. Was this more about differentiating yourselves or just doing what you know?

Valeri - I’d say it was the combination of 2 things: one, we were extremely invested in making sure BoS merch was some of the most unique and comfortable clothing out there. We definitely figured out what worked and what didn’t over the years, became experts in logistics & design, and applied what we learned to Shibori.

And two, heavy music is so diverse nowadays, a black tee doesn’t always fit the sound. Metal is loud, aggressive, and often experimental - we felt the need to create apparel that reflects what the artists are trying to convey and put a unique spin on it. Look at our recent collaboration with Spiritbox - nothing wrong with a black tee, but what says Eternal Blue more than that?

Photo by Jordy Clarke

Given both your and Kyle’s primary project in Brand of Sacrifice also have a strong merch game, do you treat Shibori like it’s own beast or do you see it as an extension of the Brand of Sacrifice creative footprint?

Valeri - Shibori has definitely become its own thing. We’ve actually featured bespoke BoS items in a few of our Shibori collections, and Shibori is the only place you can get them. There have been a few instances where the delineation between the two brands isn’t so apparent. We brought limited Shibori x BoS items on our last few tours and you could only get them on tour. But, for the most part they exist separately.

A big part of Shibori Threads has been the concept of collaboration. When it comes to brand integrity, what is the criteria when it comes to finding the right bands to align with?

Valeri - The best kinds of collaborations definitely stem from artists who are willing to go outside of their comfort zone. Our Dance Gavin Dance collection last year is a great example: We gave them a black metal stylized logo on bright red split-dyed garments. If you know DGD’s sound, you know that this approach was pretty atypical even though their music is experimental as it is. But it was one of our most popular collabs and to this day we still have customers asking for those. That said, you don’t have to be a metal band to work with us - all that is required is an open mind and a desire to create sick clothing together.

Was the plan for Shibori always to have this kind of communal, collaborative approach? Did you go into this with the plan to cultivate a community of artists and build the brand that way or did these bands just kind of see the same thing missing you did?

Valeri - Yes, we wanted to put a heavy emphasis on collaboration from day one. I think a lot of bands saw the value in working together because there really isn’t a place where you can go to get a top quality item from your favorite artist that’s 100% custom made just for you, and at a fair price point. Nobody else has the exact garment that you have. It’s a really special feeling.

Photo by Jordy Clarke

Heavy music is definitely en vogue right now. It’s not uncommon to see a Cannibal Corpse tee or a Type O Negative tee in a fashion spread. Do you feel like your immersion in the culture gives you a level of authenticity when it comes to finding the intersection of extreme music and fashion?

Valeri - I totally agree. Even outside of streetwear or high fashion, if you walk into an H&M or a Zumiez, chances are you’ll see a death metal logo on a shirt. Some people might think that’s kinda lame but we think it’s sick - it’s great for our genre because it means we're having a real influence on pop culture again. I’d say we’re more authentic in the sense that we work directly with the artists we collaborate with, we take in a ton of feedback from our community when coming up with designs and selecting who to work with, and everything is handmade from scratch. Not that there’s anything wrong with putting a generic metal logo on a hoodie in a retail store, but I think the difference is that we’re working with the artists who are truly building up the scene we work in. There have been instances on tour where we’ll see fans wearing Shibori, someone will approach them and ask them about it, and as a result it might spark a conversation and introduce them to new music they’ve never heard before. There’s nothing more legit than that.

Each drop is especially limited. Some of these releases hit and are gone within 24 hours. As the brand continues to grow, how do you balance demand with not over saturating the market? Does the future for the brand include the same model of limited quantities?

Valeri - For now, absolutely. There seems to be a prominent resurgence of collector culture both in the heavy music world and in the mainstream, from the NFT frenzy, to vinyl, to collecting sneakers. Although we’ve grown a ton and can do these drops more frequently, it’s almost impossible intrinsically to encounter any oversaturation because every garment is 100% unique, and you can only get them for a very limited time.

Photo by Jordy Clarke

What were some of the major milestones of the brand thus far - the times that made you realize how real the blow up was?

Valeri - What started as a passion project featuring bands we had toured with quickly became something more when Death Metal / Hardcore titans like Whitechapel and Chelsea Grin expressed interest. From there, we built a ton of relationships with industry vets and it eventually led to working with one of our favorite bands, Dance Gavin Dance - who at prresent have over a million monthly listeners on Spotify. That was truly an eye opening experience and we knew we were on the right track.

You’ve mentioned that some of the bands you have worked with thus far were people you couldn’t have imagined collaborating with - who is on the wish list now that the impossible seems much more possible?

Valeri - In the heavy music world some artists that come to mind are: Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn and maybe even Metallica one day…

I’d also love to do a collection with someone like Billie Eilish or Adele, I feel like that would be so badass. We actually have a ton of new huge collabs in store this year that most folks might not expect, so keep an eye out.

Photo by Jordy Clarke
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