When he’s behind the decks pumping out techno at 140 beats per minute, Max Kobosil scans the crowd — and a smile will break out over his face if he spots one of the distinctive T-shirts he designed for his Berlin-based R Label Group.
He’ll probably be seeing a lot more soon.
Italian retailer and entrepreneur Claudio Antonioli just signed up the influential techno producer for his new Dreamers Factory incubator, and will be producing and distributing an extensive casual and club wear collection by Kobosil under the 44 Label Group brand.
The 70-piece collection, spanning from T-shirts and outerwear to edgy tailoring and accessories, is to be sold at Dreamers’ virtual and physical Milan showroom in early July. A capsule range quietly went on sale at Antonioli.eu and the new 44labelgroup.com on June 10.
Unveiling the project exclusively to WWD, Kobosil dialed in from Marbella, where he was taking a short holiday ahead of a photo shoot in Milan of the debut 44 collection, named after the original postal code for the gritty Neukölln borough of Berlin where he grew up — and still lives.
Thoughtful, articulate and polite to a fault, the 30-year-old is already something of a veteran on the techno scene. He started clubbing at age 16 and started spinning not long after. In 2013, he already boasted a remix of a Barker & Baumecker single on Berghain’s Ostgut Ton imprint and he played the legendary club’s main room the same year, pioneering a fast and dark, yet ecstatic brand of techno.
That the owner of Antonioli stores and the Ann Demeulemeester house decided to bring him into his fashion fold still has him in disbelief.
“I found the perfect partner to realize my dream,” Kobosil enthused over Teams. “I really have a lot of respect for this hard-working man. He’s also so kind and such a good person who inspires me a lot. We discovered immediately we have the same taste in fashion, music and art.”
The two men certainly share a passion for electronic music — Antonioli owns Milan’s influential nightclub Volt — and were connected via a mutual friend, Matteo Milleri, half of the renowned Italian techno duo Tale of Us, who made the introduction and got the ball rolling. Milleri is also cofounder of Dreamers Factory.
“Max has great taste, clear ideas and works hard,” Antonioli said in an interview. “His energy could definitely bring a unique approach that is linked to the Berlin subculture, aesthetic and music taste.”
The retail veteran and fashion entrepreneur — he was a cofounder of streetwear conglomerate New Guards Group, now owned by Farfetch — has long recognized that DJs and music producers have a lot to offer the fashion world.
“DJs bring a sense of togetherness and euphoria — a positive message of freedom, a great sense of belonging,” he said. “Techno is an important movement that has since its inception been gradually evolving, while always retaining its core fundamentals: freedom, activism and being the voice of the underground.”
While the fast, furious and largely wordless genre is still niche, “specialized clubs all around the world have been thriving for decades because of techno’s unique cathartic attributes,” Antonioli said. “In fashion lately, we see big brands try to utilize techno to simulate the same experience. Rave and clubbing influences bring a sense of freedom and this is the reason why the collection will be unisex, transcending the gender binary and sharing rave culture’s most important values: freedom, acceptance and respect.”
Antonioli said 44 Label Group might be best characterized as “club wear,” but with a complete assortment offering “effortless metropolitan style” to wear all hours.
It will be positioned similar to luxury streetwear brands — with retail prices ranging from 145 euros for T-shirts and 230 euros for sweatshirts up to 680 euros for jackets — and sold via key wholesale partners worldwide, as well as on Antonioli.eu and 44’s site. The main spring 2022 collection is to be shipped at the end of October, early November.
Antonioli noted that production of 44 Label Group will mostly be in Italy and Portugal: “Some manufacturers will be the same as Ann Demeulemeester and others will be different, but always of top quality.”
“Picky” is a word that came up frequently as Kobosil described his approach to clothing, including the first merchandise for his label in 2018. He created the graphic identity and the distinctive, industrial-strength font with letters and numbers resembling strips of electrical tape. No boring Helvetica for him.
Another crucial decision was to that meaningful number 44 as his brand, rather than his name.
“I thought deeply about my childhood and wanted to create the same feeling I had back then,” he explained, describing “the feeling of a community and being united with a lot of people.”
He said those sentiments are analogous to today’s techno scene.
“I wanted to create the same feeling I had back then, and spread this now with a new energy and vibe to my followers and fans,” he said. “The message I want to spread is about this base of community and togetherness because this is what I experienced during all these countless parties and nights.”
Kobosil debuted his label’s merch on his Instagram account, which today boasts 139,000 followers, and the response was immediate — and somewhat mind-blowing.
“Eight minutes and 12 seconds,” he marveled in one post, referring to how long it took to sell out of his second batch of T-shirts.
“The whole drop was sold out so fast,” he recalled in the interview. “And it made me realize for the first time actually how much potential the whole thing has. And the ’44’ was clearly the fastest-selling design, and this made me also proud and happy.”
He was also pleased with “the positive feedback I had for the quality of the garments. So I learned that it really pays off if you focus on little details and how you treat your customers.
“I would never go so far as to call myself a designer,” he stressed. “But I’m the creative director [of 44 Label Group], so I am responsible for the whole creative output and message of the collection. I’m lucky to work with a professional team and designers who help me to express my vision.”
Kobosil said he records his ideas on paper, sometimes sketching, and then refines them with the experts at Dreamers Factory. For example, he had the idea to put an image of the spine on the back of a T-shirt, and a graphic designer helped him make it “Photoshop realistic.”
Seeing the hordes of people huddled outside Berghain or Tresor in Berlin after midnight, the majority of them men dressed in dark layers, doesn’t exactly scream “fashion.”
Yet the techno crowd does dress intentionally for the night, and lately has been embracing more color, especially white and also red and some neon colors, according to Kobosil, who describes the thrill of pulling a new T-shirt over his head for a session behind the decks, or letting loose on the dancefloor.
“I like to dress up for the night,” he said. “If you have a new T-shirt, and you’re getting ready in your hotel room and you drop it on your body, it’s super cool. You feel ready for the night. It makes you confident.
“Nightlife was always a huge input and inspiration into my personal taste in fashion,” he continued. “As DJs, we travel a lot all around the world and get a lot of inspiration, having so many different cultural experiences and seeing all the different people dressing up for the night and expressing themselves. It’s definitely a never-ending source of inspiration.”
In his view, the streetwear juggernaut has raised the fashion quotient of casual clothing.
“Nowadays, a T-shirt is not only a T-shirt — it’s a statement, with messages on top and graphics that are super strong,” according to Kobosil. “If you’re looking for high fashion or couture, you probably won’t find it too often. But I think some trends are definitely born in Berlin clubs, and the idea for the 44 Label Group is actually to become a brand directly from Berlin and born in the techno subculture, transporting this unique feeling.”
He noted that clubgoers embraced sporty and technical clothes well before the mainstream, for example.
Kobosil allows that the techno scene remains male-dominated. “But thankfully today, more and more females and also transgender people are becoming artists and DJs. It’s really needed and I am happy to discover new talents all the time,” he said. “I try also to support them with my techno label.”
And while his personal tastes guide him, “I personally only think unisex in my collection. Because for me, it’s totally normal that girls wear oversize T-shirts, and also cargo trousers or bomber jackets,” he said.
Kobosil confessed it was “a bit hard” to continue making techno through the pandemic “without the feedback of the clubs and the crowd,” and he’s hankering to get back behind the decks.
Nevertheless, he has a new EP and some remixes coming out from his R Label Group soon, and he’s promoting his other artists Clara Cuvé, Wallis, Aiden and Valentina Luz.
“People are thirsty for music, for events, going out and socializing, and of course, rocking their outfits,” he said. “So I believe it will be a great year for all of us as soon as restrictions will finally end.”
The tagline for his new brand expresses the sentiment: “Every dark night has a bright end.”