P.A.M. (Perks And Mini) Encourages Us To Embrace Absurdity And Nature With Their SS20 X-Perience Collection

“The diversity of existence on Earth is awe-inspiring. Breathe it all in.”

We’re over halfway through a year now that, for the most part, has been complete chaos. So, it really is OK if you’ve been feeling a bit lost and think everything in the world is going pretty bad right now. As we continue through the transition into this new, evolving, and often unreliable reality, it’s more crucial than ever to have some kind of compass — and to find others who share that same sense of true north. And while we question our relationship to capitalism, and have far fewer assurances of steady disposable income, it’s essential, of course, to spend our cash mindfully and engage with brands that share our values. Like our fave Paris-based by way of Melbourne label, P.A.M. (Perks and Mini). 

Their most recent Spring/Summer 2020 collection, titled X-perience, embraces the notions of “natural not fake, real not lame, and question not blindly accept.” Designers Misha Hollenbach and Shauna Toohey invite us to “assess alternative realities” with them and have a real think about what living the good life even means these days. It’s “dedicated to challenging societal norms with playful acts of creative disobedience and disruption,” and encouraging “X-perience not stagnation,” the duo explain via the collection’s guiding manifesto. 

While the collection is already available, today, we exclusively reveal their creative collaboration with photographer Josh Wilks, which takes the collection and its manifesto into a whole new dimension. Wilks’ Lynchian-style images illustrate the collection’s esoteric yet highly relatable fantasies and concepts, with models set against CGI backdrops with overlays of key phrases from the manifesto.

Both the collection and the collaboration with Wilks draw inspiration from the 1966 Czech new wave cinema film, Daisies, directed by the wave’s only female director, Vera Chytilova. In the opening scenes, the characters calmly declare and agree that as “everything’s going bad in this world… we’re going bad as well.” Relatable AF.

What follows is a series of antics that defy social norms and expectations — with a hell of a lot of fun and mischief in the process. The film’s visual style fuses psychedelic colour filters and fragmented edits — a vibrant, daring and progressive style, particularly for the time and place — with more gentle elements of the natural world (daisies are, as expected, a prominent reference) that serve as an anchor of familiarity. It is a radical commentary on the era’s patriarchal society and government that restricted freedoms and glorified conformity, released into a slightly softening but still oppressive and corrupt political climate in the ‘60s that heavily censored the arts and media. The film was, of course, too much for the Communist Government and those inclined to support their ideology, so was quickly banned from theatres and export, before resurfacing more prominently from the early 2000s to critical acclaim via international film festivals and Youtube. It’s an apt reference to re-emerge in a year when the entire world has basically been in lockdown, and who knows what else is going on. 

But its relevance today, and for P.A.M. (Perks and Mini)’s X-perience collection, is more about the limitations we’ve created for ourselves in manifesting what the good life looks like for us. We can easily be led to believe this is a curated dreamy lifestyle depicted on Instagram, along with all the luxury trappings of modern life we love that are full of comfort and security. But this “fake world… clashes with P.A.M. (Perks and Mini)’s preferred reality,” which is “the natural world of random street and earthly pleasures.” To them, “the [real] good life is not disconnected from reality or nature or inclined to bore.”

Even the title of the collection, “X-perience” — launched in a reality where there are massive limitations to what we can do and therefore experience — makes the case that real ecstasy doesn’t come from where you travel, party, or how you document it. Instead, it’s disconnecting from the digital world that allows you to actually be in that moment. Assessing these alternative realities — and the stark contrast between the fake and the real, the online and the offline — feels especially pertinent right now. Social media is, in many ways, out of control and causing a mental health pandemic of its own. Yet now, even more people and brands are leaning into the digital world full throttle, from both a necessity — due to social distancing restrictions — and desire. 

This juxtaposition is similarly explored through the collection’s pieces, merging the natural world with the latest in tech. The brand took “weird aspirational lifestyles” and presented them alongside the natural and messy worlds of nature and street art, creating a line of psychedelic punky clothing that feels like what we would’ve been wearing had Y2K not been a hoax. We see “virtual CGI renders intersperse with images of daisies, psychedelic toads, graffiti, sculpture and street life,” as well as a Bufo Toad leopard print design that was created via digitising actual toad skin. As always, these are clothes that are meant to be worn — “form and function are synonymous” with everything they do — and are “designed to weather the good life” as per the P.A.M. (Perks and Mini) definition. Case in point: their Warped Record Hat apparently responds very well to tough love, as “the more you sit on it and squash it, the better it will look.” 

And while communicating via digital platforms with digitally produced visuals — the digital world is, after all, where we’re all living right now — P.A.M. (Perks and Mini) encourages us to appreciate that “the diversity of existence on Earth is awe-inspiring” and to “breathe it all in.” The images, like the clothes, are dark and intoxicating; and perhaps most importantly — there’s a sense of urgency. It’s not just fashion. It’s a call to action. Their vision is for us to look beyond “gilded comfort and status markers that limit personal freedoms and life’s rainbow of variables.” We need to both accept and embrace that “the natural world is not neat, predictable, compartmentalised or always picture perfect.” We need to “put the phone down, throw away the selfie stick and trample on the trifle,” to “celebrate random absurdity and street life,” and “embrace nature in its untamed entirety, including its dangers and inconveniences.” Because “life on Earth is interconnected and surprising” — or at least, the world P.A.M. (Perks and Mini) creates for us is. And good news — we can all get there, even if we can’t travel.