Thumping, playful club music and darting green lasers straight out of The Matrix greet visitors entering the studio space in Downtown Manhattan where Sundae School, a cannabis lifestyle brand, is showing their Fall/Winter 2019 collection as part of New York Fashion Week: Men’s.
The wall behind the runway is set up to look like a computer screen in a government lab. One tab displays a timer ominously counting down the seconds until the show starts. Other tabs pop up around it, appearing to display mathematical charts and graphs. I realize, upon closer inspection, that they are all about weed.
The timer runs out, the graphics show a user named “KOREANJESUS420” logging in, and the models start to walk.
In the nearly two years that Sundae School has been in the fashion game, they’ve taken streetwear to new heights—and highs. They categorize their pieces as “smokewear,” breathing new life into the passé stereotype that if you’re a stoner, you’re likely decked out in a drug rug and Phish t-shirt.
“We have a beanie that says “Blazed but professional,” says creative director, Dae Lim. “You can be both.”
This new collection, titled “The Green Rush,” is an ode and a foreshadowing, says Lim, inspired by the recent legalization of medical marijuana in his native South Korea and the impending recreational legalization in New York. The moniker is a tribute to the California Gold Rush, from which he draws many similarities to the present cannabis industry.
“This is not the first time history has manifested in this phenomenon before,” he says, referencing also the Japanese colonization of Korea in 1910. “We want to show the vibrance and ability in the legal cannabis market, but also the story of greed. It’s really a gamble, and [achieving success] is about the right timing and arbitrage moments.”
Though much of what we typically see on a catwalk favors art over functionality, Sundae School’s clothes are meant to be worn. “We really focused on the comfort and fit, while keeping it elevated,” says Lim. He aimed to make garments that are comfortable to walk and move in, whether at work in an office, at school studying, or simply blazing on your couch.
All of the pants, for example, are technically sweatpants. “They are all elastic and machine washable. We wanted to make something that will last after being handled.”
As the young brand grows in prominence and popularity (the clothes were recently picked up by Barneys in New York and Los Angeles, bless), it remains unapologetically marijuana-centric. During the show, a few of the models brandish lighters when pausing for photographs, and all are adorned with red eye shadow, reminiscent of bloodshot eyes.
When asked if he considers his work “high fashion,” Lim joked, “I was high when I made the clothes, so yeah.”