Mud is quickly becoming synonymous with R13. Here is the spring 2024 collection muddied up at a Glastonbury-esque festival (well, artificially, but more on that later), and last month actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson covered Esquire magazine wearing only a pair of R13 distressed jeans, standing in some sludge. A second photo found him a little more covered up, both with more R13 (a holey T-shirt) and mud (he was absolutely covered in it). But despite its visual impact, the dirt is not the whole story here, rather it’s the way Chris Leba’s clothes take new shape when placed in context. At a music festival, on an outdoor excursion—R13 is as versatile as its wearer.
It’s also just as cool. Spring found Leba in a Glastonbury state of mind after he came across a photo of Kate Moss attending the festival wearing short shorts paired with Wellies (you know the one). Then came his fascination with Gorpcore—the wearing of utilitarian apparel as streetwear—which led to this collection. He set his models at his version of Glastonbury and dressed them up in blazers and shorts and parkas and his own take on Wellies (with hefty platform soles).
The primary story of spring was a run of bubble hems applied to everything from summer blazers and weightless cardigans to cargo-pocket dresses and shorts. “You know how I get when I find a detail I like,” said Leba at a preview. But this season’s fixation was decisively fruitful; the roundness and airiness were a welcome contrast to Leba’s otherwise grungy interpretations of festivalwear. Most compelling here was a run of low-slung overalls and extra-wide trousers with ballooning proportions when styled tucked into work boots. Novelty came by the way of ’90s floral dresses worn under backpacks, leather jackets, and more Wellies—most striking, and most R13, was a long-sleeve frock that ombréd from watercolor florals over an off-white background to solid yellow at the them. It’s this overworn quality that Leba plays with so convincingly that makes his clothes desirable. Fun, too, were vibrant but slightly washed-out rainbow plaids and denim fabrications.
As for the artifice, Leba did not fly a cast of models and extras to Glastonbury to stage his own version of the festival for this look book. He said that he developed a particular interest for AI after learning how to prompt, and so he spent hours creating the perfect staging, then applying the clothes he made IRL to his AI models. Placing his collection in context gives it a particular kind of oomph, but having seen these pieces in person, I can attest that there’s nothing like the real thing.
R13 is nothing close to unknown, but its absence from the runway has helped it move closer to the “if you know, you know” side of the fashion spectrum. This is a good thing. Leba’s clothes are positively niche, and that’s part of what makes them interesting. They’re not for everyone, but they’re for you—if you have it in you to channel your inner Glaston-Kate. The secret behind distilling this unique brand of cool into clothes is Leba’s to keep, as is how he managed to include his exact ready-to-wear into these AI-generated images. How does this work? “If I told you, I would have to kill you,” said Leba. Nothing like a well-kept secret.