CLOT: The History of The Silk Royale

CLOT: The History of The Silk Royale

The Silk Road

For thousands of years, silk has been inextricably tied with many Chinese customs and conventions. This textile advent can be traced back to China in the 4th century BC, when according to Chinese legend, Leizu, the wife of Yellow Emperor (2698-2598 BC), was the first to breed silkworms and make silk fabric. Because of this, she was worshiped by Chinese people as the so-called Goddess of Silkworms. As the legend goes, a silkworm cocoon fell from a mulberry tree into her hot cup of tee, and she noticed silk filaments started unfurling. Leizu later developed the first loom to turn those filaments into a fabric, discovering that she could create over a kilometre of thread from one cocoon. Over time, the Chinese honed and perfected the light, humidity and temperature that would allow silkworms to grow larger than they typically would in nature. In part due to the textile’s link with Leizu, silk-making became women’s work, part of the feminine arts, and later on, the color of silk worn was an important indicator of social class, initially reserved for royals and nobles and worn on special occasions like weddings, holidays and festivals.

Connotations of luxury aside, silk filaments are five times stronger than steel in tensile strength, and three times tougher than kevlar, making it one of the most robust and strong natural fibers. Silk was also tied with the development of transportation infrastructure, in the form of the Silk Road, which aided the development and advancement of many civilizations at the time. Historically, alongside tea and porcelain, silk is one of the most coveted Chinese exports, and today the shimmery, scintillating fabric remains one of the most recognizable calling cards of Chinese culture as a fabric that has created a link between China and the rest of the world. From a value standpoint, what gold is to metal, silk is to fabric, and this comparison still rings true today.

After the Byzantines obtained silkworm eggs and were able to begin silkworm cultivation., European countries like Italy, France and Spain started their own silk production, and for a time, Lyon was regarded as the capital of silk production in Europe. Silk became a major status symbol in European capitals, however despite these new silk markets in Europe, the very best brocade designs and fabrics still came from China.


CLOT Silk Royale

CLOT has continued this tradition of silk in the present day, as a way to nod toward the roots of the brand and its co-founders, Kevin Poon and Edison Chen. For Poon and Chen, CLOT's most iconic patterns and designs include the Silk Royale brocade, which was co-designed by CLOT as well as seasoned designer and graphic artist Kazuki Kuraishi. The brocade served as the foundation for an entire CLOT collection in 2007, as well as a Christo sandal collaboration between CLOT and visvim in 2008, which included four shimmering colorways of visvim signature slip-on. CLOT’s Silk Royale pattern is perhaps best known for its use on several collectible Nike Air Force 1 designs, affectionately dubbed the Silk Force 1s. 

Edison Chen, Kazuki Kuraishi and Kevin Poon


For the brand’s Silk Royale pattern, CLOT makes a point of tapping some of the most technologically advanced production processes available today. Whether in the 4th century BC or in the modern day, any worker must exercise care and skill when handling a delicate fabric such as silk. Today, CLOT adheres to the same manufacturing processes and standards of quality that were applied to more traditional silk fabric items, from the weaving to details like handmade trims and traditional knotted Chinese button sets that are applied on some CLOT designs. In addition, CLOT’s 100% silk jacquard fabric is specially weaved in a CLOT-exclusive pattern.

“For the longest time, we’ve been very fascinated with silk. In addition to being very long-lasting and soft, it represents our culture in a visual way,” mentions CLOT co-founder Kevin Poon. “We’ve always been very interested in what it represents. Silk has been part of our DNA since the very early beginning. Other than some of the recurring logos and slogans that we use, our Silk Royale pattern has become part of the brand.”

In 2007, The CLOT Royale pattern made its first debut in swimwear collection "CLOT Royale Summer"

The iconic pattern used on 2007's "Royale Thick China Shirt" and "Royale Silk Tee" release.

The 2007 "CLOT Royale Western Shirt" collection was released with a "Silk Pattern Pullover". The signature Chinese pattern on Western silhouettes strongly reflects CLOT's ethos of East-Meets-West.

2007 - The Silk Royale pattern was later used in a collaborative release with American headwear brand New Era on a range of "CLOT Royale x New Era 59FIFTY" Fitted Caps

In 2007, CLOT released a premium silk collection that included the "CLOT Royale Boxer Shorts" and "CLOT Royale Scarf", emphasising silk's luxurious and insulative properties.

2007 - CLOT features the CLOT Royale print on a collection of casual printed tees

2007 - The brand released the "CLOT Royale M65 Jacket" giving the iconic military jacket a treatment of "CLOT Royale"

2008 - CLOT teamed up with Japanese label, HEAD PORTER on "CLOT ROYALE x HEAD PORTER" Bag and Pouch, revealing the brocade print on the inner. 

 2008 - "CLOT Royale x Visvim Christo" introduced four colorways: Black, Blue, Red and Yellow, accompanied with a matching "CLOT Royale Dustbag"

As far as footwear, CLOT’s signature silk pattern was first used in combination with one of the most iconic and timeless silhouettes in Nike’s footwear portfolio, the 1982 Air Force 1. In 2009, CLOT and Nike re-worked the Air Force 1 Low, which featured a red silk makeup for that exclusive release. This project was a platform for Poon and Chen to showcase their Chinese heritage on a global stage, and in doing so, create a bridge between East and West through design. A second colorway iteration of that same design came 2018, manifesting as a white silk version of the Air Force 1 Low.

2009 - One of CLOT's most recognisable silhouettes: The "CLOT X NIKE 1WORLD AIR FORCE 1" was limited to 250 pairs worldwide.  The sneakers celebrate China’s Lunar New Year with a themed that surrounds traditional Chinese themes of luck, happiness and prosperity. The red silk release came in a hexagonal “Chinese Candy Box”  that featured a top layer that carried six different types of shoelaces to match.

CLOT incorporated their signature silk detailing on modern cuts in the "2015 CLOT Spring Royale" collection. 

 2016 - CLOT collaborated with Japanese brand Suicoke on "CLOT Royale x Suicoke" release, featuring CLOT's iconic Silk Royale pattern on Suicoke's Vibram-soled sandals



2018 - "CLOT x Nikelab Silk Air Force 1"  - CLOT's collaboration with Nikelab caused a stir. The brand expanded on their tear-away concept which portrayed CLOT’s own philosophy of going beyond the superficial. Wearers could customise their sneakers by burning, cutting or distressing the Silk Royale layer to reveal a second laser engraved leather layer.

This year, CLOT released their third installation of the Silk Air Force 1 Low, arriving as the CLOT x Nike “Royale University Blue Silk” Air Force 1 in a rich shade of blue. Maintaining CLOT's concept of Yin and Yang, the shoes feature two separate layers in the upper. The top “Game Royal” layer boasts a distinct blue colorway, which peels away to reveal a hidden gray layer. The release was accompanied by a collection of Blue Silk designs that was exclusively available at the global launch. 

2019 - CLOT featured global action star Donnie Yen in a campaign video directed by famed director and photographer Wing Shya. Yen was dressed in the Blue Silk collection and the CLOT x Nike Air Force 1 “Royale University Blue Silk” and portrayed CLOT's message of inner peace through Yen's mastery of the art of Wing Chun. 

Now, CLOT is proud to present the second part of the Silk Royale series this year! CLOT has teamed up with the "Godfather of streetwear", Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara of fragment design and Nike on a three-way sneaker collaboration - the "CLOT x fragment design x Nike BLACK SILK Air Force 1"! The black silk upper reveal fragment design's signature lightning bolts hidden amongst CLOT’s iconic brocade patterning and Nike's logo on the tongue and back.


2019 - "CLOT x fragment design x Nike BLACK SILK Air Force 1"


Words by Chris Danforth