French designer Alexandre Mattiussi presents his capsule collection for the online retailer
“You have to keep it simple and authentic. Style is definitely not just a question of clothes.” Alexandre Mattiussi is spot on. His take on fashion not only refers to clothes – it’s about style and, more precisely, a certain lifestyle. The Paris-based designer and his AMI brand refuses to let fashion dictate his creative output: “I just do clothes that I love to wear. I try to keep it elegant, effortless, cool and realistic. I don’t do fashion for fashion. I like to see people wearing my clothes. And feeling good in them.” For Mattiussi, the end product is part of the story and the customer is integral to the process, rather than just a bloke buying his clothes. “It’s more about the attitude than the clothes themselves because AMI is not a concept. The story we tell is a story of a guy you know, a brother, a boyfriend, a friend.”
That’s why Mattiussi’s latest retail adventure, having recently opened up his first standalone store in Paris, makes complete sense. In collaboration with online retailers Mr Porter, the former Dior Homme and Givenchy employee is this week launching an exclusive capsule collection. Mr Porter is only a few years old and, like AMI, still the new kid on the block. Nevertheless, thanks to a focused buying team and a trail blazing attitude towards editorial retail, the Net-a-Porter brother has quickly settled in to the cyber throne in the church of E-commerce. The collaboration series, part of spring push from Mr Porter, also include capsule collections from Raf Simons, Alexander Wang, Beams Plus and Globe-Trotter.
Consisting of the kind of understated and subtle pieces AMI has already made into a signature look, the collection boasts a denim jacket, khaki shorts, stripy cashmere and check shirts – the ultimate holiday wardrobe: “I just imagined a guy at a ‘terrace de café’ in summer having a break with friends. I always project the clothes with someone in mind. It’s pieces that you could wear easily. Kind of timeless pieces you could wear for a longtime.”
“For this exclusive capsule, I used bright colours like purple, blue and navy but also beige on timeless pieces; an Oxford t-shirt, a washed cotton military jacket and light denim jacket, a deep blue brogue. I like to match things together. It’s like when you open anyone’s closet, you won’t find only black and white clothes in it.”
This is the strength of AMI, one that Mr Porter appreciates. The collection, like mainline AMI, is part of long term wardrobe solution, not a clothes suitable for a fashion whim. These are the sort of clothes that define Mr Porter, as it should be. Arguably, clothes as expensive as these should be seen as an investment rather than the result of an impulse.
‘I’m not into fashion’ states ex-Dazed Digital and Port Magazine Online Editor David Hellqvist; a bizarre statement for a man who, one might be forgiven for believing, lives and breathes men’s fashion. ‘Who I am is not defined by what I wear, but the other way around.’ He is of course referring to the concept of style, of either having it or not; hoarding Ikea bags filled with old clothes, of Helmut Lang, Raf Simons and Dior Homme ‘my old…life’ and how somehow they represent a time and place like nothing else; ‘it’s kind of like a snake just [shedding] its skin.’
As we arrive at his hackney apartment glimpses of the man we’ve seen litter the clean, open space; I notice a bottle of Port resting on the kitchen counter as he pours a cup of tea – a comical nod to his latest endeavour. We begin at the start, a history lesson in the life of David Hellqvist; moving from a remote Swedish town at the age of 21, the natural transition to London, often erroneously referred to as Sweden’s fifth most populated city; ‘I was just like “I need to get out of here”, you know?’ jumping on a place because ‘it’s close and you know the language… it was the first time I’d ever sat on a plane.’ Starting where so many begin at the heart of the high street, working through the retail ranks from Topshop, a now closed boutique called Burro – ‘it’s kind of like the YMC style of brand and all of a sudden I met people where I lived and where I worked that actually were like me’ – to South Molten Street’s Luxury Mecca Browns ‘sort of by accident’.
Suddenly exposed to brands and the kind of clothes that ‘I’d never bought because I couldn’t afford them or didn’t really know much about and all of a sudden I’m like “this is the shit, this is what I want to do”.’ It’s familiar tale, but a refreshing one; in an industry obsessed with the burgeoning talent of youth, the endless lists of ’30 under 30’, to hear the honest, self professed uncertainty of the twenty-something, and the hard graft to make it happen once that clarity comes about. Perhaps some small hope to the rest of us that all is not lost, however it is the emphasis placed on this period that feels the most refreshing. ‘That was my education – all of a sudden you’re selling a Jil Sander suit for a grand you have to know why it is a grand and what makes it good, so that was my education; that was how I learned about these people, these brands, these designers.’ It ‘introduced me to all these things and all the people coming in who actually later on in my career would be pivotal in introducing me to people and giving me jobs and so’.
Crediting the period to introducing him to those who later down the line would be pivotal in meeting the right people and, in turn, jobs. Beginning writing as much as possible for publications like German magazine Zoo, (‘not the lads mag’) and the London Paper, London’s daily free sheet: ‘one of my first stories [there] was writing about the fall of Northern Rock, the bank that crashed – sort of the beginning of the recession – so without knowing it, it was like writing my own professional obituary.’ ‘No one was going to give you a job at that time’ so, enrolling in an MA at Goldsmiths in Art & Politics he began working for the first time with Dazed Digital alongside the likes of Morgan O’Donovan, who would later team up with Hellqvist in the release of their eponymous publication. ‘…and as I was doing my MA Susie Lau [of fashion blog Style Bubble], who used to do my job [Online Editor] left and I was like “shit, could you not have left six months from now when I finished my masters so I could have applied?” but I thought fuck it, I’ll go for it anyway.’ Undertaking the mammoth task of both finishing the dissertation of his Masters degree and re-launching Dazed Digital, a testament to an unparalleled dedication to the craft. ‘That summer was kind of crazy.’
Joining at a time of great development for the site, the most recent digital re-launch similarly marked another chapter in the publication’s online story, one for a new editor. ‘You always need to be hungry, you always need to learn and do shit…and that’s your motivation, that’s your ambition there: “ok, what’s next?’” With that hunger dwindling, the decision was made that someone else, perhaps someone with the same hunger that he felt the last time around, should take on the role; a move some dubbed risky, ‘A lot of people were like “are you insane, why would you do that?” but for me it was a question of developing and moving on.’ Moving, then, meant applying that editorial direction somewhere else, seeking out a job at Men’s lifestyle magazine Port; ‘I feel that I’m able now to define my role in a way that I wasn’t before. Dazed Digital was something that already existed; although, of course as an editor you can always be part of shaping and forming and taking in whatever direction you want to see, it wasn’t my website, it was Jefferson’s [Hack, owner of Dazed group].’
‘With Port Online, because it’s brand new, I’m actually able to do what I want with it.’ Specifically the task is to develop it; ‘we’re lucky because whenever you have a print magazine running alongside you, you can use that for inspiration; as in this is the direction were going in this is the type of content were talking about’ so taking that as a basis, the task is to develop that quarterly content on a daily basis, ‘so that in itself is a massive task.’ ‘Port is about telling a story, it can be in food or philosophy or literature… and menswear, that’s obviously what I want to bring to the reader, I want to make port a menswear destination. Finding new readers online who may not have experienced the magazine, and creating new, daily content for those who have, sheds a small light on the complexities of the relationship between the two. ‘We just covered menswear week, they’d never done that before, so all of a sudden we’re introducing Port to a new world, we’re introducing the world to Port as well and that’s great.’
Speaking of the city’s inaugural men’s fashion event, London Collections: Men, brings us to his own foray into print, last year’s Hellqvist & O’Donovan Document No 1, a self-proclaimed ‘celebration’ of the collections. ‘I think that was an eye opener in many ways because I realised I can do it by myself, or in this case with Morgan [O’Donovan]’ who contributed heavily to Dazed Digital with his stylized backstage photography. Having worked on online content for three years, the pair thought ‘you know, this needs to be something you can feel.’ Its content lends itself to the insistence that ‘it’s not a book or a magazine’, not for a lack of insightful fashion focus which is more than present, but more that that focus is more than merely a fleeting glimpse at the collections. ‘The world does not need another fashion magazine, we [don’t] want to cover the next menswear shows, it’s a document, a snapshot of a time and a place.’
Sparse and structured design emphasizing the limited nature of its publication and featuring a notably selective range of shows sees in depth discussion between Hellqvist and the likes of Martine Rose and Christopher Shannon. Third party input from menswear blogger Steve Salter and Guardian Assistant Fashion Editor Simon Chilvers and an inside look at talent nurturing initiative Fashion East from mentor Lulu Kennedy, offering a decisive and thought provoking retrospection. The issue’s release was a testament to the pair’s status. A launch at the expansive IPR studio saw them generously giving away four hundred of the individually hand numbered copies that made up what looked like marble slab in the studio’s centre. Keeping just the first hundred to sell not only solidified this celebratory sentiment perfectly, it also posed the wider notion of what the issue came to represent.
An interesting point of not only the nature of their own publication, whatever form it may take from this point, but the nature of print media and the direction it’s headed – that its place must be fought for or pale into insignificance. ‘I think that’s bullshit. They coexist for me beautifully, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do both. The consumer is not going to one day go “you know we’ve decided now, we’ve voted, it’s gonna be this.” Is not gonna happen.’ But there is, of course, an undeniable shift in purpose with the advent and advance of digital media? ‘Print is going to change of course, I think the book is an excellent example of how it will change – it will become more niche, it will come out less often, it will be thicker perhaps – Print will have to adapt and it has, along the way, it will just have to sort of look at the needs of the readers.’
And what of their own experience of the merging of the two? ‘Online is very difficult to make money from, I don’t think anybody does that, from just online I mean. We have a website, we want to be able to express ourselves through an online voice as well it’s just different. We’ve put the whole book online, so people can look at it.’ So, what of the future of Hellqvist & O’Donovan? ‘It can be whatever we want to focus or turn Morgan’s camera or my pen at, as long as I’m the one writing and he’s the one shooting it can be whatever.’ Comment on taking focus wherever they want hints at a geographical shift, though cautious not to spoil the mystery. And Hellqvist alone? A list of notable names and functions roll on, ‘It’s this constant thing about where do you make the money, nothing to do with cash, but something else. It’s about finding the balance.’
Words by Joseph Delaney and Photography by Felicity Ieraci
Photo: Christian Alegria, Styling: David Hellqvist, Grooming: Joshua Gibson, Model: Alamantus at Elite
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