Port Magazine: In Conversation - Andrea Pompilio, Canali
As he takes over as creative director at the esteemed Italian luxury House, David Hellqvist quizzes Pompilio about his aspirations and inspiration
The words luxury lifestyle aren’t always anchored in reality or even associated with ‘real’ people; there are plenty of brands out there with very little or nothing in common with what’s happening around us on a daily basis. Andrea Pompilio, the new creative director at Canali, takes a different point of view. “I get inspired by what surrounds me – people in cafes, in shops and restaurants. I’m trying to catch as much as I can and then, starting from this, I design my collections,” he says just after his Milan menswear debut. “At the beginning of the season, I look through everything trying to find the new in the classic. I start from iconic menswear pieces and I re-work them through new shapes, fabrics and colours.” As the esteemed Sovico brand celebrates 80 years as a luxury brand, the young and energetic Pompilio is in the business of making Canali relevant to a 21st century wardrobe.
But that’s not to say the new capsule collection for Spring Summer 2015, shown in a sun-drenched Milan, is anything but a feast of traditionally luxe fabrics; Pompilio might aspire to modernise the cuts but the qualitative fabrics the House is known for stays put. “I think it’s the perfect balance between two complementary worlds that attract each other featuring a relaxed style, rich in original details… something that touches only marginally on classic tailoring and focuses instead on leisure,” he explains. White and checked trousers with 8cm cuffs, blue nabuk crocodile trainers, dark brown drummed calfskin belt and an ivory deer leather jacket show not only Pompilio’s dedication to fine fabrics but his aspiration to fuse classic elegance with modern technology. “I’ve experimented in a way that departs from my usual modus operandi, giving a new stylistic twist to the Canali brand while remaining faithful to its philosophy and values.”
The idea of mixing ‘old with new’ is a challenge many Italian brands are facing at the moment. Pompilio’s solution is as simple as it is effective: “Sticking to Canali’s tailoring tradition, I’ve introduced unusual shapes, prints and materials that don’t go unnoticed, not to mention an unconventional use of colour.” As one of few young designers showing in Milan (Pompilio is keeping his namesake label), it was perhaps inevitable that an established House would pick him up sooner or later. In Italy, the older generation of designers need replenishing, and that’s where the likes of Pompilio, Andrea Incontri, Stella Jean and Fabio Quaranta come into play. “I’ve always admired Canali for its style and elegance. I was intrigued by the fact that Canali, a brand with a high-profile reputation for sartorial tradition, had embarked in recent years on an evolving path. I think we are linked by a common thread: a taste for beautiful things and Italian style, the tradition of fine tailoring, the use of premium materials, an unconventional use of colour and extreme attention to quality and detail,” Pompilio says of the move.
Canali is well known for its tailoring tradition and made-to-measure service; their suits are the premium expression of their formal DNA – very elegant but always with a strong contemporary and looking-forward touch. For Pompilio the challenge is how to apply his own USP on the age-old brand. “This opportunity represents an interesting exchange between two worlds that are similar, but each with its own distinctive traits. I will attempt to learn and assimilate all of Canali’s sartorial capabilities. I want to have fun and experiment as part of a young team that works in a calm, but very stimulating environment – a situation that will serve to enrich me both personally and stylistically.” But Pompilio is missing out someone – it isn’t just himself and the brand who stand to gain from this new constellation… also Canali’s customers – old and new – will reap the benefits.
Port Magazine: In Conversation - John Ray, Alfred Dunhill
Creating a relaxed yet elegant SS15 wardrobe for weekends away, the Scottish designer and David Hellqvist discuss the classic tailoring brand’s role at LC:M
We’re in a luxurious office-turned-showroom on Horse Guards Avenue, off Whitehall and a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street. Inside, soft velvet carpets and mighty mahogany interiors are used for decoration, and grandiose balconies line the rooms. Alfred Dunhill suits from the classic British tailoring brand are dotted around the room as dandy eye candy. Slouching yet dressed to the teeth, a handful of young models populate the podium, wearing the upcoming Spring Summer 2015 collection. The clothes, part of creative director John Ray’s second collection for the brand, are that rare thing of elegant yet relaxed formalwear. Ray has skilfully designed and put the collection together to represent a portable wardrobe for weekends away to the countryside. “When I’ve finished working and want to get out of London, I’m not too bothered about what I put in my bag,” he explains from an adjacent room. “I stick my favourite sweater and favourite shoes in a bag because I know where I’m going is a very private place, no one will judge me for it, I’m completely at home.”
Ray is OK to relax and feel at home. Since his AW14 debut, the Scot and former Gucci menswear designer has begun a journey that, he says and critics agree, will set Dunhill back on track. “My job is to grow the DNA of the brand so people know what it stands for, so people know what to come to us for.” And for Ray, it’s very clear what that is: “We represent a very British take on menswear. I don’t want to re-innovate men’s fashion, just articulate what Dunhill really means.”
Having spent years working out of Milan, the Britain versus Italy comparison is inevitable. “I think we’re more understated than the Italians when it comes to fashion. The cut is different, it’s more quirky and playful, we’re all about mismatched ties and so on. Here, guys on the streets put things together in an interesting way but not necessarily eccentric. Dandies are not my style – I like character and personality, that to me is interesting.”
But it goes beyond the accessories and general style, it’s embedded in the actual suit fit, according to Ray. “Italian wear suits a lot closer to the body, the Brits don’t like it like as tight. The Italians put it together in a beautifully co-ordinated way but the Brits use challenging socks or ties, they break the rules,” he summarises. Interestingly, for Ray, all of that is related to the concept of school uniforms – but not in a negative way. Whereas non-Brits might view the idea of being forced to dress in a certain way year after year as controlled and restrictive, Ray seems to relish it as a sartorial blueprint for life: “School uniforms inform how we dress for years to come. Uniforms are good because you don’t have to think too much about them: they’re easy, utilitarian, practical and for me they’re about a sense of occasion.”
It’s interesting that Ray talks about ‘occasions’. One might argue that Dunhill, plus a few other contemporary yet classic tailoring brands (many of which also show on LC:M’s schedule) are defined by the idea of dressing for formal events. But in this day and age, is it enough to cater for award ceremonies, weddings and funerals? “We’re a lifestyle brand but there’s a certain formality to life. I wouldn’t like to see my bank manager wearing jeans and a T-shirt, that would upset me. There’s something elegant about sticking to the rules.”
Ray is taking Dunhill in the best possible direction. It’s a classic and traditional brand trading in the 21st century: he knows that people expect different things from a brand in 2014 compared to 1914. The fact that we are visiting Dunhill in between the Astrid Andersen and Matthew Miller shows, smack in the middle of the first London Collections: Men day is a testament to Ray’s appreciation of the situation.
The designer is not only at ease, he’s comfortable and confident about the brand’s role in a contemporary menswear scenario. “We have to stay true to the brand. Dunhill needs to be relevant, it doesn’t have to be shocking. We’re a heritage brand with its roots in maturity, but we can play around with that.”
Longstanding customers need not fear though; Ray is aware of theDo’s and Don’ts for a brand of Dunhill’s stature. “I’m not a fan of young designers given free reigns with old and established brands where they can play with them too much. Imagine if we did high-tech sportswear and not beautiful British tailoring – that would confuse our customers.” So far, so good. Dunhill is in safe hands. By the looks of it, this could very well be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
Highsnobiety Op-Ed: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil – A Beautiful Game or Social Injustice?
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup underway, we analyze the positive and negative impacts Brazil has experienced as a result of hosting both the World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
In late June last year, over 200,000 protesters gathered in a big square in a major South American city. Having remained peaceful for the duration, the rally boiled over and turned violent towards the end, causing riot police to fire tear gas at the crowds and declare Martial law to gain control of the situation. In recent years, this could have been the scene in many dissatisfied countries. Political corruption, severe austerity policies and anti-democratic coups are, unfortunately, a dime a dozen this side of the millennium. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, similar gatherings can potentially bring down governments and give hope to oppressed citizens.
But this particular rally, on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, was not opposing a dictatorial regime or protesting against nuclear arms. The Brazilian people took to the streets voicing their concerns in regard to sport. As Brazil is a fútbol crazy country, the people weren’t opposing the sport itself. On the contrary, it’s a great honor for the country to host the current World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Instead, the crowds were manifesting their poverty and complaining about the amount of money spent on these major entertainment events, as opposed to the general and fundamental upkeep of the country.
One of the reasons Brazil was given the 2016 Olympics, when pitted against Chicago and Tokyo, was that, according to local opinion polls, nearly all Brazilians were keen and eager to host the games. And the favorable for the World Cup at that time were, if possible, even higher. Few other countries are as defined by fútbol as Brazil. The sport symbolizes the Brazilian way of playing, partying, cheering, speaking…well, living basically.
The yellow jerseys and the iconic player names – everyone from Pelé and Ronaldo to Neymar, the current “craque” (Brazilian slang for the star player) – plus the countless World Cup victories arguably make Brazil the world’s biggest fútbol nation. Ever. This is the second time Brazil is hosting the World Cup. The last time, in 1950, neighbors Uruguay took home the trophy, much to the dismay of the Amazonian nation. Neymar and his teammates will work very hard to make sure it stays in Sao Paolo this time around. But a potential victory at the best and just hosting the tournament at the worst, is an expensive affair. So far over $3 billion from public funds have been spent on upgrading old stadiums and building new ones. Initially,less than $1 billion was earmarked for this.
It was this spending spree that provoked Brazilians to take to the streets last year, and similar protests – sometimes with resulting fatalities – have been reoccurring ever since, even escalating in the immediate run up. A lot is at stake; President Dilma Rousseff will be hoping for a success to set the scene for her reelection in October. Obviously, how you define “success” in this instance depends on who you ask. For most Brazilians, it’s a victory and enough money left in the coffers to pay for healthcare and education. The government, though surely happy with accomplishing mentioned goals, also wants to increase Brazil’s international standing as a South American super power. For quite some time now, Brazil has been billed an “emerging market.” For how much longer, President Rousseff must be asking herself.
It is true that plenty of upmarket fashion brands are establishing themselves in Rio and Sao Paolo; there is no shortage of expendable income in Brazil, at least for a few select. With its vast geographical space, there’s plenty of places to make money here. By hosting not only the World Cup but also the Olympics, Brazil is gambling it all on one – well, two – hands. Will it pay off? Considering that as late as a couple of weeks ago a few of the World Cup stadiums – the very same the government spent $3 billion on - weren’t ready for the tournament, that’s far from guaranteed.
In the immediate run up to the World Cup, the protests went into overdrive, both on the streets and in the media; even fútbol legend Pelé criticized the expenses, and local bishops issued a “red card” to the organizers for wasting public funds. But the Brazilian economy, the sixth biggest in world, should be financially sound enough to host the World Cup. Or the Olympics. Problems arise when you have to organize both. Even London in 2012 and Sochi earlier this year struggled to secure enough money and to stay within budget. In the UK, politicians and the public still squabble over the “legacy” and question if it’s ever worth hosting such an expensive event.
The yay-sayers argue it’s valuable and profitable for the economy, that the country will benefit both financially and in terms of image. They say it will bring the country together, unite them as they a) cheer for their team at the World Cup and b) join a select group of proud Olympics hosts. The last two accounts are true. Fútbol is a social sport, and nowhere is that as true as in Brazil. It transcends the barriers of gender, nationality and ethnicity. Fútbol is used to reach out to young kids in need of social stability, it helps break down gang culture and encourages team work that will help further education. And then there’s the health factor; fútbol is good for your body. There was even a UN-instigated “International Day of Sport for Development and Peace” for the first time ever back in April.
Fútbol clubs are paying their players too much money and corruption, as we’ve seen with the Qatar 2022 World Cup allegations, is rife – but there’s no denying the sport is the one game that unites the world, be it Poland, America, Cameroon, South Korea or Brazil. The Pro-World Cup debaters also talk about the events as opportunities to invest in the Brazilian infrastructure, an area which needs extra funds due to the sheer size of the country. But doubting experts question if roads and railways really will benefit as large sums are spent on new stadiums – money which is borrowed from banks. Does Brazil actually need those mega-sized arenas? Already fútbol crazy, the country is filled with big enough stadiums. Will that be the legacy of the World Cup? Victory or no victory for Brazil – enormous half empty arenas in the middle of the jungle and suffering schools in the city? Will the education system and healthcare actually benefit from Brazil’s new image as an Olympic host? Is it worth the economic investment? Currently, only 34% of Brazilians actually think the World Cup will help the domestic economy, while a surprising 39% even think the tournament will hurt the country’s image. These numbers are not only discouraging for the organizers, but are very close to a complete and utter catastrophe.
Perhaps the Olympics make more sense. The sports are spread out, the stadiums will facilitate more disciplines: kids will be encouraged to try other sports as well. Fútbol is closer to Brazil’s heart but was it too greedy to take on two big events with just a few years in between? With domestic experts even arguing the World Cup and the Olympics won’t have as much positive impact on the infrastructure as promised, who are the real winners after the games? Looking closer at other host nations, actual and measurable profit from a purely economic point of view is comparatively small. All in all, the World Cup and Olympic Games comes across as gigantic vanity projects, paid for by the poorest people in Rio’s favelas and the kids in Sao Paolo who are in desperate need of improved schools and a functioning healthcare.
Fútbol is known as The Beautiful Game but, as the current situation in Brazil shows, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Port Magazine: Manchester Love: Oi Polloi x Palladium Film
The footwear brand and Steve Sanderson from the legendary Manchester store highlight the Northern Quarter in this ‘Boots Explorer’ clip
On paper it’s Birmingham. The second biggest city in the UK. And, in terms of size and population, that’s true. But if you consider any other variables, such as music, art, sport and fashion, Manchester is at No 2, snapping at London’s puffed up back. Some people would even argue it’s London that’s behind. Nevertheless, Manchester has – especially in the last 30 odd years through its music scene and football success – done a great deal to further the UK from a cultural point of view.
Though most avant-garde fashion has come out of London, ‘the North’ in general has developed a knack for discarding conceptual clothes in favour of wearable and functional everyday clothes. Might sound a tad boring. But, on the contrary, to make wardrobe staples attractive is arguably more difficult than letting your fantasy loose on a directional show piece.
As a consequence, there are several local first class retail outlets dedicated to selling this lifestyle. As one of the pioneers, Oi Polloi is a world renowned shop, known amongst contemporary casualwear customers for their “good quality and good looking gear that’s fit for purpose.” Owners Steve Sanderson and Nigel Lawson set up shop in 2002 and now, with more than a decade behind them, the brand is as strong as ever. Talk to Steve and his crew and you’re faced with a down to earth quality that’s in the business for all the right reasons: finding and selling top gear that you not just put at the back of the wardrobe for another day, but start wearing immediately.
Manchester, the city, is a big part of the fundamental philosophy behind Oi Polloi. The buildings, the people, the attitude, their lives… all come in to play when you look at the bigger picture… which is exactly what Steve does in this brief clip filmed to coincide with footwear experts Palladium’s ‘Boots Explorer’ series. Walking through Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Steve talks about his own experiences of the city, and his view point on the past, present and future.
As Somerset House launch its summer expo about the music and style obsessed sub-culture, creative director Harris Elliott and David Hellqvist discuss what brands modern day Rudeboys wear and who their ultimate style icon is
You see them in Hackney and Hounslow, in Chelsea and Croydon, on Savile Row and Sandringham Road: well-dressed young men that walk with attitude. It’s not far from a catwalk strut, defined by confidence and poise. But they’re not cads. Just being dapper is all good and dandy, but it’s the added swag and attitude that make them Rudeboys. Everyone can buy a fly outfit, not everyone can carry it off. As often is the case, it’s all down to the full package, it’s a lifestyle and a way of living. The music you listen to, the barber you go to, the kind of place you frequent for lunch, and whereabouts you go dancing in the evenings.
To some, the Rudeboy concept is a thing of the past, something young men lived 40, 50 years ago and then grew out of. To others it’s very much a modern day phenomena. To make that point photographer Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott spent the last year putting together a contemporary celebration of the Rudeboy lifestyle. Featuring images, a pop up barber shop, film screenings and seminars, Return of the Rudeboy a 360 take on the sub-culture. “The exhibition is relevant now because the Rudeboy mind state is growing so more people are choosing this way of expressing themselves,” Elliott explains.
The term ‘Rudeboy’ originates from late 1950s, early 60s Jamaica and spread to the UK shortly after through Ska music put out by classic record labels and bands, such as 2 Tone and The Specials. But it’s incorrect to say the movement just evolves around one type of music today: “Back in the day the Rudeboy soundtrack would have been reggae and punk but now, in the 21st century, Rudeboys cannot be defined by a singular style of music.” But for Elliott, it’s not just the tunes that characterises a Rudeboy. “No, it’s someone that has a strong spirit, a recognisable style that is sometimes hard to define… there is an element of sartorialism but there is often a twist to it, as it is not just about dressing smart, but also with a swagger and an attitude to match.”
So obviously a lot of it comes down to the clothes, the easiest way to visually manifest your beliefs on a daily basis. But it is more about style than fashion, it isn’t based on trends but an attitude and an approach to expressing oneself. “The key elements are tailored suits, hats, skinny ties, cropped trousers and some badass shoes. Back then the tailor was everything, there wasn’t Ready to Wear shops like now,” Elliott says.”There is a story that when Price Buster came to the UK, his first stop was to a tailor and he grabbed a pair of scissors and personally chopped 6 inches off the bottom of his trousers, then later that night he went on stage and that one act started a trend that many of us still follow today.
But the Return of the Rudeboy expo is, crucially, as much about today as yesterday. The people featured in the show are alive and well, strutting down London streets as I type. So what, I wonder, are they wearing now, what are the current Rudeboy staples? “Dr Martens boots, Mr Hare shoes and Spencer Hart shirts – but they would often still have their clothes tailored for them.” For Harris Elliott, the ultimate Rudeboys – past and present – are Jimmy Cliff, Mos Def and David Bowie.
But what about tomorrow? Where is the next generation of Rudeboys living? Elliott thinks that – much like the punk movement in Tatcher’s 70s and 80s Britain – the movement evolves from areas and eras where people suffer and fight oppression: “The next embodiment of Rudeboys I feel will come from places like South Africa. Sub-cultures often emanate from the ground up, and it is poverty and the need to react and resist that causes most new movements to flourish, not needing mainstream appreciation.” And that’s exactly the point of a Rudeboy; they’re not looking for commercial confirmation, this is not a High Street lifestyle… A Rudeboy doesn’t dress for your approval but for his own pleasure.
Port Magazine: In Conversation - Pip Jenkins, Designer at John Smedley
230 years old but still going strong: The British knitwear company’s SS14 collection, inspired by the Henley Royal Regatta, continues their quest for “contemporary, luxurious and innovative garments”, as David Hellqvist finds out
John Smedley, as a company, is just about as old as the United States of America. Started only eight years after Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, the knitwear specialists of Matlock, Derbyshire, have developed and matured since. Exactly 230 years later the brand is not a sartorial pensioner lacking in relevance, but still a vibrant and energetic teenager. You’re only as old as you feel, as the saying goes. As a result, John Smedley is today a comfortable and natural part of London Collections: Men, the capital’s world renowned menswear week, where established giants showcase their biannual catwalk collections alongside new and upcoming avant-garde graduates.
Though defined by traditional knitwear, John Smedley – partly through constantly rejuvenating itself by taking on fresh and new design talent – is also at the forefront of high-tech wool technology and dedicated to sustainable materials. By realising that fabric technology is fashion’s last frontier, John Smedley is able to compete with other, perhaps more fashion-focused brands.
John Smedley creatives, like head designer Pip Jenkins, a Kingston on Thames university graduate, have skilfully stayed away from anchoring the brand in catwalk hysteria, instead opting for a more product-focused attitude. Perfecting key pieces and slowly developing new signature staples allows Jenkins to let the actual garments do the John Smedley talking. It might sound obvious, but in a hype-crazed 2014, that’s not always the case. Quality is a must and heritage a plus, but product is king. Not many brands have them all. John Smedley is that rare combination of tradition and direction, a brand as comfortable with its past as with the future.
Having worked with storied brands (Brooks Brothers) as well as new and hyped designers (Richard Nicoll), Pip Jenkins (pictured) knows that she has the best of both worlds. As the SS14 season moves into the last leg of pimento red knitted polo shirts, Malachite green merino sweats and tourmaline blue shirts we sat down with Jenkins to discuss John Smedley’s past, present and future…
What was the starting point for SS14 collection?
The SS14 collection is called ‘OUR TIME’ with its strong links to sports and a trip to Henley Royal Regatta where we were inspired by the rowing team jerseys, with hooped stripes, colour blocking and even down to the team boats having strong contrast and colour. We also pick a key story each season that highlights our craftsmanship and ability, this season we chose to tell the story about John Smedleytrading in Japan for 100 years, where we dyed our classic product in natural indigo dye using age old traditional techniques.
What are the key pieces, what garments sum it up?
I would say the Hadley style, which is a short sleeve T-shirt that encapsulates the inspiration with its thick hoop stripes, bold colours and traditional Henley style neck line. Also another key style is the polo shirt Race with its team like chest stripes and the John Smedley logo badge.
Where does that logo badge come from, what does it mean?
The badge was drawn from the modernist jay bird logo which was first introduced as a mark of quality in 1934 on a range of our men’s polo shirts.
Is an Autumn collection normally easier than the Summer ones?
Yes, in someways specially being a knitwear brand as people see us as a winter product but I feel we are quite lucky having such amazing fine gauge product in some great staple fibres specially in the SS14 season with our John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton which really adds luxury to a product and makes it more versatile. We can dye our John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton to get great depth of colour which adds some bright and existing colours to the collection. Also we’ve added some chunky cotton piece to the ss collection to add a wider range of products in to the collection to broaden the offering.
What is the main objective for a knitwear-focused brand in a Summer collection?
Our main objective is always to create contemporary, luxurious and innovative garments, we’re lucky to have such a rich heritage as well as really modern technical abilities and we’re able to continue to showcase them in both our Spring Summer and Autumn Winter collections. Particularly for the Summer, we focus on delivering wearable and interesting luxury pieces and experiment with the gauges of our materials so that each piece, although knitwear, is still wearable and breathable whatever the weather!
What’s the most technically advanced garment in this collection?
I would say the small collection we did for the signature styles, celebrating 100 years of trading in Japan. There we used our classic product but had to research into dying the piece in natural indigo dye. So we had to strip back the production process we had in place and rethink how we could bring this age old process into a production environment. As the process was so time consuming, the collection became limited edition as each piece had to be hand dipped in the natural indigo, which looked more like a yellow-green, though once the garment was pulled from the dye vat it would slowly turn to indigo as it oxidised in the air.
Which one is your favourite?
This season, the 1012MSIG V neck cardigan style in the signature collection which was celebrating 100 years of trading in Japan is my favourite piece. It’s got a great story to tell down to the process of how it’s been produced by hand, to the reason why we decided to design and produce it for the collection.
What made you focus on knitwear as a student?
As I studied a BA in fashion design they were quite flexible about if you wanted to do knitwear or not, but I was finding it quite frustrating never finding the right fabric for my designs. So I would spend hours developing my own fabric on the knitting machines. I found it so much more rewarding and exciting that I could design and produce every aspect of the garment myself and really create the vision I wanted to achieve. The possibilities are endless on a knitting machine…
Was John Smedley always on your hit list of potential employers?
After working for Brooks Brothers in New York, I knew I wanted to work for a company with rich heritage, but one still looking to be contemporary with their knowledge. So when I got to do a project with John Smedley at university and visit the factory, I relished the fact I’d stepped into a knitting world where you could see every process of the garment being made. From then on I knew the brand was for me.
What, would you say, is John Smedley’s DNA… what makes it stand out as a brand?
Colour, quality, ‘Made in Britain’, craftsmanship, design and community.
How much of a collection is based on heritage and archive?
For this collection we took the story of us trading with Japan for 100 years from the archive, other than that we stay true to the brand but contemporary at the same time by pushing the boundaries of our technical ability.
Is technology and forward-thinking fabrics important for you? How can a knitwear brand progress that?
Technology and forward-thinking is important to the brand, and my designs, as we need to look forwards to the future but still keep an essence of our past. Every season I try to develop a new technique on our machines or look into a different dying process. We don’t really use technical yarns as most of the ones on the market are man-made and synthetic, which isn’t what we are about, but our extra fine merino has some amazing features and benefits that I think people forget about and take for granted, like its breathability, temperature regulation, odour resistance, softness and elasticity…
David Hellqvist discusses emotional anarchy and political fashion with the menswear designer ahead of his expo at London’s OTHER/Shop
There are some designers that think fashion is superficial. They say clothes and politics have nothing in common and should be kept apart. It’s true that culture, for example a painting, doesn’t have to carry a political message, but it’s quite easy for the artist to add such a layer, should he or she wish to. The same goes for fashion. But they don’t have to use slogans à la Katherine Hamnett or constantly talk about global warming, like Vivienne Westwood. There are other, more subtle ways, of making your designs inherently political, as London designer Matthew Miller shows. On the back of his London Collections: Men show for AW14, the menswear designer is this week launching a capsule show at Soho’s OTHER/Shop. Refusing not to let his clothes express feelings and emotions, Miller have added another visual layer – with the help of Studio Baron – by allowing these images to tell the story of his collection through emotional anarchy.
What is ‘emotional anarchy’?
It’s a form of expression, in its simple form. It’s universally known that men who express themselves emotionally are generally suppressed by society. In an array of forms, it is – as a man – not really socially acceptable to express your feelings. I decided to let men express their inner most feelings and mix these with anarchic symbols. This created these really powerful images of marching masculinity, brandishing black flags emblazoned with their inner most fears.
Who are the 13 Apostles?
It’s a reference to the IRA Freedom Fighters, The 12 Apostles. For me, 13 represents every letter of my name, every one of the apostles is holding a different funeral letter, spelling out my name.
Why is emotional anarchy relevant to us in 2014?
Because the world should fear the minorities and issues that they choose to ignore or suppress. We’ve seen over the last four years the destruction of societies across the globe. If we don’t talk, or tell each other the way we feel, it only causes chaos death and destruction. In modern history we are more connected than ever before, but more distant than ever.
Tell me about the images, what did you look at for inspiration?
For the photo shoot we took heavy influences from the photographs of para-military soldiers, their stances, and what it meant to be part of a minority, fighting for a cause you inherently believed in; the draped flags, the colours, the funeral flowers of a brother in arms. We also looked at portraits of political leaders at the time, to reference the posture and stance. The back drop, references a party political conference, the emotional anarchy party political conference.
How do you work up these themes, they are very dark?
Yes, I’m very dark in my references, and I think you can only really re-appropriate and reference what you know. I work in the fashion industry, but as a designer I don’t really have what is considered a normal view of what luxury is. I see luxury as being freedom of expression, a scar to remember a moment, or an industrial piece of scaffolding for its design sensibilities. For me, it’s anything but jewels, diamonds and all the superfluous icons of luxury. Old luxury is dead. Long live social luxury!
Who did you work with, and why, on this project?
I worked very closely with Studio Baron. Jonathan Baron and Matthew Holroyd shot, styled and art directed the shoot. I really enjoy working with people, and no more than these two individuals. They really know my dark references, and really understand them. And they brought so much to this shoot. They’re really intelligent guys.
Port Magazine: Wooyoungmi x Mr Porter Capsule Collection
Madame Woo explains the reasoning behind her latest capsule collection, in collaboration with the esteemed E-tailers
In music they call them ‘super groups’. It’s when two or more already famous musicians come together to form a new band, either as a short term project or as a longstanding entity. In fashion, the equivalent would be the ‘collaboration’. Often they’re based on two brands bringing different skills to the table. But of late, due to the ever-demanding cyclic behaviour of fashion, and the increased consumer thirst of punters, brands have also looked towards stores and shops as potential sartorial partners.
The latest such venture includes the South Korean, Paris-based brand Wooyoungmi and London’s Mr Porter. The site, the male counterpart to Net-a-Porter, has made a name for itself through high quality editorial content and, of late, collaborative capsule collections with some of the brands they stock. Not along ago Port got an exclusive preview look at the AMI collection they produced with Alexandre Matiussi. Now, on the back of the SS14 collections, Mr Porter and Madame Woo, the creative director and founder of Wooyoungmi, are presenting a small and exclusive take on a capsule wardrobe. Using the same colour scheme as the current SS14 offering, but adding the handiwork of illustrator Kyung Woo Han, the duo have not only furthered the existing seasonal message, but also created a new and unique snap shot of a time and place that’s wearable. No super group can ever do that…
Did Kyung Woo Han work on the mainline collection as well, if so on what?
Each season we commission an artist to reinterpret the collection for a series of works. For SS14, Kyung Woo Han focused on the inspiration of the SS14 collection – that of a desert landscape, manipulating the cactus greens, sky blue and sandy terracotta. Kyung’s interpretation inspired the capsule in an almost cyclical nature.
One of the key elements of the SS14 collection were the horizontal stripes which featured throughout several different looks, Kyung Woo Han took the stripes that feature heavily throughout the
SS14 collection and created this print for the SS14 advertising campaign. For the Mr Porter collaboration we then took this print a step further and applying directly to the garments.
Who is he, where did you first come in contact with him?
Kyung Woo Han is a South Korean artist who we had been aware of for some time. We felt his minimalist aesthetic would work seamlessly with the SS14 collection.
Can you describe the print?
The print is as though you are peering out of a window at a beautiful desert landscape, adopting the sandy terracotta, blues of the sky and cactus green.
Why these garments? Are they key to a small capsule wardrobe?
We aimed to create a full wardrobe of summer basics that every man needs. The collection offers casual and refined daywear ideal for the warmer months: each part works individually but also cohesively as full looks.
Is there anything in this collection that is a Wooyoungmi staple piece?
Re-imagining a classic men’s coat is key to all Wooyoungmi collections so adopting Han’s prints to create the reversible bomber jacket for the capsule collection seemed to be the perfect summer item.
How would you define the brand, what is its DNA?
Each season I have a clear vision in my mind of the the man I am designing for. He is refined and elegant – a gentleman who appreciates the arts and takes care in his appearance. The pieces he wears are contemporary and masculine yet delicate in approach.
Why does a capsule collection with Mr Porter make sense, what connects the two brands?
For us it is very important to work with those who understand of our brand and the team at Mr Porter have a very clear understanding of our brand and of who the Wooyoungmi man is, allowing us to create a capsule collection of items that are functional, utilitarian and a clear evolution from our spring summer mainline.
Highsnobiety Op-Ed | The Future of Wearable Technology
Who’s leading the way in wearable technology? The fashion/lifestyle brands or the technology giants?
In fashion, the musical chairs circus, i.e. designers leaving one brand to join a competing House, has gone into overload over the last few years. Every once in a while someone quits or gets fired, and an avalanche of social media speculations are launched about where they’re off to and who their possible successor is. It’s part of the celebrity-obsessed personality cult that today grips everything from music to politics, and fashion is no exception. Traditionally, less coverage is dedicated to the career movements of fashion brand CEOs, and other high ranking administrative staff. Wall Street Journal and Financial Times are more likely to report on it than Vogue and Elle. Only the Business of Fashion will delve on it.
In the last few months, established fashion houses have started losing CEOs to Apple. Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts and Saint Laurent’s Paul Deneve have both left to take up Vice President roles in Silicon Valley. Ahrendts as head of retail operations and Deneve to look after special projects. Cue a flurry of speculations about what Apple is up to with these two high-flying fashion execs onboard.
Around the same time, Nike announced that they’re downgrading the staff numbers working on their FuelBand project, their most forward-thinking project in terms of wearable technology. Simultaneously, the South Korean phone company Samsung is pushing ahead and developing a similar project, the Gear Fit, which combines a fitness band with a smart watch.
It begs the question: who is leading the way in wearable technology, the fashion/lifestyle brands or the technology giants?
At the moment, all points towards the technology brands who, obviously, have the expertise and know-how when it comes to developing new ideas. But they lack a fundamental understanding of style and, to a certain degree, the physical and active aspect of the product.
Hence, the design of Nike’s FuelBand is more aesthetically pleasing compared to the Gear Fit. The style to substance ratio is indeed important as only a few dedicated technology obsessives will buy these products if the design isn’t right, and the whole concept of “wearable technology” is so new that no one actually knows exactly what it will look like in the future. What is known, though, is that certain levels of sophisticated design and elevated image qualities will be necessary.
Based on Nike’s decision and the Ahrendts/Deneve move, it seems the fashion industry won’t be leading the fight – it has to be the technology sector. Apparently, Nike didn’t want to invest more money in developing products that, although they looked better, were arguably inferior or not competitive enough with respect to other products, such as the Samsung Gear Fit.
The advantage of Samsung and Apple is that their wearable technology can be hooked up to their entire world of communication: be it phone calls, emails, chats or social media. Nike, on the other hand, doesn’t have access to such a technologically advanced network.
Though both companies employ top-notch designers, Jonathan Ive in the case of Apple, they need help in order to break into the hardcore wearable market. Google Glass is a good example of a digital and high-tech company developing a complicated product and asking for help when it comes to introducing the technology into the mainstream market. Recently, Luxottica, the Italian eyewear company that works with several world-leading design brands, announced that they are teaming up some of their brands with Google Glass. Ray-Ban and Oakley, two classic eyewear brands operating in both fashion-led and sport dominated markets, will soon be compatible with Google’s digital eyewear technology.
Google would not have been able to achieve mainstream success (and it’s still unclear if they will) had they approached the consumers on their own. Sure, their in-house designed glasses are not that bad, but they are still Google glasses, far less respectable and recognized compared to Ray-Ban, for example. Apple and Samsung need to look toward Google in that respect. Whatever it is they’re planning in terms of wearable technology, people will interact differently with this product as opposed to iPhones and iPods. Even Nike might not have the know-how in terms of developing a FuelBand that can compete with, for example, Samsung’s Gear Fit, but they have an intricate and inherent skill to produce well-designed products that are hype-friendly. And in this day and age that’s crucial.
On that note, there have been hints offered by Samsung that they’re launching a Google Glass competitor called “Gear Blink.” It will be interesting to see what, if any, established eyewear brands they approach. Of course, the kind of collaborative brands the technology experts see as suitable also says a lot about themselves and where they see their own brand; whether that be mainstream and commercial, high street, cheap or luxury fashion.
In the case of Ahrendts and Deneve, the two ex-fashion operatives were obviously not hired by Apple for their design skills. Again, who can compete with Ive? But, as head of retail operations, Ahrendts will use her Burberry experience (as well as having worked for Donna Karan and Liz Clairborne) to bolster both the brick-and-mortar and online shopping experience at Apple.
Paul Deneve’s brief is slightly vague, which, of course, makes it more interesting. What kind of “special projects” will a former Saint Laurent CEO work on for Apple? Well, look at his track record, what was his biggest achievement at Saint Laurent? The clue is in the name. Deneve helped rebrand the company by losing Yves. It was Deneve who hired ex-Dior Homme designer Hedi Slimane, knowing that Slimane would completely change the design direction – at least compared to Stefano Pilati – and alter the classic YSL logo.
Like it or not (and lots of people don’t), but a few seasons in, it seems to be a commercial success. The fashion consumer is buying into it. They understand and appreciate the visual language of not only the clothes, but also the new store design and overall brand communication.
This is why Apple wanted Paul Deneve and Angela Ahrendts; they know the importance of collaborations, they know how to sell expensive luxury products, they are able to make money on handbags, sunglasses and perfumes on the back of catwalk collections; they can spot talent, they take risks, they dare rebrand classic names (look at Burberry’s transformation in the last decade), they have contacts in Paris, not just Silicon Valley, they speak to magazine editors on a daily basis, they live fashion.
By taking on leading fashion CEOs, Apple is increasing its chances of success when it comes to developing wearable technology. You don’t trust Google when it comes to glasses (the frames, not the technology) but you would buy Ray-Bans and Oakleys.
Samsung needs to get on the case. There are few companies that can compete with Apple and Samsung is one of them. They have less of an association with stylish design a la Apple, so already they are fighting an uphill battle. Samsung needs their own Ahrendts and Deneve. They need to look towards Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci. Which CEOs are left to pinch?
Rounding it off, one real example of a design-led company taking on not just high-end fashion but also high-end technology is Studio XO. The north London-based company, headed up by designer Nancy Tilbury and engineer Ben Males, have a track record of fusing technology and fashion. Due to the showmanship and stage potential of their products, XO studio has been welcomed with open arms by the music industry. Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas and Azealia Banks are all happy customers. Tilbury and Males provided Lady Gaga with the flying dress that she took for a live test drive at a press conference last year, and previous achievements include LED-accessorized suits and digital mermaid bras.
With ambitions to move their clothing off the stage and into ordinary peoples’ wardrobes, Studio XO is living and breathing wearable technology, operating at the “crossroads of physical-digital media.” The difference between Nike and XO is, obviously, the sheer size but it’s also worth noting that the likes of Nike, and other fashion/lifestyle brands that have ventured into similar areas, are not fully dedicated to this kind of product. They’re in the business of selling trainers and apparel, not smartphone technology.
Studio XO, though, was founded with one purpose and one purpose only, to marry aesthetically pleasing garments and gadgets with the technology of tomorrow. Maybe that’s where the future of wearable technology lies.
Varon Magazine Vol 8: Smell the Love... Ben Gorham Cover Story
Swedish scent maverick Ben Gorham tells David Hellqvist about fashion collaborations, his new line of leather accessories and whether or not a scent can define a person
“There are millions of smells left to capture,” Ben Gorham says, smiling confidently. That may be so, but with 20 scents to his name since setting up fragrance house Byredo in 2006, the 36 year-old Swede is certainly off to a good start. There are instances when a new brand comes along and you just know it will do well. It’s not just about the product, but also the atmosphere and feeling of the company, the people behind it, the name, the packaging and how it makes you feel – all major key players in the making of a brand. When it appeared, Byredo scored highly in all areas. Today, it’s both a successful scent business with worldwide distribution and, due to stylish product presentation, multiple high-end style collaborations and Gorham’s own distinctive personality and looks (a former elite basketball player, he’s 6’5” and tattooed), a fashion force to be reckoned with. But Gorham’s interests, due to personal preferences, also veer towards art, as his collaborative toothpaste with artist Carsten Höller proves. The success is also partly due to his curatorial approach to his creative business. “I always found it interesting to add the perspective of someone else that doesn’t have perfume training as I come from a similar background myself,” he says.
That’s right, Gorham isn’t a Nose (‘Nose’ being the semi-official and affectionate name for the professionals tasked with creating perfumes and new scents). Rather, he comes from a creative point of view, having studied fine arts at a Stockholm university. At no point was he looking to start a perfume company until he encountered Pierre Wulff, one of Scandinavia’s leading Noses. “We met through a common friend,” Gorham says. “Our first meeting actually sparked a discussion about the creative possibilities of the invisible medium of perfume. I had just graduated from art school and was much more focused on visual expression, but became fascinated by Pierre’s insight and experience. I later asked him to help me with the creative project that would become Byredo, the brand and company.” With the assistance of a graphic designer working at Acne, Gorham designed the characteristic logo and set up his company. Now he just needed a scent.
The personal touch that comes with Byredo is what makes it unique, especially in an industry in which perfumes prop up the whole economy. Together with handbags, sunglasses and other accessories, perfumes are how most major fashion brands make actual money. Clothes are often a mere marketing exercise to raise the image of the brand and to make customers spend money on affordable yet aspirational accessories. In that context, Byredo is a welcome exception. Gorham’s first perfume, Green, was his attempt to recreate the scent of his father, whom he’d not seen since an early age. To make this happen, Wulff recommended that Gorham approach two of the world’s leading Noses, Jérôme Epinette and Olivia Giacobetti. “They are two extremely talented perfumers that I have been fortunate to work with when creating Byredo,” Gorham says of the duo. “I’ve chosen to continue working with only these two perfumers because I felt that level of trust and understanding was important when creating a perfume. Looking back, it’s clear that they are the true artists in this process.”
It’s interesting how Gorham sees his own role in the company he set up as it isn’t dependent on his creative skills. His business card says ‘creative director’, but he’s obviously a lot more than that. To the wider public, he is Byredo. “I simply set the direction for a perfume,” he explains. “I’m also the one that makes the emotional decision of when a perfume is finished.” Is he perhaps a curator rather than a designer? “I think I’m both and a hundred other things as well.” It’s true that Gorham has moved the goalposts for his own creative input when it comes to Byredo. Not because he’s now mixing scents himself, but because the company has diversified and launched a new line of leather handbags. “It was the first time I’d worked with leather and that specific craft,” he says. “In comparison to our fragrances, bags demand a strong visual presence, and I placed more emphasis on functionality because it represented relevance. I’ve worked on 12 bags and Byredo will most definitely make more than perfumes, but I try not to focus my energy too far into the future. I’m fortunate to be doing something I truly love, and as that evolves, so does Byredo.”
So far, Byredo has grown only in a healthy way, topping the list of independent scent-makers in terms of both fashion credibility and perfumes with integrity. Recent collaborative projects include an Acne candle, a Fantastic Man scent and M/MINK, a perfume made with Mathias Augustyniak and Michaël Amzala of French creative agency M/M (Paris). The two Ms are long-term Byredo collaborators, and designed monograms for the new handbag line. They also hooked up Gorham with photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who now shoot all Byredo campaigns. “All my projects are done with people I know and they come about organically,” Gorham says. “The collaborations are more about people than brands, as was the case with the Inez & Vinoodh project that we launched last fall.” He’s referring to a perfume Byredo made with one of the Dutch duo’s images as the only inspiration. The bottle was sent to family and friends as a Christmas gift.
The process behind making each Byredo perfume is as different as the actual scent. As mentioned, quite a few of the early Byredo scents were extremely personal, with Gorham looking not only to his absent father for inspiration but also his mother (Encens Chembur) and wife (Blanche). “The way we work really varies. Sometimes the process is about imagination and dreams and sometimes it’s about culture, history and people. My research is travelling and meeting people – I’m constantly trying to understand and learn more about my environment. I try to document my experiences by taking photographs and writing notes.” The Acne candle smells like the halls of Acne’s head office, which is housed in a historic ballroom in the ‘old town’ area of Stockholm that’s full of “cold stone and old wood panels, and a bit dusty to be honest.” M/Mink, meanwhile, smells like Japanese calligraphy ink. “It’s been described as ‘violent and beautiful’,” Gorham says. “I was able to work with M/M (Paris) on a project where I had them write the brief for a perfume. Usually they are imagemakers on the receiving end of creative briefs, which made this project a little backwards, but the result was a truly unique perfume.”
Byredo’s packaging and minimal logo might scream Scandinavian sensibility, but Gorham’s family has global roots. Born to a Canadian father and an Indian mother, he grew up in 1980s Sweden, a place and time unlike anything else. Gorham and family still live in Stockholm, in a beautiful flat in the trendy Söder area. “In terms of building Byredo, I would say it’s been important that the company was based in Sweden, at least creatively. The isolation has allowed me to focus on building a unique identity for the brand and our products. At the same time I found it challenging to build an organisation in a place where people have no industry experience.” And, growing up in a suburb of Stockholm, Gorham’s life was truly multicultural. “All my friends had different origins, some even multicultural like myself. It was a bit isolated and naive in Sweden back then but at the same time quite safe and the standard of living for most people was high.” So, does he think Sweden has a scent? “Sweden has many smells of course, but the first few days of spring smell quite incredible here. I’m sure the long dark winter days amplify the sensation. It’s a great country. Most people live a good life here but the weather sucks nine months of the year.”
Though the fashion industry and customers alike have come embraced Byredo with open arms, Gorham initially found business veterans difficult to charm. “The beauty industry can be a very conservative environment, and when I founded Byredo people questioned my work, referring to the fact that I didn’t have the typical industry background.” Gorham chose the only path available to a newcomer, producing high-quality products with the help of the best possible creative help. He looked at the industry, asked himself how the envelope can be pushed, and came up with a simple but genius idea. “A few years ago we launched a bespoke fragrance service allowing people to completely tailor a perfume. In that process I found a person’s character translated to likes and dislikes in terms of smell. I suppose because of smell’s subjective nature, a portion of that work was my interpretation of character.” But Gorham knows that it isn’t the scent that makes a person. It’s when the perfume comes in to contact with human skin that magic happens. “A smell is never enough to define an individual. The work I’ve done relating to specific individuals has really been about the way I remember them smelling or how I would want them to smell.”
Varon Magazine Vol 8: The Prince of Print - Tony Cederteg
Multi-skilled art director and publisher Tony Cederteg sits down with David Hellqvist to talk about his tattoos, why print matters and which creative discipline is most important to him
We live in a world where everyone wants to be creative. Just about every young person dreams of working in an ‘artistic’ profession rather than the traditional jobs their parents usually have. But once they’ve decided on a direction and trained for it, quite often another one draws them in. I suppose, from a positive point of view, this can chalked down to ambition and always wanting more out of life, which is of course a good quality in a person. But look at it in a cynical way and you see youngsters – or even older people – who aren’t able to see their creative limits. Maybe it’s better for most of us not to take on every creative profession available and end up being mediocre at all of them. Know who you are, find your skills and keep hammering away towards perfection. It isn’t achievable, of course, but that’s the beauty of it.
What doesn’t help is when certain people, and we all know one or two, come along and prove themselves fully capable of hopping between different artistic fields with ease, never showing signs of struggling with completely opposite creative disciplines. Tony Cederteg is one of them. As the man behind independent book publishing company Libraryman, co-founder of the recently launched film magazine Dogme and the former art director of fashion brand Our Legacy, the multi-skilled Renaissance man has proved that creative monogamy isn’t always the best solution. The 32-year-old Swede has worked with as varied clients as Sun Buddies, Très Bien Shop, Dover Street Market, Helmut Lang, Eytys, Diesel and Nike, balancing just the right amount of commercial and artistic work. Although Cederteg has made a mark with his own photography, design and music (he used to play drums in a death metal band), it’s arguably as a curator that has has reached his biggest audience.
Libraryman was founded six years ago as a platform for independent art books. Since then, Cederteg has designed, edited and published books from such distinguished artists as Ola Rindal, Ron Jude, Viviane Sassen and Hal Hartley. Often they come back for more, demonstrating that their relationship with Cederteg is clearly a long-standing one built on trust and mutual appreciation. There’s also room for films at Libraryman, as 2012’s ‘Fikon’ proved. Written, directed and edited by Cederteg, the film also features Our Legacy designer Cristopher Nying, another of his long-term associates. Films, and not just his own, are clearly a passion of his. Earlier this year, Cederteg co-founded a new print title, Dogme, that looks closer at the film industry from Libraryman’s very specific point of view. “We use this magazine to talk about a broad spectrum of things we’re collectively interested in,” editor-in-chief Katherine Clary says. “Namely film, fashion and photography. Mostly to have a reason to talk to and feature the people we admire. We’re not trying to teach anyone the history of film or have a critical dialogue about film theory, but there’s definitely a time and place for that, too. We’re interested in showing and sharing what we’re interested in, intellectual or not.”
Cederteg and his work prove that some people should not be limited by creative disciplines. They need to be able to roam freely, try new things and put out as much content as possible. The rest of us will just have to look on and use it as fuel for our own artistic ambitions. He’s difficult to pin down – he’s often found in New York one week, in Tokyo the next and then back in Stockholm for a few days – so Varón had to put its foot down and demand that he pause for a conversation about his adventures – past, present and future.
David Hellqvist: Where were you born and where are you based now? Where do you like hanging out?
Tony Cederteg: I was born in Västervik, raised in Vimmerby and have been based in Stockholm since I was 19. I have been living and taking care of myself since I was 16, with both setbacks and successes. I hang out wherever the party isn’t. I like being wherever I meet friends for food, laughter and warmth – in Stockholm and other parts of the world.
David: What’s your educational background? What did you study?
Tony: In high school I studied childcare and communication. As a young adult I did one term of a business start-up course. Sadly, it had completely disappeared from my memory when the time came to actually start up my business. My father used to be a firefighter and an industrial worker, working with hands and soul. We’re both pretty tricky learners, if not in physicality.
David: How do you describe your work?
Tony: I publish high-quality photo books and freelance within art, photography and fashion. Being a free agent within art direction, design and publishing is important to me – I’m happy working by myself or collaborating with others. That goes for personal work as well as commercial stuff. Sometimes I feel the need to record music and put it out on vinyl. Sometimes I have a story to be told through motion. Sometimes I feel like I can take the pictures myself, instead of someone else, to communicate what the client wants. Sometimes I think a different group of artist’s work will fit in a exhibition together. I’m keeping myself curious, happy and busy in life.
David: So your creative play field is very wide. What creative expression is most ‘you’?
Tony: Sound. To hear, to feel, to love.
David: How did you meet the Our Legacy boys?
Tony: I met the the founders, Jockum [Hallin] and Cristopher [Nying], back in 2005 at a mutual friend’s studio where they were working as well. At that time they were the only two within the company, as Our Legacy was in its starting blocks. From there we created a longstanding relationship.
David: What did you do for them?
Tony: In the early days I travelled a lot for exhibitions and parties, so I was, in a way, sponsored by them, and constantly wearing their entire collections from top to bottom. Spreading the word about the company, like a spokesperson but not in an official capacity. We always joked about me being the ‘mood manager’ of the company, since we always had a good time together and I was very included in many aspects of the company. I did some modelling for their lookbooks, brought in creators for various projects, helped out working in the first Stockholm store, organised some exhibitions at their spaces, and slowly shaped their visual identity and communication. After a short breather from the company I returned as the art director, which resulted in me making new logos, stronger aesthetics, initiating and designing all lookbooks and campaigns for them.
David: For you, what’s the best and worst thing about fashion?
Tony: The photography, the women, women’s clothing and fashion’s expressions are simply the best. I don’t care much for the unpleasantness among colleagues, injustice, sketchy model agencies and underaged models, the money aspects and its exaggerated seriousness – even though I’m very serious about fashion.
David: What is Libraryman?
Tony: Libraryman is a publishing house, design studio and production company where I initiate and design limited edition photo books by amazing artists and photographers, where I freelance as an art director, and where I produce my short films. I run Libraryman with Annefrid Lundgren.
David: What made you set up this multimedia publishing house?
Tony: Libraryman was founded in 2008 on the principle of releasing limited-edition photo books from the company’s own initiative. I previously had a smaller imprint, Cederteg Publishing, together with art direction duo Sandberg&Timonen that took off within photography but slowly ended up getting more into drawing and fashion. I wanted to build a new focus on photography.
David: How many books have you published?
Tony: To completely go north in my calculation and also include smaller publications, imprints and magazines, I would say approximately 60–70 titles.
David: It might be tricky to pick, but have you got any favourites?
Tony: My specific favourites tend to change on a daily basis. I also have to take responsibility for all titles and come to terms with possible mistakes. They are all special to me, but I’m very satisfied with the ‘Executive Model’ book by Ron Jude, because all components are very well put together and the series is so amazingly strange.
David: Why do you focus on photo books?
Tony: Random luck I guess. Photography as a visuality and art form spoke to me early on through sports and music, though I never thought I would be active in it professionally as a grown-up. I like how photography as a medium is so charmingly structured and immediate. A photo book as a separate piece, as a multiple, as an entirety is very attractive to me.
David: What do you look for in a photographer? What qualities do they need for you to publish them?
Tony: Everyone is different, but a great story, freedom, playfulness, humour, absurdity, warmth and light are key players in the game.
David: You’ve got loads of tattoos. Do you curate your body as an exhibition?
Tony: Not really. I’ve always thought my arms look like a child’s arms – skinny and without hair. They still do, but nowadays they are more visual and the attention is on something completely different.
David: Music, art, fashion, film, photography… What could you not live without and why?
Tony: You are completely out of your mind! Well, if I had to choose something to live without then I would have to say fashion. I could wear a piece of cloth around my body without shape in order to not be associated and considered as fashion.
David: Dogme is your new magazine. What is it about?
Tony: It’s a photo-based and fashionable film magazine where we seek to find interesting subjects within the comprehensive industry. It is also a medium where we’ve set up internal rules on how we want a magazine to be presented in terms of structure, aesthetics and production. Dogme is a non-promotional paper so actors can breathe out without having to assert themselves by promoting a project. We want to be specific, open and lucid in our approach.
David: What makes if different from other, similar titles?
Tony: I wouldn’t say that there is a similar title to Dogme, since we mostly focus on independent film, its practitioners and cinematic photo series without selling cover faces or big studio production movies. It’s a personal magazine.
David: Print, print, print… Why bother?
Tony: Print matters – especially photo books as they are such traditionally physical and beautiful items that only can be valued higher after official release. Mostly all photo books, even ones with large editions, can be considered as limited-edition books compared to literary ones. Papers, cloths, bindings, craftsmanship, ink, printers. The achievement of a physical product that you literally can browse through, completely feel or just burn up: something significant to your bookshelf. Consistent and beautiful.
David: What other projects are you working on?
Tony: At the moment I’m working on a photo book under the Libraryman stamp with American painter Landon Metz, in which he captures his process during three weeks of preparations for an upcoming solo show in New York City. I’m also working on a specially made furoshiki [a Japanese environmentally friendly wrapping cloth] for Dogme, a new short film, issue number two of Dogme, a few exciting new projects with art dealer Diego Cortez who discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat and founded the Mudd Club in New York – and hopefully campaigns for fashion brands and art institutions around the world.
In my wardrobe, among warm winter coats and breezy summer jackets, a subtle icon hangs. It sits there comfortably, even though I don’t wear it out every day, maybe not even once a week. But it’s not smug, there’s no sense of superior pride overtaking the waist-long garment’s humble structure… just the allure of timeless sartorial confidence. It’s my Baracuta G4.
Chocolate brown and in collaboration with Margaret Howell, it stands out without screaming. It has quietly earned its respect. The jacket - as a concept, not my personal one - has been around long enough to know that trends come and go, but ageless quality remains. ‘Less is more’ seems to be the motto it repeats all day long to any other jacket in my wardrobe willing to listen. ‘Know who you are, cherish it and learn how to accomplish most with what you’ve got’, it proclaims when feeling a bit more zealous. The other coats, I’m sure, sneer and give my G4 jealous looks, they’re not as self-assured.
Based on the idea of elegant casualness - or casual elegance, depending on who you ask - the G4 is immensely proud of its flap pockets, umbrella-inspired back ventilation and two vertical collar buttons. Few other pieces have developed such simple yet strong characteristics. That’s why it’s been a true main stay since the 1930s, and it knows it.
But it’s not alone, it’s got a cousin. The Baracuta G9 is, if possible, even more famous. Having been worn by countless musicians and actors throughout the 20th century, it boasts the honour of being Baracuta’s original Harrington jacket. Relatively flamboyant and extravagant is how it describes itself when trying to outwit the G4. The G4, meanwhile, won’t let that get to it. The preferable silhouette of a potential customer is not set in stone, as the G4 well knows.
The G9’s elasticised waist gives it more of a figure, it highlights the curves of its body. It creates ripples along the fabric that moves gracefully as the wearer walks. The G4 doesn’t do that. It stays still and let’s the rigid structure of its shape stand firm. Sometimes the G4 thinks the G9 makes more waves than needed when out walking. ‘That’s just for show’, it whispers under its breath. True or not, the G4 really doesn’t need to feel jealous. What it lacks in curves and quirky personality, it makes up for in pure steel style. But don’t tell my G4 that, then it’ll never stop going on about it
Anyone can be good at shopping; buying sweaters and trousers isn’t that difficult. We all do it on a regular basis. What you have to remember, though, is that clothes, like puppies, are for life – at least the good-quality ones. It’s fair enough to get off on the chase, as I do – finding the seasonal highlight from your favourite designer can be a thrill, I know, and wearing them for the first time is a treat… but what about the day after? Where do you put it? How do you treat it? These are the questions that matter when it comes to garment care.
Granted, they’re not the sexiest words around. I, too, have been known to build a tower of worn T-shirts next to my bed, but that doesn’t make it right. Who are we to underestimate the sartorial value of a garment? What we wear has as much cultural import as art and music. Fashion, truly, is the fabric of history. Hence this call to arms: take care of your clothes, pay your respects to the wardrobe and honour the lineage of your favourite pieces…
So, how do you do that? What’s the procedure when caring for clothes? Well, there are a few key rules to remember: hang up as many tops as possible, but never cashmere knits, which should always be folded. Double up summer coats on hangers during winter to save space and buy rails with two ‘floors’ so you can have two racks of tops. Hang your ‘top tier’ stuff on the top rail – your best bits, the pieces you’re most likely to wear at the moment. This will change, of course – not so much due to seasonal fads, but more with your mood. I do the same with coats: I have a few on hooks by the door, the rest on a rail. Pieces come and go on rotation.
The washing of clothes is a boring necessity, but one that is topped only by the ironing of shirts. If possible, get a job that doesn’t require ironed shirts. I wear lots of shirts and work hard on trying to cut out the ironing process. The best way of doing that is this: having washed a shirt or tee, hold on to the shoulders and flap it to straighten out the garment. Repeated a few times and then hung up to dry, this will save you lots of ironing time. Please note, though – if it’s a proper dress shirt, it will likely still need to be shown some steam, in which case, it’s best just to get it dry-cleaned and ironed in one go, saving you the bother.
Obscura Magazine SS14: Anderson & Sheppard - Sartorial Guardians of Savile Row
The world looked very different in 1960 compared to today; people behaved and talked in a distinctive way, and they dressed in line with the customs of the time. They had a polite tone and refined manners that many lack today. They called each other Mister and Miss, and - generally speaking - there was a sense of strict formality in the way they conducted themselves. The dress sense was structured and formal, defined by suits, shirts, ties and hats. Shoes were black and constantly polished. Then, in the early 60s, rock’n’roll happened, and everything changed for good. Around the same time, a 16-year-old John Hitchcock applied for an apprenticeship at Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard. Since then, the now managing director and head cutter, has seen the world opt for a casual and relaxed attitude towards clothes. But, in his atelier at the back of the Old Burlington Street store, he’s upheld Anderson & Sheppard’s bespoke tailoring traditions. “Back then everyone wore suits, but it has changed since. If you were going out dancing, everyone put on their finest suit. Today, if someone said they were going down the pub, the first thing they’d is to take off their suit,” Hitchcock says, sitting in the basement of the studio, sipping water.
The way Savile Row tailors will survive the ever changing and challenging 21st century sartorial landscape is by adapting, not compromising. Too many classic British formal brands think they need to compete with younger brands on their terms. Anderson & Sheppard, a 108 year old company with a Royal Warrant to supply Prince Charles with suits, has stayed true to their original vision, maintaining full control of their legacy. As a completely bespoke company there is no Ready To Wear line, no London Collections: Men presentation, no perfume and no advertising. They don’t have to, the product speaks for itself. “A lot of other non-bespoke tailors have their suits made in factories. Here, everything is made by people,” Hitchcock says proudly. Out of a total of 40 staff, seven are apprentices that have been trained in-house. “About 10 years ago we realised there was a shortage of tailors in Savile Row, so we took it upon ourselves to change that by training people. Today, we have an academy where we teach the craft,” Hitchcock explains. And a craft it is: An Anderson & Sheppard suit, starting at £4,000, takes up to two months to finish, utilising the skills and talents of seven people. “It involves everyone from the person who makes the button holes, the presser, jacket maker and trouser cutter to the sales staff and account manager.”
John Hitchcock, when he joined in his mid teens, was sent to learn how to cut trousers for four years until he was promoted. “I think Mr Bright, the head cutter back then, picked me because I was wearing a suit every day. It was a great honour to be asked, a bit like being chosen to work with a great chef in his kitchen, like Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver.” Mr Bright had gone through the same process himself when he joined, working for founders Peter Gustaf ‘Per’ Anderson and Sidney Horatio Sheppard. To this day the process is the same. New apprentices equals new blood, the business is built on old skills and new talent. And that’s how Anderson & Sheppard will survive. “It was Mr. Bright who taught me the Anderson & Sheppard cut, and it’s been passed down to new apprentices by me.” A bespoke tailor atelier like this is built on personal skills: “Yes, there is one head cutter, I’m the only one who can do both trousers and jackets. And then there’s two cutters each for trousers and jackets.”
Like in any other market, a bespoke tailor like Anderson & Sheppard needs a USP. Savile Row, around the corner from the store, is packed with both new and established brands. The suits need a signature cut, a look that differentiates them from the rest. Quite cleverly, in a world of stiff business meetings, the Anderson & Sheppard DNA spells comfort. “Prince Charles wants to put his suit on in the morning and wear it throughout the day, without constantly changing it in the car or at his desk. The jacket should be as comfortable as a cardigan, it’s meant to be an everyday uniform,” Hitchcock explains. The signature Anderson & Sheppard look is defined by soft shoulders with very little padding, lapels that roll nicely (“if you have a three button jacket, the lapels need to roll through nicely, as we say”) a small amount of shape in the waist and matching jet-ins on the jacket. “We do a tight arm hole and a big sleeve so that you can move around easier - fit is all about comfort!”
Although Anderson & Sheppard is a well-established brand, borderline ancient actually, Hitchcock and his staff are well-versed in modernity. And, unlike a few competitors, they’ve embraced technology. Not that you can order a suit online, but Hitchcock realises the importance of blogs: “People have more input into their suits after they have studied them on the internet. Back then, they just wore what their dad wore - today you stop people in the streets and ask about the turn back cuffs on the sleeves. It’s marvellous and not a problem for me - it makes our lives easier… people come in knowing what they want”. In this day and age, young people are most likely to buy a suit for extreme formal occasions, like weddings and funerals. For Hitchcock’s generation, suits are standard attire - even for mundane everyday chores. “For me it’s easier to put on a suit than casual clothes - it’s a uniform and a lot of our customers have several suits, one for the weekend, one for going out in the evening. You get suits in new colours or fabrics if you need to refresh the wardrobe - or get a different tie!”
A crucial part of the suit - its essence, together with the style and fit - is the fabric. It’s what will make it last, what keeps you warm in winter and cool in the summer. It shapes the suit’s formality and purpose. The fabric, which ever one it is, defines the garment. Naturally, it’s vital to Anderson & Sheppard and its tailored universe and finding and producing the right fabric for the right occasion is a big part of suit making on Old Burlington Street. Hitchcock and his team prefer English wool. The majority of that fabric comes from mills in the Huddersfield area in the British Midlands. “Yes, we use houses that source the cloth for us, like Harrisons of Edinburgh. Weavers in Huddersfield then put it together for us. We then have bunches in the front shop where you can pick it out.” Wool might be the go-to fabric for Hitchcock (“wool is easier to tailor, to shrink and to stretch”), but there’s plenty to choose between: “We also use cotton, seersucker, corduroy, silk, linen and Scottish tweed.” But there is one fabric route Anderson & Sheppard won’t go down, at least not as long Mr Hitchcock is in charge: “Synthetic cloth isn’t nice, it doesn’t breathe that well!”
Not only is Anderson & Sheppard fully bespoke but, as a sign of ultimate luxury, Hitchcock also offers his customers the ability to design and manufacture their very own and exclusive fabric. Collaborating with Somerset-based Fox Brothers company, a truly unique suit can be made, one that not only fits perfect but also features your individual material design. “Fox brothers has been around for ages but it’s been revived in the last few years. They are good for 13 or 14 ounce wool flannel - lovely to wear in the winter!” Anyone with time and money can request that a new fabric is designed, but it can take up to six months before the suit is ready, due to the sampling process. “Maybe they [the customer] have an estate, so they’d want to make a suit with their own estate tweed. Normally, you make two or three suits of that fabric to make it worth the while”.
Generally speaking, Hitchcock prefers Fox Brothers’ wool flannel fabrics. As the Anderson & Sheppard MD, he gets two new suits made for him every year (at the moment he owns and wears about 20 suits) and many of them are flannel ones. “I often put one on for Fridays. Traditionally, it was because that’s the day people used to go to the country. They had country houses and left early on Friday afternoon. Flannel was for in-between the city and the country. Grey flannel friday they called it…” Anderson & Sheppard is in a fortunate position; it’s got one foot in history, maintaining the traditional craft of bespoke tailoring, and one in the sartorial future of Savile Row. Well-made and bespoke suits will always be in demand, the craftsmanship is as important now as it was in the 60s. But unlike many of its competitors, Anderson & Sheppard seems willing to meet its customers halfway, and that could be the difference between Savile Row and Death Row.
Harvey Nichols: Back to Life... How to Reinvigorate a Fashion Brand
‘What goes around comes around’ is a ‘fashion truth’. The whole business is built on the fact that, twice a year, we need to replenish our wardrobes and soak up new trends. It’s not a good or a bad thing; it’s just what we do. Luckily, there are enough good designers out there to keep the ‘supply versus demand’ levels healthy. Trends come and go; fads stay with us for a few seasons and then we’re onto the next one – it’s refreshing, constantly keeping both the industry and its customers on their toes.
But it’s interesting to note that, in fashion, it isn’t just the width of the jeans, the colour of the boot soles or the amount of bobbles on a bobble hat that differ from season to season; it’s also the brands from whom we choose to buy those items. It might sound obvious – of course, labels go in and out of fashion as well – but it requires a lot more work to bring a brand back from the brink of insignificance than to make stonewashed denim popular again.
Looking back at recent history, there are lots of brands that have gone through this process. The ‘Wind of Change’, as a certain German soft-rock band once put it, has been blowing for quite some time. A good example of this is Italian brand Valentino, whose AW12 and SS13 shows I saw in Florence. The first was ever so elegant; a perfect sartorial push forward for the classic brand. The second, in late June 2012, was ground-breaking by comparison, as Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri introduced high-end camouflage into their line (Valentino hasn’t looked back since). Other brands with new and different aesthetic directions include Kenzo, Saint Laurent reimagined by Hedi Slimane and, going back a bit further, Givenchy, under the direction of Riccardo Tisci. Kenzo provides the perfect example of a successful relaunch: Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of the Opening Ceremony retail empire, lacked high-end fashion experience as creative directors, but still managed to infuse the stagnated brand with a playful, pop-culture injection.
So, at a time when yet another storied label is brought back to the forefront of fashion just about every season, I ask you: What does it to take to reinvigorate a brand?
New designers; new direction
This is, quite naturally, the first step. A new designer signifies a new era, whether someone from within the company has been promoted or a new name has been brought in to shake things up. The latter is more common, as a complete revamp is often needed to reinvigorate the brand, but in either case the new designer is tasked with bringing in a new aesthetic, because something must fundamentally change to truly make a mark.
Now, it isn’t enough to just change a little bit; ideally, the next collection will go from black to white; from oversized to skinny. Shock value is massively important. This can be achieved through either a surprise replacement or a distinct change of sartorial course.
Energy and youth relevance
As their first collection approaches, the new designer (or designers) must establish a fresh start. And it does need to be fresh. To rebuild a brand’s image, it’s the youngsters you need to appeal to – the language to speak is ‘pop culture’, and it doesn’t even have to be English.
Tiger-emblazoned sweatshirts, camouflage bags and studded trainers are recent examples of quite simple but very effective ways of making a mark. The trick is to establish a visual identity, through details and prints as much as name logos. All the clever ones – the four stitches on a Margiela piece; the horizontal stitches on a Dior Homme garment, à la Hedi Slimane – are examples of garment branding. Consistency is key; don’t just do it once, keep hammering at it until you own that look.
Since that Florence catwalk show, Valentino has explored the concept of luxury camouflage. Many have tried it, but few have owned it in such a characteristic way as Piccioli and Grazia Chiuri. Add to that the studded and sometimes camouflaged trainer that has been sweeping the nation, and you have yourself a bestselling brand.
Ultimately, this is a game of marketing. How you communicate something is often just as vital as what it actually is; it’s all about perception. Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter how clever your campaigns are, how viral your videos become or how many Facebook ‘likes’ you have; if the garments you make aren’t up to scratch, it’ll be a very short-lived honeymoon for your relaunched brand. But, luckily for us, the new breed of menswear design has both style and substance in abundance.
Menswear writer David Hellqvist talks sportswear versus luxury goods with the French designer and finds out what iconic musicians inspired his current collection
If you stop, look closer and analyse the brands Christophe Lemaire has worked with in the past, and the ones he currently collaborates with, you will find at least four very different organisations, operating in polar opposite sartorial theatres. Lemaire did Haute Couture at Christian LaCroix, sportswear at Lacoste, luxury goods at Hermès…. and wearabe staple pieces with a twist at his namesake label. If nothing else, Lemaire is a versatile designer, we have to give him that.
Born in Besancon, France, in 1965, Lemaire has always been a ‘designer’s designer’. His brand and collections aren’t household names, more like favourite secrets that the industry insiders have chosen to keep on a ‘need to know’ basis. His own brand has been going since 1991, and – like his own development – you can see it maturing over the years, helped by the lessons learnt at Hermès and Lacoste.
Currently, arguably at his creative peak, Lemaire has not only managed to establish his characteristic look but also to perfect the concept of ‘wardrobe designing’. Every season his collections are full of those ‘I need this’ pieces, not in a trend-led kind of way, but like garments you can see yourself appreciate year after year. This time around that’s visible in oversized woven T-shirts, pleated trousers, drawstring denim trousers, leather slippers and roomy Caban pea coats. In order to establish the fundamental ethos behind the brand, and to find out what was behind Lemaire’s current SS14 season, we tracked him down in Paris and put a few questions to him…
David: You design a wardrobe rather than trends, how does that affect the design process?
Christophe: I like to improve existing pieces but I’m also very excited in creating new volumes – the process is very organic and straightforward.
David: Would you say it’s more about refining classics in that case?
Christophe: Exactly. It’s all about improving the volume, refining the details, the finishings. All those little things that make a garment desirable and long lasting.
David: What is your design process like for a collection?
Christophe: I have the most simple relationship to fashion. I always ask myself the essential question: ‘What do I want to wear today and what will I want to wear tomorrow’? I’m also very curious to know what people are expecting from a garment and what are our customer’s comments. I’m very curious get have feedback, it helps improving the next collection.
David: Do you work with literal inspiration and, in that case, what influenced the SS14 collection?
Christophe: I was, and always am, very influenced by musicians and their style and attitude, like David Bowie and Echo & the Bunnymen, David Byrne and Ian Curtis, to name a few. The Spring Summer collection is an essential and bright wardrobe for every-day life. Black washed cotton sets, inspired by the Vietnamese army, enrich the base of the vestiaire. Pyjamas like uniforms shall be worn out in town or at home, day and night. The volumes are generous and the pockets are conceived to free your hands for the summer holidays.
David: You’ve worked with Lacoste and Hermès, in many ways two polar opposites. Can you name one main thing that each collaboration taught you, and that has helped your own brand?
Christophe: I don’t think they’re polar opposites. Lacoste and Hermès, historically, designed sport chic garments since the 20s. They both have a beautiful heritage and a DNA of relaxed elegance. Of course materials, distribution and the philosophy differ but the roots have something in common. Lacoste taught me to work within a commercial reality and Hermès’ beautiful history of craftsmanship and attention to detail is very inspiring and demanding.
David: Lacoste does sportswear and Hermès is all about luxury – how do you describe and define your own brand?
Christophe: We want to design a very qualitative vestiaire made to last, and that is wearable for a diverse range of individuals who are more interested in style than fashion. Clothes are made in fabrics made to last. They are convertible and hybrid. The brand is very free, very much about the present… Its rules are always reinvented.
David: Your clothes often look loose and comfortable – is versatile functionality important to you?
Christophe: Yes, it’s important to feel comfortable! You move differently when you have room, like in a spacious home…
David: Tailoring is a big part of your collections, but it feels ‘alternative’ in many ways – what role do you think the suit plays today?
Christophe: My tailoring is very comfortable, it’s loose, slightly oversized, sometimes as light as as shirt. I like the elegance of the suit and the way it can change your behaviour when you wear one.
David: Are you more comfortable designing men’s clothes or womenswear?
Christophe: It’s a different process. As I said earlier, I design the men’s collection very selfishly. I design the womenswear with Sarah-Linh, and she also has this very pragmatic vision of the vestiaire. She knows what women are expecting from a garment!
David: Can you talk a bit about the colours and fabrics you chose for the season?
Christophe: The colours [ginger, mahogany, honey, blue-green and ash grey] look like they have been faded by the summer sun, year after year and they’re inspired by Luigi Guirri’s photographs. We used a lot of cottons and blends of cotton and linens, a beautiful Japanese selvedge denim, as well as an archive Japanese suiting fabric with a hint of the 50s. And a lot of cotton muslin for the hot summer days…
MatchesFashion Man: C.P Company & the Goggle Jacket
In 2008, British artist and designer Aitor Throup was tasked with revisiting a classic menswear piece – C.P. Company’s legendary goggle jacket – reimagining and redefining its silhouette. The conceptually minded Throup presented the piece as part of a full-size sculpture in the shape of a human body in the driving position. At the time, Throup explained that he had ‘tailored it in a new way so that the actual shape of the jacket could literally morph from a standing to a driving position with minimal fabric build-up, and maximum comfort around the waist and arms.’ This emphasis on function makes sense, as does Throup’s idea behind the sculpture: the jacket, created by the late Italian designer Massimo Osti, was originally named Mille Miglia, in reference to the car race it was created for. This open-road endurance race ran from Brescia to Rome and back, between 1927 and 1957, before being resurrected as a modern road rally in 1982.
Osti, who died in 2005, also started outerwear labels Stone Island and Bonneville. He created the goggle jacket in 1988, and today it is revered as a menswear classic, one of those pieces that transcends both time and trends. The coat has been released in various colours and fabrics over the years, but still speaks the same sartorial language to many types of men. ‘It’s a bit like a pair of 501 jeans from Levi’s,’ says Paul Harvey, C.P. Company’s creative director alongside Alessandro Pungetti. ‘I believe that the way the label took it, looked at it, and then tried to make it contemporary is the reason it is now iconic. While respecting the basic idea, they changed fabrics, shapes and even the goggles themselves.’
Although off-road racing is no longer the jacket’s main purpose, the goggles have stayed. To make it relevant to a more urban point of view, the label’s new designs often feature deep pockets and thin high-tech fabrics, inspired by army clothing, that are breathable and waterproof. ‘It was designed with that car race in mind. We are talking pre-1960s cars. Most of the cars were open with either small or no windshields so goggles were essential. It was all about protection from the elements,’ says Harvey. Harvey’s younger brother has taken part in the race three times in a Jaguar D-Type. ‘He said that when the weather is good, and all you need is a T-shirt, it’s still incredibly tough and exhausting. But when it’s cold and it rains, it’s unimaginable.’ The solution is in finding suitable gear. ‘To get through it you need a waterproof jacket and proper goggles… The original jacket set out to achieve credibility, which it most certainly did. It was popular from day one among C.P. Company aficionados.’
The label, founded by Osti in 1974, was originally called Chester Perry, but the designer soon changed the name and began developing new and technologically advanced materials. Since then, his brands have been synonymous with fabric development. In many ways, and for many people, it’s the goggle jacket that symbolises the label’s ethos.
For Throup, it even played a vital role in developing his career within fashion: ‘The goggle jacket is the reason I became a designer. Back in Burnley where I (partly) grew up, it was a cultural icon utilised almost as a status symbol. What the goggle jacket did for me was that it opened the doors to the world of design.’ Harvey, who has designed 24 collections for Stone Island, is seen as the designer who turned it into a fashion-savvy brand that specialises in techinical fabrics. Just two seasons in, and it seems that Harvey and Pungetti are certain to do the same with C.P. Company. Part of the strategy is to focus on what they do well – hence the spotlight on the goggle jacket. But Harvey wants to continue its evolution: ‘Of course it can be improved. Fabric research doesn’t stop, neither do treatments on fabrics.’ His attitude promises even better things to come, which is surely just what this forward-thinking label’s followers demand.
In London, most designers slave their way through Central Saint Martins, set up a minuscule studio in Dalston and start churning out extravagant, mind-boggling and trend-setting designs ASAP. Meanwhile, on the Continent, there’s barely no young talent showing in Milan, and Paris is still obsessed with reinvigorating age-old design dynasties. Why? The answer, as often is the case, is multiple and complicated; and it was the spark for Fashion East.
Kicked off in 1996 by Lulu Kennedy, a long-term champion of British fashion, Fashion East has since supported, advised, aided and promoted many of the London-based designers that today define the local fashion scene. Taking over a disused warehouse space in Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery, where Kennedy ran club nights, designers were not only given a space to show their collections, but also help with the mundane, though crucial, jobs such as seating plans, light rigging, invites and show PR. When I last spoke to Kennedy, she explained the Fashion East role, likening it to a creative kindergarten: “The designers can make mistakes with us – it’s like a little safe environment where they can fall over and bang their heads and get up. I think we pull more of a supportive audience than a highly critical one, which is nice because, for God’s sake, most of them are straight out of college, or not even that.”
London’s fashion scene might not have the money spinning icons of Milan, or the couture-dripping houses of Paris, but it’s got raw creativity, and lots of it. That attitude is, arguably, more valuable than money and, dare I say it, traditions. It’s that creativity that has led big fashion conglomerates, such as Kering and LVMH, to recently snap up London designers J.W. Anderson, Nicholas Kirkwood and Christopher Kane. But that financial kick-back, as it should be, was never the starting point nor the ultimate goal for London’s underground designers.
One of the key differences between the four fashion capitals is the support system London offers its fledgling designers. Though launchpad initiatives exist elsewhere in different shapes and forms, London – with the help of Topshop and Topman – financially supports many creative careers. But schemes such as NEWGEN [the British Fashion Council’s talent identification program, sponsored by Topshop], requires a certain degree of experience, retail presence and business plans. Fashion East helps new designers put those important pieces into the puzzle. “When I started doing Fashion East, the only scheme was NEWGEN, and it was much harder to win, much more aspirational,” Lulu says. “It was only the bigger names that got NEWGEN. So I thought of Fashion East as the stepping stone for London’s younger but talented designers, to help them reach NEWGEN.”
In the early days, when Fashion East was less established and organised, Lulu ran it like one of her Brick Lane raves. Today, Fashion East is a force to be reckoned with, a renowned and fully recognised cog in London’s remarkable and successful fashion wheel. But, more importantly, none of the initial fun has gone away.
Port Magazine: In Conversation: Miles Johnson and Levi’s Vintage
The design director and David Hellqvist discuss what makes a garment ‘vintage’, how much of LVC is based on replicas and why we assume people didn’t wear loud colours in the 1930s
Fashion is often all about looking back in time; there are very few new garments left to invent and discover. Like the old explorers, previous generations of designers have already tried and tested most of the potential sartorial delights – and nowhere is that as true as with menswear, a gender division of fashion already restricted by many boundaries. American denim giants Levi’s, then, are lucky that so much about the brand is based on garments and wardrobe staples with a stellar history and a never-ending archive of classics to reproduce in updated versions. It’s not all about the past of course, and it would be unfair to say that Levi’s is only focused on yesterday, as opposed to tomorrow. But, especially when it comes to such a fabric as denim, the original way of producing – championed by Levi’s since its 19th century incarnation – is still miles ahead.
Having settled in San Francisco, Levis Strauss, a German immigrant, and Jacob Davis, a Latvian refugee, famously patented their denim trousers held together by rivets, making them durable and suitable as work wear, in 1873. Today, over 140 years later, the Levi’s denim garments aren’t just used by cowboys and construction workers, but everyday people living everyday lives. It’s the fabric that, arguably, best defines the post-modern and pop cultural society we live in today. Obviously, the denim torch was handed over from Strauss and Davis generations ago, and today – at least as far as the Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Made & Crafted lines are concerned, the creative responsibility lies with design director Miles Johnson.
As a former costume designer, Johnson’s way to the Levis European HQ in Amsterdam was helped by the fact that his MA graduate show from Central Saint Martins focused on denim. Shortly after, Johnson was snapped up by Levi’s and he’s been heading up both the retro-focused Vintage collection and the more trend-led Made & Crafted line since 2003. Meeting in the Levi’s Vintage Clothing store, or Cinch as it’s also called, on Newburgh Street, just off Carnaby Street in London’s Soho, we’re surrounded by the current SS14 collection. “This vintage collection is based mostly on the 1939 World Fair, which took place in San Francisco – it was a big celebration of American culture and it was an amazing event that happened on an island built out in the bay,” Johnson explains. The design team looked at old images of people visiting the fair for inspiration: “The visitors dressed in that typical 1930s way, with beautifully slicked hair, tucked-in neat T-shirts, suspenders and high-waisted denim trousers,” he says.
But, in between printed Hawaii shirts and college sweatshirts, it’s the Levi’s slacks in strong primary colours that stand out from the current season. In green, yellow and red, the colours are not what we expect people to have worn in the 1930s. “Well, actually, funnily enough they did [wear those colours] – we’re so obsessed by black and white imagery because, of course, that’s all we have – but when you see the original garments we have in the archive from the 1920s, there’s neon T-shirts that came with matching berets… It’s easy to think everything was black, white and grey,” Johnson says, himself decked out in a mismatching cacophony of loud colours. But go back and put Levi’s in a geographical context and it all makes sense: “At that time Levi’s was still very much a California-based collection mostly for Californian people, so this would have stayed quite close to home. So in context I would imagine it was for people in leisure.” The trousers now available in store are an exact copy of the ones Levi’s produced in 1958, made out of cotton satin and with a tapered ankle-length fit. “The whole idea of it was a collaboration that we did with the Jell-O company – they came with a little box of jello with either lime, orange or lemon flavours.”
The Levi’s Vintage Clothing brand was founded in 1999, just a few years before Johnson joined. Since then, for 15 years and 30 collections, Johnson and his team has borrowed heavily from the Levi’s archives. “I’d say 85% is actual Levi’s archival reproduction and 15% is kind of a mix of general vintage and adaptations of Levi’s designs,” he says of the collections. Is there any risk of that creative well ever drying up, how much is there left to look at? “There’s still a lot we haven’t done yet. It’s strange with the archive, every time you go there – because, of course, we go there every season to start off our research – it’s like someone turns on a different set of lights because some of the things we’ve been looking at for many, many years and they’ve not just been right… until now. At the moment we’re looking for all these patterned Western shirts, and there are some incredible ones, but I wouldn’t have looked at them two years ago. Now I am.”
Johnson also looks after Made & Crafted and, as mentioned, it’s more modern and contemporary in its design approach. Whereas the Levi’s Vintage Clothing is about re-appropriating the old classics for today, Made & Crafted is less about replicating and more about inventing. But the two lines are connected: “It’s like two sides of a coin for me, that’s why it’s nice to work on both. You’re working on telling the history of the brand but also doing something for the future, so one thing informs the other. It’s nice to have learnt so much about the historical ways to construct garments, or to have observed the classic pieces, so that if we ever want to do a modern version for Made & Crafted, we can base it on that.”
Another aspect that Johnson has to take into consideration is what really constitutes ‘vintage’ and how you, from a timeline perspective, define the term. Johnson says there are unwritten rules within the company that a Levi’s Vintage Clothing garment can’t be based on anything later than 1983-85. “That was when the last original selvage fabric that we produced with Cone Mills was made,” he explains. When LVC was set up in 1999, Levi’s went back to the legendary North Carolina mill with the original logbooks and managed to get them to reproduce the exact same fabric. But the cut-off date makes sense in more ways than one: “We’ve got so much history that if we brought out a Levi’s Vintage collection that was just 1990s pieces I don’t think we’d have the same reaction if we do a collection which just celebrates pieces from the 1920s or 30s. I think people are much more interested in the really old stuff, because you just cant get that from another brand.”
There’s a wealth and breath of product from the 1920s leading up to the 70s that deserve to be celebrated, and Miles Johnson makes sure those celebrations are spread out each season. “Yes, it’s important that we have pieces from the 70s in there, as well as the 20s and the 50s – you cant just go for one decade in a collection, we have to make sure we mix it all together in a look that will appeal to someone today.”
On the back of yesterday’s leaked images, Nike and Parisian fashion and sports communityPigalle today launch their first capsule collection, hitting the shops on April 26. Consisting of two Air Force 1 trainers (a high and a low top) shorts, a top, a hat and a basketball, the collection builds on a decade long relationship between the sportswear giant and Pigalle’s creative director, Stéphane Ashpool, which saw them renovate and reopen a local Pigalle basketball court in 2009. “I’m the unofficial Mayor of Pigalle,” Ashpool says, “so the collection is a mixture of community, sports and fashion.”
The trainers come in a grey and brown color choice, both of them with a very distinct patina pattern. The aged leather look symbolizes the used and scuffed trainers worn by players on basketball courts: “We designed them with passing time in mind. With the many layers of colours, it’s an ongoing process—every pair will look different depending on how the you choose to wear them,” Ashpool says. But as satisfied as he is with the trainers, Ashpool is also very happy with the way the basketball turned out. “Im very proud of it, it’s black and white so it will look cool in the air when it’s spinning,” he says smiling.
In line with his take on the importance of a local community (his best friend lives above the Pigalle shop and his mom takes on the odd shift in the store), Ashpool and Nike have made sure that the trainers are affordable. We want them to be accessible for the community through reasonable prices—it’s a project for the community!”
Sitting somewhere in the twilight zone between high-tech sportswear and luxurious fashion, the Pigalle trainers feature a “thicker sole with extra layers and lunar insole cushioning for comfort and knee protection.” The trainers take their cue from Nike’s hardcore performance products fused with Pigalle’s lifestyle and community values. “Turn them over and you’ll see basketball coach details inscribed on the sole, it’s a reference to my love of basketball.”
Port Magazine 13 Stories: Missoni x Hancock, Prada Luggage & Belstaff Film
Fashion can be a complicated business, especially when it comes to choosing creative partners. A successful collaboration requires all participants to bring something new to the table – creating a unique combination of knowledge and expertise, and therefore a unique product. Missoni, the Italian luxury brand which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, managed to achieve that not once, not twice, but thrice for their Spring/Summer 2014 collection. Predominately famous for her knitwear, and especially the zigzag pattern, Angela Missoni – the daughter of founders Ottavio and Rosita – has created a whole sartorial universe around the brand through a full collection shown during Milan menswear week. But Angela knows, in order to achieve niche perfection, she might occasionally have to ask for help. And for SS14, she drafted Jean Machine to produce the denim; Converse contributed with Jack Purcell trainers and Scottish raincoat specialists Hancock collaborated on the outerwear – all of them using characteristic Missoni knit details.
All three are unique, but the Hancock collaboration is noteworthy for featuring a fabric developed especially for this occasion. “We have introduced a special loom knit fabric that has been made with an exclusive rubber-coated yarn, and that’s featured in our special partnership with Hancock of Scotland,” Angela Missoni says of the pieces. The Hancock brand is only three years old, but the technique is ancient. Thomas Hancock invented and patented the vulcanisation process in 1843. “These hybrid articles are handmade using our rubber-bonded cloths and signature Missoni knits to create a garment with unique tactility and movement. Our SS14 outerwear collaboration features split-panel Missoni knit backs, hoods, sleeves and collar trims for a modern luxury aesthetic,” Hancock co-founder Gary Bott explains. None of the brands could have accomplished this without each other, and that’s the definition of a happy sartorial marriage.
Belstaff & The Greasy Hands Preachers
"Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul." As far as film slogans go, it’s both inspirational and enthralling. It makes you want to put on a sturdy leather jacket and hit the road on a vintage motorbike straight away. Watch filmmakers Clement Beauvais and Arthur de Kersauson’s feature-length bike documentary The Greasy Hands Preachers and you’ll just about feel the wind blowing in your hair while experiencing the unique sense of freedom that comes with bike riding.
It was that shared mentality – combined with the durability of their leather jackets and waxed cotton coats – that made British heritage brand Belstaff sign up as sponsors for the film. The French duo filmed bikers using 16mm film, wearing Belstaff and cruising dusty roads last summer, some of them travelling to Scotland’s Isle of Skye and others competing in the Bonneville race outside Salt Lake City in Utah. Back home in Britain, Belstaff – who started making waterproof jackets in1924 – also designs a specific Goodwood Revival capsule collection in honour of the motor event in West Sussex. Two wheels and a biker jacket make so much sense.
Film and fashion go hand in hand; after all, they’re both about characters with individual style. Cinema often influences designers, but it’s a two-way street. Film directors regularly commission fashion brands to help create imaginative and well-crafted clothes and accessories, and rarely have the collaborative forces been as creatively well matched as in Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Madame D, the film’s leading lady, played by Tilda Swinton, has been kitted out with a specially Prada-designed luggage range comprising of 21 luxury artisanal suitcases. Channelling the extravagant decadence of the 1930s, Miuccia Prada based the line on vintage Prada bags from that era, featuring wooden frames wrapped in soft vachetta leather, peach-pink sateen cotton lining and antique brass details. Anderson and Prada recently collaborated on another project, Prada’s short film ‘Castello Cavalcanti’, and last year the Italian brand designed outfits for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, together with costume designer Catherine Martin. Prada, it appears, has as much silver screen appeal as catwalk charm.
When Timberland boots first appeared 40 years ago, you were most likely to see them on a building site. But now the yellow boots are enjoying a revival spearheaded by trendsetters such as Kanye West, Rihanna and Cara Delevingne.
The first Timberland factory is still standing in New Hampshire more than 60 years after Nathan Swartz founded the company. But it wasn’t just the New Hampshire workmen who popularised the style.
For Timberland and its seven-hole waterproof leather boot, it was the New York rappers of the 1990s who put it on the map. The likes of Wu- Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and DMX wore them on album covers and the streets of Brooklyn. Today, the baton has been passed on.
Timberland’s creative director, Chris Pawlus, says he’s well aware of the current fascination with everything 1990s. ‘Whether it’s hip hop, punk or ’90s culture in
general, it was just the right time for it to come back again,’ he says. ‘Timberland fits within that and, for us, it’s a beautiful compliment. There’s a strong sense of loyalty but also a wave of re-emergence as a new generation discovers the boot. But, interestingly, today’s customers are wearing the boot on their own terms.’
The company was originally called Abington, after the village where it was founded. Swartz’s son, Sidney, developed the yellow Timberland workwear boot in 1973 and, because of the waterproof boot’s popularity, Swartz adopted Timberland as the company name. Since then, trends have come and gone.
‘There’s talk about a seven-year cycle and that connects to generational change,’ Pawlus says. ‘Now it’s up to us to see how the company’s future can be shaped by this interest. There have been ebbs and flows in the past 40 years and there will be even more in the next 40 years as well – but that’s what makes it so exciting.’ But even though interest in Timberland boots – or any footwear, for that matter – fluctuates, there are some who never lost interest in the boot. Jeff Carvalho, co-founder of streetwear and fashion blogs Highsnobiety and Selectism, says: ‘My dad was a foreman at a construction company in Connecticut and Timberlands were his go-to boot. ‘Not only are they affordable but they’re also sturdy and last for years. For me, I was more attracted to them because of the strange colour, this uncommon yellow shade.’
For Carvalho, the boot has ageless qualities. ‘A generation of hip hoppers picked them up as a staple but, unlike many other boots and brands looking to revisit their heritage for a throwback hit, Timberland’s yellow boot isn’t a throwback – it never went away,’ he says. ‘It’s timeless.’
The appeal may not be universal but the boots are certainly universally recognisable. Marcus Ross, editor-in-chief of men’s magazine Jocks & Nerds, says: ‘I like the aesthetic of it. It just looks very good. I like that it’s simple, with no excessive detailing. It’s not over-designed. The colour is great and Timberland owns that colour now. You see people in fake Timberlands and you can tell because the yellow shade isn’t spot on.’
To understand the trends of tomorrow, look at what people wore yesterday – fashion fads are predictable. ‘Footwear has gone through a few phases of late,’ says Ross. ‘A while ago it was all trainers and sportswear, now there’s a reaction to that and that’s where the yellow boot fits in. It has a retro heritage feeling about it that fits with the workwear trend.’
'Whether in Brooklyn, Tokyo, Middle America or Europe, people have strong relationships with the boots,’ adds Pawlus. ‘They make them feel strong, tough and indestructible – it’s an emotional connection that empowers people, and it goes beyond gender and region. There’s a human element to the boot.’
Port Magazine: PEdALED’s Technical Cycling Wardrobe
As Hideto Suzuki’s cycling brand open up a pop-up store in London, brand manager Luca Bertoncello talks David Hellqvist through a few key garments
Black and white. Ying and Yang. Italian and Japanese. Cycling and lifestyle. Hideto Suzuki and Luca Bertoncello. PEdALED is a brand with two souls. Born out of the Japanese designer Hideto Suzuki’s desire to wear stylish but cycling-appropriated clothing, PEdALED has spent years trying to find the balance between technical sport details for life on the road and functional lifestyle products for those off-the-bike moments. But the brand is not suffering an identity crisis. PEdALED knows that, even the keenest cyclist, will spend more time off as opposed to on a bike. Therefore the clothes are more focused on details that reveal themselves at the pleasure of the wearer: zips that hide reflexes or extra material that will give more room for movement, extra large hoods that cover bicycle helmets or longer jacket sleeves that go all the way down to your hands, even when stretched out on a bike – small details that makes life as a cyclist easier.
Run by the Italian-owned Brooks brand, a saddle and bag manufacturer with a factory in Smethwick, PEdALED is the ultimate in sartorial cycle gear. It isn’t fashion, far from, as it’s the function of the garment that defines it. “For us the first focus is on the products. So, we are not trying to market ourselves in a specific segment of cycling,” says Luca Bertoncello, PEdALED’s Italian brand manager. “We love cycling in its pure form, so when we develop a product, of course we have a cyclist in mind but it’s not like we are just doing clothing for road cyclists or motorbike cyclists or commuters. We kind of approach the way we develop the product in a more spontaneous way, as we are cyclists as well.”
Like all the best performance brands, the PEdALED products are developed by the team themselves. “We cycle during the week as commuters and during the weekend we do road racing or we do play
bike polo, so each garment has its own specific attitude. That’s how we develop the styles; every design choice we make is really based around a purpose, it’s not just about the aesthetic reason,” says Bertoncello. But PEdALED’s dual purpose concept is organic and part of the brand DNA, according to Bertoncello: “There are hidden functions in some design elements and it takes in both the riding line and the living line. You can see similar styles that run through both collections; the style is the same, the comfort is the same but we use different fabrics or different solutions in some part of the garments for a different approach to how you use the garment. So we develop it in a more technical fabric or in a lighter fabric, for performance and a warmer material, or a more natural material, for a more casual use.” As PEdALED open up a pop up shop in London, next door to the Brooks store in Covent Garden, we asked Bertoncello to explain a few of these crossover items…
“This is a packable jacket made out of a water-resistant material, and it comes with a pouch which you put in your backpack or bag. When it starts to rain, or get windy, you can easily put it on, but it’s also smart enough to wear at a meeting. It’s a light-weight nylon and cotton blend, so it’s soft to touch, and at the same time it has the performance of a technical shell. The same style comes in linen for summer and wool for winter. For summer we chose linen because it’s the fastest natural material to dry. Also, linen is wrinkle free, so again it has the same features of the technical one, just in a more casual style.”
“This jacket won an award at Eurobike last year. It’s linen bonded together with a three layer membrane. It’s incredibly light, has a natural touch on the outside but a really technical skin on the inside to help you to survive heavy rain. The same jacket comes in 100% cotton that you can wax to make waterproof or keep it natural to gain a lighter jacket for lifestyle or casual riding. So, again, one is part of the more technical line and one is more for the casual line.”
“We developed this one with different wools and cotton fabrics – it’s our first award-winning jacket, which won the gold award in 2012. We have one that comes is brown checked wool, that looks really trendy, and then we go into a more plain wool with a heavier composition, so it’s more suited to really cold weather. Then we have twill yarn cotton, bonded with three layer membrane, which makes it lighter. We believe that once you find a nice cut, a good style, a good design, you don’t really need to change it. You can improve it, or change the function by using different fabrics. You don’t really need to design something new every time.”
“It’s a wind proof jacket which is simple and packable – it actually goes into your back pocket. When it’s windy you take it out, and there are two kinds of sizes you can choose from; one is the more fitted size so that when you’re riding it doesn’t really move in the wind but then when you jump off the bike, and you may want to look more casual, you can open it and close it on the second zip to give you more space. This way we can really use the jacket for the entire year because in winter time when you have more stuff under your coats, you can use it anyway because you can use the jacket’s larger size but it’s not too stretchy.”
Born Again line
“It really fits our philosophy to re-use garments in a different way. So this, for example, is made with Brooks L’eroica jersey that we re-used in a different way as a patchwork on the back, and so aesthetically it looks like a one-of-a-kind jacket, but at the same time the material helps you dry fast, it’s more stretchy on the back so when you bend over the bike, you feel more comfortable. We have other garments where we use military fabrics or textiles from military tents from the Czech Republic army for example. For the aviator jacket we used parachute material that provides a function as a wind proof jacket on the front.”
The Independent: Earning Their Stripes - How Adidas gained couture credentials
Canny designers are tapping sportswear’s key proponents to help them create garments that cross-pollinate style and substance, says David Hellqvist
Fashion is a trend-driven industry. That’s the premise of the whole business. Twice a year, new collections indicate the fads of the world’s four fashion capitals. But, when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, there are one or two aesthetic strands that most designers follow, or at least acknowledge.
Today, the best example is sportswear, a wide sweep incorporating athletic apparel, extreme sportswear pieces, and their various high-fashion hybrids. At the menswear shows in London, Milan and Paris, trainers, technical fabrics and taped seams are a dime a dozen. But, in a sea of mediocrity, the good ones stand out. Genuine craftsmanship, honest design and a sense of authenticity will always win. Canny designers are not only aping athleticism, but are tapping sportswear’s key proponents to help them create garments that cross-pollinate style and substance. Nowhere is that so obvious as in the high-end fashion collaborations that the German sportswear brand Adidas has been putting out of late.
With the recent success of their Raf Simons and Rick Owens partnerships, Adidas – under the creative direction of Dirk Schönberger – has bridged the gap between streets and catwalks. But, as well as critical acclaim and overwhelmingly positive consumer feedback on the Raf and Rick collaborations, Adidas can also claim to be the first sportswear brand to gain high-end fashion status. The Y-3 line, launched with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto 13 years ago, was the first stand-alone fusion brand of its kind, shown on the catwalk with Yamamoto’s autumn/winter 2001 collection.
Having established itself as a fashion-fusion pathfinder, Adidas had the confidence to push itself further with the Simons and Owens collections. Challenging the idea of how a trainer is supposed to be designed, the shoes merit their catwalk presence. “Not everyone likes the trainers, but they defy what people think trainers should look like, and that to me is exciting,” Schönberger says from the Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, 30 minutes’ drive from Nuremberg. “They are pushing boundaries of what we expect trainers to look like.”
Schönberger, who started as creative director of Adidas’s Sport Style division in 2010, might not have been around to sign up Yamamoto, but both the Raf and Rick projects bear his imprimatur. And for Schönberger, who showed his own brand during Paris menswear until 2006, working for German label JOOP! prior to joining Adidas, the process was organic.
"I’ve known Raf since the mid-Nineties – we basically started with fashion at the same time, and we were both living in Antwerp at that time. I always thought his connection to youth culture was perfect for us. I called him and we spoke about it for a while before we decided to do it. Same with Rick, I rang his CEO and said ‘Let’s do something’." Once Owens was on board, the partnership developed without internal snags: "This collaboration was one of the easiest things I have ever done – they just understood exactly what I was asking for," Rick says of the collection. "I specifically asked for them to ‘dumb it down’. I like things exaggerated in a very plain, severe way and they kindly accommodated."
That hook-up might seem odd at first, but the twin collaborations make perfect sense. The troika of companies, albeit in different ways, are built around adolescent energy. “I’ve always admired Raf’s work. His label, with a few exceptions, is a brand about youth, no one had that as such a strong theme as he did. It was an obvious choice,” Schönberger says. “At Adidas, through Run DMC, everyone thought it was about hip-hop, but for me it’s also about techno, rock and grunge… Adidas is about youth culture!”
Simons’s spring/summer 2014 collection was playful and primary-hued. He showed clothes printed with brightly-coloured logos, like modern re-imaginings of Warhol works, in the Gagosian Gallery in Paris, alongside pieces by Calder and Prouvé. A number of the models wore trainers from the Adidas collaboration. Well, Warhol: what could be more pop than a pair of acid-yellow trainers?
"The materials are a combination of both sports and fashion materials, like the metallic and laminated leather. They create so much depth as they are very complex," Schönberger explains. "The shoes have an almost naive approach to colouring, it’s like painting by numbers, and you have a lot of crayons and you use a new one for each field. They’re like a painting to me, but with architectural elements." The collaboration is based on trust: Dirk refuses to box Raf in with instructions and restrictions. "We gave them a great playing-field. Raf created a whole new upper but using our tools, but he still played around with very visible Adidas leitmotifs – what he did was change the appearance of existing Adidas products, something that’s our heritage."
But that stylistic journey was not always easy, at least for Adidas purists. “The first seasons with both Raf and Rick, the Adidas team questioned the designs. But the general response has been great, though – with these kind of collaborations you always get both sides: super-positive and extremely negative. Inside Adidas, we’re energised by the collections.” It’s the small details that do it; the way a fashion designer approaches such a specialised item as footwear. “Even just the way Raf colours his shoes represents a new way of thinking. It’s interesting to see our toolings underneath those heavy, awkward-looking shoes. The proportions are very different from anything we would design ourselves. The materialisation is great and the shoe is almost like a mosaic of different colours and materials,” Schönberger says of Simons’s spring offerings.
Schönberger’s journey to Adidas might have been longwinded, but retrospectively it makes sense for the designer. “It took a long time to arrive here, but as a kid I was always an Adidas fan – both consciously and unconsciously. It was always part of my life, I never wore any other sports shoes than Adidas”. Although his previous work, in the sartorial sphere of Paris, was more formal, there was always something casual about his approach, according to Schönberger. “Working on my own brand, I was fascinated by tailoring, but at the same time I thought that tailoring needed to be updated. I had both a relaxed style and a ‘construction versus deconstruction’ element, which for me is what sportswear is all about, it’s about deconstructing a men’s suit. There was always something in my own collections that hinted at sports.”
And in this clash between sportswear and high-end fashion, Schönberger perfectly unites the two camps. His understanding of sportswear in general, and German sportswear specifically (“In terms of sportswear, a lot started here at Adidas. The founder of this company was obsessed with making great products for athletes, and that is still the ethos at Adidas”) means that he’s able to make himself understood by all partners. “For me, Rick, Raf and Yohji challenge the status quo, and I find that interesting. Yohji might be an established designer but he’s not part of the establishment. He’s always doing unexpected things, like working with Adidas, for example! It was a bold step for someone who’s more couture than ready-to-wear. And Raf defies expectations all the time, he’s a big challenge to fashion.”
The future, though, isn’t all about signing up big names – though in recent times Adidas has announced partnerships with both Kanye West and Nigo, founder of A Bathing Ape – but to create a sustainable vision for the company. Schönberger is as interested in quality as quantity. “I believe in continuity as a fashion designer, even with collaborations. I like partnerships that build up to something bigger. Adidas is a cultural melting pot of different influences, be it athletic, musical, fashion or artistic inspiration. We need to find a balance, we don’t want the brand to disappear behind these big names.”
Adidas, Schönberger argues, has the heritage to continue leading the sportswear versus high-end fashion fight: “For me, Adidas made the sportswear and streetwear merger possible. In the Eighties, when I grew up in Cologne, you could see all these Adidas jackets in vintage stores. Guys were wearing them on the streets, but they had bought them second-hand. It became an everyday clothing garment, whereas before it was limited to the sports field, to gyms and football clubs. It started to take over the streets. For us it’s natural to explore that”.
Port Magazine: Spiewak & the House of Golden Fleece
As the classic American outerwear brand relaunches, David Hellqvist looks at the role Spiewak played in 20th century history, and what impact that has on today’s consumers
Clothes are defined by more than just their quality and durability. Our relationship with garments aren’t just based on where they’re made and what designer name is on the label. Clothes, when they’re at their best, mean a lot more than that to the wearer… they’re part of mythology and keepers of legend. It might just be a personal one, a lonely one-man club, but power isn’t necesarrily manifested in numbers: it takes just one person and his beliefs to make it true. Honesty is not measured in quantity, but quality. Memories are a powerful force, associations can make or break most things, and clothes are no exceptions. When you try on a jacket, wear a specific pair of trousers or select a certain shirt, you make a conscious decision – sometimes it’s just based on the fact that you need to wear something, if nothing else to keep warm and dry, but on other occasions they’ll actually mean something, and then your clothes of choice matters.
Exactly 110 years ago, having fled Warsaw, Poland, for a better life in America, Isaac Spiewak founded his eponymous outerwear company, selling hand-made sheepskin vests to dock workers in Brooklyn, New York. A couple of years later, as the family business expanded, a local manufacturing space was built. Around the time of America entering the First World War in 1917, Spiewak signed up a new client that would come to define the brand and its products: the US army. Having clothed two world wars, the brand was then picked up by various uniform-wearing units, such as the US Postal Service and numerous police forces around America, in the 1950s.
Since then, based on the idea of functional safety and versatile utilitarianism, the Spiewak jackets have been worn by generations of soldiers, police officers and fire fighters because of their recognised quality and durability. For me, and many others, those men are part of the reason we wear Spiewak today. Sure, the actual design, the way they’re made and the function they fill are main criterias that need to be filled when buying a jacket, but let’s also recognise that clothing is about more than pragmatic needs, it’s poetry.
Perhaps the garment actually reminds you of something. Or someone. The smell, texture or atmosphere takes you back to your childhood, or last year. The coat might represent a place that no longer exists, or a long gone era. Only you and the garment can testify to that relationship. Maybe your dad had one. Maybe there was one lying around in the boat your family sailed every summer. Or those trousers you wore every Saturday for years when hiking in the woods.
Those garments are relics, as such they’re priceless. Then there’s the other kind of pieces, the ones we associate with a third party, a non-family related person or event in the past. Growing up, we’re fed history lessons in school. Often the only ones I truly paid attention to were about war and adventure, the times when history dressed itself for action.
Throughout the 20th century, mankind experienced enormous amounts of heartbreaking traumas, both man-made conflicts and natural disasters. On every single such occasion, there were uniformed men there to assist and help, be it from the military or police. Through two world wars and every single conflict since, plus countless incidents that’ve required a police presence, uniforms have come to represent a sense of protection. There are definelty cases when they’ve meant the opposite as well, that we can not forget about, but in the case of the Spiewak coats – the fabric, fit, colours, smell, styles and atmosphere – they mean security and safety. Deck jackets worn by tank drivers manoeuvring Shermans through Belgium, sailors wearing pea coats on the Atlantic during the First World War, paratroopers from the 82nd airborne division in field jackets preparing for Operation Overlord in 1944, or US Air Force pilots in flight suits during the Korea war in the 1950s, Spiewak was there, enabling them to do their work.
And, in a way, it’s that association that makes Spiewak unique. Over a hundred years old, Spiewak not only produces garments for organisations that rely on them for quality, they also keep that mentality alive for the rest of us. Newly relaunched and with design veteran Maurizio Donadi as creative director, Spiewak Golden Fleece – the brand’s premium line – is bringing back the classic styles, modified with luxury fabrics – like melton wools – to make them relevant for a 21st century lifestyle.
These jackets, while paying respect to the people who fought in them, are now passed on to us – it doesn’t mean I’m a firefighter or off to war, it’s not about that. It’s about a feeling, an atmosphere. And it’s not justabout the quality or the make. The fact that Spiewak’s jackets have been good enough for Brooklyn dock workers, soldiers, police officers and postal worker for 110 years, and that I can now wear the same jacket, means I’m able to share something with them. Memories, stories, legends and feelings are, it appears, stronger than the stitches of any overlock machine.
Port Magazine 12: Saint Laurent’s Inspired Tailoring
Tailoring, you could argue, is the backbone of menswear. A navy blue pinstriped suit is, in many ways, the male equivalent of the little black dress in women’s fashion: so simple and effective in its aesthetic, but very difficult to get exactly right. Get it wrong, and you risk an air of ‘repressed banker’; get it right and it is a template for pure menswear.
The suit’s absolute beauty lies, naturally, in the design, but also, perhaps even more importantly, in the construction of the suit jacket. As such, tailoring transcends trends; it is style, not fashion. And, as menswear tends towards restricted shapes, the suit’s reliable rigidness has made it the blueprint for daily quasi-uniforms. Due to this elevated status, classic tailoring has been toyed with for decades, as designers try to upgrade it by changing a few key details every other season. Others, like Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, understand that a suit’s success is determined by technical know-how, alongside a construction process defined by authentic craftsmanship. In honour of that rare skill set, Slimane last year relaunched the French brand’s specialist Tailleur atelier.
Setting up the atelier was part of Slimane’s general image shake-up at Saint Laurent. A shortened name led to a new logo and typeface, while all the stores were given new identities. But those were cosmetic changes. Slimane also fundamentally altered the direction of the brand’s catwalk collections. Though distinctly Slimane in its design DNA, his grunge, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic can be traced back to Yves Saint Laurent himself, as the clothes combine a rebellious attitude with supreme craftsmanship – just as YSL designed in the 70s. The suits, specifically the famous Saint Laurent ‘Le Smoking’, are part of Yves’ sartorial heritage. In the 70s, he created his own ‘new look’ by crafting a formal suit silhouette for both men and women, but with an important difference compared to his contemporaries – no alterations needed.
The garments were tailored by his atelier to personal perfection. Now, 40 something years later, Slimane applies the Tailleur atelier knowledge to his four annual ready-to-wear collections, giving contemporary tailoring a professional and much-needed facelift. The result has been visible on the Saint Laurent catwalk since Slimane took over in 2012: a reinvigorated passion for tradition and appreciation for expertise, in line with Yves Saint Laurent’s sartorial vision. For once menswear leads the way – with the unisex silhouettes based on a masculine, tailored look. This is the closest to haute couture menswear will ever come.
Port Magazine Issue 12: Evan Lysacek - This Charming Man
As an Olympic champion, figure skater Evan Lysacek is under no illusion about what it takes to win. “Perfection. I think what makes skating difficult is not particular tricks or moves, but the fact that it demands perfection. There is absolutely no margin for error in this sport,” he explains. Having just finished his rink shoot for Port, the Chicago, Illinois-born athlete is enjoying a rare breather. With his eyes set on winning gold at the Sochi Olympics in Russia next year, there are few moments for quiet reflection. “My daily regime includes on-ice and off-ice training, as well as physical therapy. I’m getting back to my full training schedule, which is about five to six hours on the ice and three to four hours off the ice per day.”
But, having won the free skate program at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, Lysacek is now battling injuries to defend his medal. Were he to win, Lysacek would make history. “I have the potential to win back-to-back gold medals, a feat so difficult it has not been done in more than 60 years.” So the pressure is on, and no one feels it more than Lysacek himself. “Luckily, I thrive under pressure. I get more anxious than nervous before I compete. The anxiety is in part because I’m excited.” What he’s after, alongside gold of course, is that feeling of ecstasy when all the hard work pays off. “After months of intense training and all the blood and sweat, the biggest rush is the execution of the perfect performance under the immense pressure of competition.”
Figure skaters on Lysacek’s level tend to have short-lived careers. So intense and demanding is the work, that the athletes only can maintain gold status for a few years. At 28, Lysacek isn’t old by any means, but his days as a competing top-level figure skater are numbered. In addition to technique and timing, the sport requires strength and stamina. Building up the strength to withstand the torque of the jumps is crucial to mastering them. Then you have to gain the stamina to perform those skills in sequence through the 4m40s routine.
Add to that the high injury count. “I’ve suffered five major injuries, but minor ones are almost a weekly occurrence because of the physical demands.” The injuries are a consequence of falling but these accidents are part of the learning process. “You must fail and fall thousands of times to learn. Skating tricks are so difficult, dangerous and technical that the beginning of the learning curve is always experimental.” That said, Evan is hell-bent on giving it his best shot. “I always think I can do more. I’m rarely satisfied and never complacent. I will be ready by the time I have to take the ice in Sochi,” he says with gleaming determination in his eyes.
Port Magazine: Studio XO and the Future of Fabrics
Nancy Tilbury and Ben Males talk to David Hellqvist about making science fiction into science faction with their wearable technology
In a lively and clustered studio, a brisk 15 minute walk north of the Finsbury Park tube station in London, magic happens on a daily basis. Here, amid overlock sewing machines and pneumatic drills, between CAD computers and rolls of toile fabric, the XO Studio crew is changing not only the way we wear clothes, but also how we define the purpose of fashion.
Operating at the “intersection of science, technology, fashion and music”, founders Nancy Tilbury and Ben Males are busy merging the different creative fields, creating a brand new discipline: wearable technology. Though in theory, and in different guises, the concept has been around for quite some time, it’s only now – with Studio XO as flag bearers – that the idea has reached a mainstream audience. In the case of Studio XO, the message has been communicated with the help of world-famous pop stars. Over the last three years, Nancy and Ben have worked with stage artists like Lady Gaga, Azealia Banks and Black Eyed Peas, to mention but a few.
“Yes, music artists are key to what we do here,” Nancy explains. “Other companies maybe have couture lines where they showcase their abstract pieces, we’re finding that these really innovative music artists are adopting us and our technologies to create these big effects and monumental moments for their fans,” says Ben. Recently, the best example of that is Volantis, the ‘flying dress’ Lady Gaga premiered last year for a packed IRL audience, and an even bigger cyber crowd. But the XO story really began in 2011. The duo met while teaching at two of London’s top universities: “Our paths had crossed while I was teaching at the RCA and Nancy was running the MA at Kingston and at the time and we’d talked a little bit about maybe doing some work together. We could both see there was something there,” Ben remembers. “I was getting asked by a lot of artists and designers to help integrate technology into their products. I call it the ‘grow-space’ in between – traditionally there’s been a wall between engineers and designers and if you get rid of that wall there’s space to grow. I suppose Nancy and I met together in that grow space.”
Nancy comes from a fashion background, having studied at Royal Collage of Art herself, but was early on keen on exploring new areas. “I pretty much spent the two years at RCA navigating away from fashion, focusing in on engineering, trying to understand if our clothes can do more. After I graduated I went to work for Phillips, the electronics company, while my peers all went to the ateliers in Paris and to the studios in New York. Most of my friends thought I was bonkers: ‘why are you going to go and do that?’ I felt that before I did my own thing and moved forward I needed to have some depth and breadth,” Nancy says, looking back.
Ben, on the other hand, emerged from a technical environment. “I studied mechanical engineering. Very, very theoretical, very old-fashioned engineering. I studied at Imperial College. We did a lot of modelling of things; we didn’t really do much design. I specialised in nuclear reactor design. But I also had an ambition to make clothes. I was interested in fashion.
I bought a lot of stuff from charity shops, I was into the process of fashion.” So, through Ben’s desire to work with fashion and product design and the niche market they were both honing in on, their two career trajectories were bound to meet at one point. Meanwhile at Philips, Nancy had started fusing fashion with technology. “I was essentially working with designing pure fashion, it just happened to integrate product design and engineering, and functionality – what we call ‘embedded functionality in wearable tech’. It wasn’t traditionalist and we weren’t doing seasons; they were putting out product lines every 18 months so we were looking at much longer cycles. I suppose what I did there was hone a methodology and navigate away from fashion.”
Once Nancy and Ben had joined forces and XO was formed there was no going back. As mentioned, the most accessible platform for XO has always been the music industry, and that’s where they got their first break. “We got a call from the Black Eyed Peas’ stylist in 2011. She was like ‘I want to make robots’. We knew that we needed a sponsor to do something really grand. I went back to Phillips and said to them, ‘let’s do this, let’s embed some of your older technologies and bring them up to date’. We took those things and merged them. I had a small collection of students who’d been working with me and we kind of merged our consultancy and came together.” All of a sudden, the small Finsbury Park crew was playing in a whole new league.
But it wasn’t until the Black Eyed Peas were on stage, wearing the XO-built costumes and projecting their LED-driven lyrics, that they knew it was a success. “When you build fashion technology for the stage, the first thing you do is look towards the stage to see if everything’s working. The you look towards the audience and make sure they’re having a good time,” Nancy says. “We had this moment at the side of the stage – there was 80,000 people at the Stade de France – and everything was lit–up and operating as it should. We looked towards the crowd and everyone had their phones in the air, taking photos!”
This, for both Nancy and Ben, is what it’s all about: “Yes, there was a sort of gasping – it’s what we call ‘intimate emotional technology moments’, which is what we’re in the business of. We looked at all these fans and were like, ‘well, that’s fantastic’. We want to continue to make couture, but our ready-to-wear can be all these fans that are navigating around the world and want to take a piece of this magic away with them,” Ben says.
Having worked with ex Dazed & Confused fashion director Nicola Formichetti on the Gaga projects, Studio XO is no stranger to high-end fashion. But they are very aware of the challenges that the industry faces, and what the fashion stalwarts need to look out for in the future. Formichetti, now the artistic director of Diesel, have always been good at thinking outside the box, but it takes more than one person to change the landscape. Nancy’s point of view is coloured by realism: “I think the fashion industry are going to wake up like they’ve come out of a pool of water and go, ‘wow, how did we not see that coming, it’s like a fashion tsunami.’”
Going forward, Studio XO plans on taking their ideas beyond the stage and to the general public. “We want to move on from couture to ready-to-wear, looking at how we can take our couture from the stage and launching it as more mass products. That’s what you’ll see from a company like ours over the course of the next couple of years,” Ben says. Nancy agrees. “Yes, the X and O is our identity and it’s starting to take shape. And it’s really interesting to watch that evolve; the digital space is inspiring what we do in the physical space. In the course of the next year we are going to design and render some of these pieces that will be more of a focal point for fashion people to grasp onto.” Whatever the future holds, be sure that XO Studio will be on the barricades, wielding both sewing machines and computers.
Guardian: Copenhagen fashion week - six things we learned
From the dark underbelly of Danish fashion to a whole new shoe shape, Copenhagen fashion week proved Scandinavian style is about more than nice knitwear
Anne Sofie Madsen, Freya Dalsjö, Barbara í Gongini.
Shoehorned in between the official menswear shows in January and February’s womenswear collections, Denmark’s fashion week is a healthy mishmash of both. In the impressive city hall, a stone’s throw away from the Tivoli amusement park, the latest fashions from new and established designers were on display last week. Anyone expecting to splurge on monochrome minimalism left empty-handed; Scandinavian fashion, at least the more forward-thinking brands, moved on ages ago.
But of late, it is not the country’s leading designers – Day Birger et Mikkelsen, Mads Nørgaard, Bruuns Bazaar – who have done Danish fashion most favours. The recent influx of stylish and beautifully shot television crime dramas have put Scando clothes on the map. The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge all feature well-dressed and groomed police detectives. Cleverly, though, the AW14 collections showed in Copenhagen looked beyond the knitwear, coats and leather trousers made famous by Sarah Lund and Saga Norén. As stylish as those women are, these shows were all about finding a new and individual aesthetic, just the way it should be.
The “dark underbelly” of Danish fashion really stood out. Barbara í Gongini’s black and gothic looks, Asger Juel Larsen’s futuristic and urban aesthetic and Anne Sofie Madsen’s cyberpunk girls helped define the fashion event. These designers brought a much-needed serving of attitude and energy to Copenhagen.
Danish menswear is currently doing very well, having found a great balance between wearability and directional fashion. Anchored in contemporary streetwear, Soulland, Wood Wood and Han Kjøbenhavn managed to focus on the product while still putting on good shows. Silas Adler and his Soulland brand especially impressed with a strong and coherent space-influenced collection.
Malene Birger, Wood Wood, Day Birger et Mikkelsen.
There was fur in every other collection showing in Copenhagen – mostly mink, which is a major fashion export for Denmark. The fur was used on coats, jackets, trousers – even shoes. Freya Dalsjö, Kopenhagen Fur, Day Birger et Mikkelsen, Malene Birger and Anne Sofie Madsen, to mention but a few, chose the controversial material. It all went ahead without any sign of protest. Peta must have looked at the -5C weather forecast and rescheduled the trip.
Bruuns Bazaar and Stine Goya applied a catwalk technique that, so far, only Giorgio Armani has mastered: they sent two or more models out on the catwalk at a time. It might not sound very experimental, but it can be a tricky way to squeeze more looks in, though here it actually worked fine. Goya even added mid-show clapping and cheering, another Armani staple.
Don’t leave Copenhagen without having smørrebrød for lunch. Think of it as jazzed-up Pret a Manger: essentially a sandwich with extra-generous fillings, the base is rye bread covered in roast beef and pickled cucumber, say, or pan-fried sea bass topped with prawns. For a more expensive and expansive food experience, try to get a table at Noma. The wine tasting lunch includes 20 small dishes with as many different wines. Some of it is plain weird (ant-flavoured onions, anyone?), but it is a gastronomic experience you’ll cherish for ever.
One detail that stood out was Freya Dalsjö’s new shoe shape. Actually, it was more of a footwear accessory. Dalsjö’s pumps featured a rectangular box on the heel, giving it a skyscraper structure. The almost architectural shape is quite possibly good for balance, and certainly made us sit up and pay attention. A few of them came covered in fur as well. Obviously.
With LC:M underway, David Hellqvist talks to Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund about enlisting the help of German digital artist Gerhard Mantz
As one of the new brands showing during LC:M for the first time, Swedish COMMON are partly responsible for injecting new and exciting blood into the AW14 season. But both Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund have been around the block; the two of them studied in the UK before moving to Paris to work with as diverse brands as Wooyoungmi and Kanye West. And somewhere between the UK, France and Sweden, COMMON found its unique aesthetic, and it’s one Port has highlighted in the past. Described, by COMMON themselves, as “London-edge, Paris-chic and Scandinavian minimalism”, the brand personifies the clever yet elegant 21st century wardrobe; suave cuts and premium fabrics mixed with technical solutions and street savvy prints.
The prints have, with their seasonal diversity, become a COMMON trademark. Each collection hosts a new guest collaborator, an artist whose work COMMON admires and respects. Swedish bird illustrator Lars Jonsson kicked it off with AW12, legendary textile designer Hans Krondahl took over for SS13 and graphic design duo STSQ covered the AW13 season.
For SS14, COMMON collaborated with the New York-based graffiti artist Rubin. Now, for Autumn Winter 2014 and COMMMON’s LC:M debut, Bakir and Hedlund have enlisted the help of Gerhard Mantz, one of Germanyʼs most well-known digital artists.
David Hellqvist: Where did you encounter Mantz’s work? COMMON: First time we saw Gerhardʼs work was at the DAM Gallery in Berlin. The main focus of the gallery is early pioneers of computer art and Gerhard Mantz’s work instantly caught our eyes and fascinated us.
David: What attracted you to his work? COMMON: Gerhard’s virtual images seem sculptured to evoke feelings and moods. They leave you in ambivalence. At first they appear realistic, in some cases even photographic. But, at a closer inspection, the seemingly realistic details shift to reveal a strange virtual realm that really draws you in.
David: How is his work relevant to COMMON? COMMON: Mantz creates his art objects with a computer, independent of the limitations and of the physical world. Our inspiration for AW14 is Tech-Noir and the engineered, polished and purified world of Gattaca where the past and the future are combined and interconnected to create a perfect balance. Mantz work reminded us a lot about this utopian and model world created in the film.
David: How will this be incorporated into the collection? COMMON: The colour palette of Mantz’s work has become the highlights of the season and his virtual images has been reworked and digitally printed onto technical fabrications for outerwear and sweaters.
David: What is this particular piece called? COMMON: It’s called ‘Blinde Freiheit’ and was made by Gerhard in 1996
David: Itʼs computer generated – how is it a development on prints in prior seasons? COMMON: Our collections are continuous, a story under constant development. While last seasonʼs collaborator, graffiti artist Rubin,
creates his graffiti by hand it hold a similar complex, futuristic and almost virtual form as the work of Mantz. They are both unique in their field and so are the artworks they’ve created for COMMON.
David: Why always include a new artist each season? COMMON: The idea behind our collaborations is to continually develop exciting and unique products, which reflect the ethos of the brand as well as serve as a complement to the collection. The collabs are always exciting as they force us to step out of our comfort zone and to create something from an existing idea that is not initially ours and might not have been our own obvious choice. The resulting products reflect our style and ethos and always serve as highlights of the collections.
David: How do you, generally, find them? COMMON: We always find inspiration in our surrounding and in current events. Our eyes are always open to new interesting art and design. We don’t always search for our collaborators, it more happens so that we stumble upon them.
David: What are you looking for? COMMON: Challenges.
Photography Jerry Buttles, Styling/Text David Hellqvist
The (capsule) trade show really is a rolling fashion circus – but without the clowns. Each season, the crew goes on a menswear tour, taking in Berlin, Paris, New York and Las Vegas. Countless brands showcase their upcoming seasons and, besides placing orders, it’s a great place to meet new friends, discover interesting brands and examine amazing product. Last week, when the road show hit New York’s Basketball City on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, photographer Jerry Buttles and ex-Saint Laurent model Beau Buckley braved the cold winds and heavy snow to shoot a few of the (capsule) highlights.
Shooting Beau in the nearby projects and down by the East River overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, we managed to incorporate some of the finer threads we found on display. The Fall/Winter 2014 season, judging by the (capsule) brands, is defined by great texture and a subtle color palette. At least those were the pieces we went for, mixing everything from NEIGHBORHOOD, Soulland and Woolrich Woolen Mills to Baartmans and Siegel, Tourne de Transmission and CASH CA. Other highlights included Norse Projects, Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen, Universal Works and Mark McNairy, to name a few.
Port Magazine: Menswear Round-Up: Milan & Paris AW14
Port’s fashion features editor, David Hellqvist, on the European men’s shows and what collections stood out
The menswear season is a journey, both from a sartorial and geographical point of view. Hundreds of shows in three countries showcase the best men’s fashion out there, offering niche as well as mainstream brands. London kicked off the AW14 season with youthful energy, Milan continued with sophisticated elegance and Paris closed the trip with a never-ending mixture of storied Houses and avant-garde conceptualism.
In many ways Stefano Pilati and Ermenegildo Zegna sum up Milan. Extremely formal and elegant, Pilati has labelled his work ‘couture’. And it’s true, few countries can pride themselves on such fine fabrics and craftsmanship. For AW14, maybe as a consequence, Ermenegildo Zegna – like Marni, Missoni, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein Collection – seemed more product-focused (think thick Vicuna coats) than hung up on mind-boggling concepts. Others, like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, had all very clear themes. “Yes, two aesthetic strands dominated Milan: the all-inclusive collections that catered to multiple lifestyle situations, and the brands who showed specific and strong themes with very particular visions, which is much more inspirational,” reflects David St John-James, Port Magazine’s fashion director.
Prada, even if it’s an off-season, is brilliant – the true highlight of the show schedule. For AW14, Miuccia presented imaginative actors from an alternative theatre; bohemian artists dressed to the nines. As last season, the show also featured womenswear. Actually, for AW14, this was a bit of a sub-trend. Other designers featuring girls on the catwalk included Matthew Miller, Moncler, Carven, Haider Ackermann and Givenchy. Dolce & Gabbana continued their Sicilian theme but with more of a medieval royal slant – manifested by models wearing golden crowns. Gucci, moving on from their high-tech sportswear spell last season, found the perfect balance away from their luxe 70s obsession and settled on a sharp, coherent and beautiful Mods-inspired look.
But it wasn’t just in Milan where the artisanal qualities of Haute Couture made a mark. In Paris, the first ‘big’ show came courtesy of Valentino. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli has constantly expanded their signature aesthetic since 2008. Mixing street staples, like trainers and camouflage, with extreme elegance, they’ve managed to dominate that play field. Bruce Pask, Men’s Director atNew York Times and T Magazine, agrees: “Paris is both simplified and purified, as well as luxurious. Brands like AMI, APC and Officine Générale are high-design but mid-range prices… it’s a lot more relevant to me than that persistent heritage trend. But Houses like Valentino actually do Couture; in their Paris and Rome stores you can have those double-faced cashmere coats made especially for you.”
Pask’s point about a new mid-range market is valid. Paris attracted a wide range of brands for AW14, not all of them ancient and reinvigorated catwalk Houses. There’s been a recent influx of contemporary streetwear brands in town for the shows, most notably Visvim, Overall Master Cloth, Pigalle, Hood By Air and new brand Off-White. Still, it’s important that those presentations are, quite literally, side shows. Paris, in its truest essence, belong to high-octane and ultra-luxurious fashion. This is where the Japanese master trio of Kawakubo, Miyake and Yamamoto show. This is where Ann Demulemeester, Rick Owens, Damir Doma present their tribal fashion. This is where Kim Jones and Louis Vuitton rule.
Many shows stood out but to Bruce Pask, but especially fellow American Thom Browne. “It was weird but wearable. His stuff is always provocative but those tweed suits and the raw shirt edges were great. I also liked AMI – it was a charming presentation, utterly wearable. If only more men dressed like that!” On another note there were two reasons to like the Raf Simons show. A) his collaboration with Ruby Sterling and B) his return to an aesthetic resembling his punk past with slogans and messy colours combos. Raf managed to reference himself while still looking ahead.
Dries Van Noten created colour-coded gangs, at least for the finale. In the gritty basement of the Grand Palais he showed intricate details and an interesting colour palette, making the collection next to irresistible. Meanwhile Rei Kawakubo opted for a super-niche look, showing black hair pieces with a tight wardrobe of mostly black causal tailoring. To be let into her universe of “beautiful chaos” twice a year is a treat.
Dior Homme head honcho Kris Van Assche has steadily grown into his role and improved his vision for the brand since he took over in 2007. For AW14 he managed to mix traditional pinstriped tailoring with denim pieces and army-inspired khaki garments. The mixture, at least in the first half of the show, made for an interesting watch as Van Assche pushed the Dior Homme style forward while staying true to its sartorial legacy.
Guardian: Google Glass's Frames: the fashion verdict
Technology and good design rarely go together. But Google’s range of titanium glasses are sleek, minimal – and, yes – stylish
It’s not often that we can rejoice in the design of a hi-tech and fashionable product – we usually have to choose between the two. But the newly announced Google Frames buck that trend. The Google Titanium line, a collection of four unisex styles constructed to easily fit with the Google Glass camera, is spot on. The black titanium is sleek and minimal. These are the glasses Jil Sander wished she made, that Helmut Lang must be kicking himself for not putting out before retiring from fashion. These frames have all the hallmarks of timeless design – and that makes them stylish rather than fashionable.
When the concept of Google Glass was unleashed on us last year, most of us imagined a fusion between a pair of frames and a laptop. The result was far less chunky and, actually, quite subtle, considering that you’re accessorising your forehead with a camera. But any attempt to just wear Google Glass on their own – and all the time – did make the wearer look like a Star Wars extra. Google’s solution is to produce well-designed frames that are compatible with the camera equipment.
The frames come in four different styles: Split, which is loosely based on a Ray-Ban Club Master with a thick top half and slim bottom frame; Thin and Bold, both of which are rectangular in shape; and the Curve, with its slightly more rounded shape. Although all the frames leave nothing to wish for in terms of design, there’s no denying that having a camera, albeit a small one, attached to one eye kind of cramps the style. But we’re always more comfortable with what we know and like – and scared and uncertain of something new or groundbreaking.
Technology and fashion often struggle to go hand in hand: we rely on the former to be functional, versatile and practical, while the latter is anything but. Fashion is for now, not five years’ time. The challenge for all the hi-tech giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, is to develop and produce tomorrow’s gadgets in a tasteful way. Google appears to have risen to that challenge with their Google Glass frames.
So here we are. Apple are hiring Burberry executives, and Google has designed fashionable glasses in-housethat I would argue transcend seasonal fads. Also, at less than £140, they’re actually affordable – but bear in mind that the Google Glass technology will set you back just north of £900.
Port Magazine: In Conversation - Enzo Fusco, CP Company
The Italian fashion CEO and David Hellqvist discuss Japanese micro fibres made out of garment-dyed polyester and the iconic goggle jacket
It’s a well-known fact that the actual design process is only one aspect of fashion. Shapes and silhouettes are defined by the fabric; the best sketches can be ruined by the wrong choice of material. This knowledge is of course not lost on designers who spend time, energy and money on finding the best possible fabrics. But some brands refuse to play this game and to be dictated to by others around them. Instead, they develop their own materials. For Italy’s CP Company and its current owner, Enzo Fusco, this has been a sartorial reality since the brand’s inception in 1975.
The brilliance of CP Company is heavily cemented in this devotion to fabric innovation. During the 80s and 90s, CP invented a range of hi-tech materials that broke the mould and furthered fashion’s quest into fabric research. “For us, the iconic fabrics from our archives are the so-called ’50 threads’ – cotton and nylon weave, garment-dyed military twill, rubber wool and rubber flax,” Fusco says. But CP isn’t resting on its laurels: “Our most recent fabric innovations include the over-dyed and bonded natural performance materials, a Japanese micro fibre made out of garment-dyed polyester, and bonded Lycra fabrics”. These materials prove that CP Company is still at the forefront of fashion, 37 years since it all began. The revolutionary materials were all developed in CP’s sartorial laboratory, outside Bologna. Some of them have ended up on catwalks around the world, respectfully reinterpreted by designers who are themselves unable to create such innovative materials. And most of them wound up on the streets, in their natural habitat, worn by people looking for style with substance. What’s next for Fusco and CP is naturally a secret, it’s not wise to disclose too much about future plans: “The Holy Grail cannot yet be revealed, for now it remains our Top Secret!”
Fashion isn’t brain surgery, sometimes it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Realise who you are, what you do best and stick to that. That’s exactly what Fusco has done: “We’re a historical brand made in Italy for an elite sportswear consumer. It’s a mix between military aesthetic and British and American styles.” The natural inspiration source for a brand like CP Company are the army uniforms the military use. They offer an important mixture of attitude and details that give CP pieces an utilitarian edge. “The best qualities of uniforms are their functionality, the elegance and the sense of belonging to a group they bring. And then there’s the importance of the detailing; everything on a uniform is significant and there for a reason.” But when it comes to high performance sportswear, Italy often gets left out. Famed for fine cashmere and soft merino wool, the Italians are more about luxurious elegance than selvage denim, multiple pockets and taped seams. In workwear terms, the holy grail is Americana; no-one makes chore jackets and heavy duty boots better than the Yanks. Well, except for the Japanese of course, who have perfected the art of taking American staples and adding their own details. Then there’s the Brits; with their Northampton-made shoes, Scottish knitwear and Savile Row tailoring, they have cornered the dapper cad market. But brands like Stone Island, Woolrich Woolen Mills and CP Company have altered that perception.
These three brands have raised the bar for Italian contemporary and urban fashion in the last 30 years and, to this day, they operate at the forefront of forward-thinking and smart sartorial technology. A lot of that is down to one man. Massimo Osti, the graphic designer cum fashion designer who started CP Company and Stone Island in the late 70s and early 80s, is not only an Italian hero but a worldwide icon and deservedly mentioned in the same sentence as the other great Italian high-end fashion designers. Osti passed away in 2005 and CP was run by Stone Island’s Carlo Rivetti for a few years before Enzo Fusco took over the reins in 2010. Last year, Fusco reunited old colleagues Alessandro Pungetti and British designer Paul Harvey, who previously designed for Stone Island, as creative directors for AW13. Together the three of them will take the heritage and traditions that Osti cemented three decades ago and make CP Company a 21st century brand. “Paul Harvey and Alessandro Pungetti have created collections for both CP and Stone Island in the past so their brand knowledge is impeccable. For the current season, they’ve added their own innovation and taste whilst maintaining the true style of CP. I was keen to get Paul and Alessandro back on the team because, in my opinion, no-one else can retain the magic the brand has always been able to create around its garments,” Fusco explains.
One of the aspects of that ‘magic’ is the fabric dying process that CP made famous. “The process starts with a scrupulously meticulous selection of the materials and the fibres that go into them, dyed all together in a unique bath that creates natural colour differences due to the absorption capabilities of the various fibres that, when made up into the garments, produce a correspondingly unique mix. The CP Company collection is 90% garment-dyed which is a big undertaking from all aspects, but the results are unique.” And when you combine that unique technique with an iconic shape, that’s when you’ve created fashion history. In the case of CP Company, it’s the goggle jacket that ticks all the boxes. Invented in 1989, the three quarter length coat is equipped with lenses in the hood and took its inspiration from a Japanese military jacket with a collar that could be zipped up as a mask. “The goggle jacket was created for the historically important Italian vintage cars race, Mille Miglia,” says Fusco.
“Today, it’s a very important symbol of the brand. Significantly, this is still a best seller for us and we have now other products that incorporate the lens, such as sweaters and caps.” CP Company manufacture two versions; the ‘Explorer’ is similar to the original Japanese coat and the ‘Mille Miglia’ style, which comes with a mask in the hood and a round glass disc on the left sleeve, enabling you to see the time. It’s difficult to get the balance right between style and substance, but when you do the result is timeless pieces that just keep coming back, better and better.
In the wake of all the exposure, after the dust has settled on previous collections, and as we await next season’s product at the end of another year, it’s the ideal time to consider Gyakusou in a broader context. Alongside some of the iconic imagery created around the brand, David Hellqvist examines a collaboration between Nike and Undercover that has been successful in design, performance, and sales terms ever since its arrival in 2010
In a time where fashion – and menswear specifically – is all about fusing and merging styles and brands, it’s easy to tire of collaborations and sartorial remixes. Too often quality is diluted as marketing strategies replace a genuine desire to further design ideas by enlisting outside help with a completing skill set. Nowhere else is that as visible as within the increasingly grey area between sportswear and high-end fashion; luxury houses team up with sportswear brands to gain access to iconic styles and a younger, more street-savvy audience. The results are, not surprisingly, mixed. But thanks to the car crashes, the honest ones stand out even more. The ones where you can see and feel a genuine respect between the two labels, where a whole new brand is born – not just a short-lived collaboration gaining blog hits and release day queues.
One such setup is Gyakusou, the high-tech running gear partnership between Nike and Undercover head honcho Jun Takahashi. Seven seasons in, Tokyo’s Gyakusou International Running Association (GIRA) has gone from strength to strength, practically revolutionising the idea of mixing high-end fashion and exercise clothing. It would be inaccurate to say that Gyakusou was the first such collaboration, and it’s not the only successful one. Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas have, with Y-3, created a brand with its own life through shops and shows. The main difference is that Gyakusou will most likely never have either of those. Early on, Nike and Takahashi realized there was a niche gap in a niche market and they went to work filling it. They probably don’t have world domination plans for the line, and it will definitely never be big enough to cater for a mainstream market. But, in only three years, Gyakusou has identified a problem and solved it. Arguably, GIRA should not even function within the traditional biannual season system. Instead, view the brand’s collection as Takahashi constantly working on developing and improving the brand rather than just remaking his first Gyakusou collection over and over.
Although Takahashi is the creative brain behind Gyakusou, it’s important to remember the group that enables the success. Behind each big-name designer there’s a team of talented and hard-working helpers; it’s often the assistant designers, pattern cutters, PR officers, studio managers and interns that carry the brand, making sure there’s a coherent collection to show twice a year. It’s not due to lack of involvement from the creative director, merely a sign that fashion is an ever-escalating business, constantly demanding ideas, concepts and products. Like his fellow catwalk designers, Takahashi relies on creative help for both his main line and Gyakusou. For his GIRA collections, Takahashi is able to draw on Nike’s longstanding expertise; few other brands posses such knowledge when it comes to innovative materials, high-tech details and advanced technology. As is often the case, this is all down to the staffers.
Ushi San is a product developer for Nike Japan. His job is to help create and merchandise the sportswear giant’s Asian output. “I’ve been working for Nike for 20 years, so I know all Nike’s sports history,” San says. “I was there when Nike Air Max came in! So I know all about Nike’s innovations as well as the necessary features that an athlete needs for particular activities, whether that’s for basketball or for running outdoors.” Which is probably why San was asked by Fraser Cooke, the Nike Global Energy Leader who initiated the project, to assist Takahashi on the Gyakusou brand. San was tasked with facilitating Takahashi’s creative directions: “Every season we’ll have a kick-off meeting where we decide what we’re going to do. Jun will always come to the meetings with his recent discoveries, and he’ll always bring up real needs,” San explains. This is key to Gyakusou: it’s all about substance – style is only a pleasant side effect. “For example, he’ll say, ‘Ushi, I went for a run this morning and I think we need more breathability,’ or maybe he’ll say, ‘It was really hot yesterday – we need more sleeveless singlets, or shorter lengths.’ A lot of the detail comes from his actual running experiences.”
If you study the Gyakusou collections – or better yet, if you wear them – you’ll soon discover a slow and organic change in the fundamental design approach. The focus has shifted from intricate and lavish concepts to a more stripped-down take on pure exercise. “Jun is getting more and more serious about running and his needs have become more specific and professional,” San says. When visiting the Gyakusou Paris showroom for a collection launch last season, Takahashi echoed San’s point of view: “Design-wise, it’s getting simpler. I wanted to focus more on the functions – and for the functions to work, the design doesn’t need so much space. The first season had more of a sharp design to it and that was a design that was not necessary for running – now it’s a lot more functional.”
As a designer Takahashi benefits from having two very different outlets. Undercover is a Paris catwalk line committed to mind-bending concepts, while Gyakusou deals with reality. San agrees: “It’s about function and purpose. For Jun, running is real life, which is a totally different process in terms of the creation of the collection. All the storytelling surrounding the [Gyakusou] collections comes later on, and it’s more like a movie-ending. We are not creating the products for the core seasonal theme – which itself is actually more the result of what we’ve done.” If anything, this makes Gyakusou more credible. There’s enough image-led collaborations merging fashion and sportswear out there. No-one questions Nike’s running commitment and, the way things are going, the same can be said for Jun Takahashi. Last year he ran the Honolulu marathon for the third time in a row.
Inventory Magazine 9: Shopped - Claire de Rouen & MHL
Claire de Rouen Books, London
You could be forgiven for missing it. Only a lonely street placard shyly announces the existence of Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road in London. But its ultra-loyal following of course know the way by heart, having come to see Claire and her pug Otis since she opened up the doors to her L-shaped first floor store above a sex shop in 2005. Specializing in photography, art and fashion publications, Claire de Rouen Books has been a Soho institution since. Lucy Moore, who took over when Claire sadly passed away last year, has also lost the nearby Central St. Martins college customers and suffered from the new Crossrail line remoulding the area’s buildings and streets. But the store – with its rare titles by premium photographers and authors – is still capable of drawing the crowds. Once you’ve found the space and climbed the narrow staircase, a world of lost treasures, beautiful images and carefully selected magazines awaits. Only a few doors down from bookstore giants Foyles and Blackwell’s, this is the kind of personal and dedicated specialist bookshop that the internet’s mass consumerism can never replace.
In the 50 square meter space, Lucy regularly organizes literary events; recent book signings have included Christian Patterson and Tim Walker. This year Claire de Rouen Books will also launch Juergen Teller’s latest title in-store, and there’s a project with German artist Christian Flamm lined up. The shop holds over 3,000 publications and Lucy’s favourite is the Eley Kishimoto-curated issue of Singapore-based Werk magazine. According to the current proprietor, Claire herself preferred challenging and difficult photo books, like the work of Antoine D’Agata. “On the other hand, she loved Bruce Weber, and I have a feeling he loved her – he still visits when in London,” she says.
Ask designer Margaret Howell to define her brand and she’ll most likely use words like functional, utilitarian, timeless and authentic to describe the clothes. These are characteristics that inform both the mainline and MHL collections. Over the years, Howell has become known for this pure and simple approach to life in general, and clothes in particular. But hers is a lifestyle brand setting the tone for more than just wardrobe staples. Howell’s devotion to this particular aesthetic obviously colours the whole company. Visit one of her London stores – the Wigmore Street HQ, the MHL shop in Shoreditch, or this newly opened store at 22 New Cavendish Street – and you’ll get a holistic 360 degree insight to Margaret Howell, the person and the brand. Just as the clothes are an extension of Margaret herself, her shops are brick and mortar versions of the brand: simple, light, versatile and modern. Although of course limited by physical dimensions, Howell’s stores boast a sense of space and light. Maybe the collection’s sparse colour palette helps create this? Or the neat merchandising and shop staff’s subtle style? Like the Wigmore Street shop, the new MHL store is deep. As you enter, you get a feeling you’re not only walking into her shop but experiencing the full might of Margaret Howell’s sublime sartorial universe.
As a follow-up to London’s first standalone MHL shop, situated on Shoreditch’s Old Nichol Street, the new Marylebone location is a 47.5 square meter space housing both the men’s and women’s MHL collections. Like all Margaret Howell shops, the New Cavendish Street store is designed by William Russell, a partner at Pentagram Design. Featuring the original parquet flooring, a wooden shop front, birch wood shelving, stainless steel fittings and bespoke lighting track, it’s moulded in the aesthetic of Howell’s Japanese MHL stores, of which she has opened ten in the last four years.
Criss-crossing every continent, we find David Hellqvist stepping off the catwalk conveyor belt and onto the beaches of Rio
The waves crashing in on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach are some of the fiercest I’ve ever encountered. You can only battle them for 15 minutes before having to leave, completely exhausted but it’s one of the most enjoyable exercise sessions I’ve ever experienced. Luckily, the many beach bars dotting this legendary spot are selling strong and sugary Caipirinhas for eight Reals (just north of £2) that will perk you right up again. Smack in middle of a beautiful Rio triangle, lined with the Sugarloaf mountain, the Christ statue and the equally classic Ipanema beach, this is a golden spot to observe casual Brazilian life. And it’s true; just about everyone - bar the lads and European tourists - wear thongs on the beach.
You just have to get used to it, it’s a way of life here. Though it’s tempting to stay on the Copacabana beach all week long, I was actually in town for Fashion Rio. As the other fashion week in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has always taken a back seat in this emerging economy as São Paulo is considered to be more urban and gritty with higher quality collections. But I’m not sure Brazil is still ‘emerging’ though? Has it not got ‘there’ yet? In terms of fashion, its biggest claims, from an international POV, is having Francisco Costa heading up Calvin Klein Collections womenswear, and Alexandre Herchcovitch showing at New York Fashion Week. Not bad going for a country otherwise mostly known for flip flops and bonkers carnival outfits. Having just got here from Moscow Fashion Week, Rio actually showed off a mature and refined side for autumn/winter 14. I visited Rio two years ago for the same occasion, and this was definitely a step in the right direction.
Except for Herchcovitch, who was the undoubted star, despite only showing his denim-heavy diffusion line, a number of talents impressed with coherent and conceptual designs. Second Floor was a stand out show. Despite the shockingly bad name, Second Floor displayed a brilliant and consistent print throughout the mixed men’s and women’s show. Remixing a vague floral print, it appeared in different colours and fabrics - and skilful layering made the looks even more appealing.
Alessa took a more conceptual approach by working mannish silhouettes into her womenswear collection. Though on the formal side, she played with proportions by including oversized collars and shoulders - all in a monochrome colour palette with a stylish splash of red. Sacada, although quite Dries-like in its aesthetic, managed to create an intriguing collection - mainly through mixing and matching odd colours and fabrics; black with blue, brown clashing with gold, and denim, lurex and brocade-style fabrics mixed with oversized T-Shirt and sweatshirts in cotton. I liked it, it had an air of understated elegance to it, that kind of relaxed luxury we all strive for but struggle to nail.
Ausländer was less subtle. With body-con silhouettes, lots of black and white, angular shapes and plenty of capes, this is supposedly how we’ll dress tomorrow. I’m not sure about that one. I think Rio and São Paulo will benefit from encouraging more designers to take the Alexandre Herchcovitch route. With his utilitarian and wearable yet challenging aesthetic, he’s right on the money. It’s aspirational as much as it’s achievable - just the right balance between fiction and reality.
Varon Magazine 7: Dries Van Noten - The Last of the Independents
Last of the Independents Standfirst Dries Van Noten and David Hellqvist discuss the Belgian designer’s romantic aesthetic, his upcoming Les Arts Décoratifs exhibition in Paris and the pros and cons of total independence
Dries Van Noten is quiet for a moment as he ponders the validity of his brand. Not that I have questioned it, but he seems the kind of person that evaluates and analyses a situation thoroughly before making a decision. All of a sudden he breaks the silence: “As a businessman I ask myself sometimes if there’s still space for someone like me and my brand – or am I just like the musicians playing violin on the Titanic?” Thankfully he concludes that, yes, there is a gap in the market for a designer and person like Dries Van Noten. And most people in the industry would agree. Ask any editor or buyer on the circuit what shows they liked that season or what designers they keep coming back to, and the soft-spoken and humble Belgian designer’s name is bound to pop up. And if there ever was any doubt, the Les Arts Décoratifs museum in Paris has decided to dedicate an entire exhibition to the designer’s aesthetic next year. That sort of settles it, doesn’t it?
Van Noten seems to be having a good run at the moment, and there’s a plethora of reasons for the current love-in with his designs. In the last few years, most of his collections – for both men and women – have been positively reviewed and critically acclaimed among movers and shakers. Previous seasons have seen him explore a wide variety of sartorial themes – subcultural punk (SS11), high-tech sportswear (SS12) and army camouflage (SS13), for example – while keeping a romantic slant to the clothes. Dries agrees but, like any designer with integrity, adds his own safety clause. “Yes, people sometimes call my clothes romantic, and some of them are, but more than that I follow my own feelings – I want the collections to be modern, cool and relaxed,” he says. “I want people to want to wear the clothes, for them to become their own garments so they have a personal relationship with them.”
As one of the Antwerp Six, a clutch of Royal Academy of Fine Arts graduates who made a splash by travelling in a truck to London in 1986 to show their avant-garde fashion, Dries Van Noten needs little or no introduction. But ‘avant-garde’ is far from accurate as a way of describing Van Noten in particular and his menswear vision is not as conceptual as, say, fellow Belgian Martin Margiela. Instead, Van Noten pursues a wearable aesthetic sliced and diced with bouts of elegance and the aforementioned romanticism. “It’s 2013,” he says, passionately. “Men can easily look masculine in silk and floral prints. Menswear is all about materials – it’s limited in other ways since it’s not as rich as the womenswear prints.” Van Noten believes a lot of the potential beauty of menswear is lost in this fear of pushing boundaries. “Floral prints used to be accepted… how come men can wear Hawaii-printed shirts but a rose print isn’t okay – what’s the difference?” He namechecks Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones as colourful personalities who wore bright velvet jackets and got away with it. “We look towards Louis XVI, Oscar Wilde and Cocteau for inspiration, they all had extravagant looks.” But it’s all about small and subtle changes in the colour palette and choice of fabrics: “I don’t want women’s clothes for men – that’s cross-dressing…”
Long before he left for London, Van Noten had his fashion career carved out. He came from a long line of tailors and menswear-shop owners. “That’s where it all started for me,” he remembers. “My grandfather owned a men’s store and my father worked there before opening up his own shop. I went there after school to do my home work, looking at fashion while studying. It was the beginning of my passionate affair with fashion – that’s where I learned the trade.” It’s telling that his background involves as much number-crunching retail as it does creative high-end fashion. Today, and ever since he launched his eponymous brand in 1986, Van Noten is in control of his business, which is still independently owned. In the late 90s and early 00s, contemporaries of his, such as Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, were picked up by big fashion conglomerates, which injected money into their brands but asked for access to the creative process in return. Going back to his initial thoughts in our conversation, it’s clearly a subject Van Noten struggles with a lot. “It [being bought up] wasn’t a solution for me. I needed to stay independent. Admittedly I have nothing to compare it to – this is all I’ve ever known – but it just felt right.” But there’s no denying that running his own company has its downsides. “Yes, it’s a big responsibility. I look after a lot of people directly and indirectly. I suppose it’s both nice and scary.” Van Noten employs about 150 people worldwide but also keeps over 3,000 professional embroiderers busy with his four annual collections.
His Antwerp base is very much part of the brand. It’s reassuring to know that not all designers have to live in New York, Paris or London to feel in control of what they do. The tempo and hectic lifestyle of the metropolis doesn’t fit everyone, and there’s something about the mental image of Van Noten pottering about in his garden before walking to his studio that fits with the man, the brand, the business and the clothes. “I get a healthy dosage of fashion here – I don’t have to go to a fashion party every night. It’s a calming lifestyle but still central. It only takes a few hours to Paris or London.” He raises another valid point of life in the big city: “There, people tend to live in villages anyway – they live and work and hang out in the same area without moving about. I’m always surprised by that when I visit London.” Anyone living in a capital city who took an honest look at their lifestyle and social patterns would surely agree.
Once Van Noten is in Paris, though – he shows there four times a year – he’s got no problems getting involved. After all, the occasion is joyous: he’s showcasing his latest collection. Unlike many other big-name designers, he even cherishes the mundane sides of the show day. “I love the creative side of my job but also the other bits, like staging the shows, choosing music and lightning.” He also uses interaction with his models as part of the process. For him, they’re not just male machines parading the collection, but people wearing his clothes. “Yes, I learn a lot from seeing how models react to the clothes when they play around with them, style and body wise. It has to fit the model otherwise it turns into a lie on the catwalk. I need them to feel ‘happy’ in the clothes. It might sound slightly naïve, but it’s important to dress the character and personality rather than the model.” For his latest collections, AW13 and SS14, this meant models stomping down the catwalk in a ‘walk of shame’ look: “They look like they’ve just grabbed the clothes from the floor and walked out. It’s an eclectic look. We mixed nightwear, like pyjamas or robes, with rough-looking leather trousers.” The result was, once again, a rich and sophisticated elegance mixed with masculine attitude.
The major Dries Van Noten exhibition at the Les Arts Décoratifs museum on Rue de Rivoli kicks off in late February. The display – “It’s not a retrospective. I’m still alive and kicking” – will look closer at Van Noten’s career and highlight his sources of inspiration. “It’s an insight into my world,” he explains. “But it will also give people a good idea of how a designer works creatively. In this case it’ll take you deeper and deeper into the brand’s history and you’ll see how it’s all connected. For me it’s all about intuition and connotations; it’s about stimulating the mind, whether I’m looking at grunge or couture for inspiration.” The expo preparation fed into the SS14 collection, shown back in June – Van Noten used prints found in the art institution’s archives and adapted them for his show. “The best thing with this exhibition is that it is completely my story, but also that, as opposed to a ten-minute catwalk show and a two-minute post-show interview, people visiting the expo can spend three hours looking at the clothes if they want to!” That’s Dries Van Noten for you – always putting the punter first.
The minimalist New York-based designer tells David Hellqvist about his Scandinavian roots, his love of American sportswear and how he created his own camouflage pattern from scratch for AW13 Copy Born to Swedish parents and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City-based menswear designer Patrik Ervell has an impressive troika of geographical inspirations to draw from. His Scandinavian roots have given him – aside from his fair skin and blond hair – a humble point of view, a slightly introverted manner and a sense of minimalism that he applies to life in general and his collections in particular. Growing up in northern California gave him an all-American can-do attitude and a romantic love of sportswear. These core ingredients of Patrik Ervell – both the man and the brand – were given knife-sharp edge and a true understanding of fashion’s fickleness by his move to New York. “I can trace my aesthetic back to being Swedish and living in the Bay Area,” he says now, speaking in Paris. “They have a lot in common. Both cultures frown on status dressing and obvious luxury. Bear in mind that northern California is very different from Los Angeles. San Francisco is the home of North Face jackets – it’s the native habitat of that style.” Ervell is drawn to this appreciation of anonymity. “Over in San Fran, industry leaders dress in jeans and t-shirts. If you see someone in a suit, he’s most likely working in a restaurant.”
Ervell is arguably the most talented menswear designer still showing at New York Fashion Week. The seasonal showcase is part of the womenswear schedule, leaving him out of sync with his European counterparts. When we meet, in the midst of the spring/summer 2014 Paris menswear shows, he’s in town to present his collection to buyers in a showroom, three months before it will ‘premiere’ at New York’s Milk Studios. It’s an irony that’s not lost on him: “I know, it’s weird. I would consider coming to Europe to show, and I have been in talks with the British Fashion Council about it. I kind of prefer Paris – I feel more at home here – but my aesthetic is maybe more in line with London’s fashion?”
The Patrik Ervell look is difficult to pin down, as it should be. It’s diverse enough not to be pigeonholed but uniform enough to give it a strong brand identity. That might sound easy and obvious, but it’s a balancing act many designers struggle with: either they constantly swap styles, confusing the buyers, or they stick with one for far too long, boring the press. As I said, it’s a fickle business. Ervell, whose label started in 2005, has managed to identify a handful of looks, styles, garments and shapes that perfectly define his brand while still adding a biannual refreshment, without touching on the concept of ‘fashion trends’. Ervell explains his core design idea: “I’m very much into the history of American sportswear. That’s what New York fashion gave to the world – sportswear. My collection sits within that remit. I try and take a more emotional and romantic approach to modernism.” And for Ervell, romanticism is a concrete concept, not an academic notion. “For me, a hooded North Face jacket is romantic – it reminds me of something but there’s also the form and the hood silhouette. It’s an archetypical garment that’s beautiful and romantic but still like a protective shell – a latter-20th-century version of a cape.”
That’s not to say academia is a no-go area for Ervell. He studied international relations, political science and economics at UC Berkeley in California, his sights set on a career as a diplomat. There were no obvious early signs of his future creative profession. His parents worked for shipping companies. “I wish I could say they had travelled to San Fran because they were into counterculture, but that wasn’t the case. They came over from Sweden separately and met in a Euro expat community.” Though no fashion degrees existed at UC Berkeley, in a weird way the seeds of Ervell’s fashion career were planted there. “I met Humberto Leon while in my second year. Of course, when we all moved New York, he and Carol Lim opened up the Opening Ceremony store.” The sisters behind Rodarte also graduated from Berkeley too, and, according to Ervell, San Francisco was a creative hotbed in the late 90s: “At that time, the Bay Area was culturally important – it was a centre of artistic creativity. The internet culture was very much being invented there. I don’t think people realise how important San Francisco has been from the 50s up to present day for the creative industries.”
Once New York had lured Ervell over to the east coast he got his first job in fashion, working as a contributing editor at V magazine. Although this was a good job with career opportunities, he was not happy. He was on the wrong side of the fence. “I was at a great magazine but it wasn’t a creative job. It was great to learn and see the world but I felt it wasn’t right for me. I quickly got frustrated and felt like we just recycled references.” Ervell began harbouring the ambition to create his own clothing line, free of third-party interference. “My initial goal with the brand was to have no references. I felt it should be more about form and colour, especially in menswear, but it still needs to have context, otherwise it’s meaningless.” The result was a collection of t-shirts with faint screen-printed details of marble statues. “They were subtle, beautiful, but pushing my limits for what I knew technically at the time.”
The tops were picked up by his friends at Opening Ceremony. “Their store was like a mom-and-pop shop back then. Humberto and Carol stood behind the cash register themselves every day. For three or four years it was my only outlet – it was like a nursery for me, an incubator. Such a thing couldn’t be replicated today but it worked for me at that time.” The step from a t-shirt collection with only one retail account to a full-blown fashion label showered with industry accolade and worldwide stockists is a time-consuming, complicated one, full of challenges – especially if, like Ervell, you don’t have a formal fashion education. But he claims he was better off that way. “I have a classic liberal-arts background. That’s knowledge for life – it’s the best approach, I think. I took technical fashion classes at Parsons later on but mostly it was learning by doing for me. I think that learning how to see and interpret the world is more important than a fashion degree.” His take on the industry makes complete sense considering the clothes he makes. It is and isn’t fashion. Ervell complies with the biannual seasonal schedule and adds showpieces to the collections, but at the end of the day his clothes are, as Style.com’s Tim Blanks once described them, “glamorous everyday clothes”. Ervell agrees: “It can sometimes be a challenge to apply my aesthetic and style on the fashion scene and the catwalk format. But I also like that element and I sometimes remind myself how lucky designers are who get to say something new every six months. I have a lot of friends in other creative fields who maybe get to do that every sixth year!”
So what are the clothes like? How are they defined and categorised? They are occasionally described as ‘minimal’, but not in the sense of 90s minimalism heroes Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. It’s a very Scandinavian sort of minimalism: purpose and common sense with, as mentioned, an anonymity that stems also from his north Californian upbringing. “Yes, New York can be so much about dressing for status and events, whereas Sweden and the Bay Area are the complete opposites to that,” Ervell says. “My brand doesn’t fit with normal fashion trends – it’s a bit of a uniform. I admire people who find a uniform and stick to it, sometimes for life.” The idea of the uniform is sometimes used literally – military gear and army uniforms are a major influence. “For sure, they inspire me a lot. I like to come back to this archetype piece that is more or less recognisable and familiar. I often look to army garments for inspiration – I collect military pieces. They were made for an extreme utilitarian purpose and to use that as a starting point is always interesting. There’s different kinds of uniforms. I wear one kind. I tend to wear the same clothes every day for months at a time, I go through six-month cycles when I wear the exact same thing. Find a uniform and stick to it!”
In that spirit, some of his signature pieces are garments that have been with him since he set up the brand. The club-collar shirt is a great example. In different colour combinations and in various fabrics, the shirt – with rounded collars – is instantly identifiable, and together with sweatshirts and M65-style jackets form the sartorial backbone of the label. “The club-collar shirt came just after the t-shirts. there’s a slight 19th-century romantic feeling to them, which I like,” Ervell explains, linking them back to his fundamental brand concept. For autumn/winter 2013 all of this – the signature pieces and army fascination – comes together in the ‘Sylvan’ collection, for which Ervell created a unique pattern based on Realtree camouflage. “In the US it’s a commercial camouflage used by hunters, but you’ll also see hicks wearing it down the supermarket. It’s a night camo we built from photos of ivy and dark bark, a reinterpretation of the those classic North Face and Patagonia jackets and fleeces you see a lot of in and around San Francisco.” Asked to describe the pattern, he says it’s a “romantic camouflage”, perfectly summing up not only the key AW13 print, but also the Patrik Ervell brand.
The blog founder talks to David Hellqvist about how his hobby grew into a worldwide publishing empire for both digital and print media
In a day and age where media organisations struggle to make ends meet as the advertising pools dwindle, and with the collective print press looking towards ‘the internet’ as some sort of confused solution to all their problems, it’s refreshing to encounter titles that buck the trend and editors that follow their own vision, often against the advice of fellow industry insiders. A recent example of said phenomena is Hypebeast founder Kevin Ma. Launched in 2005 in Hong Kong as a footwear-orientated blog, Hypebeast is today a fully fledged publishing empire with 40 staff members working on a blog with 2.45 million uniques per month, an online store, a quarterly print magazine and a creative agency.
And like many other success stories, the Hypebeast project has gained its momentum through trial and error: “I have no connection to print other than my love of magazines when I was growing up, and always wanting to do our my own one day”, Kevin says from his Hong Kong office. “It was a challenge because we really had no experience but it was well worth it because we’re pretty happy with the results.” The magazine works due to the readership and fan base Hypebeast has built up through the blog over the years. Ask anyone who’s remotely interested in trainers and streetwear where they get their daily updates from and Hypebeast will be the first of just a few blogs mentioned. There are only two or three other names in the same league, and Hypebeast is the one most brands and PRs want to be affiliated with. “In the beginning, I never thought Hypebeast would become anything as it was just a part-time hobby but somehow traffic grew and six months later we had 10,000 users coming to the site every day. It was pretty amazing how many people wanted to check out the same things I did!”
But Kevin is still humble and hungry: “I never consider Hypebeast ‘big’… not even now as I’m always trying to grow it. But I guess the day I quit my full-time job to pursue Hypebeast as a career was a turning point for me.” The secret behind Hypebeast‘s success can partly be found in its name. “The origins of the name came from fashion forums where you would call someone a ‘Hypebeast’ if they bought into the hype without thinking about that individuals really liked the product themselves. I found this amusing so I decided to use the name for the website,” he explains. The blog concept is based on people obsessing. It’s about products, it’s about wanting the new releases and wanting – needing even – to know when and where they will launch. It’s about being ‘in the know’. “I grew up with computers and the Internet. During my university years in Vancouver, Canada, I would buy these imported Japanese magazines that talked about the latest fashion items and trends. I thought it was amazing what was happening on the other side of the world so I decided to catalogue this information into a blog format. That’s how it all started.” Never, it seems, underestimate people’s thirst for trainer news and fashion updates.
Today, Hypebeast covers a mixture of trainers, streetwear, fashion, music and gadgets (watches, cars, phones etc) – basically anything that can be described as ‘desirable luxury’. But it all began with trainers. So are they the ultimate Hypebeast item? “Yes, I would say so. Footwear for us is always the core and probably will always be the core. It always comes back to the shoes, sometimes in the form of trainers, sometimes boots and sometimes more causal shoes.” Where women have the ‘it’ bag, men obsess over trainers. It’s somehow a legitimate sartorial hobby. Of course women are also drawn to shoes, but the difference between a trainer and a pair of heels can be spelt ‘limited edition’. The big brands re-release old styles, change colour ways and bring in guest collaborators to feed the beast from their end. And it works – there will always be sneakerheads willing to queue over-night to secure a pair. Hypebeast is a forum and platform – a temple if you like – for this kind of dedication, it’s where people come to worship. And, to a certain degree, Kevin lives the life he preaches. “For the past eight years, I have on a daily basis – Monday to Sunday – looked at my RSS feed and checked all the hundreds of sites in my bookmarks. This is very important for me, becoming almost like a daily ritual. I feel if I ever stopped doing this, I would be disconnected from what’s going on in the world. I assume it’s like training for a sport; if you ever stop, you’re going to be out of shape.”
The difference between Hypebeast the blog and Hypebeast the magazine is palpable though. Mainly because you can’t run a magazine the way the Hypebeast blog is edited. The blog picks up news bulletins from brands and re-writes them for the blog within minutes, it aggregates content from other sites and tweaks it to suit the blog’s agenda and readership… it’s all about being instantaneous. The minute it’s been published it’s old news – on to the next one. The lifespan of a Hypebeast post – and the ones from all the other, similar blogs – is no more than a few hours. Like a newspaper site, it’s about breaking a story and moving on. It’s all very different from fashion magazines, which Kevin Ma found out when the first Hypebeast Magazine issue appeared in June 2012.
The magazine is different on every single account, except its fundamental choice of topics and subjects. “The print magazine is a place where quality matter, not quantity. We have always loved print and always wanted to do something in the print world but never had the time nor resources to do it,” Kevin explains. “Now that we have a great team on board, we are able to dive into that realm and create something that we feel can be tangible and timeless for our readers to enjoy.” What makes Hypebeast, and other blog/magazine titles like High Snobiety, unique is that they have identified a gap in the market. Early on, Kevin – probably based on his own preferences – realised that most people don’t just buy streetwear, and few customers solely shop high-end fashion. The truth is that most of us mix and match in a healthy way. Just wearing visvim or Stussy is as unappealing as constantly being dressed top to toe in Givenchy or Dries Van Noten.
But streetwear and high-end fashion both have snobbish tendencies. For many years the connection was not made; they were seen as polar opposites. “Traditionally, streetwear and high-end fashion did not mix. It was due to the politics of the industry, or that the two groups just didn’t really see any areas where there were crossovers. However, I feel this is changing.” Partly this is because there’s a new generation of designers heading up the top end luxury houses – they are now run by a generation that actually grew up on the street and not, as it were, a catwalk: “Yes, and so naturally their collections are going to be inspired by what they grew up with. And vice versa as well,” Kevin agrees. “Streetwear designers are taking hints from high fashion brands for their own collections. It’s a very interesting time and this I feel will continue to merge together.” The first ever Hypebeast issue had Belgian designer and Dior Homme head-honcho Kris Van Assche on the cover, the second featured a Maison Martin Margiela-masked model. Number three was covered in A Bathing Ape camouflage, while the fourth one was dedicated to Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane. The latest one, out last month, was plastered with Supreme logos – talk about merging the two categories.
The features and shoots fuse the two different styles, intertwining luxury fashion with luxury streetwear. And that’s basically the point right there; many of these contemporary ‘street’ brands are just about as luxe these days as any ancient Parisian design house… the quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail, premium fabrics – they’re as vital for White Mountaineering as they are to Balenciaga. The trick is to never close any doors, never all victim to close-minded snobbism: “We never cater Hypebeast for any market. We would write articles about whatever sparks our interest. However, I do see that taste differs from region to region. Everyone loves products, but at the end of the day it’s what type of products appeal to which crowd that matters,” Kevin says.
Around the same time as Hypebeast launched its print magazine, Kevin also took the unusual step of opening up a web shop. Today, with the likes of Mr Porter and Matches, editorialised online stores are no longer rare, but Hypebeast differs as it’s a blog cum print magazine that also ventured into retail. It’s a clever move especially when, as mentioned, the traditional magazine model struggles to stay profitable: why not sell some of the brands you already cover? It might make sense now but that’s not to say it was an easy decision at the time. “We really debated the idea in the beginning because while it made a ton of sense to offer people access to the product we talk about on a daily basis, how would that affect our editorial standard? We came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t because we wouldn’t post anything we don’t believe in anyway, whether it came from other stores or our own online shop.” Kevin’s point makes sense, but even though, for example, Vogue could easily have got away with opening up a store 20 years ago, he doesn’t think it applies to all magazines. “It wouldn’t necessarily work. Our site focuses on product so it made sense for us to try it. However, not all magazines have product ties so it might not be a good fit for everyone.”
“Streetwear designers are taking hints from high fashion brands for their own collections. It’s a very interesting time and this I feel will continue to merge together” Seasoned industry observers are likely to view a blog that all of a sudden launch a print magazine and a web store sceptically. The competition is already fierce and you have to question the motives, need and purpose of such a venture. But for Kevin it all makes sense, he knows who the reader and customer is: “Obviously, people who follow Hypebeast would be interested in reading the magazine but I hope people outside the Hypebeast realm are able to pick it up and read the stories we present. My goal is to educate people and tell them that there’s amazing things happening around the world. It doesn’t have to pertain to fashion, people can also learn about what’s happening in different cultures as well.” So far he’s been able to deliver on that, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Kevin Ma and his Hypebeast machine.