Midway into the three-hour-long graduation show that ended the year at Brussels' renowned La Cambre fashion school, a young woman stoically stood in the middle of the runway while each of her fellow models fiercely ripped a piece of her Louis Gabriel Nouchi attire off. She herself removed the last piece of clothing covering her privates. A pause followed, fittingly, and the sweaty audience rushed outside for a drink.
"Hot" had actually been a buzzword long before that rough striptease, and not only because of the scorching heat in the venue, Schaarbeek Halles. The show's catalog, shot by Emmanuel Laurent, reproduced Steven Meisel's iconic 1990's CK One campaign, which itself reprised Richard Avedon's legendary pictures of Andy Warhol's Factory superstars. Like Avedon, Laurent photographed full-frontal nudity, and it's safe to say the brown-haired stud stole the show. Kinkiness was also prominent in Fabien Verriest's portion of the show, who came up with what can only be described as "power-bottom pants," trousers constructed to bare the male derrière.
Aside from these shock tactics, the show didn't exactly break new ground, as one could have expected from an institution that counts Olivier Theyskens as an alumnus. Some of the looks seemed a bit derivative (of Comme des Garçons) and the stagy choreography sometimes did the show a disservice. But there were some nice moments, like strips of flowery fabrics at Eddy Anemian, fur trapped in plastic at Julian Klausner, and nice houndstooth pants at Naomi Coureau. I also noticed particularly inventive accessories, like Alexandra Kengen's sneakers, Delphine Baverel's leis worn as leg warmers, Verriest's noisy wooden sandals or Samantha Cazenave's sparkly sneakers.
The Italian jewelry label Loha Vete launched its luxury Heist collection in 2012. Picked up by Moda Operandi and included in the Met's Punk show, Heist is made from reclaimed gold and silver, culled from police seizures around the world rather than newly mined metals. Spoils from Rio to Rome, "Rolexes in Manhattan to silverware in Mayfair," are melted down in Loha Vete's atelier in Italy and stored as bullion bricks before being recast as bleeding-edge pieces of jewelry, some of which apparently can be used as ashtrays. "From crime to the sublime," they say, to which we might add, "From punks to punk."
Visit Loha Vete
Men's designer Thomas Van der Jeught left the minuscule (but not non-existent) fashion community of Antwerp for the even more minuscule fashion community of Vienna. Because, when you're a graduate of the Royal Academy of Art, the kind of school that encourages risk-taking, that's what one does. In the Austrian capital, he joined the design team of Fabrics Interseason before a stint in London working for the men's label Blaak before a quick return to Vienna.
Van der Jeught's collections are an exercise in fabric manipulation — strong, canvas-like pieces coexist with deconstructed, frail ones. Burning and singeing are techniques that factor prominently in his spring collection. As inspirations, he cites the seemingly irreconcilable artists Marina Abramović and Serge Lutens for their emotional and graphical weightiness, respectively. Intrigued, we wanted to know more...
How would you describe your line to your best friend?
A collection for an individualist, someone who knows how he wants to look.
How would you describe your line to a potential buyer?
My collection combines strong and elegant aspects with great caution. Therefore, the design is a mixture that contains experimental, canvas-like pieces that coexist with deconstructed, minimalistic ones. I see my work as a changing continuation.
When and why did you decide to become a fashion designer?
Around the age of 19. I liked the expression of fashion and it is very direct. It doesn't stay a concept, but becomes reality. It comes alive.
I lived in London, which I love a lot, but i saw the possibility of doing my own collection in Vienna, where I love the architecture, culture, nature, and all my friends here. As time changes, so can the city a live in.
Can you tell us a bit more about finding inspiration in Marina Abramovic? Have you met her?
It started with going to an exhibition of hers at the Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna called WITH EYES CLOSED I SEE HAPPINESS. She was also there and talked about art. I felt very related to her work, spiritually and aesthetically.
How does aggression factor into your collections?
Aggression is a statement, a way of interactive communication more than a form of active destruction. As my design aims to enhance the intimate relationship between skin and garments, aggression is displayed by the shapes, the particular forms of the garments. The shapes show a certain rawness by being industrial, burned, edgy or stiff. It's also the way I felt or feel about the fashion industry.
Since you mention it, please explain the burning.
I made the pieces perfect first. I search for the right proportion and shape using quality fabrics, then I burn them. The burning I did because you can barely control it. It shows reality.
Have you been told your pieces look post-apocalyptic?
Not yet. If so, maybe it's symbolic of an evolution or a new beginning in my work.
Does the man who buys your clothes want to grab attention or be left alone?
None of both.
Last Friday, the opening night of Berlin Gallery Weekend, the German label Closed (founded in 1978), presented its first capsule collection with new creative director Kostas Murkudis. The former first design assistant of Helmut Lang, Murkudis looked to the lifestyle of the nomad generation, specifically the free spirits who've chosen untethered lives and jobs for themselves.
A frequent traveler himself, Murkudis picked a favorite piece of clothing from his own closet—vintage aviator overalls—as the starting point for the collection, SKYWALK. The ensuing unisex pieces are small enough to fit into a single bag, but able to cover the basic needs of a wardrobe on the go. By playing with deconstruction and reconstruction, Murkudis replicated the cut and details of the overalls into a shirt, a jacket, and pants, as well as sweatshirts, a trenchcoat and two tees—all made in Italy of the finest materials.
For the launch event in Berlin, Murkudis invited his friend and longtime collaborator, the artist Carsten Nicolai, to create an art film. Called future past perfect pt. 04 (stratus), the video documents Nicolai's ongoing interest in cloud formations with footage he's filmed over the last 12 years, a fitting complement to the transient nature of Murkudis' debut for Closed.
When they met as interns at Alexander McQueen, Agape Mdumulla and Sam Cotton couldn't have known that they would soon join forces and strike out on their own as the dandyish men's label Agi & Sam. Five years later, this past February, they brought the house down when they showed their fall '13 collection as part of MAN, the group show and sponsorship platform created between Topman and Fashion East. They had a trick up their sleeve, sending a basset hound down the runway in a whimsical nod to hunting and other traditionally British men's pursuits.
Humor is the duo's calling card, seen in elaborate prints and patterns that are not as they first appear. Look closely and you may spot a camel, a pheasant, a fox, or a dog among the busy plaids and paisleys. Calling to mind other English men's designers, most notably Paul Smith, the house that Agi & Sam built goes to show that not every cutting-edge London label is fashioned out of balloons, safety pins, or bits of driftwood.
Agi & Sam's fall '13 collection will be carried by oki-ni.
As everyone knows, A.P.C. is the place to go for sharp, seasonless basics with a touch of French Je ne sais quoi. Now the label is offering a little more luxe with its new Louis W. line. Fresh for fall, the capsule collection consists of three timeless leather jackets—motorcycle, aviator, police—tricked out in a soft deerskin usually reserved for gloves and infused with old-school French crime-thriller cred.
Hint talked to designer Louis Wong—a seven-year veteran of the brand who cut his teeth at Louis Vuitton—about his modern tweak on a French classic...
Tell us how the Louis W. line got started.
Basically, [A.P.C. founder] Jean Touitou offered me a chance to do a small capsule collection. The idea was to do something different from A.P.C., something a bit more luxury and with a specific concept, which refers to ‘70s French movies. It's really about bad boys, with the cop and the bad guy both wearing a leather jacket. All the detailing, all the references are related to movies. Like this type of quilt lining, the color of quilt, even the zipper—it’s all really specific to proper leather gear.
Any French films or actors in particular?
Like Gérard Depardieu in the ‘70s. He used to do a lot of movies where it’s all about Paris, actually a Paris that’s grittier and more dangerous than now. Usually it’s really beautiful, and all these young French actors were starting out and they all look really rough. That’s the look I bring to the collection. The next collection will be more related to American movies and the leatherwear in them.
Where did the idea come from?
I think I got the idea because in my neighborhood in Paris, the Marais, there are these young kids who dress like their dads. They wear, like, tight jeans but with a big leather jacket, like a really retro leather jacket. They are really young, and it’s a really funny look, you know?
This collection is under your name, but it’s part of A.P.C. What does it take from A.P.C.?
I developed a concept that’s more related to a specific man, whereas A.P.C. is more this abstract concept of clothing that can fit many people. That’s why I do the pictures. I work on specific images separately from A.P.C.
Yes, the fashion film looks great...
The movie was to push the idea of French cinema, so we worked with my friends on a concept about typical French movies. I find that brands that do short movies, sometimes it’s just visual. I think it’s really interesting to say something too. Not in a pretentious way, but I just think it’s good to have a proper story to tell, not just visual effects. That was the idea anyway. It’s about two guys of different ages wearing the same jacket. It’s a bit ambiguous.
Where do you want to take Louis W.?
It really depends on how people respond to it. So far it’s been really good, considering that they're expensive pieces. I want to keep it really tight. I just finished the third collection [fall 2013], which is only seven pieces.
Do you have specific influences in mind for future collections?
It’s always a bit thematic, but it’s mostly the story of leatherwear. Maybe it will change at some point, if I get bored, but it’s only the third collection. Already the second one is more about clichés than this one. Everybody does leather, but it’s always inside a fashion show and it’s just a piece or two. I think it deserves a proper story. Also, I think it’s really hard to find a good leather jacket. I mean, except if you go to Hermès. [Laughs]
Or now at A.P.C.
Visit Louis W. on A.P.C.
The elevator lurches and out strolls a whippet-thin Brian Lichtenberg, his nips slipping freely in an oversized black tank top as he strides to greet me. He's holding a Starbucks coffee, a ridiculously complex concoction called a “large soy peppermint mocha Frappuccino,” which he likes “with an added extra shot, extra ice, blended twice,” he says with an inchoate silliness.
It's clear he takes his coffee like he designs. Which is to say, over-the-top and full of energy, like leggings printed with “Brianel” with interlocking Bs (a cheeky Chanel subversion) and “Die Disney” written on oversized tees. And the ice? Well, because we’re in his scorching showroom, in Los Angeles' fashion district downtown.
Lichtenberg's playful approach to logos and branding has attracted the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, MIA, Katy Perry and, most recently, Britney Spears for an appearance on X Factor. Here, he discusses his humble beginnings at Patricia Field’s in New York, how Catholic school got him interested in fashion, and a brief, Gummo-inspired move to Kansas City.
How long have you had this studio?
I first moved in the spring, almost two and a half years ago now. It was three or four of us here. Then we acquired this room at the beginning of this year, so now I have the whole floor, which is great. It’s perfect because if we need anything, it’s within a block radius of the fashion district. And my contractors are walking distance away. The only thing that sucks is the elevator.
Because it gets stuck?
It gets stuck and it’s super slow and it looks like it’s from a horror movie.
Can you describe your look?
I would describe it as really graphic and it could be really angular—I say Briangular. It’s very comical, but also playful and sexy.
Did you always want to be a designer?
When I was younger I wanted to be an architect. I used to draw blueprints for cities in daycare. I loved drawing. Teachers would be like, "Can we save this for future examples for assignments? Can you draw me and my husband as teddy bears getting married?" I was a creative person. The clothing part? I didn’t really give a shit what I wore until high school. I went to a private Catholic school when I was a freshman and we had to wear this certain color shirt and these certain color pants, tucked in. It bugged me. I became friends with these twin girls and they would go thrift shopping and buy polyester slacks and vintage button-ups and stuff like that. That got the ball rolling.
What are you working on right now?
We're working on holiday and spring/summer samples, and prepping my sales rep to go to New York, because we’re showing there for market appointments after Fashion Week. It’s a crazy time—we need stuff yesterday. All the stuff here is archival, with a little new stuff mixed in, because here in L.A. a lot of the pulls are for musicians and music videos. It’s not really about seasons. I also do custom stuff.
Do you make stuff for yourself?
I don’t. This season I want to be more selfish in that sense. I’ve been thinking I need to make a perfect silk tank top and a fucked-up pair of black denim jeans.
What’s the one thing you like about your business that you didn’t think that you would, that surprised you?
I don’t know, being my own boss perhaps? But at the same time, making those calls that sometimes I wish I had someone else to make for me. At the end of the day, people are waiting for you, because it's my call, but you’re like, I just want to make some cool shit. [Laughs.]
You lived in New York for a while?
After high school I moved to New York and worked at Hotel Venus for a couple months, Patricia Field’s store that was geared towards Japanese designer stuff. It was in Soho. That was my first retail experience.
Why did you decide to go to New York?
Two of my friends asked if I wanted to come with them. We had a studio in Chelsea, and we had to alternate between the bed and the floor. My two friends got into a tiff and one of them moved back home. By the end of that year the other one left for an extended vacation. But I had to pay rent and shit. It was the end of January and my bank account was dwindling. I wasn't needed at work that much because it was snowing. I remember they would bring in cardboard and practice breakdancing.
At the Patricia Field store?
Yeah, you know, it’s Patricia Field. It’s a very carefree and laid-back attitude, working with trannies and club kids. I got to meet John Galliano, Kelis, Liv Tyler and Patricia Arquette. That was always exciting.
Then you came back to L.A.?
Yeah, I was so homesick and the weather sucked, and spending 20 minutes just getting ready to go outside, to get all covered up so you don’t freeze to death. I made my own coat, because I couldn’t find anything I liked. I got this thick black wool and made a high collar; it was all unfinished on the ends. I got these big-ass black metal snaps that I hand-sewed. I think it’s still at my mom's. It’s so awesome. I should base a jacket on it.
Tell me about Kansas City...
I randomly lived there for a month and worked at a health food store. I was 20 or 21 and I was like, Is fashion right for me? Is this what I want to be doing? I had gone on an interview at Fred Segal and didn’t hear back from anyone. My brother was working on Third Street Promenade and met these girls who were visiting from Kansas. I met them and thought they were stylish and fun, and they were like, You should come visit, it’s so much fun. I was really into [Harmony Korine’s] Gummo at the time, that movie about white trash. They were like, Oh yeah, it’s totally like Gummo! So I got a one-way plane ticket and I stayed with two of the girls. I just hung out with them and went to parties. While I was there, I started sketching. When I moved back home that summer of 2000, I made so much stuff, just one-of-a-kind pieces, and put them in my friend’s store. I got good feedback, and things were selling. I was living at my mom’s and I realized this could seriously be a career.
You seem to really love women. You seem inspired by them.
Yeah, me and my brother were born in Florida and grew up with my mom in California. I lost touch with my father. It’s true I find myself having more of a connection with women. Of course, I like boys and men, but I’m dressing women and girls. It’s one of those psychological things. I grew up with my mother, and here I am, years later, making clothing for women.
Honest by is the sustainable label that comes not only with a detailed supply chain, but also a string of guest designers. Founded by Bruno Pieters, who headed up Hugo Boss's secondary line before following an epiphany and going green, the label has so far collaborated with Calla, Muriée, and Nicolas Andrea Taralis.
The just-announced new collaboration is with Maison des Talons, the avant-shoe brand launched in 2010 by Susanne Villiger, whose high and low heels run the gamut, aesthetically speaking, between pink flamingos and Art Deco buildings. In other words, sculptural and complex, and requiring a high degree of difficulty to construct the three limited-edition new styles—lace-up boot, kitten heel, sandal—in an entirely vegan way.
That's right, vegan isn't just for foodies anymore. Here, vegan means 100% Italian manufacturing and factories that use renewable energy, and whose production process is monitored to ensure a non-toxic product.
€471.90 - €813.12 at Honest by (beginning August 15)
You know how designers sometimes say they started their line when they couldn't find anything like it, so they decided to make it themselves? And you think, Really? Well, Peter Nguyen is one of those designers. Really. He recently left a five-year stint at haute-cult men's designer Robert Geller to launch Léon, a women's line of leather jackets. And here's that time-honored reason: "It came after years of complaints from my female friends about how hard it was to find great leather jackets," he says, "and because my girlfriend was always borrowing my leather jackets."
His concept is both genius and genuine. He'll design one "archetypal" jacket every two months (beginning with Leather Jacket No. 1, seen here), give it a simple and not-outrageous price ($1000), guarantee that it's 100% made in Manhattan's garment district from premium lambskin, and provide reconditioning, relining and repair for the life of the jacket, free of charge. Sounds like a storybook ending to us.