There could have been no better close to Fashion Rio than Reserva's high-camp, no-drama family reunion. The wildly popular Brazilian denim label left for the big city of Sao Paulo three years ago, returning to Rio "as men and members of a 423-person family now called Grupo Reserva," says designer Rony Meisler. And they wanted to celebrate the homecoming.
For summer 2013, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational clan of non-models bounced and bobbed down the runway, weaving between sofas and chairs, to a crowd-pleasing, siblings-only soundtrack of The Jackson 5, Bee Gees and INXS (yup, also brothers). Then, hilariously and heartwarmingly, each one of the made-up modern family—which even included a lip-locking lesbian couple—did a little solo dance at the end of the runway, which you can see below starting at minute 5:52. Who doesn't love a dancing grandpa?
Two years ago the Belgian designer Bruno Pieters relinquished his eponymous label and stepped down from his role as creative director of Hugo Boss’s diffusion line, Hugo. Why the abrupt exit? For a bit of soul-searching in India.
But this is hardly an Eat Pray Love story. Pieters spent his time in the subcontinent researching the textile industry and its supply chains. He eventually launched a unisex label, Honest By, and in the process developed a new openness in retail, or what he calls "the world’s first 100% transparent company." Available online only, each Honest By piece comes with a complete cost breakdown. By the time you click Buy, you'll know the provenance and actual price of each part of the garment, from the fabric to the buttons. Plus, as if it needs mentioning, the line is mindful of the environment, organic where possible, and made under safe and fair working conditions.
To democratize matters even further, Honest By will be guest-designed every three months, while still curated by Pieters. The first guest was Toronto-born Calla Haynes, and this July will see the reveal of the next, a Paris name with more than a decade of experience. It's a lot to absorb. Fortunately Pieters was on hand to further break it down...
You conceived Honest By during a sabbatical in southern India. Was there a particular moment the idea hit you?
There wasn't a moment in particular. I think Honest By took me 36 years to create. All the ideas I have are the result of my life. Of course, quotes like Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world" and Einstein's "If at first the idea doesn't seem absurd then there is no hope for it" inspired me and made me take the plunge. Honest By is what I wanted as someone who loves fashion, but at the same time is very aware of the consequences that all my purchases have. To me, being honest is the only possibility we have as human beings. I can't imagine paying for something that isn't sustainable. I think I'd rather go naked [laughs].
The great Indian guru Osho once said, “The man who created the maxim 'Honesty is the best policy' must have been a very cunning man.” How do you decide what's honest?
If you think about it, lies only exist to be discovered. And the result is always damaging. It's a waste of time. But I'm very happy you asked that question because, to my surprise, many people are not aware of what they are buying. Nor do they know how prices are calculated. The standard wholesale mark-up for a designer is 2.2%. Ours is 2.0. It's very low. But the mark-up is something every designer or company decides for themselves. Sometimes it can go up to 5.0 or even higher depending on where the product was made and what a company believes the price should be. There are no rules. The only reason why our clothes are now at the same price point as other luxury brands is because we sell only limited editions. I don't mean that there were just 1000 made. I mean extreme limited editions, like 10 to 20 pieces. It's basically like couture.
Is sustainability the future of fashion? Is Honest By revolutionary?
How nice of you to call it fashion and not eco-fashion [laughs]. I don't understand why some of us see it as two separate things. It's just fashion. But to answer your question, I hope Honest By won't be revolutionary for long. I hope it becomes a standard soon. For our customers it isn't revolutionary anymore, it has become a normality—a way of living and a way of shopping. In the near future I'd love to collaborate with other industries. This concept can be applied to anything and it would be just as great.
To describe your experience in fashion, you once quoted Cristobal Balenciaga as saying “It was a dog’s life." How would you describe it today?
Honest By reflects a part of my personality today. And I do say a part of my personality because I'm no different from anyone else. There is a Yin and a Yang in me. I am working on something that I believe is important to me now. But I like it when people see my work with Honest By as a "game changer." Even if I love the game and I am probably the last person who would want to change it. The game, or life, has never been better for most of us today. I wouldn't want to change that. I prefer to find solutions, so we can all keep playing this game.
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Just over a year ago, the British fashion press received an invitation to the off-schedule show of an unknown label called Fyodor Golan. ("Something to do with Fyodor Dostoyevsky?" wondered one wag oddly familiar with Russian authors' first names.) It was not the hottest ticket of the season, yet few of those who made it to the quietly extraordinary show will have forgotten the name.
Fast-forward a year and Fyodor Golan—two guys, in fact, the husband-and-husband team of Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman—has come a long way. They’re the presiding winners of the Fashion Fringe award, plus they’re stocked in tony London department stores with international sales said to be in the offing.
And now the M word is being bandied about. McQueen references are part and parcel for young, high-concept Brits, but this time the comparisons are warranted. There’s the couturish intricacy (each piece in the autumn 2012 show was individually fitted to the model) and the fascination with melancholy and decay, which finds its fine-art parallel in Francis Bacon. When doing florals, as they did for spring 2012, they were—naturlich—Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil. The other named inspiration that season was the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the semi-mythical lost Romanov princess. Styling combined plaited hair, Ballet Russe colors, glittering nose rings, and hourglass shapes à la Ethel Granger, she of the smallest waist on earth. Yet comparisons are dangerous, so in the designers' own words...
Jewelry designer Arielle de Pinto got her Fine Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University, but taught herself to crochet, later introducing a metal version of the technique to the worlds of art and fashion. Like something out of Joan of Arc's closet, the look of metal crochet is both bulky and delicate, recalling chain-link armor as much as breezy tropical getaways. The French-Canadian, in Paris during Fashion Week to show her fall collection, took time out to discuss her unconventional influences, from Jean Paul Gaultier to Mardi Gras...
So tell us about the collection.
I spent a lot of time working on this collection while I was visiting my parents in Toronto. I love them, but I don't really love where they live. The city has a lot of chains, like chain restaurant, chain stores, condominiums. It is very spread apart, and it’s cold and gray. I also love everything that is flashy, like the lichen-colored carpet at my parents' condo. I wanted to display the colors and texture of this as flat crochet.
You collaborate with a lot of musicians, like The Grimes and Beef, and you incorporated dance in your last show. How influential is music in your work?
Music is one of the biggest influences—the music, the body, the moves. Also going out dancing is the way I relax and regenerate. Last night I went to the Castelbajac after-party. It was fun but the music was a bunch of hits that I have heard many times before. I love The B-52s, but I like to hear them with stuff I don’t know. I did not learn anything about music. I learned something about dancing though. (Laughs.) There was a girl there and I couldn’t stop watching her moves. There were very early 60s.
Is there anyone in the fashion world you would like to work with?
Last summer I went to Jean Paul Gaultier’s exhibition in Montreal. I love some of his work. There is a lot of ego in fashion, but the way that he designs makes me feel like there is no ego involved. He is really goofy, everything is a joke. He is like a caricature of himself. A lot of his collections are like parodies. But it is still beautiful. It’s mocking, but not in a negative way.
How do you see yourself reflected in his work?
I feel like I am immersed in a commercial culture. I'm really sensitive to it, but I don’t want to be cut off from it.
Tell us more about your retreats to New Orleans.
When I launched my business I was often in New York, working like crazy. Those were "wake up and get in front of the computer right away" kind of days. But I also love warm places. When I visited New Orleans for the first time I felt like my life changed, my attitudes changed. It's a great escape. Now I am working in New Orleans, so I am always on Skype, except when it’s Mardi Gras. In New Orleans you can do whatever you want. Worlds collide in an unexpected way. It is such a creative, fun experience.
Some designers simply are their brand. In an apartment high above London's Dalston district, Federico Capalbo perfectly embodies the avant-garde men's label Komakino, which he launched in 2007 with co-designer Young-Jin Kim. Dressed all in black, with the retro-industrial sounds of Coil in the background, he possesses a certain affable contrariness.
Not that he cares for such reader-friendly reductiveness. When asked to define the Komakino man, the Central Saint Martins grad looks pained. "I don't know," he replies. "I always have problems answering that question." Others might describe Komakino's aesthetic as a collision of conceptual austerity, military utilitarianism and the youthful cultishness of the Joy Division song the label is named after. But let's stick to the designer's own words...
Could you explain the inspiration for the new autumn collection?
I believe more in creating the identity of the brand. For autumn, only the shape of the tailoring evolved. We narrowed it a bit, especially because we're working with heavier fabrics for winter, like nylon and doubled-faced wool. We used very light linen fabric for the last spring-summer collection.
Color-blocking comes across strongly…
What we try to do is introduce one or two colors each season, like blue or brown. We don’t like to mix too many colors together. We're minimal in design and the color palette.
What are the defining influences?
We refer to youth and teenagers in a wider sense. It’s that element of vulnerability and strength at the same time that defines a boy in his teenage years, I would say. Being sure about certain things, yet obviously unsure, at his young age. I see it in quite a romantic way, which is why we reference music a lot, yet at the same time transferred to a more mature age. It’s that time of being aware of something and you start to build your own system.
We’re listening to Coil at the moment. Do you listen to music when you design?
Of course. We listen to music all the time. I mean, Komakino is from the Joy Division song.
Another big influence?
Yeah, there are certain bands we grew up with and constantly refer to. They’re part of us, I would say. We made a film for the spring '11 collection and we were lucky enough to use Coil music before Sleazy [Peter Christopherson] died. It was really flattering for us because he gave us some unreleased material. We had a presentation in London for autumn '11 and the band Raime created a soundtrack for us. We try to get in touch with artists we respect to soundtrack our work.
Does film interest you as well, since kino is part of your name?
Definitely. In translation Komakino could be "the cinema of shadows." We are very interested in making films to present our work as I think it’s a fascinating medium. And with the exposure you can get through the internet, it’s very communicative. We were very lucky to work with Dennis Schoenberg and since last season we’ve been working with an Italian artist called Matteo Giordano. We are already planning to work together on our graphics next season to present the collection as a film or an installation. For spring '11, in addition to the film, we had an exhibition in New York in an art gallery. So we’re very interested in whatever medium is around as a way to express and pull together the many different influences that we have.
Looking around your studio, I see you’ve got Thee Psychick Bible. What is that?
It’s by Genesis P-Orridge from Throbbing Gristle.
Yes, we like the subversive energy of the outsider. It’s what we express in our collection. But I wouldn’t define myself as dark, I just have dark tastes. I’m quite joyful actually. I even listen to pop music.
Catalonian fashion brings to mind vibrant colors, bold prints and frilly things. If you’ve ever walked through Gaudi’s Park Guell—or popped into a Desigual store, for that matter—then you know the people of this lively corner of Spain aren’t afraid to show some flash, or flesh. But don't sell the local style short; there were plenty of unexpected runway moments at Barcelona Fashion Week, aka 080 Barcelona. These three designers piqued our interest...
While many designers turned to the Spain's Gothic history for inspiration, Mario Francisco eschewed Inquisition robes in favor of puffer jackets in an explosive monarch butterfly print. In his men's collection, fabrics were heavy on sheen, so Francisco threw in a few more wearable options, like a zip-front track jacket paired with red shorts. It was a smart, almost conceptual take on athleticism.
Wallowing in the dark side, Manuel Bolaño was influenced by mental institutions, the military, and Nazi Germany for fall, practically daring you to look at his models with (thankfully fake) bruises and bloodied noses. Layers of raffia, photographic prints, and striped jackets showed a good understanding of print and proportion—like a procession of Otto Dix paintings come to life, but without the disfigurement.
Men in skirts aren't exactly riveting these days. Hell, we’re probably a season or two away from seeing leather kilts at Target, but Yiorgos Eleftheriades offered a more viable option, a pant-skirt combo in leather and wool that hit just the right androgynous note. Women’s oversized liquid leather coats and two-tone knits had a slouchy quality, balancing out the hard edges of an aggressive collection.
Alexis Reyna’s adventurous show took the crowd in a few different directions. What started with tribal wrap dresses quickly veered into white gossamers, menswear style jackets, and most surprising, a hooded tangerine terry-cloth cape. Needless to say, there was a lot to take in, but sometimes sensory overload can be a good thing, particularly when Reyna tackled printed outerwear. It was some of the best of the week.
The liquid silk shirtdresses and double-breasted jacket with dropped lapels were some of the standouts in this quietly excellent show from Toni Francesc. The tone was somber and elegant, but a couple of Francesc’s more unique pieces, like a sheer knit gray jumpsuit, gave one pause. Otherwise the strongest pieces came in the form of dramatic tailoring, like in a one-shoulder print top with a voluminous silk trouser. It was a great reference to 80s tailoring, minus 80s styling, thankfully.
Barcelona loves a touch of the Gothic, which might explain why Josep Abril’s collection was so well-received. Well, that and the clothes were pretty spectacular. Navy and teal plaid pieces were sharply tailored and effortlessly stylish. There was also a vaguely Arabian theme throughout the collection, with male models in sandy desert prints and wrap turbans. It's not hard to see these clothes making the transition from runway to real life.
As everyone knows by now, there’s a lot more to Brazilian fashion than string beachwear and Gisele's rocking bod. The underground scene in the world's third-largest city is thriving testament to this. Since 1997, André Hidalgo, journalist and owner of the red-hot Clube Glória, has been fostering the city’s avant-garde, assembling some of Brazil’s most interesting young designers through the Casa de Criadores (House of Creators) series of runway shows.
Casa de Criadores also has establishment support, including Brazil’s major fashion colleges and Texbrasil, the Brazilian Fashion Industry Export Program. Together they sponsor the event’s Pont Zero contest for young designers, a program that launched the career of Brazil’s newest Project Runway winner, Cynthia Hayashi.
Aside from the contest, the 30th season of Casa de Criadores brought together 29 labels—ranging from students to hometown heroes like Walério Araújo—at Cine Joia, a newly refurbished movie theater in the city’s historically Japanese Liberdade neighborhood. The style spectrum ran from badass biker to the theatrical, with many looks in the buttoned-up goth mode that’s been on the worldwide street-style scene for a while now. The three-day whirlwind is enough to give anyone a case of fashion whiplash, but here are four names with extra-Brazil potential...
Tron meets tradition in Arnaldo Ventura’s winter collection, from the show-stopping circuit-printed bodysuits to the infinitely more wearable little black dresses and sparkly loose knits. The luxe factor is high in rich brocades and deep persimmon, plus luxuriously draped camel-colored coats.
Multi-colored leather recalls the city’s booming rock-and-roll scene, with separates in head-to-toe silver, white and matchy-matchy metallic lilac and blue. The moto jackets, bare midriffs and skintight trousers are nothing new, but the bold approach to color adds a new and naughty sex appeal. This is the stuff cool girls dream of.
Cutesy, playful and just this side of twee, Danilo Costa’s casual clothes for boys and girls conjure images of the perfect couple dressed for brunching. The girls get low-key dresses and maxi skirts plus sneakers while the guys go sweetly masculine in dandyish bowties and muted pastels.
Leave it to a designer from the show’s Projeto Lab group of up-and-comers to create one of the season’s most sophisticated collections. Inspired by the play of light around Paris’s Opéra Garnier, Sakate used touches of plastic, metal and transparent tulle to recall the city at night in a refined, understated collection.
Karl Lagerfeld, Shoniwa, and Paloma Faith are just some of those championing Spanish-born, London-based designer Conchita Perez. Meanwhile, the video for her fall 2011 collection, Invisible Warriors, smacks of Alexander McQueen, with its corseted blazers, cocoon shapes, and impossibly snug leather reminiscent of jet-black petals from an exotic, toxic flower. Which isn't surprising, since she was schooled by the late British icon before starting her eponymous label. Perez herself, as it turns out, is a rare breed...
Conchita Perez and the Self-Esteem Salon, your showroom-cum-cafe, sound like a holistic burlesque act. What do you reckon?
Definitely. In my view, if art is about expressing yourself, then fashion is one of the most interesting and accessible forms of art. Art exists everywhere, and the best art you find in the strangest of places. This is one of the reasons why it's so good to be living and working in London. It is such a vibrant place with so many people trying to make sense out of this crazy world we live in. It’s the best medicine!
How was being a costume designer different from creating ready-to-wear? Which do you prefer?
As a cutter and maker, I wanted to increase my knowledge in the different techniques of constructing clothing and learn various methods of cutting. Theater and film use a lot of details from different eras of costume history. To be involved in that environment is like diving into the unknown. But I wanted to bring that spark to ready-to-wear and create something more imaginative and playful.
How did you get your start in fashion? What first motivated you to become a designer?
I come from an artistic family in Barcelona. My great uncle was a famous tailor back in the day. His name was Paco and he was openly gay, something that was obviously not part of the mainstream back then. But he was proud and made a good business out of the attention he got. My mother had a clothing shop and was always designing and making beautiful clothes for us. We were always dressed in the latest trends! My brother is an amazing sculptor and my older sister was a fashion designer already when I decided to move to London at 19 and carve out my career. I knew I wanted to express ideas and stories. I found clothing was the best tool for me to do this.
Tell us about your time working for Lee McQueen.
I was really excited when I got the job. I made the sample pieces for the autumn 2006 collection, machining silk dresses and hand sewing laces. That's one of my favorite collections of his. He has been a big inspiration for my work. Not many people have been able to take an old tradition such as tailoring and turn it on its head, making it accessible in a completely new way. I love him for that. And working with him opened my eyes to the fact that making clothing is so much more than fashion.
You exhibited during Paris Fashion Week last season. How was it?
Paris is great. Fashion Week there was amazing. We exhibited our spring 2012 collection at Tranoi [trade show]. In fact, we’ll be presenting autumn 2012 there again in February. Next year is going to be a very exciting year for us. We’ll be presenting in both London and Paris. Shows are a very important part of the label. It becomes a physical experience.
What do you do when you're in need of inspiration?
Inspirations are never-ending. I look at art, music, cultures, people on the street. When I ride the Tube or when I’m at a party, it’s a passion that I live out 24/7.
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Not long ago, men's designer Erïk Bjerkesjö decamped from Sweden to Florence and its promise of Tuscan perfection. He promptly enrolled in the prestigious Polimoda school, where he took an advanced footwear course with instructor Patrick de Muynck and director Linda Loppa, a fashion legend in her native Antwerp.
They clearly teached their young pupil well because Bjerkesjö's shoes, like most of the finer things in life, are made to look simpler than they really are. In an homage to the Vienna Heel, the most dignified of historical men's shoes, each of Bjerkesjö's leather derbies is crafted with 18 eighteen-carat gold pins inside, while etched on the upper is the archival emblem of Tuscany.
The shoe line has recently expanded to include men's clothing, but Bjerkesjö, a believer in a "post-modern synthesis," has made sure his Nordic aesthetic exudes from every stitch. That he's never without his handmade replica of Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic glasses pretty much says it all.