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.
For years menswear has been dominated by rugged explorers, intrepid mountaineers, and outdoorsmen of all stripes and plaids. Now, designers are beginning to move away—just slightly—from those barrel-chested, pipe-smoking chaps. Here, a few newish men's labels mining a post-lumberjack look...
Andrzej Lisowski and Stephen Hartog inject a subtle sense of humor and playfulness in their Amsterdam-based label. For spring 2013, they collaborated with German designer Micheal Kampe to achieve slouchy yet geometric suits and such.
Based in Copenhagen, these guys are known mostly for their all-terrain outerwear, but they aren't afraid to incorporate a little color and delicate florals. After all, even the fearsome Vikings made pretty things. They also collaborate a lot with like-minded labels on parkas, shoes and Breton shirts.
We've had our eye on Japan-based Kolor for a while. For fall, designer Junichi Abe brings the great outdoors inside, combining loads of Grizzly Adams with a pinch of Mister Rogers, further perfecting his deliberately awkward aesthetic. Who knew an oversized cardigan could look so good with mounds of fur over it?
Hailing from Kitsune and Dries Van Noten, Clément Taverniti knows a thing or two about clever, unexpected detail. He's only on his first collection, fall 2012, for his Still Good line, but he's already selling in a dozen stores across Europe and the U.S., including Colette in Paris and Memes in New York.
This isn't a label, but a new online shop brimming with bright young threads. Based in the UK, the e-shop aspires to escape from the "super high-end, samey high-street and extreme edgy apparel" that men so often confuse for quality.
A new label out of Paris, yet much more, EACH OTHER is the latest to blur the line between art and fashion, men's and women's, street and luxury. It may sound like a tricky premise to have artists produce fashion, but consider the beautiful mash-up that occurred at the fall 2012 presentation. Out of nowhere, graffiti artist Alec Monopoly brandished a can of spray paint and began tagging a white leather jacket worn by another artist. And just like that a new style was added to the line, hand-produced in his L.A. studio and destined to sit on racks alongside the rest of the collection. We sat down with Ottavia Palomba—no title, naturally—in EACH OTHER's gallery-like space in Paris to learn more about the strange new hybrid...
In brief, what is EACH OTHER?
Founded by Jenny Mannerheim, Philippe Combres and Ilan Delouis, EACH OTHER embodies the union of three core ideas: art meets fashion, common identity, and rough luxury. We embrace a community spirit, with all its connotations: collective projects, collaborative practices, open-minded, trans-disciplinary, mixing gender styles.
I can see an artisanal quality. Are the garments hand-finished?
Not everything is hand-finished, but the treatments are carefully developed with specialist craftsmen. This cashmere sweater, for instance, is over-washed to reproduce the aging process of the garment. And some of the leathers are hand-painted, so that each piece is unique. In this way the essential unisex wardrobe sits alongside the artists’ pieces, and has an enduring timeless quality.
It looks like the EACH OTHER branding is very minimal.
The only thing we have is a leather embossed label on the jeans, and some other pieces have our logo, a small X. This is not just part of the logo, but symbolizes the exchange between artists, and the exchange between a man and woman. We thought about the girl who goes into the man's wardrobe...
And hopefully the man who goes into his girlfriend’s wardrobe too.
Yes! It has actually taken this direction more in the next collection, for resort and for next summer.
Who are the artists you're collaborating with?
For fall we worked with Robert Montgomery, Thomas Lélu, Peter Eaton Gurnz, Jason Gringler, Asa Mader, Ari Marcopoulos, Alizé Meurisse, and Alec Monopoly. We are very happy with the response, and have found there are a lot of people that want to buy into an artist's work, but can't afford it. So in a way, they can.
Some of the artists are street-inspired. Do this define the look of the collection, or vice versa?
It's important for us to look at the zeitgeist to see what are people wearing now. If you work with an artist just because you like the work, it could be an all-over bright pink print, and it will be disconnected from our way of looking at people on the street. We asked ourselves the question, "What are we all wearing today?" And we came up with the biker jacket, the trench coat, jeans, shirt, etc. Not all the artists are directly related to the street either. For instance, Thomas Lélu works with spray paint, but shows his work in galleries. And Robert Montgomery loves to show his work on the street, but the aesthetic is more concerned with the subversion of advertising messages. This works the same way with the clothes. One minute you have a pair of jeans, which becomes a pair of limited-edition jeans, and then an art edition of 1000. Or, one moment it’s a scarf, and you take it home and frame it on your wall and it becomes a limited artist’s edition.
What can we look forward to from EACH OTHER?
With the fall collection, we worked with the ideas of fire, ash and stone. That is why the look is very black and white, and the artists we approached work within these tones. For next summer we're working with other artists more related to color, and the feelings we have for summer. For instance, we are working with an artist who uses stripes, because for spring 2013 we really wanted to do stripes. It comes back to the spirit of EACH OTHER, a community spirit.
EACH OTHER is available now at Colette, and will be available from September in Barneys (New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo), les Galeries Lafayette in Paris, VK2 Designers in Istanbul, Fred Segal in L.A., and Jades in Frankfurt.
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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