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.
Visit Honest By
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.