Did she do it?
No. On the plane back I had the thought that maybe I should do it. Not be a fashion designer, but to make garments.
Tell me about your method of sculpting little characters and making miniature clothes for them.
That's a technique I developed at Royal College. When I arrived there, I knew I had to carry on looking for whatever it was I was looking for. I knew it had to be different. Then I realized I needed to find a bridge between my drawings and my garments that wasn't a purely aesthetic link. I basically had to go from a two-dimensional drawing to a three-dimensional garment. I was frustrated by not being able to draw in three dimensions. So I developed this technique of sculpting the body or torso from my drawings, then covering it with fabric, like a skin, and enlarging it to human scale. What I'm interested in is the human body interpreted through my characters.
I like how you think of fashion in anatomical terms. You're like a fashion scientist.
That's pretty cool. I like that. Yeah, I always think about anatomy and the notion of understanding the outside by understanding the inside. I'm actually obsessed with it, especially 16th-century notions of anatomy. The very soul of my collections is based on my interpretation of the human body.
Can you give an example?
With the first collection, called When Football Hooligans Become Hindu Gods, all the garments were based on one miniature sculpture, which was scaled up to fit a human body using a computer. The concept of the collection was the idea of a group of football hooligans killing a Hindu boy in a racist attack and then converting to Hinduism when they realized what they had done. Every garment is in a military style, which references football hooligans and how they wear military-like garments, then each of those pieces turns into a Hindu god. That evolved into the next collection, The Funeral of New Orleans, which is the one you saw in September.
Yes, I loved it. Let's talk about that.
That was the first in a two-part story about musicians trying to survive hurricane Katrina, but who decide to risk their lives and protect their instruments instead. [The second part, to be shown this year, will be the posthumous conclusion.] The shoulder construction of each jacket is actually made from deconstructed instrument cases to protect against rain and the pants have built-in gloves that you can also take off and protect your instrument with.
Like a puzzle.
Exactly. I do always think of my clothes as toys.
Toys, comic books, clay figures. Are you a kid in a designer's body?
I guess, but it feels normal to me. People stop playing with toys, but I still love them and collect them, especially articulated action figures. I liked ones you move in anatomically proper ways, like legs that can go sideways, not just front and back.
(Laughs.) Yes, well, in the collection, every shirt and jacket was constructed on a sculpture of a specific musician in a specific pose, playing that specific instrument. So, for instance, you have a jacket constructed exactly in the pose of a trumpet player.
Can the limbs move?
Yes, though it's a little ill-fitting, distorted a bit to the right or left, but that's what makes it cool, if you know what I mean. Plus you can explain the concept to your friends as you go into a trumpet-playing pose. It's a piece with soul and integrity.
Has anyone compared you to the great conceptualist Hussein Chalayan?
Yes, they have. He's someone I admire, but I think our approach is very different. In my opinion, what he offers are unresolved ideas, allowing viewers to come up with their own answers. His work is suggestive and it makes you think, but my work is different in how obsessive I am. I can't leave something until it's fully finished. I'm interested only in the content of the piece itself, which can be enjoyed aesthetically or seen on different hidden levels: conceptual, contextual, philosophical, metaphorical and symbolic. I focus on answering all those questions for the viewer.
Do you think about selling in stores? Or is that too pedestrian?
Yes, definitely I do. It's a challenge for me because at the same time I'm trying to convince buyers that my work shouldn't be consumed for only for six months, and also that they can't expect to get a collection every six months. But I've have great support from stockists. It seems like the majority are willing to support me. In 2008, I'm entering one particular collaboration. Stay tuned.
Going forward a few years, where do you see yourself?
Because of how much I go against the grain of the industry, I think I should have a shop of my own, regardless of the size, just somewhere to allow for the products to live in their own environment.
You're such a purist.
Yeah, I'm not trying to be radical. I can't help it.
You expect full appreciation.
Exactly, and vice versa. Some pieces from Margiela or Chalayan I only started appreciating later on, like in the last couple of years. I never would have bought them when I was still a student, but why can't I buy them now? The fact that people aren't able to buy them means that those designers are suffering from the industry. I'm sure they still believe in those collections.
Plus, with those designers in particular, people do still wear them. Like Margiela's 72% oversized collection. Even though it's old, I know people who still love it and wear it all the time.
And people shouldn't be ashamed to wear it. If something is actually conceptual and not just the bastardized version of that word, it wasn't developed to be trendy anyway, but to communicate a concept.
Are you a tortured artist?
Creatively I suffer sometimes, but it's the price I pay. Sometimes I will have a creative urge to explore something like the color yellow, but ultimately I want to lose aesthetic control and just entangle myself in the process. I only want to design concepts.