What are the items and objects that influence designers? Where do they find inspiration? Each creative has a different answer, and one that’s constantly changing. Fashion, like art, is a cultural snapshot of what’s happening right here, right now. That, in a very open-ended way, was the starting point for this project. With the AW18 show season about to kick off, we asked four London-based designers to look back at their archives or personal spaces for something that helped them create in one way or another.
Words by David Hellqvist / Document Studios
Photography by Mads Perch
Christopher Raeburn, Tourne de Transmission, Matthew Miller and Daniel w. Fletcher all represent very different aesthetics; it’s partly that diversity that makes London menswear great. Though their clothes look different, they all loosely share a design process, a way of thinking and researching, where the objects around them help make up their world and, in the long run, the clothes you wear.
Tourne de Transmission
Tourne de Transmission founder Graeme Gaughan has a unique perspective on the fashion industry. Starting out as a graphic T-shirt brand, Gaughan grew the brand organically by adding styles and a more complex manufacturing system each season. Now it’s a full catwalk brand offering the complete wardrobe solution. More importantly, Gaughan is still sticking to his guns, peppering his collections with loud and clear messages. Of late, due to the political climate in Europe and America, Gaughan has been occupied with asking questions about the direction society finds itself going in. His chosen object for Document Studios’ Ace & Tate project mirrors that ambition…
Can you explain the object – what it looks like and what it is?
This object is what I would describe as a reclaimed collaborative piece between my self and artist Johnny Brophy. It combines graphics, large-format text with painted mixed-media elements of plastic and card. All layered and mounted on a canvas frame.
What season is it from and how did it relate to the clothes?
This piece relates to part of our AW17 collection narrative. And the text is derived from a band called Ride and their early 90s debut album, Nowhere. This text is used throughout the collection on various pieces.
And what’s the message?
I wanted to take song titles from a band that was important to me as a teenager, and use them to create a poem to almost describe my feelings toward how my teenage self would have felt about this current juncture in British history.
Why are slogans and political messages important to you?
I believe it’s important to use any elevated position to offer people an opportunity to look closer at certain things. Otherwise it’s just clothing! This doesn’t always have to be political per se, but I do think we have a privileged position to be able to offer a thought or perspective on things that we find important or interesting. And to then encourage people to look deeper at these elements through the clothing and brand perspective. Never in a one-sided opinion or absolute way… more like a gentle nudge or reminder. In order to allow people to do their own research and make up their minds.
When it comes to London menswear, Matthew Miller has been there, done that. Even from back in the day, when the capital’s men’s designers showed in conjunction with London Fashion Week, his shows and collections have always been consistent. But not in a stalemate kind of way. Constantly evolving and asking himself new questions (and in the long run, the customer), he’s always presented a personal collection that looks closely at what’s happening around him. Here, Miller talks about the words he chose to adorn his silk flags and why masculinity was under attack last year.
This flag is from your upcoming AW18 collection. So is “Consent” the message of the season?
At the moment, I feel that the anarchy of last year and certain words that the press used over and over are really affecting people. I picked out those words I came across in my research and I printed them and their dictionary meaning on giant black flags.
With this particular one, it’s consent as in consensual sex?
It’s consent in regards to anyone who’s forcing themselves on to your life. There’s a plethora of the different things it can mean; I think it’s quite nice that it means something different for everyone. I’ve got other words as well …
The flag itself is made out of silk. You are defending masculinity on a silk flag.
Exactly, it’s hand-woven from Japan, and the texture is incredible. If you just did a flat print of a white word on black, it would look so boring. But as soon as you put it across this Japanese silk it becomes something special.
It’s quite typical you: a good fabric and a strong message!
I suppose for me, as a brand, it’s all about expression, of masculinity or femininity. An expression of self, in a world at the moment that doesn’t know what it is anyone. The last 15 years [have meant] irreversible change: so much has gone on, you have to have a notion of self, otherwise you get lost in this new world. That is what my brand is: self- awareness and expression.
Christopher Raeburn is based two doors down from the Burberry outlet in east London. Though they share the same street address, the two brands arguably couldn’t be further apart. Burberry is, of course, a multibillion global brand, and Raeburn is a relatively small independent label. Whereas the check-tastic brand is quintessential British fashion, representing the Union Jack internationally, Raeburn works in almost the complete opposite way. He searches around himself, often in military archives and surplus stores around the world, to find domestic fabrics and details that can be adopted to create his border-defying wardrobe. Quite literally, as he’s been known to use fabrics from several army smocks on one of his “Remade” pieces. So it makes sense that, for the Object project, Raeburn turned to his archives and picked out a Swiss-made army backpack made out of cowhide.
Why do you think they chose cowhide for the backpack?
Cowhide is naturally water-resistant, so it provides the functionality and quality for the piece. They were made in Switzerland but also in Germany, fairly extensively through the 1930-50s … So they’re a real piece of history. The troops jokingly called them hair monkeys, as they looked like a monkey on your back.
How did you come across it?
I first saw the bags when I went to Switzerland with Victorinox about 10 years ago. I noticed them in an exhibition about, weirdly, tunnels and bunkers, and I thought they looked incredible.
And what about this specific one that you have in your studio archive?
I was working with my present art director, and I ended up touring Switzerland with him, going to different liquidation stores that deal with old surplus materials and collecting all of this amazing stuff. But I never saw a hair monkey. I ended up staying with someone whose father was in the military, and he very kindly gifted it to me, which was quite incredible.
Raeburn, the brand, obviously use a lot of existing materials to create new things. What is the relevance of this object to your brand?
For me, these items are artefacts and museum pieces in their own way, and I’m always collecting special pieces that I find inspiring and that ultimately help me to inform collections and design process. Building up an archive of interesting objects is like a book library to me.
Daniel w. Fletcher
London is known for its new, raw and exciting talent. Though this will be Daniel w. Fletcher’s fifth collection, and he’s already got a wealth of experience having worked with both Louis Vuitton and JW Anderson, his brand is exactly that: fresh blood that excites and rejuvenates the capital’s catwalk. Working on a type of menswear that is ultimately wearable but with enough directional personality to stand out, Fletcher is spot-on when it comes to juggling creativity with commerciality. It was that contemporary approach that appealed to LVMH when they nominated him for the 2017 edition of their coveted prize. For this Object project Fletcher chose a stripy print from his SS18 season, which is about to launch into stores.
What do you like about stripes?
They are so traditional; everyone has seen or owned something stripy before. With mine, I liked that they weren’t so rigid and precise. I use them all the time: it’s the simplest form of print, but there are endless possibilities. This jumper, for instance, that I’m wearing now … By switching the prints on the sleeves and the body, it becomes something entirely different. With this new print, it was like I’d taken the pyjama shirt from my first collection and just scrunched it up.
Is there a technique for drawing them?
I got striped fabrics and then scrunched them up and then drew over the top of them, using tracing paper. And then, from that, I scanned them in and joined them together, and then they became this big thing, a huge repeat print. So there are also different scales.
Ah, so you blew them up?
Yes, so there are bigger ones for waterproof jackets. It takes on a whole different form when it’s on a scale like this. With that collection I wanted to create the feel of a British summer, and that is why there are all these rain jackets and striped shirts and shorts. And this has that feeling for me: like it is a deckchair with a stripy pattern that has been shoved into a bag somewhere.
And these drawings are obviously important to you. What do you do with them?
I like them, because for me so much of what I do is so digital, and I don’t draw half as much as I did at university. I spend all my time on a computer on CAD, so it is nice to sit down and do these drawings by hand, which take a couple of hours each. The worth of them feels much higher than anything I do on a computer. If I could spend all my time doing this kind of work and not sending invoices and doing flat drawings … it’s trying to put some of the craft back into it.
Come have a look at the Document Studios exhibition at our London ‘peep store’ – 10 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LN, UK