In Equilibrium: Menswear

A New Guard Emerges

J.W.Anderson and Eytys

Online, everything is equal. Image follows image in a sprawling infinity like the perfect horizontal of a Sugimoto photograph – until the euphoria of hype sends a #trend speeding skywards like a cork from a champagne bottle.

Today, if a debut collection strikes a chord, it can make as much noise as the most established Parisian houses. But young designers have earned it. They’ve put in the work and are backing up the waves of iPhone photos and Style.com show details with production just as sophisticated as the old guard’s. Upstarts like Yang Li, J.W.Anderson, and Eytys are sharing factories and challenging norms with the industry’s finest: old and new in equilibrium.

Études Studio

“Working in Italy with the best manufacturers and artisans in the world is very important to me,” says Yang Li, a London-based talent who blends romantic minimalism with spontaneity and held his first runway show in Paris in 2012. “I have spent a lot of time researching and building relationships with factories and fabric mills.”

“I feel honored if a manufacturer that works with a big fashion house agrees to work with me, especially when I was at the beginning, with smaller quantities. I feel very punk in that way.”

I felt better suited to launching my own brand than working for a house for the creative freedom to be able to wholly write my own story.

—Yang Li

Li’s communication is looked after by Paris PR Michèle Montagne, who in her 30-year career has guided the greatest independent names to unprecedented success: from the legendary Helmut Lang to Undercover and Haider Ackermann. You could say from the outset, he went hard.

To describe his approach as “punk” might sound strong, but there is truth to it. Li is astute enough to know that his work will sit next to his heroes online, in stores, and in fashion shoots – so the fabrication, finishing, and packaging needs to match. If he’d been around at the dawn of the millennium, he could have gotten away with imperfections and rawness in an era where attitude was allowed to make up for a bit of winging it.

But in 2015, rebel hearts out on their own find themselves bolstered by sophistication, not daunted by it. It’s a catalyst for them to soar and be taken seriously.

Undercover

“I felt better suited to launching my own brand than working for a house for the creative freedom to be able to wholly write my own story,” Li says. “I am really doing my own thing. As long as you’re saying something new in the conversation, there is a place for you.”

Jonathan Anderson also takes this approach with his label J.W.Anderson. He’s been “business” from the beginning. It has garnered him accolades and investment from LVMH, as well a second job rejuvenating the Spanish leather house Loewe.

Having very well-produced clothes means designers can attempt to shake paradigms creatively, as opposed to being seen as artists or artisans. They can take flight and become synonymous with a generation. As Anderson himself says, his work “proposes a modern interpretation of style, gender, and dress. It celebrates the discipline of the perverse and overturns the complacency of prettiness.” He does not flinch from the goal of carving out his own history.

Seeing someone wearing our shoes is an amazing feeling and one of the biggest reasons why we do what we do.

—Eytys

And it doesn’t stop with clothes, either, as today’s fresh talent has realized there’s great potential with shoes, due to less complications with fit – you don’t have to be concerned with nuances changing the way fabric hangs off the body. You know your size, you like it, you buy it.

“We’re part of Generation Y. First MTV, and later the internet, has given us access to information and inspiration in a way that previous generations didn’t have, breaking the boundaries between different creative fields,” says Eytys, a Stockholm sneaker brand founded in 2013 by Jonathan Hirschfeld, Charlie Hedin, and Max Schiller.

Eytys sneakers are made in the same facilities as those of some luxury fashion houses, and their quality is at the same level (if not sometimes better). “We can achieve this by making very few products and really focusing on perfecting them. If we had big collections and many different types of garments it would be impossible without big production teams and development budgets.”

Damir Doma

Experiencing newer brands next to the very established online has had another great consequence – aside from pushing everyone to be their best. It’s made the mixing of clothes more exciting and intuitive, feeding back into street style.

“Seeing someone wearing our shoes is an amazing feeling and one of the biggest reasons why we do what we do,” the Eytys designers continue. “Everyone is their own stylist… it’s much more fun and inspiring to see people dressing with integrity and creativity rather than wearing total looks from brands.”