Fortunately, he didn’t, as McKnight showed up months later with a shockingly good first collection of high-waisted pants, bulky outerwear, large-bodied knitwear, and old shirts. He cites technical outdoor gear as a huge influence – and it’s there – but all of the strongest pieces appear to have been handpicked by a high-paying stylist from the world’s best thrift stores for Brad Pitt to smoke and drink coffee in McKnight himself prefers short tops and baggy pants, that’s what it looks like. (He checks the names of former Celine designer Phoebe Philo and Miguel Adrover, the Spanish designer who blew a hole in the fashion industry 20 years ago, as influences. Go figure.) It’s not for everyone, but that’s what it does so good. Nothing good has universal appeal.
McKnight’s business is small right now, but it’s going to grow. He already has some large wholesale accounts in the range and has recently won several major fashion awards. This is all encouraging – important milestones for a young designer on his way, especially for a young black designer breaking through at such a crucial cultural moment. But McKnight’s main focus – and mine too – is on clothing. His are nuanced, personal, quirky, carefully made. That means: you have an aura.
The designer Who gives me the greatest hope for the year ahead is Camiel Fortgens. Everything he does looks like it’s 90% done, like the sewer got up for a beer and never returned. There are lots of raw edges, unfinished hems, and flawed seams. The zippers are uneven and the pockets are randomly placed. These are items of clothing that appear to be in progress, but not in a confusing way in art school. They’re simple, easy to carry, comfortable, and cool – even normal. (More on that in a second.) By confronting us with the raw materials in this way, exposing ourselves to the loose warp and weft of the fabric, the fluff of the exposed batting, they reveal themselves to be exactly what they are. There is something more honest about experiencing clothing this way: as … man-made objects, rather than as vessels for hype.
So I zoomed into Fortgen’s Amsterdam studio and asked, what’s wrong with all those unfinished clothes?
He says that he first struggled with the idea of making clothes. “There’s enough shit – cool and nice things – around. When you do something, it should be added in some way, or it should challenge some things, ”he said. But fashion has been questioning for decades. What else was there to ask? “I felt like all taboos in fashion had been broken. One of the biggest taboos right now is being normal or human or imperfect. “
Signature raw edges on Camiel Fortgiens clothing.
Fortgiens’ clothes have uneven hems and raw edges, he explained, because we have uneven hems and raw edges ourselves. His clothes admit that they are not perfect and therefore feel more human. He also shows us his hand and lets us flow a little into the process – fashion, he reminds us, doesn’t just appear on a rack in a department store. It has to be done by someone.
“I’m very impatient,” said Forgens. “So if I do something and it sucks, I think maybe that’s really nice. There are so many interesting and new mistakes because you cannot plan for mistakes. “
However, it would be difficult to build a healthy fashion business entirely on mistakes, no matter how interesting they are. Fortgens is exceptionally good at making the simple types of clothing you want to wear every day, without flaws – jeans, hoodies, t-shirts, simple jackets. In the future, he divides his collection into three parts: there’s the main line, the raw edges, and everything; a number of adjusted bases (with finished hems) called Good Products; and he calls research a radically experimental area.
“The research pieces are created in the hours when other people have gone home. I am alone in the studio. Turn on the music, drink too much cola. And then just do with what I can find, ”he said. He’s chopping up existing pieces and Frankensteins’ them to make strange new things. I don’t know of any other fashion brand that does this – let their designer pamper you, experiment, play, completely free from market considerations. But more should happen. “I want to look beyond what we already know and see if we can find new forms and ways.”
I know a couple of designers. This is what happens when you work at GQ. Much of what I wear was made by people with whom I have eaten, had long conversations or traveled the world. This may not be the case for you. The point is not that you have to make friends with a range of designers. (Though you might. Fire a DM or two and see what happens.) The point is, you’re better at relating to people than faceless brands. You don’t have to know someone personally to feel connected to their work. That is the case in art and in fashion. You just have to be open to the possibility, maybe even seek it, and it will happen.
But designers are cool. If you don’t know one, meet one. Or better yet, become one.