IN CONVERSATION WITH ARCHIE ALLEZ-MARTÍNEZ

July 12, 2020

The Paris-based Spanish knitwear designer who won the LVMH Prize for graduates in 2018 and was shortlisted this year for the LVMH Prize talks about the experience of developing a whole new aesthetics for his SS21 collection in isolation, and why the post-pandemic world should be fearless and sexier.

What’s different about this collection compared to your previous work and what are the similarities?

It’s about captivating a new elegance and fussing this new elegance with a new sexy. It’s about playing on that edge. Since I graduated in 2018, my aesthetic has been quite similar across all my collections and it’s been a while that I’ve felt an urge for a change. Way before the Covid-19, I knew that I was going to take a step further in my SS21 collection and that I wanted to leave behind the 70’s vibe and explore new elements. This collection is more late 90’s, we have completely reimagined the silhouettes. The trousers have narrower legs because I was a bit fed up with the flare, we’ve lowered the waste all the way down to the hip bones, and the tops are much smaller and shorter. It’s a bit sexier.

The similarity with some previous collections is that it’s very minimal. However, this one is more about the cut and the details. The trousers, for example, have a strap that goes around the waste. And it’s also really about the fabric. The velvet nylon is a jersey that is never used on trousers, it’s usually used on outwear. The material for me it’s really important and there is something magic about the movement of this fabric when you see it in real life.

This is a capsule collection of five looks. Do you see yourself taking this direction and producing smaller collections more often?

I think just five looks is probably way too concise for me. I see myself extending that number a bit more, maybe something in between twelve and twenty looks which is still a small collection yet gives the designer enough space to express the vision of the brand and to tell a strong cohesive narrative. That being said, considering the means that we had during the confinement I am very pleased with this collection and how we were able to refresh the image, but I am also upset that we couldn’t develop the knitting tailoring which is the trademark of ours.

On putting together a collection in the middle of a pandemic

Before the Covid-19 we had everything planned for SS21 but then the pandemic happened, so we had to almost start from scratch. It was a bit like going back to university because we had very few resources to produce the collection. I am happy that I graduated in 2018 and that this wasn’t too far away for me. At Central Saint Martins I was used to work with limited materials and restricted means, as well as to work from home as opposed to only being productive in a nice spacious studio. On the other hand, if I’m completely honest, it has also been very inconvenient not to have a model to try the pieces on. That has been very chaotic because in terms of measurements, with no fittings whatsoever, there is no margin for error. So, the challenge was to develop something meaningful yet being strategic. We had to work with what we had and make the best out of it.

Was there any bright side of designing during confinement?

Yes, obviously, us designers we never have so much time to develop something so I took that time to go deeper on to this new aesthetics and gathered as many images as I could. So, the research part was very positive because you never have three months to stop everything and just focus on one idea or project. That was great and a privilege that gave us, creative people, a break from the frenetic rhythm of our industry.

It’s the first ever online edition of Paris Fashion Week. Has this affected the creative process while developing the collection?

Of course, I always put more emphasis in the construction side and the materials that I use. Sometimes these are not necessarily very visual, so for this collection we wanted to make something very appealing to the senses to balance out the lack of physical contact that we’ve had the past few months. I wanted to tap into the clash between the need of physical interaction – something that makes you want to touch it and sense it – versus the fear of being exposed to contact again.

What are the positive aspects of presenting online?

We would love to start again with creating a presentation because for us the experience is very important: the venue, the music, the light, the scent, etc., but when you present online you have more control over the message. On the other hand, you have another challenge which is to figure out how to compensate the fact that there is no real-life component, so you have to squeeze your brain. Personally, what I enjoyed the most was being able to choose all the people I wanted to work with. We worked with a filmmaker from Barcelona who is a dear friend of mine and it was very fun. Despite all the stress, I am very grateful because fifty years ago we didn’t have any of the amazing online platforms that we have today. Nowadays we are all connected all the time and we must cherish that and make the best out of it.

Isolation triggers introspection. Have you learned anything new or reassuring about yourself as a fashion designer while being confined?

Yes, I’ve learned a lot. I really wanted to explore more beyond knitwear, so I started to further experiment with the cut and that’s why this collection is a bit more radical than the others. Because I really wanted to just have fun and try new things. I know that this sounds cliché but that’s why I felt and why I thought that I had move away from the aesthetics that I’d been creating since 2018. I realized that it was time for a change and that this was completely fine. I would say that this pandemic has made me fearless because being constantly exposed to tension made me, in a way, immune to fear. 

Are we going to be more fearless in the way that we dress when this is all over?

I wish but I am a bit of a nihilist and I am afraid that we are not going to learn anything from this; we can see it now with people not wearing mask. We people don’t learn. Also, I stand for something else. I stand for people to dress up however they want regardless of the situation. I think we must be completely free. I think everything should be acceptable.

How is the ‘new normal’ for a fashion designer?

Apart from Zoom, we’ve planned new systems and structures for sales and for everything. For instance, we are preparing trunk shows where stores are going to have a set-up of samples and customers will need to get used to it. You have to reinvent yourself. You can’t lean on the old structure that it’s been in place since the 90’s. We have to come up with creative solutions to the problems that we have because that’s our duty, but for anything not just to face a pandemic. The online fashion week or the new sales structures are just a couple of examples of how the fashion industry is reimagining its own new normal. It’s about being creative and carrying on.

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