Having shown their work in Paris for a few seasons, the duo started gaining recognition and a following of loyal fans. Editors usually smile when attending a LAZOSCHMIDL show and this cheerfulness is definitely something that’s been missing in fashion lately. Lazo and Schmidl are both sincere and ironic in the ways they envisage clothes, but their vision is positive, forward-thinking and emancipating.
Over the past decade, many insiders have argued over the direction of menswear and how it is developing. The post #MeToo era has generated sea changes when it comes to sexuality, relationships between genders and social identity. When Andreas Schmidl and Josef Lazo launched their own brand 6 years ago, they must have sensed that traditional manhood was on the way out, opening a path of possibilities and new representations.
Your first collection was a tribute to Gilbert and George. Why did you choose them?
I’m a huge fan of the world they created and also admire the symbiosis they have. They are weird and cute at the same time, and they grew old together, sort of an ideal projection of who you’d like to be when you get to their age.
I find it intriguing how you refer to gay icons or themes in your work, but there’s also a sense of social commentary and detachment in your shows.
Yes. I think it’s always motivated by culture and what’s happening around us. We often think of a teenage boy wondering about his identity and being exposed to different sets of images, through TV or the Internet. So I try to put myself in his shoes and it triggers all kinds of emotions, which we use in our work. Doesn’t matter that I am in my mid-30s, it’s about the reality of that boy and what his identity will be. You know, when you are a teenager you spend a lot of time wondering if you fit in, and whether or not what you are is ‘okay’.
And what is your take on that kind of questioning, which shapes adolescence?
We want to emphasise positivity and encourage people to be who they are, to find that confidence within themselves and through our clothes as well.
How would you define being masculine today?
A lot of people ask us about ‘toxic masculinity’, but we don’t understand that notion at all. There is something negative about it and we reject that completely. For modern men and women, it’s no longer about chromosomes, but personality and desire. You do not limit yourself to a gender anymore, which is an ongoing theme within queer culture.
The boundaries keep blurring between genders now and we start seeing many alternatives. Do you think ambiguity is the way forward?
It makes gender irrelevant. It’s been proven already that evolution will cancel out gender, it has no meaning anymore. Women can have children on their own today it they want to and the notion of a family has been radically transformed.
The thing is, female bodies have been objectified for so long, so could it be payback time?
Totally. I actually think that men want to be objectified today, much more than women. The guys who expose their bodies on Instagram grew up with strong feminist mothers. What can they do to be acknowledged as men by society? Women are more powerful now than they’ve ever been. These men want to prove themselves, that’s why they go too far. At the same time, I find it healthy that they claim their bodies that way. It’s a very complex societal issue.
Yes, and we’re in the middle of it. I’m curious to see how it will evolve.
Some people may describe this as roles being reversed, but what about equalising and becoming the same? Everyone is fighting for equality now, but we’re not there yet.
How do you see the role of fashion within this context?
For us, fashion is affirmation. Everything is okay, it just has to be you. I can’t say more. Live today, be true to yourself and your girlfriend will like you anyway, because you’re cool. Again, we are surprised that so many straight men like what we do and in a way, we don’t want to see ourselves as a queer brand either. Fashion can touch people on many different levels.