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April 24 2014

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Aitor Throup’s “Deeply Charged Art” Is Coming to a Store Near You

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Aitor Throup's "On the Effect of Ethnic Stereotyping"
It’s been seven years since he graduated from the Royal College of Art—seven years of mind-bending manifestos, endless obsessive sampling, teasers, feints, and false starts, and God knows there were times when it seemed like the day would never come. But at last it’s here. On Thursday, Aitor Throup, the philosopher king of London menswear, released his first complete collection to a handful of stores around the world: Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Atelier in New York, H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles, I.T. in Hong Kong and Beijing, and Rail in Brescia, Italy. In typical Throup style, leaving nothing to chance, the launch is supported by a full platform of explanatory visuals, exclusively revealed here on Style.com.

It’s probably fairer to call New Object Research a project rather than a collection, although it does in fact collate items from the four concepts Throup has been evolving over the years—like the Skanda jacket from When Football Hooligans Become Hindu Gods, or the riding jacket from Mongolia, or the Saxophone shirt from The Funeral of New Orleans—into one seamless group. “Evolution” is an appropriate catchall. “Even since we showed in January, we’ve taken it to another level with production,” the designer enthused the other day in an East End studio teeming with assistants packing up clothes for shipment.

But nestled inside his evolution is a revolution in construction and fabrication, all of it produced right downstairs in that teeming studio (which is remarkable enough itself, given that some of the fabrics sound like purest science). To see it all, he’s worked with a design firm to create rotating, 360-degree views of the pieces on his Web site, like the one below. And what to see? There’s a new zipper system, new buttonhole technology, the signature trousers that don’t finish where the ankles finish, seams like you’ve never seen before, and, my personal favorites, Throup’s ergonomic sleeves, which have an internal elastic articulation that anticipates movement. However it works, it feels better than any sleeve I’ve ever had on my arm. Cristobal Balenciaga, fashion’s most famous sleeve-obsessive, would be green with envy.

There’s even more radicalism in the sheer weight of ideas that Throup attaches to his work. It’s probably best to explore them at your leisure on the Web site, which launches October 16, but until then, his most recent concept, the portentously titled On the Effects of Ethnic Stereotyping, makes an appropriate taster. Following the terrorist atrocities on the London Underground on July 7, 2005, any brown-skinned man riding the Tube with a black rucksack became an object of intense suspicion. Throup himself fit the profile. So did an innocent young Brazilian named Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead by anti-terrorist police on July 22. To interpret such a tragedy in the context of clothing might seem a bridge too far, but Throup has always maintained that what he does is “deeply-charged art in the form of product innovation” and, viewed in that light, his “replicas” of the denim jacket, black T-shirt, and jeans that Menezes was wearing when he was shot become a highly charged comment on the power of clothes to shape perceptions—and preconceptions. Even more so when Throup veils those items in a lightweight mesh parka based on a Swiss military jacket (“a metaphor for the anti-terrorist police’s misinterpretation,” he calls it) and adds a rucksack in the form of an upside-down skull as “a symbol of misconstrued threat.”

Throup acknowledges that, on a purely superficial level, what people will see—and buy—is “a really cool denim jacket with a really cool parka.” The clothing is so immediately gratifying that it works just fine without the philosophy (though you may need the instructions that come with some of the more complicated pieces). Nevertheless, it’s Throup’s challenging marriage of the two that is about to launch him as a multiple threat on a much wider public. Hollywood has noticed him, and he’s been working on a project there that is as top secret as his other hush-hush thing: serving as creative director for a music superstar. He promises all will be revealed in time (aren’t we used to playing a waiting game with Throup by now?). What isn’t a secret, however, is his ongoing creative contribution to top British band Kasabian, whose guitarist, Serge Pizzorno, is the model in Throup’s online lookbook (top), and video (below).

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