Over the next four days, Oslo-based designer Kevin Azzopardi will keep his diary on Oslonights.no, as he takes his first steps towards the international fashion market.
Azzopardi is at the prestigeous Tranoï fashion fair in Paris this week, to showcase his latest collection. After two seasons with shows in Oslo, the Australian designer has chosen to focus on Paris as a starting point for bringing his design out there. Men’s week is on, and Kevin Azzopardi is awaiting the opening of the Tranoï fair tomorrow.
Why is the Tranoï fair right for your brand?
Tranoï occurs during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, which is one of the biggest events on the menswear calendar. That means that people will be flooding to Paris to see menswear. Tranoï is also one of the biggest menswear trade shows in Paris, which means that a lot of buyers will go there to see emerging talent.
What are your expectations for this week?
That the world will finally know my name! Kidding. It’s all about positioning and timing. Menswear is a tricky market. Hopefully I’ll land a few new accounts and make valuable contacts.
When did your design interest begin?
I’ve always expressed myself creatively. As a child my room was a maze of cubby houses. Blankets would travel across my room from all directions creating a series of tunnels and playful dens.
As a teenager I did a lot of acting and eventually my love of cubby houses and theatre drove me to the world of set and costume design.
Officially, however, my interest in design began when I enrolled into a Bachelor in Design at the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney.
While there I studied the history of fashion. I was amazed to see how fashion can document a conversation between people and their cultural surroundings. Not only does it document the conversation, but it participates in it. After having such a realization it just made sense to leave my theatre design course and transfer into fashion.
What is your general idea of menswear, what should it be like?
One of the frustrations I had when looking at the history of fashion was that the male silhouette had barely changed over a 70 year period. Women’s wear has always been so intriguing because it’s multi-faceted and nuanced.
With that in mind, I don’t think that menswear should be anything in particular. My work is a combination of draped and tailored garments, however in general I think that menswear should be varied. I’d love to see a spectrum of menswear that compares to women’s, a multi-faceted one that embraces a variety of styles.
‘We Arrive In Pieces’ is a collection trilogy that you have worked on for the last three seasons, and that is completed with your latest collection for F/W 2012. Explain the basic idea of the trilogy?
The first collection in the trilogy, which also led to the overall title, ‘We Arrive In Pieces,’ was about challenging the manufacturing process. Rather than receiving garments from a manufacturer completely finished, I received them in an incomplete state instead. This meant that t-shirts and jumpers returned as flat panels without the shoulders and centreback sewn, and sleeves were left detached.
Likewise, trousers arrived in two parts (front and back) and jackets arrived in thirds. The manufacture did a lot of the fiddly work like neck finishings, hem finishings, pockets and waistbands. My challenge was to then reorganise these pieces in a variety of ways so as to create an entire collection. Kinda of like a puzzle that has 30 possible outcomes, each outcome a new garment.
The second installment to the series, titled ‘…And Pieces Are Added,’ builds upon the first collection by adding lengths of cloth into the garments. This allowed me to create sections of drape, so that the garments weren’t so flat on the body. After the first two collections I reflected upon what was working and what needed development.
The final installment in the trilogy, titled ‘And Together We Come,’ is about drawing conclusions and defining a path forward.
Why did you chose this different approach to collection making?
For an emerging designer, manufacturing represents a massive hurtle. In the early days you may spend a lot of time putting things together in your studio, and this is easy when you only have small orders. As you start to grow this method of production becomes impossible.
Logically, the next step would be to have your work outsourced, so that somebody else is doing your sewing. However, manufacturers have minimum quantities that they expect you to meet and when you’re an emerging designer these minimums can be tough to reach. I decided that it was necessary for me to create a bridge between being an emerging designer and being an established designer.
Design is what I do best, so for me the only way to tackle this problem was to design my way through it.
Azzopardi started out with asking himself when the distance between him and the clothes would mean that it’s no longer his own collection.
Did you get any wiser on this? What have you learned or discovered from your process?
The tyranny of distance still plagues me.I think the only way to satisfy both commercial and creative passions is to eventually develop a multi-tiered system, where at the top end I’m working in a more artisanal way hand-crafting garments, and at the other end I’m working through outsourced processes. Perhaps there’ll also be a point in the middle where the two systems meet.
So no, I’m not any wiser. Yet I think customers have been impressed by how closely linked design, manufacturing and the designer are in my work. I’m not just sitting behind a desk drawing pretty pictures.
An ongoing feature in your design are the detailed seams. Why are they so important in your garments?
I wanted to distinguish between the work that was being outsourced and the finishing that took place in my studio. As the seams became part of that finishing process, I decided to design how they came together as opposed to making them look conventionally finished.
Can you already live from designing?
Not yet. My business is still very young, and it’s still going to be a while before the label will support both itself and me. Just like you wouldn’t expect a child to fend for itself too early, you want to give a small business some time before you start withdrawing from it. It is definitely moving in the right direction though, and I’m always amazed by how much it grows each season.
‘And Together We Come…’ is the final installment of your trilogy ‘We Arrive In Pieces.’ When this season is over, where will you go from here?
On holiday…! Each season is a continuation of the last. So although the trilogy comes to an end, it’ll definitely influence what comes next. Right now I’m really preoccupied with business strategy and growth. I’m interested in developing pathways into this industry. I’m not sure how that translates into a collection concept, but I think it represents an interesting starting point.
Check in tomorrow for Kevin Azzopardis first diary entry from Paris!
Words: Rut Gjævert
Photo: Oslonights.no, Azzopardi, Solveig Selj.