BLVD MAGAZINE ISSUE 26 — LUKAS VINCENT ON HOW THE AESTHETICS OF RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS ARE AT THE HEIGHT OF FASHION
Winner Of The Australian International Woolmark Prize, Founder And Designer Of Ex Infinitas, Lukas Vincent Shares His Thoughts On How The Aesthetics Of Residential Districts Are At The Height Of Fashion, What Challenges Are Facing Australian Designers And Why Women Love To Wear His Clothes.
- Tell us about your education, about your career and how your life has changed since starting your label.
I’ve always had an extremely restless, entrepreneurial spirit, that found university and working for other companies to be quite stifling. Alas I begun a B.A fashion degree in Australia, soon after dropping out and trading uni life for a professional role in the industry. Looking back this all eventuated by what seems to be sheer luck- I was very fortunate.
This was very early on at the age of 20 (I’m now 33), where I worked as an assistant to a well-known and successful Australian designer. This was the first time I had a taste of getting my feet wet in many areas of a fashion business. I thrived on the variety of the position. It was always difficult from then on, to focus on just one area moving forward in my career. I spent many years at this brand, while also consulting as a stylist for a few other brands. Once this had run its course I finally moved to New York, working as head designer for quite a commercial brand for roughly 5 years.
It was after this tenure, I moved back to Australia, making the decision to not work again for any business in this capacity. I felt I was not growing and held back creatively. At the time of moving back to Australia I was also quite unsatisfied with menswear in the local industry. There was almost no other option but to create something for myself. This is where the new journey began in 2015.
It certainly hasn’t been easy. At the time when most others my age are buying a house, I made the decision to build a house- a fashion house. But when you are doing so in the luxury market, nothing is ever cheap. The entire brand package has to be incredibly strong- from fabrics and design, to the standard of marketing campaigns — its all vitally important.
- Comparing your debut collection with the spring-summer '17 and capsule collections for IWP there is a big difference between them. In a mood, message and casting. What prompted you to believe that the brand needs to be headed in a new direction?
Taking the leap to start a brand is always a very personal journey and often a difficult one, which you can sometimes see reflected in the mood of a collection. For me, there was somewhat a personal revolution taking place between the first and second. I had very modest desires creating the first collection, wanting to create a small fashion brand I could service via my online store. To my surprise the first collection very quickly led to a nomination for the International Woolmark Prize and also securing a top brand development agency in Paris- It was all very unexpected.
It was during this time I started to understand more intimately the full potential of where this journey was headed. 1 year prior I had never considered my brand as one being shown to many prestigious stores, nor presenting the collection to these influential figures I would soon meet. It was very much a green light to start demonstrating greater creativity within my work, which is still unfolding as I move into the 3rd collection. I now treat the initial collection as a capsule collection- a pre-cursor to the first main collection, being SS’17.
- How did you manage to convey an Australian bogan aesthetics in the advertising campaign? What are the key factors that helped to transfer these aesthetics into the advertising campaign?
At the time of creating the new collection and indeed conceptualizing the campaign, I was also examining and re-solidifying the brand DNA. At this point I was asking myself on a very basic level, what would the global audience want to see in an Australian brand? Interestingly, where I grew up there was nothing to influence my interest in fashion. In fact, the only people around were more the antithesis of fashion. Think government houses, heavy drinkers and bogans with very little money.
I made the decision to move back to this area where I grew up to begin working on the new collection. I began to look at the mundane, everyday surroundings in a new light, elevating it into what you see in the campaign. Going back to my suburban roots, was the only way I felt I could deliver a body of work that was truly authentic. Not to mention the only way I could manifest an aesthetic that would be intricately mine and only mine.
- Where do you actually create (sew) your collection? Where do you buy fabrics?
Currently everything is manufactured in Australia. I felt it was important to ensure the product was made in Australia, to support the brands’ Australian image. Its also seen as a commodity to northern hemisphere buyers, which adds to the overall brand presentation.
The fabrics are all produced in Italy, at some of the finest “slow-mills”. Meaning most of the fabrications are produced in very limited quantities, using heritage weaving techniques and machinery. It is very much a fabric driven brand, where the fabrics themselves are just as important as the overall designs.
- Our countries are somewhat similar: a large area, agriculture ... The biggest problem Kazakhstan is facing right now is the logistics, the distance from the ocean. How do Australian designers cope with this issue? Are there any problems with the textile industry?
I find it incredibly difficult managing a brand in the current industry climate in Australia. 15 years ago, manufacturing was thriving and producing a collection here was no different to producing anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately now, many business have moved off-shore searching for more competitive pricing.
As a result, the business' that are left are dealing with very few factories that have survived. It means they can no longer afford to upgrade machinery, or increase capacity where needed, which makes my work very challenging when competing with global brands with much more at their disposal.
For textiles, there are probably two mills in the country, which only produce very basic qualities. So there is no choice for designers but to source off-shore to remain competitive and factor-in the added cost to import any raw materials from overseas. And Australia is by no means close to any neighboring countries, so import charges and freight can be horrifically expensive, driving up retail prices considerably.
- Many fashion experts believe that the suburbs culture will soon cease to be relevant and that brands operating in this aesthetic would have to surprise with something else? What do you think and how are you planning to further develop your brand?
Being from a very suburban culture, naturally it's always going to have an influence in some way- its part of who I am. However I think its important to remember, this aesthetic is derived from youth culture- and this has been forever present in the work of many great designers over time. It's now re-appearing in a different guise, so perhaps it seems more specifically about suburban culture, but really the primary influence is fundamentally all about youth. The DNA of Ex Infinitas sits at the intersection of surf, art and tailoring, so I always focus on these elements as the basis of any collection, which will develop over time. The apparent suburban aspect is really no more than the setting which the collection sits- it rarely informs the designs. To me, its just another layer of the overall brand ethos.
- Many menswear brands are popular among female consumers as well. Do you already have your target audience, who are they, are there any women among them?
The customer base is a very interesting mix of "surf dandy" types. They seem to have an affliction for robes, denim, surfwear and tailoring for the most part. Those have been our most successful categories. Interestingly, many of the beautiful women I meet have all taking a serious liking to the brand and so many pieces in the collection. I think for both men and women today, they seem to be somewhat bored of past available clothing options and find it more inspiring to wear the more unconventional. Men in robes and women in baggy denim- its certainly more interesting to see these more unexpected proportions or silhouettes on the street.
- Tell us about the message of your latest collection? What did you want to express through it?
It was important for me to cement a very clear brand direction for this collection. It was a chance to convey my perspective of the Australian lifestyle, though the clothes and images. For those who haven’t been to Australia and their only impressions are what they might see on TV or the internet, then what is it I want them to see? I pushed past the traditional ideas of Australian beauty and fashion and worked to deliver something striped back, from the core. I took the typical nuances of our culture and re-appropriated a new way of looking at the familiar. There was a danger of being overly cliche, so the references are always very subtle.
- Are you planning to do a show in Paris?
For Fall/Winter 17 I'll be focussing on showing the International Woolmark Prize collection during Paris fashion week in January. This will be the debut runway show for the brand. Moving forward we do plan to show the full collection during Paris fashion week. Though we are taking our time to conceptualize a significant show- I think its important to do everything with a clear purpose and not rush forward simply because you can.
- Where can we buy clothes from Ex Infinitas at the moment?
The SS’17 collection will be available worldwide from February 2017. We have partnered with a few very select stores for the introduction, including Browns London, H.Lorenzo L.A, Nomad Canada, Rail Italy and Farfetch online. The collection will also be available through our yet to be launched online store.