THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD — EX INFINITAS DESIGNER LUKAS VINCENT RIDES WOOLMARK PRIZE WAVE TO TAKE LUXURY SURFWEAR GLOBAL
On paper, the idea of fusing Australian surf culture with strong tailoring to create a new sub-genre of fashion seems incredibly intuitive. And yet, before Lukas Vincent launched his label EX Infinitas, no one was really doing it.
Vincent, 32, crept on to the fashion scene in 2015, without the usual fanfare of some new labels. Even after winning the $50,000 Woolmark Prize in Sydney last week, the boy from the Mornington Peninsula remains resolutely humble.
Vincent attended Frankston High and fed his interest in fashion with a steady diet of fashion magazines he picked up on visits to the beauty salon with his grandmother. "I grew up in a small beach town where there are a lot of rough boys; there was no fashion around when I was young," he said. "When there was no internet, there was a lot more mystery in fashion, which is what I loved ... Hence I'm examining how I can create a brand which is rich in character and soul, to bring back those elements of fashion I believe are dying out."
Vincent began studying fashion at RMIT after school but decided it wasn't for him, instead going to work for Bettina Liano for nearly eight years before moving to New York. There, he worked across fashion merchandising, marketing, public relations and finally design – a combination he believes set him up to succeed in his own business. "You have to be superhuman these days to be a designer ... we live in a complicated world with so many factors: social media, finance and an incredibly over-saturated market- It's very volatile," he said.
It was after returning to Australia that Vincent felt ready to launch his own brand. "I couldn't find [clothes] I was interested in buying and that's how it really all began," he said. "I had absolutely zero money and was on government assistance, living with my mother for the good part of four years. I really sacrificed my life to make it happen, and with a lot of persistence and hard work things started moving in the right direction."
The result is EX Infinitas, which means "of infinity". Vincent said the name provides a "conceptual framework" for him to combine old and new, from styling to fabrics. But success wasn't instant. His first showing in Paris, in front of buyers from such influential stores as Barneys and Selfridges, was by his own admission a bit of a failure. "Once you know your collection is being shown to those buyers, the brand definitely took a huge turn," he said. "The first season didn't go so well, but after the valuable feedback it was chance to show what an Australian brand can deliver."
He has now signed with at least eight stores globally, including outlets in Toronto, Paris, Italy and Los Angeles. Winning the coveted Woolmark Prize – previous winners include Dion Lee and, less recently, Karl Lagerfeld – will no doubt boost his profile further. The judges, who included international designer Jason Wu, said Vincent's entry "stood out as the clear winner. Lukas came with a sharp point of view, a plan, a unique use of wool – he really transformed the material," Wu said.
Wu said of the menswear finalists, Vincent was the one who was most ready to step up on the world stage. Vincent and womenswear winner macgraw each won $50,000 and the right to compete for the world prize in January.
However, Vincent said that no matter how much success comes his way, he wanted to continue to present a uniquely Australian label. "Lifestyle is a big part of our culture and that is always translated through the garments [Australian designers produce], but I wanted to dig underneath that and extract something that was at the core," he said. "If we take away everything we think to be true about Australian fashion and culture, I think the way I grew up was a very authentic and genuine expression of Australian youth culture. The boys there smoke and they drink and they party, and it was my idea to bring that into a luxury space. "I knew I loved beautiful fabrics and wanted to create something of a high quality, but I also didn't want to ignore the more real aspects of Australian culture."