Taking cues from the Australian surf scene and his small working class hometown near Melbourne, designer Lukas Vincent is the brains behind nascent brand, Ex Infinitas.
Raised in what Lukas describes as “a very bogan town” – “think rough men in tracksuit pants, flip-flops, “wife beater” singlets and missing teeth” – Lukas felt compelled to mix this bad taste culture with the contrasting world of luxury fashion. Cue the brand’s elevated surf, street wear.
Inspired by a story he was told about a surfer who took a naked stroll around the city after taking a load of hallucinogenic mushrooms, Ex Infinitas’ SS18 collection – the brand’s third offering – explored surf culture’s relationship with drugs. Here, slacker style meets formal tailoring as the words of philosopher Terence McKenna – an advocator for the use of psychedelic plants – appear as prints on several garments, including ‘Culture is not your friend’ and ‘Antithesis in synthesis’.
Below, we talk to the designer about Ex Infinitas’ direction, how Aus culture influences his work and the position of menswear in today’s culture.
Cristian Burbano: Tell is about a bit about your background and how did the label start?
Lukas Vincent: At the age of nineteen I dropped out of a fashion degree and had a chance encounter with a successful Australian designer who I began working closely with. Over the years I worked in many different roles, PR & marketing, buying, accessory development, visual merchandising, styling and design. The trajectory certainly wasn’t your typical journey, but looking back the wide scope of experience prepared me well to build and oversee an entire fashion business. The brand itself began when I returned to Australia after living in New York for five years. It was at this time my life came to a complete standstill – it felt as though an invisible wall was blocking any attempt I made to go down a usual path. So creating something for myself was the only option I had left. At the same time I was quite uninspired with menswear in Australia and saw an opportunity to fill that void. This is really where it all began.
Cristian: Where does the name EX Infinitas come from?
Lukas: In an era of what we all might consider quite disposable or transient, firstly I felt a Latin name had an appropriate weight to it. The meaning itself refers to the nexus of intersecting periods between past and future — or the now. A considered combination of old and new sensibilities. I’m also intrigued by the “space between things”, which is why the name was an appropriate conceptual framework to explore this methodology within design.
Cristian: You have described the label as “suburban surf dandy”, what elements of surfing culture and fashions have translated into EX Infinitas?
Lukas: Surf culture has rarely, if ever informed the DNA of a luxury brand. I was compelled to fuse two very opposing worlds – the savour faire of refined Italian tailoring and the once appealing transgressive nature of Australian surf culture. Both aspects of the brand’s creative psyche are woven together using the finest Italian fabrics and made in Italy’s renowned manufacturing region of Umbria. From this foundation we’ve created an ongoing narrative that examines the life of a young surfer as he gradually unfolds into adulthood, his joys and equally his struggles.
Cristian: Australia’s bogan culture is a key influence for you, can you describe this aesthetic for all non-Aussies?
Lukas: Ultimately a bogan is used to refer to an individual with absolutely no aesthetic compass – and usually no moral compass either. I was raised in what would be considered a very bogan town, think rough men in tracksuit pants, flip-flops, “wife beater” singlets and missing teeth, walking home from the bottle shop with a six-pack of beer and eagerly drinking and smoking as they go. The creative studio is also located in the heart of the same very small working class town in Australia where I grew up. It was vital to distance myself from a fashion capital until I had completely solidified the brand identity. Surfers have a long association with bogan culture thanks to their nonchalant lifestyles, which are quite willingly the antithesis of fashion, so the blending of the two is always quite effortless.
Cristian: What were the biggest challenges you found in launching the label and establishing yourself and the brand?
Lukas: Establishing a brand in today’s world is symbolically much like a woman giving birth – in the early stages it has to be completely forced into existence. Particularly if the brand doesn’t have the luxury of a parent company for the needed structural support as the business wades through countless teething problems. Even the most experienced will always endure difficulties, but with difficulties come opportunities for learning and growth, this is the vital ingredient of life. There have been many less desirable moments, but I would never say I’d do anything differently. Of course hindsight and perception are powerful tools, but tools that should always be applied to the future.
Cristian: What do you feel about the current state of menswear?
Lukas: I’ve always seen an incredible opportunity for menswear. I’ve long felt the women’s industry had somewhat reached its creative and consumerist peak. Fashion will always be a very women’s dominated market, particularly in Australia, so obviously it will never cease to be. Though as times change, with the accelerated merging of both markets and a heightened need for more exciting and relevant menswear, it’s menswear that could potentially be a new guiding light. As I grew up I always had a great fondness for many designers and each of their distinct signatures, which is what inspired me to formulate a unique signature of my own. Today it’s vital to have a clear and relevant identity in a vey over-saturated industry.
Cristian: How would you describe Australian, and Melbourne’s, menswear scene?
Lukas: Menswear in Australia falls into two very different categories – those that are perhaps subscribing to the idea of fashion and those who aren’t interested in fashion. It’s the latter who unknowingly contribute to the authentic local cultural image. Melbourne has a long history of bohemians, surfers and rock ‘n’ roll, so it’s an interesting melting pot of these very different subcultures. At its core it has an interesting similarity to Berlin. I’ve worked toward establishing a more elevated, artistic view of Australian aesthetic tropes, so what we understand Australian style to be per se, doesn’t really concern me. I think for this reason the brand has become more renowned internationally as it borrows cues from Australia, but is global in its execution.
Cristian: Tell us about your SS18 collection, what was the inspiration and process?
Lukas: The pre-cursor to SS18 was a story a friend told me about her younger brother, a surfer, taking a bunch of hallucinogenic mushrooms and proceeding to walk around the city, removing all his clothes and riding the train where he was eventually arrested for indecent exposure. It provoked me to question the universal desire for altered states of consciousness, and whether we are aware of it or not. The fact we dream at night demonstrates a natural disposition humans have to these states. I’ve studied the work of Terrance McKenna and his provoking discussions surrounding the entheogen DMT, so you’ll see many of his thoughts printed across garments used as canvases. The fabric choices are what you might find in a luxury surf shop, while the plastic hues of surfboard leg ropes and classic Italian sartorialism informed this seasons palette.
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