by Jessica Lapidos on
On a sunny Sunday afternoon along the riverside, creatures crawled up from the murk-infested Hudson and worked their toxic bodies down the pier. These future forms of gator skins and dyed leg bombs were the meticulous work of Asher Levine and his team of skilled creators. Last week, I popped into the downtown studio to see the new showroom, touch the material in the flesh, and discuss the making of these bafflingly cool garments in detail.
On the gellin’ material that reminds us of the sticky toys of our childhood: “Well Tyson, the head of the sculpture department, [and I have] been talking about these skins for some time, and I always like the kind of things that look reptilian or scale-like. I always push organic, and he likes to be very symmetrical, so this is what came out of it. But these techniques are so new! We literally, just three weeks before the show, developed this new technique. We wanted to incorporate it into the show and then we made that whole sculpt jacket. We really want to develop these techniques more and make them not only stylish, but functional.”
On conquering new technological frontiers: “We’re dealing with more electronics in [our] pieces. We’re talking with technology agencies where we want to bring a functional technological aspect to fashion.Were really trying to build and make fashion something that is completely different than just fabrics sewn together, which is really exciting. Like communicating with the device that you’re holding. How can this communicate with that? Communicate with him? Every single day we’re talking about this.”
On creative freedom when custom pieces for the likes of will.i.am, Lady Gaga and Scissor Sisters: “Usually they give us, I want this, but then they give us leeway for the design. Most of them push what we can do, and that’s what I really like. It’s just like, what about this? Like this didn’t originally have lights in it and then he [Jim Steinam, future owner of the wrist piece in the photo above] goes, ‘Can you put lights in it?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ What I like about the collaborative process is when both parties are pushing each other. We push the design; they push the capabilities. Then we get something that’s better than what we both even thought of in the beginning.”
On lessons learned from the 2010 knight-worthy Alpine Starters collaboration: “That was molded acrylic. All our shoes kind of embody similar silhouettes like we accentuate certain parts of the shoe, we build out other parts, we add different textures. But each season, we figure out new ways to incorporate different materials with the shoe. Those were so drama during the show. Literally as the models were walking we heard snapping and we were like, what is that sound? and we realized it was the shoes. They were single use. Some of them actually really lasted a long time, but that was 2 years ago. Everything is a process.” (Evolution: the shoes above are from the S13 runway collaboration with CAT.)
On how many people typically work on a single garment in the studio: “Anywhere from 5 to 15. Sometimes it goes through every single person, which is fine.”
On what he looks for in his models: “I look for confidence. I look for distinctive traits that make them unique. I like beards. I also like clean. It depends on what mood I’m in. When they’re really easy going, I like that, especially on set when you communicate with them. You’re like, ‘Give me that,’ and then they give you that. They’re interpreting. They’re not like, what do you want next? They’re just moving and they’re in it.”
On which models he’s feeling right now: ”Chris. I like Chris. I like Nate Levin. Enok [above on the left, next to gagging rapper Don Jones] was fun from the show. I always like Micky Adoub, he’s always fun. Chris Wetmore I love. There’s another Chris, Chris something, he was in our previous show. I guess that’s it for right now.”
They’ve just set up the new Asher Levine showroom. It’s the front of house to the studio, and they’re now officially open for Spring ’13 pulls! I love that it’s in the same place that it’s all created. There’s no magic curtain from behind which this is created. Except, you know, for all the magic that’s happening back there.
See the rest of my favorite looks I shot from the front row.