Back in the early part of the new millennium when Hedi Slimane was making his indelible mark on menswear with his work at Dior Homme; a New York based Russian émigré called Alexandre Plokhov was creating a quiet revolution of his own with his cult label, Cloak. Plokhov rejected the pervasive preppiness of the times, whilst drawing inspiration from youth culture and the power of Goth music. His was a world of smoky, poetic elegance where Russian aristocracy was lyrically melded to a punky underground attitude and military details to create clothes that made the wearer feel heroic and powerful. Like Slimane, his strength was in making his deeply personal take on masculinity give sartorial voice to a generation of inarticulate young men in broken boots and skinny jeans. Despite a hard-core fanbase and a string of impressive accolades (the 2005 CFDA Swarovski Perry Ellis Award for Menswear, the Ecco Domani award for menswear) Cloak shuttered in 2006 due to partnership problems.
After a spell designing for Versace Homme, Plokhov is back with his own eponymous label. His debut A/W11 collection was shown in an intimate presentation during Paris fashion week with a zippy video directed by Douglas Keeve. In a strict palette of gunmetal gray, olive green and charcoal, he showed folded-over halter vests, narrow single button jackets with zippered elbows, a funnel-necked gray wool coat and instantly desirable leather biker jackets. The Dickensian sobriety, luxurious fabrics, attention to fit and immaculate tailoring that made up the DNA of Cloak are still present and correct but a new maturity and uncompromising elegance now infuses proceedings. Dazed show exclusive outtakes from the lookbook shoot (by Sinisha Nisevic) and talk to Plokhov.
Dazed Digital: There are items from Cloak collections going for exorbitant sums on ebay – what was it about the brand that made it resonate with so many guys?
Alexandre Plokhov: I hope it is because people see some lasting value in those pieces – in how they make you look and feel. Either that or they have more spare time than they know what to do with…
DD: What lessons did you learn from Donatella Versace during your time there?
Alexandre Plokhov: I loved getting a bit spoiled while in Milan. I was exposed to a plethora of the world’s finest textiles and had the privilege of working with top factories that could pretty much turn out anything I could think of.
DD: It’s been four years since you started designing under your own label again – what changes have you seen in the menswear world? Do you think we have reached a saturation point with the American preppy look?
Alexandre Plokhov: I think there has been a shift from the extra small silhouette championed by Hedi Slimane to this new looser, draped look that harkens back to the work of Japanese designers in the early 80s. I believe the preppy look is here to stay – at least in one iteration or another - though you may have noticed it’s not a favorite of mine.
DD: You talk about starting from where Cloak left off from a few years ago. How do you see the Alexandre Plokhov guy has moved on from his Cloak days?
Alexandre Plokhov: In my mind he’s the same guy – maybe just a bit older and hopefully wiser. He’s well informed, well read, well travelled. And there is still a certain precision to the way he approaches life.
DD: You showed your debut collection under your own name with a low key presentation in Paris and a film, rather than a runway show – what was the thinking behind that?
Alexandre Plokhov: Runway has its own logic and structure. It is all about creating a fleeting moment of extroverted spectacle. My F/W 2011 Collection was not made for runway. Rather, it was all about personal details and somewhat introverted. Showing it directly to buyers and press made more sense. With the video, Douglas Keeve brought more of a dynamic element to the static nature of clothes. It was great to see everything moving, morphing, appear and disappear – a cross between some obscure ritual and a robotic ballet.
DD: Tailoring is still a very big part of what you do. How did you try and push it forward with the new collection?
Alexandre Plokhov: Tailoring is indeed the cornerstone of what I do; mastering the tailored jacket was one of the reasons I got into fashion in the first place. Experimenting with cut and technique, though, is what keeps things interesting. An example of that in the F/W 2011 Collection is the “Cold Shoulder” coat where the right sleeve is completely gone without disrupting the overall balance of the garment. Another foray into left field is the “Half-and-Half” jacket with one side draped and loose; the other, tailored and fitted.
DD: You work from a strict palette of greys, black and neutrals and there is a modernist, industrial feel to the collection which links back to your days at Cloak – what fascinates you about that environment?
Alexandre Plokhov: The precision of the industrial process, with its conveyor belts and assembly lines, has always fascinated me. I like to understand how things are made. So I guess I can’t help but be influenced by the color palette of machinery and the factory floor… What can we expect from the SS12 show? Continued development of the themes from this past collection – which are in the same sphere I always worked in. I plan to present the Spring/ Summer 2012 Collection to the buyers in Paris and do something in terms of press in New York.