Founded by Josef Lazo and Andreas Schmidl, Lazoschmidl wants its designs – inspired by the likes of gay cruising and ABBA – to be accessible to all
When you think of Nordic fashion, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that it’s nothing more than clean, minimal designs and the odd chunky knit. While that is true of some of Stockholm Fashion Week’s labels, Lazoschmidl – one of its most exciting names – is going against the grain.
Founded by design duo and couple Josef Lazo and Andreas Schmidl, in short, the brand’s aesthetic is “conceptual menswear”. While you might be quick to label it as ‘camp’, and too extravagant to be worn by anyone who isn’t a gay man, you’d be wrong. Sure, there are the more risqué pieces too – a pair of jeans called ‘Ken’ have the back pockets cut-out to reveal a naked ass, or trousers embellished at the crotch to look like they’re leaking semen – but the pair want to make it accessible to everyone. “We say it’s menswear, but garments are not defined by that anymore, so it doesn’t matter,” Schmidl explains.
Coming from different education backgrounds – Lazo a more traditional design route, and Schmidl a less conventional art route – they say their differences are what keeps the label constantly exciting. Previous mash-ups have seen collections inspired by cruising, the Backstreet Boys, and ABBA. “Josef is behind the dream-driven part and I’m more into research, with an intellectual approach to fashion,” Schmidl tells us. Being in a relationship obviously helps too. “You already have a coded system of things, you know the other person’s likes and dislikes, and what you both like,” he continues.
Taking things at their own pace, the pair only debuted on the runway at Stockholm Fashion Week three seasons ago. Prior to that, they presented collections via limited-run zines that have seen them work with the likes of Bruce LaBruce and Doug Inglish – something they’re still keen to continue even with the addition of a runway show. “That’s our medium”, Schmidl says. “We want to create more than just garments. When we create the zine, the collection’s finished in a way.”
Following the release of Lazoschmidl’s Inglish-shot campaign, we spoke to Schmidl about the label and what to expect next.
How did you first meet?
Andreas Schmidl: We’ve known each other for ten years and it was actually through an online dating website – before apps. I always knew that my plan was to find a boyfriend to move to Sweden, so I met this Swedish guy but then he was living in London. So instead I was going back and forth to London actually all the time for the first five years and so that was fun.
First, I helped him put together his final collection and he also had to present it, so we decided on a book because I was into magazines. It was like a ‘do it yourself’ type of thing because his collection was based on many layers. The book was DIY with scissors and you had to cut the pages open to see the different layers.
What was the starting point for Lazoschmidl?
Andreas Schmidl: Josef was frustrated because he always wanted to become a fashion designer on his own, so one day I said: ‘let’s do a little collection together just for fun, just so we see how it goes’. You don’t need much money in the beginning to do a little collection of ten pieces – it was a one time project really. Then it was picked up by the press so we just went with the flow.
How do you work together to come up with the collections?
Andreas Schmidl: We start with the writing. I write up the collections so there’s like a story, a paragraph about some character, some space, some place and time, and then we write a list of outfits. Then we start designing from that.
We can pick the story we want and it connects things we like and things we’ve seen. We don’t have to look at others, so it’s like a little universe in itself. It’s also easier to fit in the design process, to check back and still see the same character, the same story or if we need to lose or add something. It gives us a framework for the design.
Masculinity and homoeroticism are big parts of your label. Why is that important?
Andreas Schmidl: We felt that it wasn’t really done. Now, because everyone is out and there’s an LGBTQ+ movement, people think we’re so strong, but I feel we’re not there yet. We’re much further behind than everyone pretends, so I felt that we needed to celebrate it and to show it, but with ease and not with a political agenda – enjoying it instead.
It’s more like helping people explore the thought around sexuality. Do I like it? Is it something for me? Am I free? Am I not free? What does my sexuality mean today? Also with the new generation of guys, they’re super open, they don’t care. They would make out with a boy and still be straight. When they come to the fittings, they want the sexiest outfits and you feel like that’s a new reality. It’s not about sexuality but sexuality, of course, is part of it. Maybe that’s the easiest way to trigger people. And from sexuality, the rest follows.
“The new generation of guys, they’re super open, they don’t care. When they come to the fittings, they want the sexiest outfits and you feel like that’s a new reality” – Andreas Schmidl
So the clothes are not just for men?
Andreas Schmidl: We don’t say it’s for girls, but obviously the designs can be easily adapted for a girl. One garment, for example, is called the ‘girlfriend’s jacket’, so it’s cut too narrow and too small, as if the boy stole her jacket after a one night stand. That could be a reality today, that’s how boys dress. So the girl can steal it back, in a way.
You only recently started presenting the collection catwalk shows. What made you start doing this?
Andreas Schmidl: In the beginning, we didn’t have runway shows and we didn’t want to do a regular lookbook because they all look ugly, to be honest. Who wants to see a jacket in front of a white screen? Since then, we have seen the runway show as a way to synchronise the looks in a new order.
We always try and place the looks into chapters, so you start thinking ’okay, this is the first chapter, these five boys are together.’ Then, the next and so on. It’s really fun too! There’s emotion, and the boys backstage, sometimes they flash each other their penises so they can have a harder, bigger penis on the runway – they totally go for it! It’s not planned, it’s just about the spirit.
What are your plans to grow the label in the future?
Andreas Schmidl: Of course we want to grow bigger, we’re both very ambitious. We started small to see how it works and we want to make it stronger, make it better, and work harder. The more publicity we get though, the more people expect from you and the harder it is to organise. People think there’s a lot of money but there’s not. Everything is self-financed.
I also think that’s the natural thing of fashion. In fashion today and out tomorrow, and it’s hard to battle. We’d rather be out tomorrow, than be boring. If we start creating clothes in a literal sense, like jeans and t-shirts for a mass market then there’s no point of us anymore. For us, the difficulty is how to keep on doing what we’re doing but reach a higher scale, and not print a slogan on a t-shirt.