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Photos by Mathieu Drouet

Hanging by a Thread

Xavier Brisoux talks to Dazed Digital about his “Fil-Amant” collection and about his special design for “The Adam and Eve Project”, set to merge the boundaries between art, fashion and craft.

Xavier Brisoux’s collections are usually characterised by one main reference point: it doesn’t matter how basic a piece may be, it will always have to tell a story. After rewriting Penelope’s tale, Brisoux focused in his new collection, entitled “Fil-Amant”, on a very simple idea, playing with the possibilities that one strand of yarn holding the entire piece together may give him. The new designs display an unconventional approach to knitwear, they are indeed the result of a wide experimentation with fluid materials, a deconstructivist and inventive attitude to knitwear and a penchant for subtle asymmetries and distortions.

Applying to knitwear a process similar to Edward Hopper’s painting technique, Brisoux deconstructed and reconstructed the real, breaking it down and transforming it. Some of the pieces included in “Fil-Amant” also feature delicate surface effects: an intricate pattern forms a spine-shaped motif on the back of a sweater; while seam lines are displaced and reconfigured giving surfaces a highly tactile experience and a subtle three-dimensional quality. The designer has recently been collaborating also with “The Adam and Eve Project”, the online creative community famous for its cutting-edge projects merging art, architecture, design, fashion, film and literature. For their online shop Brisoux created a unisex versatile piece called “MHOOD” in luxurious cashmere.
Dazed Digital: What inspires and informs the “Fil-Amant” collection?
Xavier Brisoux: In all my collections, there is always a balance between very avant-garde pieces and easier, more timeless pieces. The collection for next Spring deals with the idea that everything is “hanging by a thread”, symbolising the acceptance of a certain fragility and the fact that nothing is forever. To express this tale in my designs I developed a knitting technique called ‘linking’ to give volume to my designs. I also wanted to focus on specific and almost symbolic parts of the body, such as the spine, the heart and the belly button. They represent a bond, a link - to life, to a lover and to a mother. One jumper is for example characterised by a yarn holding the entire knit and placed on the chest, around the heart. If it ever came undone – though it’s designed and created to make sure that this won’t happen – the jumper would entirely unravel. Another piece, which I think is the strongest, features a special stitching technique on the back recreating the shape of a spine.

DD: Did you employ any special construction techniques in the new pieces?
Xavier Brisoux: As I said, for this season the volumes are a lot looser, but the technique of choice – linking – allowed me to create further volumes. This technique consists in sewing the yarn in a series of tight loops to create the visual effect of a single yarn. This allowed me to include openings in the designs and play with the notion of what is shown and what is hidden. It also helped creating a series of draped motifs around the shoulders. As always in my work, the technique is used in support of the main theme of the collection.

DD: How did you get involved with “The Adam and Eve Project”?
Xavier Brisoux: I was approached by Scott Woods from The Adam and Eve Project last season. He wanted to get me involved in one of the collaborations they do between two creative people from different mediums. Part of the project is still in progress, while the piece we developed for the online shop is already available. The piece, made in 100% cashmere, is called “MHOOD” and the idea behind it is to have a cool accessory that combines different things, a sort of mix of sleeves, scarf and hood that can be worn in lots of different ways and that allows the wearers to experience luxurious soft cashmere around their neck, head and arms.

DD: The technical constructions employed in this piece are only possible thanks to a French small atelier/factory: did it take you a long time to research the techniques you wanted to employ in this piece?
Xavier Brisoux: To create the volumes around the shoulders I employed a technique called “partial knitting” that it’s almost impossible to obtain with industrial machines. I had to knit a prototype myself to make sure it was possible to make it, then I started looking for a proper producer, an atelier that could knit the piece on domestic machines rather than big computerized machines. I really enjoyed developing this kind of piece, because it pushes craftsmanship forward, while making it special because such a piece cannot be mass-produced.

DD: Do you feel that consumers are increasingly interested in quality and timelessness because of the crisis?
Xavier Brisoux: Customers are really considering the craftsmanship behind a product, they want a strong design, but also demand quality. I think they are fed up with low quality mass production and they are willing to pay a bit more. Besides, because of environmentally conscious trends, people also try to make sure that the country where something is produced is not too far away. I have had buyers asking me if the goods were imported from far away or if the yarn was and this proves that we are maybe going back to a smaller production scale.

DD: You are also working on a special collaboration with an artist for The Adam and Eve Project: do you feel that collaborating with an artist can help fashion designers to bring their work to another level?
Xavier Brisoux: I definitely think a fashion designer can benefit from collaborating with an artist, even though such a thing implies a very different working process. Getting to work with an artist from a different field opens new perspectives and offers a different vision of the world. My collaboration is at present still in its early stages, but I’m genuinely enjoying the process as I’m finding it exciting and challenging. This is the first time I work on something like this, and I hope it will be strong enough. I’m enjoying the fact I do not have to think about the commercial aspects of this project since it’s mainly about the power of creativity and I feel I will be able to reach out to a larger audience through it and express what I am trying to achieve through my collections.

DD: If you had to name an artist, actor, actress or writer who may represent the essence of your designs, who would you choose?
Xavier Brisoux: I admire Edward Hopper and I hope that my collections hint at the same intense emotions I get when I’m looking at his paintings. I have recently seen a piece from Bill Viola entitled “He Weeps for You” that almost made me cry, as the interaction with the viewer was so strong, and I am also a big fan of Paul Auster’s works, so I guess these are the creative forces that inform the artistic side of my designs. I have always said that I would love to see Jared Leto wearing some of my pieces. He was amazing in the film Requiem for a Dream, since he has a very special look and striking face and every time I see him in a movie, I wish he would wear one of my pieces!

DD: Men are becoming more responsive to fashion nowadays and there are quite a few online shops specialised in cutting edge menswear designs: has fashion become a sort of new passion for men, like a new sport?
Xavier Brisoux: I think men are definitely becoming more fashion conscious, but I feel we are still in the early stages. Women are far more “educated” in the fashion field: for example, they understand quickly even the more intricate and complex pieces and I hope men will start sharpening their eye and head in the same direction. When I look at teenagers, I find that fashion is very present in their life: they all want to develop their own styles, they seem to be more adventurous with their clothes and accessories and even with their haircuts than when I was their age and I felt like an alien because I was very image-conscious, though none of my friends were. That said, I still feel that sports are still far more interesting to them than fashion!

Xavier Brisoux’s “Fil-Amant” collection can be viewed at MP Select, 16 rue de l'Arcade, Paris, until 5th July.