Following the interactive and highly stimulating installation in which New York unisex designer Telfar debuted his first-ever menswear show, the designer shares an exclusive video interpretation of the experience with Dazed Digital. Directed by Leilah Weinraub, the video showcases the collaboration that brought the world of "FORmale", Spring/Summer 2011, into hyper reality, featuring video works by Ryan Trecartin and Rhett LaRue, sculptural installations by Lizzie Fitch, and music by Fatima Al Qadiri and Nicholas Scholl. We spoke to the designer about the impetus behind his latest expression, and his craze for all things beige.
Why did you decide to go from your traditional unisex range into a strictly men's line for Spring/Summer 2011?
Telfar Clemens: This season I decided to create clothing specifically tailored for men, because I feel it was the direction which was most relevant to me creatively and it was a natural progression from the previous collection.
Can a woman still wear these clothes even though they are specified as being for men?
Telfar Clemens: Yes, a lot of the collection can be considered unisex - excluding the bikini briefs. I have a feeling when it comes to fashion that everything is gender less. However, FORmale caters to male proportions and sizing which if applied to a woman can still fit comfortably. The aesthetic of mutifunctional unisex ready to wear is still present in the FORmale Collection.
What is the meaning behind the invented word "FORmale"? A play on formal?
Telfar Clemens: Yes exactly. It was a play on formal wear for men, but also its a play on how casual menswear is universally. I wanted this to be a man's life uniform... or a khaki nation.
Talk about your collaborations and how you came up with the concept of your presentation for this season.
Telfar Clemens: This season I collaborated with Supima cotton to create cotton casuals ranging from outerwear to underwear and Dr.Martens to create custom footwear. To present FORmale I wanted to create a lasting environment which represented the collection. I collaborated with artists Lizzie Fitch, Rhett LaRue, and Ryan Trecartin to create these ambient environments with hyper real props and digitally animated backgrounds. For the opening of the exhibition we had a special nu-operatic performance by Nick Scholl which was composed and arranged by Fatima Al Qadiri, with lyrics written by Kamau Patton. Each element of the exhibition was a collaborative effort to create a comprehensive interpretation of a world that is FORmale's.
What has been missing from menswear, in your opinion, that you hope to resolve with this collection?
Telfar Clemens: I feel like I have a lot to offer the menswear market and fashion in general. A lot of concepts within each collection are unique and have not been explored by many designers. Also, all collections are time specific. Therefore all items strive to serve a purpose which is relevant to modern society and its needs.
Would a performance and installation be something that you might attempt again in the future?
Telfar Clemens: Yes, I feel this was a unique approach to a fashion presentation and directional in terms of collaborations and the multimedia fashion experience that the FORmale exhibition had to offer.
Recently you had an installation at PS1's MOVE! event with models wearing your clothes playing Nintendo Wii. Was this to say that you intend for your clothes to merge with virtual reality, or that they are for sport as Telfar Clemens: I would love to explore both directions and I'm actively working to merge virtually reality and modern sportswear. Yet the Wii tournament at PS1 was a performance based on comfort and domestic practices. All models played Wii sports in TELFAR underwear and socks.
What sort of materials did you seek for this collection and what do they represent?
Telfar Clemens: I wanted comfort fabrics a lot of Khaki and woven fabrics that were lightweight and soft. Colour was important also, as I was obsessed with khaki.
What is coming up for next season?
Telfar Clemens: Very exciting new directions.... For TELFAR as well as diffusion line UN.DER T plus all other collections are available at the recently opened web store.
Film Leilah Weinraub, using footage from Telfar's collaborative presentation with environments by artist Lizzie Fitch,
Music Ayshay (Fatima Al Qadiri) featuring opera singer Nicholas Scholl
Video pieces by Ryan Trecartin and Rhett LaRue