Since his Central Saint Martins MA collection and the two seasons that followed at Fashion East, Maarten Van Der Horst has single handedly turned fashion tropical. Merging second hand petticoats and Hawaiian shirts, inspired by John Waters' Dreamlanders, his power florals have infiltrated many collections past his own, a blissed-out fashion prozac that has seen Topshop and G-SHOCK come knocking too. Today in Paris, the designer offers a new facet of himself and a new Studio Maarten Van Der Horst collection at London Showrooms Men, following its debut in London two weeks ago. A second line contrasting his all-out catwalk womenswear, the clothes are official Van Der Horst merchandise, if you will. Fans can get the t-shirt, just as they would their favourite band's, metal spirit an already-existing part of his world and graphic identity. Irony, wit, fierceness and belonging aside, the throw-it-on-and-live-it-out concept will grow into a full collection, proposed several times a year alongside his gutsy mainline. Dazed Digital spoke to the designer to learn more, premiering his teen dystopia 'yearbook' imagery styled by Dazed's Emma Wyman and photographed by Devin Blair.
Dazed Digital: The collection, a line of merchandise for an anti-hero as you describe it, is brilliantly raucous and in your face. Can you tell us what catalysed you to create it?
Maarten Van Der Horst: I believe its important for fashion designers and labels to think about how people perceive them and I thought it could be interesting to hide behind a bold typography, a designed identity that clearly separates itself from other labels. In a way, I wanted more distance between the studio and the people wearing the clothes. I wanted the logos and fonts to look fearless, macho and strong, everything I'm not! It's all about creating an illusion.
After my Topshop collection I realised girls recognised me at parties, and after a writer told me he knew someone who had a poster of my collaboration hanging on his wall, I noticed that instead of feeling flattered it mostly felt odd and almost alienating. That's what set it off. I guess the way I dealt with it was with jokes.
DD: Fandom, copyright and ownership are questioned as a consequence. What are your views on these?
Maarten Van Der Horst: Not just as a consequence, it was part of the entire concept behind the graphic design. Laurenz Brunner, who does the graphic design for the studio, did such a great job in coming up with a logo that's not a logo. Because all my logos reference other universes, other cults. Designing an M that's inspired by Metallica, but when put in a different context is all of a sudden just a really strange, but very strong shape. We twist and play with the concept of ownership and by doing that try to slowly, but surely, define what it is my studio and our designs stand for.
As a part of this first capsule collection we also customised existing band shirts. We created one-offs by sourcing shirts we loved and then crudely printed my logo over them. Not as disrespect to the original artwork or artists involved in the making, but more as a demonstration that sometimes all it takes is a good idea.
DD: You first presented the line at London Collections: Men a couple of weeks ago. How was the reaction?
Maarten Van Der Horst: Really great! It was a small static presentation given under Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East umbrella. We were overwhelmed by the reaction and are very excited to start sales in Paris this weekend!
DD: As well as its wit, the great thing about this collection is that it's a unifier, with a pure heart. You've said how your favourite designers made clothes that united strangers, gave them external codes of empathy and belonging – the true power of dress. Can you elaborate on that?
Maarten Van Der Horst: I grew up idolising Bernhard Willhelm and when people would ask why I wore his clothes I'd say that it was his vision on the world, his perspective and ideas that fascinated me. And when I'd run into someone else who was wearing his work, I immediately felt a connection. Not just because we both dressed like clowns, but the ideas that we both admired, that we both connected with. This is definitely something that I try to achieve myself. Not to create a signature by repetition, but by doing as much work as possible that clearly displays my perspective. Whether it's through fashion, watches or furniture, whatever, I don't feel restrained at all. We'll see what happens.
DD: What part would you take in a band?
Maarten Van Der Horst: I'd be the background dancer, Voguing my ass off.
Photography Devin Blair
Styling Emma Wyman
Hair and Make-Up Gemma Tyler
Model Conan Hanbury at Models 1