The artist and designer talks conceptual fashion and his latest work for the Dutch denim firm
Aitor Throup is a man of many projects. When he’s not busying himself with reinventing and reappropriating the conventional approach to fashion design and garment construction, he creates videos and artworks for the likes of Damon Albarn or Kasabian. He also art-directs and consults, all of which he navigates so seamlessly you could be forgiven for thinking it was a single project altogether. Now, to add to this ever-growing portfolio, the Argentinian-born London-based artist and designer has been appointed as a creative consultant to the Dutch denim label G-Star Raw. We caught him en-route to Kent – where he was headed to oversee yet another of his projects – to chat about his appointment at the brand and the future of conceptual fashion.
To date you’ve been involved in two very different projects for G-Star: the design of their flagship store in London and more recently, the art-direction for their spring/summer campaign. What does your new position as a creative consultant entail and what is the next project you’re working?
Aitor Throup: I think there are a lot of instances where my input is based on trying to align the brand and bring the ethos of the brand to the surface that aren’t necessarily limited to a specific project. It's a general alignment and innovation of what the brand has always stood for: denim innovation. I guess what I’m trying to do is give them my take on how to tell stories. I have always treated my work as storytelling and I think they’ve got a really interesting and compelling story to tell. And it can be told through retail space and a campaign but obviously the story can be told through product in itself.
Why do you think it was you who G-Star selected for this role? Why does your vision work for the brand in your opinion?
Aitor Throup: Historically, I think G-Star became big primarily due to their innovation within the denim world – they have a very three-dimensional, anatomical element in their DNA. They started by designing these cool, anatomical 3D denim objects and then, through their long-running collaborations with amazing high-profile product design brands from Land Rover to Leica to Jean Prouvé and Vitra to Cannondell and through their own at times avant-garde experimentations with raw denim, they gained a product design sensibility as a brand.
Both of the projects that you have so far realised for G-Star were very conceptual, like your own work,. What is the future of such conceptual fashion and design as a whole? Does such conceptuality affect functionality in any way?
Aitor Throup: At times when I looked through the history of the brand, I realised they have been a very conceptual brand but with a possibility to reach a lot of people and I think that if you can align those to extremes, it is a very exciting proposition. I think concept shows that there was a true intent and a reason behind doing something. If something is conceptual doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be avant-garde or sculptural or unwearable. I think that successful, and even mass-market brands will become increasingly conceptual and increasingly concerned with telling a story behind their creations in the future. I think that on the one hand, consumers are becoming more savvy but also more desensitised. There’s just a lot of stuff out there and when we see so much of everything, that’s exactly how we react. I really do think that G-Star is one of those brands that actually has a compelling story to tell that is not just about stuff. What they did with jeans, particularly in terms of the form and the fit, they’ve really challenged the conventions of the denim genre. They’ve gone way above and beyond ‘the skinny fit’, ‘the regular fit’ and ‘the baggy fit’. They’ve completely reimagined what those fits could be.
Speaking of denim, what’s your approach to the material given you’ve mainly worked with wool up until now?
Aitor Throup: Whenever the fabric itself can be charged with so much history and culturally relevant points of reference, for me as a conceptual designer, it helps me to use the fabric as another point of reference in the story. It is a useful tool. I haven’t worked with denim as much as I have worked with wool, with which I have done a lot of innovation. But I’ve always been interested in denim. I did one of the outfits in ‘New Object Research’ collection is all based on denim, developed in Japanese denim to which we gave a very unique, sculptural treatment. Then I saw a G-Star’s designs that were quite similar to what we were doing, as if they were trying to tap into the same thing but in a way that can reach more people. The more I learn about the denim through them, the more I am applying my own way of thinking to the denim world and I’m trying to come up with completely new ways of dealing with that material which I think is a very beautiful and fascinating fabric.
How about your own designs? What are you working on at the moment?
Aitor Throup: New Object Research continues on. We’re trying to take it to the next level now that we’ve achieved the standardisation of all the elements; from the archetypes to the blocks. We’ve constructed the pieces using our unique seams and our fastening system, we’ve invented a lot of things and put them together into this package that became a brand that is all about innovation in an artistic sense but also in a product design sense. This all was about standardisation and production in a most direct and internal way possible. Now we’re trying to industrialise all of those processes and expand the vision and the reach of it. At the same time I am also experimenting with new methods of evolving my presentation techniques, and expanding the format of sculptures in a gallery setting vs models in a catwalk setting. That’s one of the most exciting things that we’re working on at the moment. And doing more and more film which I want to bring back to New Object Research. And most importantly, I am working on the development of the concept number five which is in the early stage of development and which I very much want to preview at some point next year.