Let's continue the architectural thread that started yesterday by republishing today an interview I did a while back for another publication with G-Star Raw's Creative Director Pierre Morisset. In the interview Morisset talks about his vintage inspirations, futuristic 3D patterns and architectural connections.
As a journalist you may think it would be rather difficult to touch upon themes as disparate as architecture in clothes, pattern cutting techniques and construction in vintage garments while interviewing the designer behind a urban clothing brand specialised in denim.
Yet such themes spontaneously pop up when you chat with the enthusiastic Head Designer, or rather Production Development Director as he likes describing his role, of Dutch designer clothing company G-Star RAW Pierre Morisset.
Founded in 1989 by Jos Van Tilburg and originally specialised in riding cars street clothes, G-Star became popular in the mid-to-late '90s for its untreated denims.
As the years passed, the company went from strength to strength, adding new product and design categories, including military-inspired and tailored styles and establishing itself in 21 countries.
Rather than looking at heritage products like many other fashion and denim companies, G-Star focused on creating a modern product with some vintage elements and twists directly borrowed from Morisset's own extensive collection of antique clothing.
This continuous experimentation and product development allowed the company to expand even in times of crisis and come up with innovative denim pants such as the architectural arch-shaped and leg-curved “Elwood”. Dyed, cut and sewn to follow the body silhouette and the way the wearer moves, these trousers look very similar to motocross pants, with slit seams at the back of the knee.
Inspired by the comfort of a worn-in pair of denim pants, the Elwood or the Arc 3D proved huge successes with the wearers and eventually won also the most skeptical members of the company itself, showing that 3D denim construction may be the future of this fabric.
Where do you take inspiration for your experimental designs?
Pierre Morisset: I don't look anymore at clothes from other companies because it kills my inspirations. I do go to shops and buy things for my family and friends, but I don't go anymore to fairs and look at what other people are doing because it can sometimes put you on the wrong path and kill your own inspirations. In the past, if I didn't go, I used to be afraid I was missing something, but now it's really different and I mainly draw inspirations from my own collection of clothes.
Can you tell us more about it?
Pierre Morisset: My father was a hairdresser in Paris before the war; my grandmother used to make perfumes, she was a nose at Guerlain, and I had my own passion for clothes from a young age. I remember being 12 and going to the flea market to look into the garbage bag and see if there were any clothes there. I would take, wash and collect them. It was the same process I applied later on in my life when I was 23-25 to the stocks I would buy by the kilo from some retailers and resell in my own shops in Holland, Belgium and Germany. Now I have a very large collection of antique cothing, about 25,000 pieces, dating from 1880 to the 1900s and they include horseriding, military, police uniforms and so on. Nowadays I just go into my archives, do my own research and then I come up with the collection. I also go on the Internet and look at pictures from the '20s-'30s and, if they feature any garments that I may have in my collection, then I go and check them out and look up for further references in my book collection.
Where do you see denim going?
Pierre Morisset: We are definitely moving into new developments that look at the future but have their roots in the past. In the 1900s people would spend a lot of energy making clothes which are nice but also had a function. Today things are different: most jackets sold at the moment in the shops are cut in such ways that you can't drive wearing them in a relaxed way, but you have to remove them first. This means that clothing is not done thinking about the function of a garment, whereas last century you would have uniforms - think about a postman's or the police's - that implied respect and had precise functions. People used to go to their tailor and tell him they needed a jacket to go hunting; in return they would even be asked if they used their right or left hand to fire, as that was a vitally important piece of information since the design of the sleeves wouldn't have allowed you to do that if it wasn't properly done. At that time they adapted the fit of the jacket to the function, everything was perfectly studied, the pockets had to have the right inclination and everything was calculated to be chic and elegant. I'm trying to do the same at G-Star Raw by studying the proportions and the functions, adding a little angle of fabric in strategic places in jackets to make the construction and the opening of the sleeves rounder, so that the fit improves. I never studied pattern cutting, but I wanted to be an engineer or an architect while I was at school and, in a way, I feel like an engineer or an architect now.
The company didn't seem to feel the negative effects of the global crisis, is it possible to expand in times of crisis?
Pierre Morisset: In this period of crisis the fighter wins; the people who are afraid of doing something new lose. When the economy is good everything is boring, but the crisis is a slap in your face. I remember that, up until a few years ago, the French automotive industry wasn't producing anything exciting, the style was boring, but now they have changed and moved on, trying to make things more attractive. I think that for us this is a good moment since our competitors haven't tried to do more researches or to improve themselves. We have a thirst for innovation at G-Star Raw and this has allowed us to keep on growing and expanding as a brand and a creative team. I research a lot not only when it comes to designing and ideas, but I also bring in to G-Star Raw people who I think may be good. We have a positive and refreshing philosophy at the company that is applied at different levels, from design to retail.
What's the future path for G-Star Raw?
Pierre Morisset: Developing even further the 3D signature. This is directly connected with my passion for making clothes with a function. We began experimenting with 3D pants many years ago. The latest concept, the “Elwood” pants, that I launched a year ago, is a real success and it's been selling extremely well - 22 million units. These trousers are molded and shaped in the riding position thanks to a clever pattern, without using intervention of water, detergent and heat. The pants look like an arch, because they follow the shape of the body. To create them I moved from the beauty of an old pair of denim trousers and I tried to make a new pair of pants that looked worn out. The arched pant has been extremely successful but we are now studying innovative clothing for different purposes, taking inspiration also from the samples of astronaut clothes from my personal vintage archive.
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