It’s not really the subculture that influenced me but the fact that I was in a place where I was surrounded by people dressing in a certain way. In areas that don’t have a lot of ways to express their creativity, it’s interesting how certain uniforms come about, like a history of different cultural movements. It’s sort of like power in numbers, I was surrounded by a lot of the same.
I’ve always been fascinated by comic books, and when I was talking about drawing from life and memory, I was also informed by comics books in general in terms of exaggerating the human anatomy.
A lot of the garments in that particular subculture reminded me of superheroes. The goggle jacket had that mask with big eyes with reflectors, pilot’s jackets, big pockets, big hoods, and these rugged workwear boots. It was a really futuristic, superhero kind of look. It just spoke to my aesthetic sensibilities, I didn’t really get into that clothing due to the subculture or anything, it was just around me.
My friends and I got more interested in the actual clothes than the lifestyle, of course most of those people were into football, but we got really deep into who was making these clothes, collecting them, and finding out everything we could about them.
Massimo Osti became a big influence on me because he was behind C.P. Company, Stone Island, and other smaller brands that he developed, and I still can’t explain why he was able to achieve something in his work that spoke to me and still does, and I feel really passionate about it.
And through that passion, I kind of went through another transformation in these clothes, and soon people started dressing more like me in a way. That helped cultivate this obsession of having that one jacket nobody else had. I mean, it was a small town, everyone’s into the same labels; everyone goes to the same shop. You want the piece that no one else is gonna have.
I got this idea that I could take this jacket to the seamstress and she could make me one, which never happened because she couldn’t do it. So because of that, I went and studied how to make a garment. I didn’t know anything about fashion, I didn’t know what a catwalk was, I just wanted to learn how to make a jacket.
Where do you see sportswear headed? You've said in the past that a focus on technical fabrics have overshadowed fit and have resulted in gear that performs well in theory but is badly cut, do you think we will start to see more garments made custom for players? Is it far-fetched to think of athletes and weekend warriors taking their activewear to a tailor to get fitted?
I think the aesthetics of traditional tailoring that we’ve tapped into, which has been great and really relevant, is largely misunderstood. When I speak about tailoring in general and with Umbro as a brand, it’s really about tailoring for the body in general and not for an individual. Tailoring for the individual is relevant and something that I think will become more relevant in sportswear and performance wear for the highest level of performance, which to some degree already happens.
But what I’m really interested in is questioning the shape of garments and the way in which they’re engineered. That’s what I call “tailoring.” I can study a sport like football and analyze how to optimize where the fabric needs to be, how it should look, whether we should introduce a secondary fabric, tertiary fabric, where they should go and why, and inform that by data.
We took a brave step to let go of those tools that have made the garment industry so easy to create within and start from scratch three-dimensionally: with fabric, with the body, with sculptures. That’s really what we mean when we talk about tailoring.
A.R.P. is a really good example of that. What we set out to extract from that is a method of construction, we sometimes call it a “blocking system.” It’s generally a way of constructing any garment with a new set of rules that we invented, and I elevated those rules with A.R.P.
A “block” means a nondescript garment, so imagine a crewneck, white garment with sleeves, something that as a block you can convert into any garment. We have a block for the upper body and a block for the lower body. We’ve optimized those construction lines and the materials involved in key areas to be the best ergonomical construction for the body.
So that’s what A.R.P. is: we generate the block, that’s one half, and then exploring and furthering this really rich archive that exists in Umbro’s heritage. We can bring up any garment in the archive and fuse together these pieces with blocking construction. The fusing together of those two things is where my aesthetic sensibilities come in, and there are certain decisions I make to keep everything within a certain look. We’re effectively branding through construction — even if we didn’t put an Umbro logo on there, the idea is that you can tell that’s an Umbro A.R.P. garment, and that’s what we’re interested in doing is building focus and equity into the way garments are made rather than the way garments are branded.
The Archive Research Project is available at West NYC.