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Spotlite

THE NEW ROCKSTAR OF THE FASHION WORLD

A Spotlite on ASHER LEVINE

Asher Levine by Tyler Malone

February 2011

When Marie Havens & I arrived at Asher Levine‘s workspace, located in the back of the JEM Fabric Warehouse, there were a few people diligently working on garments. Asher had gone out for a quick second, and we were told by one of his assistants that he would be returning soon.  I looked around at the garments on a rack, and at the half-finished pieces that dressed the torsos of headless mannequins.  His designs are beautiful and bizarre fashion sculptures. Alien presences. Insectoid anatomies. Otherworldly contortions. Chimeric silhouettes. Roboticized materials. Mutated fabrics. They’re scientific in a way, industrial, almost cold on the one hand, but strangely organic and almost ethereal on the other.  One piece appeared to be made of enlarged simulated brainmatter–it had the intricately woven look of an intestinal tract.  After a minute or so, in walked Asher, with all the charisma, presence, style and strut of a rockstar.  He was dressed in black, dark and mysterious, but not brooding.  Instead, he had a boyish smile.  He was just the type of human dichotomy that would design the straightjacket coat for Lady Gaga–equal parts enigmatic outcast and joyous life-of-the-party, a “little monster” through and through.

He may be best-known for designing garments for rockstar clients like Gaga and Sam Sparro, but Asher Levine is himself a rockstar, make no mistake about it. It’s just that instead of making music, he makes clothes.  Who says a fashion designer can’t be a rockstar?  His garments are like songs on an album: they’re eclectic, all so radically different, and yet there’s a coherence there as well.  They all fit together, unified by his voice, as songs on an album are often unified by that of the lead singer.  And it is a voice all his own.

Watching Asher create is watching a songwriter craft a tune.  He works and reworks, teases out melodic inspiration, experiments with nontraditional ideas and materials, and bounces ideas off of the others in the room.  It’s as though he’s a bandleader, getting the best out of each of his players.  One of the collaborators he was bouncing ideas back-and-forth with while I was visiting was fellow designer Victor Osborne, with whom Asher has designed some eyewear for his collection that he’ll be showcasing at his show on Friday, February 11th, this Fashion Week.

They had a little tête-à-tête, trying to figure out what to do about a certain piece, and then suddenly Victor said, “It’s so Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  When I was able to ask Asher a few questions, we started by discussing exactly this: the Mutant Motorcycle Stud look he’s going for with this new line.

Tyler Malone: First off, could you tell us a little bit about your current line for Fashion Week? What should we expect and where did you get your inspiration for it?

Asher Levine: A few months ago I stumbled upon an interesting species of shrimp from the Epimeria family. That same day I had a meeting with Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters for their tour outfits. Casey Spooner, who was creative directing with Franc Fernandez, pointed me towards classic Tom of Finland inspiration. I now realize how the product manifested itself in the form of a Mutant Motorcycle Stud. This season is about cashmeres and exotic leathers, such as elephant leather and blue wildebeest, to create this man who loves the leather jacket look from a new genome.

TM: 2010 was a big year for you–you burst onto the scene at the end of 2009 with your debut collection and then made a big name by creating custom pieces for the likes of Sam Sparro, the Scissor Sisters, and, of course, Lady Gaga throughout 2010–where do you see yourself going in 2011?

AL: We are looking at every avenue possible for the brand and how we can influence the human senses. We are experimenting this FW11 season with sunglasses, and will continue to do so. We are also working on a fragrance. Shoes have always been on our mind. I am beginning to think about womenswear, but I envision that direction completely different than men. I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

TM: I’ve mentioned that you’ve made clothes for artists like Lady Gaga, Scissor Sister and Sam Sparro–are there any musicians you’re just dying to design for that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so?

AL: Would love to do something fun for Mr. Bieber. We shall see.

TM: When you do create custom pieces for artists, do they usually contact you originally or do you reach out to them and make an offer? How does that come about?

AL: Ever since we started the collection, the artists keep coming. The collection and the brand is the heart, and as long as we continue to push the boundaries and highlight the craftsmanship, I see the trend continuing.

TM: Specifically with Lady Gaga, I’m sure everyone is dying to know how those collaborations happened? Could you give us some insight into the process behind the creation of both the Rolling Stone cover coat and the straightjacket coat?

AL: I love working with Nicola Formichetti and his team. He conveys the essence of what they are envisioning, giving no specific details, and more of a direction–that is the sign of a great stylist. They want me to be proud of the design. I honor that. The Rolling Stone coat–he said he wanted an oversized coat. I love motorcycle coats, so I went to the oversize level. For the straitjacket coat, they just said they wanted white and leather. I left my studio one night, and the idea came to me, fuse her insanity with the motorcycle look, and there you have it.

TM: When will we be seeing Lady Gaga in another Asher Levine piece?

AL: We made her a piece for Born This Way Album artwork, and an outfit for the first video of the album. Like anything, we wont know until it’s worn and shot. Can’t wait for you to see.

TM: By your choice of artists to work with, it shows you are instantly drawn to unique senses of style. I’m curious to know what you think a good style entails?

AL: Confidence.

TM: Is there something you’re trying to achieve with each new garment you create?  Do you have a central drive or theme behind your creations? What are you trying to convey through your unique and personal vision?

AL: I started the menswear collection after being irritated myself with how limited the choices were for progressive menswear. People now send me emails, facebook messeges, and tweets thanking me for drawing attention to the segment of men who yearn for more edgy styles in their closet. I hope it will spur a revolution in the way we understand style and gender and how we understand ourselves as individuals. I really just love to make clothes.

Asher Levine is a fashion designer who moved to NYC in 2006.  Soonafter, early in his career, his experimental outfits were adapted by many nightlife personalities and could be seen across the New York underground club circuit. Asher’s debut Fall/Winter 2010 collection came shortly after his graduation from Pace University, at which point Asher started creating outfits for various prominent performance artists such as Lady Gaga and Sam Sparro. In September of the same year, Asher’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection was shown in a presentation from his midtown showroom.

He is heavily influenced by the natural world, and often pulls inspiration from organic, biological and scientific sources. An inherent terrestrial presence can be seen in his work, and his pieces reflect his trademark reorganization and abstraction of shape and form. Asher’s unique design aesthetic seeks to evaluate and challenge the industry’s standardized corporal limitations on the human figure.

LINKS:

ASHER LEVINE’S OFFICIAL SITE

VICTOR OSBORNE’S OFFICIAL SITE

Asher Levine interviewed by Tyler Malone

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography & Design by Marie Havens

Additional Backstage & Runway Photography by Max Rapp for PatrickMcMullan.com

Captions:

Page 1/Cover:

Asher Levine, at his studio, JEM Fabric Warehouse, NYC, Monday, February 7, 2011, Photography by Marie Havens

Page 2:

Asher Levine, at his studio, JEM Fabric Warehouse, NYC, Monday, February 7, 2011, Photography by Marie Havens

Page 3:

(L) Asher Levine & (R) Model,  Asher Levine Fall 2011 Fashion Show, 385 Broadway, NYC, February 11, 2011, Photography by Max Rapp for PatrickMcMullan.com

Page 4:

Asher Levine & Victor Osborne, unveiling their new eyewear line by Victor Osborne for Asher Levine, at his studio, JEM Fabric Warehouse, NYC, Monday, February 7, 2011, Photography by Marie Havens

Page 5:

Model,  Runway, Asher Levine Fall 2011 Fashion Show, 385 Broadway, NYC, February 11, 2011, Photography by Max Rapp for PatrickMcMullan.com

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