A Conversation with Design Collective STIJLUS
By Jonathan Metzelaar
Pare down. Simplify. It’s a path some artists take when they feel their art’s details have begun to obscure its effect. There have been entire aesthetic movements dedicated to this idea of reigning in the unnecessary and the excess. STIJLUS partially gets its name from one such movement, De Stijl, which was devoted to reducing art to its essentials.
The fact that the STIJLUS brand name was only partially inspired by De Stijl is instructive. Though many of their designs have a classic, simplified look to them, they still manage to really grab your attention with how unique they are. Much of their clothing seems to be based on the idea of stripping an outfit to its basics, then totally reimagining what’s left until it comes out looking fresh and new. The effect is a look that somehow feels both vintage and futuristic. STIJLUS was kind enough to talk a bit about their creative process.
Jonathan Metzelaar: How was STIJLUS formed, and is there a story behind its name?
STIJLUS: STIJLUS was formed when we as a group realized that we had a common passion for contemporary art and fashion. The name itself is partially a nod to an early 20th century aesthetic movement called De Stijl, of which Piet Mondrian was a member. We combined that with the word “stylus,” which is defined as an ancient writing tool.
JM: Designing clothing for “collectors” instead of “shoppers” seems to be a pretty big aspect of the STIJLUS brand. What does designing clothing in this way entail? What sorts of things does designing with collectors in mind allow—or not allow—you to do?
S: Designing for collectors as opposed to shoppers does not define our design process; it describes our motivation and how we create the collection. After all, we are making clothing to be worn by a body, not to just live on a hanger. It is, however, more important to create pieces that will spark an emotional desire, and not become a part of an industry that treats fashion as a commodity.
JM: Both your Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 collections seem to have a consistent theme or guiding idea that unites them. For example, the Fall 2012 collection features a sleek, classy, seemingly 1950′s-inspired look. Are these overarching themes a conscious decision? If so, what goes into deciding what the theme of a particular line will be?
S: We approach each season as an evolution of the previous one, working out details and components until we feel they are resolved. There are particular references that we gravitate towards, such as film noir heroines, whom we find interesting whether they are from the 1930s, or a more futuristic setting, à la Blade Runner or Gataca. The idea of artificially driving production using “trends” is not interesting to us. We prefer to look at each season as a new chapter in an ongoing series of work.
JM: On your website you refer to the seasonal fashion system as “outdated.” What do you find outdated about it? How could it be improved, and what would be the benefits of that improvement?
S: The world has become much smaller, and depending on where you live, you will experience “spring” or “fall” differently. So why not use a financial calendar model instead? Terms like “first quarter” and “second quarter” are universal, and they define the time of a season rather than the supposed weather component that changes from place to place.
JM: Based on your mission statement and clothing, STIJLUS seems devoted to creating looks that are timeless. How do you differentiate between a style that is a short-lived fad, and one that will become a fashion staple for many years to come?
S: Whether a piece is timeless or not is really up to the person wearing it. We do look at each style and consider the range of life it could have, in the sense of how and where it can be worn. If it seems that the experience of wearing that item will be too narrow, then perhaps it isn’t ready and needs more work. We keep each collection small, so that careful consideration becomes part of our studio practice and we are not disappointed with our output in the end.
JM: Do you have any upcoming projects or events you’d like people to know about?
S: As STIJLUS continues to grow, we are looking at how to present future seasons. Will it be a runway show, presentation, video, or short film? We’ll keep you posted!
STIJLUS is a design collective based in Brooklyn, New York. They recently released their Fall 2013 collection.
Written and Edited by: Jonathan Metzelaar
Design by: Jillian Mercado
Photography Courtesy by MAO PR