"Harvesting, fusing and re-constructing references from a myriad of sources, she takes an anything-goes approach to the materials she uses to convey multiple meanings in unexpected ways," is how the
Saatchi Gallery describes the diverse designs of Isa Genzken. "I can certainly relate to that statement,"
Raimund Berthold confesses as we sit in his central London studio, surrounded by his spring/summer 14 collection, a cacophony of concrete, jersey, art and sportswear. "Now, I've been aware of Genzken's work for three years or more, she used to be married to Gerhard Richter who I think is also absolutely amazing, but I hadn't looked into her own work until I began coming across it at exhibitions and auctions. I always try and go to Christie's, Sotheby's and Phillips, it's a great way to encounter art that is rarely publicised. Having appreciated her work for a while, it was when I saw her work Knocken, meaning bones, that really moved me. The feeling it created from seeing this cement block on a beautiful plinth inspired so many things in my mind, from the material itself to developing this idea of mixing hard and soft." It is a feeling that BERTHOLD continues to provoke with his own designs.
Removing gender from the opening line above, the statment could easily apply to the bold menswear of Raimund Berthold. Led by inventive design and fit, it echoes Genzken's totemic sculptures, colourful mirrored panels and lacquered paintings. As for the myriad of sources, mirroring the inspiration of the contemporary artist, we always prepare for the unexpected to adorn the designer's foil mood boards. "A stunning image of mouldy bread, artfully stuck chewing gum on a wall, a shot of a neglected swimming pool, overgrown palm trees, an old photograph used as a styling piece and a variety of images that I shot myself in and around London, alongside scanned and printed ones from beyond," are just a few of the image descriptions that fall from the designer's mouth in between sips of espresso. Seemingly disparate and certainly peculiar, Berthold manages to balance and duly creates beauty from the unexpected. As this season's silver canvas shimmers to the breeze, a process of assimilation occurs right before my eyes as discordant daydreams come together.
BERTHOLD's spring/summer 14 mood board
Mouldy bread, reimagined chewing gum, bruised faces, neglected pools and some snapshots that have been enlarged and manipulated all come together to create one cohesive concept. "As this is a spring/summer collection I wanted to make it sportier, to make it easy," Berthold states simply. "I introduced more jerseys and t-shirts, it just felt right for now." The simplicity and quiet modesty of his words fail to mask the depth of proportion play, fabric feuding, eagerness to experiment and desire to develop his label. One facet of growth is the signature of shape being sketched this season. "My natural extinct is to rip everything up and create something entirely new but this isn't fair on the buyers because they would never know what they were getting to some degree. I worked hard to get two staple shapes, one oversized and one regular, that we could take forward to future seasons. Now, with these two silhouettes in place, we can experiment subtly and push them on."
Subtle and not so subtle experimentation in order to push on, this season. From simple concrete endeavours to complex print processes and 3D printing, Berthold and his team have been busy testing boundaries. In between further sips of an espresso, the designer excitedly elucidates:
"We experimented by making cement ourselves which was a lot of fun. I liked how it came out quite brittle, just like a styling piece that could morph into something else. A small piece broke off and it was just perfect. We had it 3D scanned, printed and it became jewellery in resin, plastic and solid stainless steel. I had no idea that you could 3D print metal. I loved the experience, I can't wait to do more, I just think it is genius.
For this season's print, I wanted to approach it in a different way. I asked Ashley Joiner, a London based visual artist, to create a film which would then be manipulated into designs. He had complete freedom to create something around his interpretation of the brand. I really enjoyed working in this way and I'll continue this for future seasons with artists that I trust. Ashley filmed himself in all kinds of make-up, very Lady Gaga now actually, from different angles, projected it through clear plastic bags and then took stills from the other side which have ultimately been blown up. Once I saw the print, I decided upon the sizes of it and matched it with the garments and accessories that had already been designed."
Lo and hi tech treatments were used side by side throughout this collection's playful yet purposeful process. The result is a considered collection that teases and thrills. As I thumbed the tactile treasures, I couldn't resist snapping my own detail shots but the Willem Jaspert shot, Jason Hughes styled and Aaro Murphy designed look book captures the purposeful promise perfectly. "I've known Jason (Hughes) for many years so we have an easy relationship, In terms of styling, I find it extremely interesting to see how he interprets my work. So when I finish a collection it's exciting to pass it over and see his interpretation. After his initial play, we come together for the shoot and have real fun." Taste the fruits of their fun here:
Look book credits: Shot by Willem Jaspert, styled by Jason Hughes designed by Aaro Murphy and modelled by Stefan Lankreijer.
Mirroring Stefan Lankreijer's hopeful gaze on the future above, Raimund Berthold is shifting his focus on the next collection and continuing to push BERTHOLD on. "I'm at the research stage of autumn/winter 14. I like to surprise myself, I don't plan what I'm going to design but the signatures are already there, it's a case of developing them. I'm actually toying with the idea of a presentation at London Collections: Men and we're at the early stages of working out just what a BERTHOLD presentation could be." The designer floats away in his daydreams as he begins to ponder the future. I, for one, can't wait to see just what he'll create next.