Known for its range of considered basics, separates and statement pieces, the Amanda Laird Cherry label is celebrated for giving familiar styles and silhouettes contemporary and avant-garde twists. The label includes ladieswear, accessories and ALC Menswear, created in collaboration with Brendan. We chatted to him about the latest collection.
Two Katsushika Hokusai artworks served as inspiration for the ALC Menswear A/W 2019 collection. Can you take us through how the process works in terms of creating a new collection? What happens after the initial moment of inspiration and how does this develop into a fully-fledged collection?
The brand has always been influenced by Japanese sensibilities and aesthetics, at times more subtle and at others more obvious. Amanda shared these images with the team as a starting point for both collections. Elements we pulled from these images were the movement captured in the rolling waves, the colour palette from the sky and Mount Fuji, the geometric nature of the style, as well as the balance in colour and composition.
‘The vast history behind the brand is a melting pot for inspiration, and I often lose myself in the archives.’
Where else do you get your inspiration?
My personal inspiration comes from how things are made and my fascination with the architecture in clothing. Amanda has cemented the brand as a force to be reckoned within the fashion industry. The vast history behind the brand is a melting pot for inspiration, and I often lose myself in the archives. So combining these two elements works seamlessly.
How did the collaboration with ceramic artist Frank Nthunya come about and what was it about his work that was a good fit for ALC Menswear?
Amanda has a history of working with the Woza Moya crafters at the Hillcrest Aids Centre in KwaZulu-Natal and Frank has his studio on their premises. We met him a couple of years back and fell in love with his work. We knew immediately we wanted to work with him, but it took a while to figure out how to do so. We collaborated with him for the AW19 ladieswear show at South African Fashion Week.
Frank was inspired by our signature prints in his etchings and we were inspired by his unique silhouettes and process of sculpting clay. The overlap into this season’s menswear collection is rooted in the spontaneous nature of Frank’s sculpting and also inspired by the surface texture and colouring his pots take on after being fired. I reinterpreted this with a hand-dying technique called Ice Dying where, much like the firing process, the final result is largely left up to chance. There is an element of risk involved when Frank fires his pots. While a lot of time and effort goes into the prep, there is a good chance his pots could explode in the kiln. This actually happened during our process which gave me a whole new level of respect for his work.
‘This season, we created silhouettes which are abundant with expressive, voluminous layers, and the styling is a mixture of utilitarian and avant-garde.’
Could you outline some of the avant-garde twists in the A/W 2019 collection?
The avant-garde elements are an opportunity for us to stretch our creativity, put on a show and elevate the brand identity. We love this part and it often encapsulates the season’s story as well. This season, we created silhouettes which are abundant with expressive, voluminous layers, and the styling is a mixture of utilitarian and avant-garde. Some of the looks are intentionally monochrome and others have been styled using the same treatment for the entire ensemble. The garments are adorned with details such as sunken utility pockets, intentional topstitching and the marbled print dyed by hand using the technique I mentioned before.
How difficult is it to strike a balance between artistic aesthetics and commercial sensibility?
It’s a careful and intentional process. We approach each new season by designing the collection that will go into stores first. This ready-to-wear collection consists of considered designer pieces, which are more accessible than avant-garde; we focus on subtle but unusual/unconventional details, which inform and extend into the avant-garde pieces we create for our ramp show. We balance the avant-garde with more commercial pieces so there is enough for people to understand, yet we are able to express our creativity and tell a story at the same time.