Go Gaga for
Discover the Weird & Wonderful World
of Designer Asher Levine
By Isabella Redmond Styles
Asher Levine is seated amongst the jungle of rails in Blow PR’s labyrinthine headquarters in the heart of London. Dressed in top-to-toe black he looks cool, relaxed and surprisingly
unassuming. Except for the raised hem on the shoulders of his t-shirt, which make it appear as though Levine is growing tiny wings, there’s little to set him apart from all the other guys
walking about central London on a Monday lunchtime.
Q+A: It’s obvious that there’s a dark, disconcerting side to your designs, but there’s
also an unexpected softness thanks to the amount of draping you use. Is this contrast
something you consciously play with?
LEVINE: I like fluidity and traditionally menswear is not at all fluid. Because fluidity
becomes an extension of the body it’s very sexy. When you fuse the masculine body with
something that’s fluid, whether its transparent or fluid because of the fringing technique
used, I think it’s a very new kind of sexy. It’s going to take some time for men to get used
to. I always like to fuse structure with fluidness; the soft with the hard. I think that contrast
plays with your eyes and how you perceive the person - and it’s sexy.
Q+A:What are you working on at the moment? Can you give us any hints as to what to
expect from your next collection?
LEVINE: Right now we’ve been working on a lot of custom things for our clients but we’re
starting to develop the spring/summer collection for 2012. We’ve been talking a lot about
where the collection is going and how there does need to be a commercial aspect to it.
So we’re playing around with nice, beautiful t-shirts, tanks and pants. Things that guys
want to put on in the summer and feel great in without covering themselves in Wildebeest
fur. But I think at the same time the reason why people want to see more of the collection
is because it pushes the boundaries. So we’re thinking about releasing our more
commercial styles for s/s 2012 but maybe a few months later showing where those styles
came from and also showing the highly conceptual pieces, pieces where it often doesn’t
even feel like clothing. I’m not a designer that sits down a sketches everything. I didn’t go
to fashion school where they teach you to start with color trends, markets etc. I love the
creative synchronicity of fashion and it seems like I’m not the only one interested in the
biological side of fusing science with animals. There’s something in the air that’s just
coming together and that’s what I really like.
Q+A: I don’t know if you’ve managed to avoid the royal wedding fever that’s taken over
the UK but if Kate Middleton had asked you to design her dress what would you have
LEVINE: I think women always need to be elegant and chic - always, always, always. I
don’t want womenswear to have thorns and spikes - its very different. I would dress her in
a very beautiful, elegant dress but with an edge to it. I’m seeing long trains of silk, beautiful
twisted taffeta brought together beautifully. If you look at womenswear over the 20th
century it was all about the craziness and it changed every six months. In my mind it’s
different now; the woman embodies beauty, chic elegance while menswear is now more
daring. I think we’re moving into a new realm of fashion where you’re not dependent on
the trends that are in the stores. Buyers used to be so vital, it was up to the buyers to tell
consumers about trends, but now consumers have so much knowledge on their hands-
they know what’s going on in Belgium, in London and New York all at the same time.
Consumers have a new freedom and a new choice to decide, so I think there’s a fair
chance that individuality and personal style will overpower the fashion industry. It’s up to
the consumer to decide what he or she wants to wear.
Q+A: Do you think designers will stop showing their collections in a conventional way?
LEVINE: I don’t like systems, rules, structure. I think what’s going to happen is people will
start showing whenever they want to show and whenever they want to show it. The Internet
is presenting so many new opportunities and obstacles to the fashion industry. You can
show a live collection from the Galapagos Islands if you’ve got the money, and millions of
people can be there digitally. I think the Internet is really going to take things even further.
There’s always been a power struggle in fashion. Editors used to have power, then the
designer’s had it and now I think the power lies in the consumer, the person at the other
end of the computer who is reading the magazines. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
FASHION Q+A: How are you enjoying London? Do you see any differences between London and New York style?
ASHER LEVINE: I love the music in London - it’s happy and upbeat. I like how the crowd is mixed. There are gays on the dance floor, a guy making out with a girl and tattooed guys with their
shirts off - everyone is just having a good time. It’s not segmented here. People in London are a lot more experimental and adventurous with their style. It's definitely a lot more unique and I
want to come here more often!
Q+A: What was on your playlist while you were designing your Fall/Winter 2011 Collection?
LEVINE: When we make clothes 80% of the time we’re listening to 90's dance music with that's really upbeat and has a inner-city feel. When we were working on the fall/winter collection, we
listened to a lot of different music. A lot of Salem but also Ru Paul, so there was definitely a mixture!
Q+A: Can you tell us a little about who the Asher Levine boy is?
LEVINE: He wants to be chic and sexy but he still wants to be an individual. Right now it’s very stand out and experimental. All of our clients have this energy where they just want to try new
things and they want to be different. But the utmost characteristics of the Asher Levine guy is sexuality - he’s wanted and he’s powerful. Wearing different silhouettes you have to have a
sense of self and not care what others think. When I’m designing something, I put it on the model and I say to myself ‘ Would I want to take this guy home?’ It’s the same for womenswear
too. I think it’s a pretty good general rule! When we were working with the Black Eyed Peas we’d do a sketch or a muslin and say to ourselves ‘If you saw this guy at a club would you want to
take him home?’ A lot of times I’d think 'not really', so then we’d develop the style to the point where it had a good taste, but not so much over the top so that it turns you away.
Q+A: Ostrich and Alligator, Emu, Blue Wildebeest - what’s your fascination with unusual skins?
LEVINE: When I was growing up I was always involved in sculpture and painting, I’ve always been into making things with my hands and I’ve always had a fascination with life forms other
than ours. It’s a fetish! Every season a different fetish develops around one material and it makes the line unique. The first season we were using Emu and Persian lamb. We had to really
dig to find the suppliers and I think that’s what makes it really special. In order to track down Emu, I called this farm, which pointed me to another farm and then I’m in talks with these
Oklahoma farmers who are very surprised that there is a designer from New York on the other end of the phone! For the second season we found this amazing fish leather supplier and
then for fall/winter I found this army veteran who did most of his military work in Africa. He’s since retired, but he still has a lot of connections with African tribes. He has gone there and taken
part in their rituals and has been accepted into a tribe. He has all of these connections with African skins and masks so I asked him ‘Can I get some of that Blue Wildebeest?’ We even
found another supplier who has elephant and hippopotamus. I do love animals but I also love using unique skins. People started harvesting elephant skins in the early 1900s, I remember
reading a New York Times article about elephant bags, which could be fun! Due to government culling of elephants, a lot of elephant skin is unused so why not use it to make a scarf out of
the trunk or a jacket out of the body that will last for 150 years? I’m starting to worry that I’m going to run out of weird animals to use!
His coolness quickly dissolves in an
unabashed warmth as I approach him, his
broad smile almost suggesting that he’s the
one who is here to see me and not the other
Aside from his easy charm and attentiveness,
Levine is certainly a man with a radical
fashion mission, to change the way men think
about clothes and how they dress as a result.
His designs are avant-garde in the shapes
they take (how many men have you met that
love draping?) and unusual in the fabrics he
uses - if you want a Blue Wildebeest jacket
and trousers to match, Levine is your man.
Although he only started showing three
seasons ago, his star is rising fast and
furiously, having already collaborated with
Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. Q+A sat
down with the buzz worthy designer to talk
about the evolution of men’s fashion, his love
of unusual fabrics and the future of the