Designer AV Vattev offers a uniform for a generation in rehearsal
For his sophomore collection, the London-based designer translated techniques from Matisse paintings to artisanally crafted clothes.
COVID-19 was but a flicker on our newsreels when Antonio Vattev first started to work on ‘Generation in Rehearsal’, the London-based menswear designer’s sophomore collection for SS21. This was back in mid-February, a month he’d made his Paris debut with his AW20 homage to Mick Jagger and Georgia O’Keefe. “The pandemic wasn't something that shaped my collection that much in the beginning,” he says. Naturally, that quickly changed over the months that followed, eventually becoming its abiding focus.
As lockdown drew on, bringing with it a global shift in attention to the environmental and social damage we’ve collectively inflicted on our planet and to the lives of those on it, he came to think of the generation he’s part of as one in rehearsal for their roles in vast changes to come, citing the readiness with which young people around the world have taken stands and called for meaningfulness as proof. “We're still in rehearsal, trying to figure out the ways in which we can actually bring about change,” he says. “It's a new chapter for everyone, but especially for our generation -- this is a turning point for our future and the direction we want to take.”
Less a reflection of a solemn lockdown mood, AV Vattev SS21 is a reminder of the sort of outlook we ought to maintain in the face of the turbulence we’re sure to continue to endure. “It's quite a colourful and joyful collection,” he says, “as I believe that happiness and colour are things that we need after the processes we’ve gone through this year.” Mood-lifting pastel hues of lavender and powdery sky blue, as well as the odd flash of bright scarlet, shade the collection, the general focus of which is intelligently reconsidered, slightly-oversized tailored staples -- bowling shirts and twill trousers, as well as long overcoats and breezily cut waistcoats with twist-lock fastenings or diamond-pattern button closures.
A good number of the pieces are decorated with thistle motifs -- the flower serves as AV Vattev’s effective logo, but here it’s also a development on the translation of painterly techniques that we first saw last season. There, the sensual curves of Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers became the suede, faux leather and satin panels of coats and trousers. This season, Antonio looked to the gouaches découpés pioneered by Henri Matisse in the later years of his career. “It’s one of the most remarkable techniques he developed, and I wanted to see how I could translate that in my collection, and reinvent it for today,” Antonio says. The process involved embroidering thistle outlines onto appliquéd panels of satin and mesh and freehand cutting from the inside to create a raw-edged outline, filled in by the colour of the leather, satin or twill cotton beneath.
For Antonio, the thistle also exemplifies the spirit of the generation to whom the collection is dedicated, a symbolic harmony of thorny resilience and fragile beauty that blooms in the harshest circumstances. The collection’s two-part lookbook, revealed exclusively on i-D, and an accompanying film released later today, can be decoded similarly. The first set of images, titled ‘Present’, sees the model breaking through the harsh, dystopian frameworks of the current digital age; the second, ‘Past’, is a romanticised reimagining of Italian Renaissance frescoes. “It’s about this notion of having to understand the past if we want to be able to build a better future without repeating our mistakes,” Antonio says, acknowledging that, here in the present, we need to break the moulds we’re cast within. The roles that this Generation in Rehearsal have been allocated seem clear, then: “We need to try and break the frame,” Antonio says.
Photography Moritz Tibes (Present); Vito Fernicola (Past)
Cinematography Carmen Pellon Brussosa
Art Direction Riccardo
Styling Giovanni Dario Laudicina
Set Design Afra Zamara
Hair Louis Ghewy
MUA Ana Takahashi