The graduate designer proving the subtle power of pattern-cutting
Inspired by an imagined collaboration between Mick Jagger and Georgia O’Keeffe, AV Vattev AW20 skillfully bridges what might at first seem like disparate worlds.
Subtlety is a skill that Antonio Vattev has been quick to hone. It was central to his 2019 Central Saint Martins graduate collection, best exemplified by a tailored coat in glossy yellow satin, hand-embroidered with steel nuts in a diamond pattern that calls an argyle sweater to mind.
While the idea of translating a pattern typically associated with cosy knits with DIY bits and bobs might seem odd, it’s a testament to his ability to take the most seemingly disparate poles and find subtle ways to weave them together. For the AW20 launch of AV Vattev, the designer took a more thematic contrast as his starting point. "I've always been fascinated by Mick Jagger and Georgia O’Keeffe,” he says -- hardly two names you hear in the same breath. Which is just what spurred his quest to explore what a collaboration the two visionaries could have looked like.
Slim tailored pieces in dusty marigold suede and a fine houndstooth checks are identifiable references to Mick, but it’s in the quiet irregularity of the pattern-cutting that the intelligence of Antonio’s approach shines through. “I developed a technique that translates the effects of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works -- the panels are taken from the forms I see when looking at her close-up flower paintings, for example,” he explains.
These petal-like panels are compiled to make coats, jackets and trousers, demonstrating a take on tailoring as polished as it is eccentric. Browsing the collection, it’s tempting to draw loose comparisons with the work of Kiko Kostadinov. Their shared Bulgarian nationality aside, both exhibit a confidence in patternmaking, with designs that teeter on zany...
"You could describe the technique I developed as a sort of patchwork, but I also wanted to explore the effects you can achieve using a single fabric, as well as with different colours and materials,” he says. That Jagger-esque suede suit, for example, is cut to take the different means by which the fabric reflects light into account. “It’s not something that you can really see from a distance, but if you look closely, you notice subtle differences in the way the light hits the panels, creating variations on the yellow used." Elsewhere, he employs colour to mimic the almost-iridescent suede effect. In one look, we see a sports jacket artfully collaged from curved satin swatches in dusty pink and two tones of grey.
The athletic shapes that pepper the collection mark the crossing of a new threshold for a designer that’s made tailoring the bedrock of his practice. “Working with sportswear was a little more challenging, but I really enjoyed it,” he says. “It allowed me to adopt a fresh approach to texture and fabrication. It also gave him the chance to apply his tailoring savoir-faire to unfamiliar forms. “I’ve used satins, wools, suedes -- fabrics that you wouldn't typically associate with sportswear.”
For all the innovation Antonio shows, he should also be commended for carrying-over the distinct motifs of his previous work; already defining a discreet-yet-recognisable signature two collections in. The embroidered lozenges of his graduate work return as an argyle knit panelled onto a tailored shirt, its button placket concealed to achieve the trompe l’oeil effect of an overlaying vest. There are also trousers with unjoined seams at the knee, which flirt with the comically wide cowboy boots we saw last season.
There’s one particular element throughout the collection that even predates Antonio himself: the tousled puffs of Halishte, a traditional Bulgarian wool. "People no longer produce it, you can only really find it up in the mountains, so it was quite a challenge to track down,” he says. But it was really interesting to reflect upon my heritage -- beyond my personal interests, it was another way to bring myself to the collection." Hand-dyed in dandelion hues of yellow and ochre, the fabric was applied to one-off tank tops, bucket hats and balaclavas, and styled as if to mimic lions’ manes in the collection’s lookbook by i-D’s Ibrahim Kamara.
The series of images, shot by Pablo di Prima, was inspired by the invitation to Robert Mapplethorpe’s very first New York exhibition. "I went to an amazing Mapplethorpe exhibition in Rome last summer and saw the invitation there,” says Antonio. “It’s composed of two images of hands -- one in a shirtsleeve, the other in a leather glove. I thought it responded really well to what I want to do with my brand and the idea of making pieces that can operate differently according to their environment." With their cinematic composition and double styled looks, the images strike a delicate harmony, showcasing the formal intricacy and detail of the garments at hand, while hinting towards the darker, raunchier contexts they could occupy.
While Antonio presented an enhanced re-see of his graduate collection on the London Fashion Week Men’s schedule last season, Antonio has opted to debut his first full collection since leaving CSM in Paris. It seems to be something of a trend, with some of London’s best-loved names announcing that their departure for the French capital for AW20. But despite the murmurs questioning London’s continued relevance on the international menswear scene, Antonio remains confident in the city’s status as a world-class hub for young talent. “There are still so many reasons to be in London. I really appreciate the freedom and support that’s present here,” he says. “Paris just happened to suit better this season, as I needed that extra bit of time to ensure that everything was finished to the best standard possible. Next season, I definitely want to show. It's still one of the greatest places for young talent -- 100%."
Photography Pablo Di Prima
Styling Ib Kamara
Art Direction Riccardo Zinola
Movement Direction Ryan Chappell
Set Design Afra Zamara