josh reim has released four collections and he’s only 18
The young Canadian designer talks about high school and the importance of experimenting.
spring/summer 14 photography jetro emilcar
While many of us associate the last years of high school with feelings of aimlessness, 18-year-old designer Josh Reim drew motivation from his teenage surroundings. "In retrospect, high school was a good thing," he says. "So much of what I'm inspired by comes from people I knew."
Just two years after graduating, Reim has four collections (mainly menswear) under his belt — find them on his online store and at Schuhtütehemd — and he's currently working on what will be his first official presentation later this year. Precociously savvy, he has a knack for combining elements of bygone trends — like terry cloth, delicate florals, tassels — in strange and refreshing ways that are already attracting big-name buyers from beyond his native Montreal.
Reim began designing clothing when he was 16, "but just for fun, and everything was made only for my friends." Two years later and his most recent collection, for fall/winter 15, is a collision of cafeteria archetypes. Preppy button-downs are mixed with tie-dyed t-shirts and functional zippered fleeces to create an aesthetic that breaks apart the high-school stereotypes it references. "I think my designs are both a reaction and a response to my surroundings," he says, "There's a constant dialogue between the reel of memories in my head and my current situation."
This dialogue also incorporates Reim's close friend and photographer Jetro Emilcar. "Jetro is growing alongside me, so it's very easy to discuss and develop ideas with him…he helps to strengthen the plot," says the designer. From the beginning, the two have worked collaboratively, and Jetro has shot each of Reim's lookbooks. "I think about the photography just as much as I think about the clothing… there is something magical about a good picture, it's transporting," he says. Many of Reim's pieces seem rooted in nostalgia, whether it's for 60s paisley prints or the Wild West, contributing a strong sense of time and place to the photographs.
Fall/winter 14, with its primary colors, celestial decals and nursery-themed patterns is maybe the most "retro" of his collections, but Josh hesitates to use that term: "I draw inspiration from my personal past, things I can remember, people I can remember, seeing places I remember going to. I think the word 'retro' is meaningless."
Reim is equally reluctant to classify his clothing as men's or women's wear. His lookbooks have featured both male and female models. "At first I thought there was a need to give the line a menswear label," he says. "But I decided recently that the line should be unisex. I want to play by my rules even if it means not selling to more stores." And when casting models, Reim prefers friends and acquaintances. "Having people I'm close with model for me is essential to my vision. Friends fall into the role naturally," he says. On a recent lookbook shoot he told models, "Just act as awkward as you feel."
If you were to lay Reim's lookbooks out and study his progression, it might look like more of a zig-zag than a straight line: from the cooler, muted palette of spring/summer 14, to the vibrant hues and textures of fall/winter 14, to the waspy realm of khakis and pastel shirts for spring/summer 15. Each collection, while very "Josh," deviates radically from the last. And it's his aversion to following trends that makes his designs so unique. "Trends don't really exist, there are people wearing everything all the time so when a magazine is on the lookout for a specific thing, they're obviously going to find it." To him, the word trend is as meaningless as the word retro. "All of my work so far has been about personal experimentation," he says.
s bizarre as the results sometimes seem, they're always compelling. "By the time I finish a collection I realize that there's more I could have done to enrich the vision," says Reim, "but at the same time, I feel as though I keep getting closer and closer, every collection, to the heart of what I'm trying to do." Stay tuned, Josh Reim has some big things coming.
Text Rebecca Storm
Photography Jetro Emilcar