"What do I really want to say?” A question posed the designer Drew Curry at a time when doubt was the common denominator in humanity, at the beginning of the global pandemic. In the midst of so much uncertainty and isolation, he found the perfect scenario to reflect and follow the impulse to start the creative adventure that became his brand, Airei. We spoke with him about his recent nomination for the LVMH Prize 2022, his understanding of human fragility and the very personal and unique values behind his brand.
Life is fragile and imperfect, and the LA-based creator of Airei knows it and tries to make us understand it through his collections. His work has an important focus on craftsmanship and the human essence that is imprinted through manual labour, his garments are characterised by their uniqueness. "I do my best to create concepts that are impossible to replicate perfectly," he says. It is because of this pure and raw way of working and ethics that, in just a few years, the designer has achieved international recognition.

This is demonstrated by their recent nomination as a semi-finalist in the latest LVMH Prize, a symbol of confidence in Airei’s designs that adds to the endorsement received already from renowned figures Kendrick Lamar, Bad Bunny, and Billie Eilish wearing his clothes. But beyond fame and spotlights, Drew Curry’s main interest is to connect with the customer, absorb them into the creative experience, and help them appreciate imperfection as much as he does.
Airei Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Hello Drew, it’s a pleasure to talk to you! How are you feeling these days when life finally starts to feel a bit more ‘normal’ after this chaotic pandemic situation we've been living through the past few years?
What’s interesting in regard to my story, is that everything started happening for me during the pandemic. When everything shut down, I was away from my full-time job for 3 months. By that time in my life, I had been trying to make something happen for 8 or so years. I had never had so much time to dedicate to making clothing and exploring my ideas. I spent every day in my studio and really started to question everything I had done. I was asking myself, “What do I really want to say?” That question led me to create my first collection for Airei, which was bought by Dover Street Market. The pandemic was a reset for the world and a new beginning for me.
You designed your first collection during this difficult time. Do you think that if this situation had never happened, you wouldn’t have taken the step to venture down this path, or was it a matter of time and the pandemic gave you an ideal context in which to start developing it?
What was critical about the extended time I had during the pandemic, was that I was able to have space and the time to really dive deep into myself and go back to the essence of why I was creating.
The fragility of the human condition and of life is one of the most relevant topics for you. In what situations have you experienced this fragility first-hand?
Life’s fragility is something we all experience. I knew early on that my life will be about sharing those moments with others through art. Capital-f Fashion has a way of masking the rawness of life, I’m not so much wanting to deify the rawness, I just want to walk hand-in-hand with it.  I’m grateful to have had a childhood where I was exposed to many different elements of humanity early on and, although I have had many experiences, my time serving in Kolkata India turned out to be some of my most profound experiences. But all of them have led me to this moment.
Airei Metalmagazine 2.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 4.jpg
The imperfect as a metaphor for the human touch is another key concept in your collections, reflected in techniques and finishes. Achieving imperfection can be even more challenging than doing a perfect job. Do you agree with this statement?
I’m not sure if imperfection can be achieved. If imperfection is forced or fabricated, it takes away from its beauty. It must come from an authentic place. For Airei, I do my best to create concepts that are impossible to replicate perfectly. We treat our garments as if they’re perfect, and the serendipity of what happens with the pieces when we add the hand stitching is where the magic seems to happen. It needs the balance of the two contrasting elements.
The craftsmanship, the organic fabrics and the earth tones you use are your signature and they seem to be closely linked to nature and ecology. How easy is it to work with values as pure and organic as yours in an industry that is not characterised by these practices?
For me it’s become a daily reminder and a daily practice. The physical expression of that purity in the clothing is maybe an expression of the pursuit of purity in myself.
We see how an important means of expression for you is not only fashion but also art, you demonstrated it in the performance/fashion film The Case for a Tragic Optimism. How did the idea of making a piece like this came up?
The Case for a Tragic Optimism was an installation and a performance art piece I did for our first official Paris Fashion Week presentation, and the performance lasted just over two hours. For context, an average runway show is around 8 minutes. I was hoping to create a new Fashion Week experience. One that was just as immersive, but forced the viewer to stop and experience, and interpret in their own way. I know what it meant to me, but it’s nice to hear how it impacted others in different ways.
Is the detail of the closed seams that must be opened by the wearer to use the garment an extension of this artwork? What sensations do you want to convey to the wearer through this?
This is a concept I’m really interested in. It takes the human touch element of the brand to the next level, in which you must be a participant in the process. What’s also fascinating is the sense of tension this creates for the wearer, needing to break it to wear it.
Congratulations on your semi-finalist spot in the 2022 LVMH Prize! What did the nomination mean to you? Was it something you expected?
Thank you. I’m really humbled by the recognition and the experience. It was a pleasure to experience it along with a strong class of designers. What it’s really taught me was to believe in my ideas and keep putting work into the world.
How much impact has this recognition had on your life and in the way you perceive or understand your profession?
I just have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. But otherwise, I wake up every day and start from zero.
Airei Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Another form of recognition that you have received more and more frequently is the attention from well-known celebrities towards your creations. Who has surprised you the most by wearing your pieces and who would you like to see wearing them in the future?
A few weeks ago, I got to spend some time with John Galliano. The day prior, he had bought one of my pieces from H.Lorenzo in Los Angeles. John had some incredibly kind things to say about my work, and I was able to share with him how much he’s inspired me. I’ll never forget that day. To me, the highest honour is people I love and appreciate admiring my work.
Airei has a promising future. What are you working on? What can we expect from your brand in the near future?
Right now, we’re preparing for our Spring/Summer ’23 collection and show, which we’ll be presenting during Paris Fashion Week: Menswear at the end of June. But there are a lot of incredible things on the horizon.
AIREI's collections can be found at Dover Street Market (Ginza, New York, Los Angeles, London), H Lorenzo, SSENSE, and more.
Airei Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 13.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 19.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 20.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 23.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 25.jpg
Airei Metalmagazine 26.jpg