London-based designer Benji Wzw is one to watch. Not only because he looks like one of the most happy and cheerful people you will ever meet, but most of all because he designs kick-ass streetwear that would make even your father look cool. We interviewed him about his AW14 collection.
Ok whoa, cool maybe it is magical somehow. I would have a gin tonic in one hand, and all your fingers in the other, and tell you how my body’s lacking in Vitamin U.
My work will always centre around story-telling – or semi-autobiographical narratives, rather. SS14 That paradise would be a meme was about Internet youth subcultures, and about a boy who builds his life online, existing as much on the Internet as he does in the physical world. I was drawing from my own life, growing up in a middle-class suburban environment – through the Internet, I could aspire to be something and connect, have a sense of belonging, and create new possibilities.
Both collections explore a lot of technology and how to apply that to fashion. With SS14, I created seamless sculptural forms in jackets and trompe l’oeil digital prints on bonded fabrics. The prints were an abstracted three-dimensional take on tartans, which I created myself in computer 3D modeling.
In AW14, I explored the idea of fashion print in new ways, including holographic detailing, 3D printing, and digital printing on leather. I had a great sponsor for the leather printing, the Deep Print Movement - which helped me a lot in the production process. I also decided to introduce tailoring into the silhouettes – so I underwent training with a Saville Row tailor in London to learn how to make made-to-measure suits, and applied this new skill to my work. It was a step further into combining innovation and traditional craft.
AW14 Fall in love with machinery tells the story of heartbreak and fast rides. While looking again on my experiences of growing up, I drew a parallel with the middle-class suburban lives of the bosozoku (a Japanese biker gang subculture). AW14 also took inspiration from a very vulnerable place. Having gone through a recent heartbreak, the collection was about falling in love with a machine, and how there’s a hole you can crawl out of and learn to swallow your bad dreams. I try to translate my emotions into garment, and burn a piece of myself in each collection.
The short film was made together with artist Adrian Mazzarolo, and it was used as the intro piece for my AW14 show. Adrian is one of my best friends and such a visionary. The film was a great opportunity to bring our creative worlds together - it was like seeing my life through his eyes. We're working now on making an extended short film with more footage from our shoot.
I give a piece of myself and hope that it’s something others can relate to and experience.
I consider myself a print and textiles focused designer. With each collection I create a set of unique prints and fabric treatments, constantly pushing and expanding the concept of the “fashion print”.
Most people immediately notice the use of technology in my clothing, but there’s also a lot of craftsmanship involved in every piece. The holographic appliqué, for example, was all done by hand (thanks also in part to my wonderful assistant Pia) – even the pattern work takes a lot of time to develop in order to get the right tailored fit and proportions. Sometimes these are subtle details that many might not immediately recognize, but they add a lot to the emotions and atmosphere that I try to translate.
The kid on the street, taking a piss at everything and nothing.
I’m really one to embrace change. I felt like it was time for me to leave Antwerp, after having studied there in the BA program – and I have always loved being in London. It’s so hectic – but I always feel this energy in the city that keeps propelling everyone to “go, go go!” I love that. I feed off that madness – sometimes it bites back, tears at me, but at the end of the day I find it so fulfilling.
Definitely. I think my aesthetic has always lent itself to both men and women. With my debut collection for AW14 and upcoming SS15, I’ve decided to continue with menswear. But there’s always something about a feminine energy that has inspired me my whole life and woven itself into my work each time.
I used to think of fashion in a genderless way, but my perception has slightly changed now. Although I believe in a common aesthetic and beauty that exists beyond gender, I also think that fashion is inherently rooted to our physical bodies. Men and women are not the same – women go through much more drastic physical transformations that ultimately dictate emotional changes as well.
I want my first statement for womenswear to be something that I’m sure of, so I’ve been researching and studying the female form. You can expect Benji Wzw women’s line for AW1516!
Well I think the idea of “street wear” is a very loose concept. For me, it’s more about a certain attitude and character. And although some pieces are more experimental in my collections, there are also a lot of wearable elements. A part of my work draws from my own personal style and love of dressing up – so styling also comes into play when I build up a silhouette. I create an atmosphere and a character for each collection – but I want for others to be able to pull it apart and make their own looks.
But if someone were to wear a full look to the grocery store, I don’t see why not. I think more people need to understand the work of fashion designers beyond a proposed image and as legitimate proposals of garment. Conversely, fashion designers should be proposing garments and not only images.
I’ve just been invited to show at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week in August, so I’m now working on my SS15 collection and show, while simultaneously working on the AW1516 BENJI WZW Men and Women’s lines.
When I grow up, I want to be the end of the world.