Family and “the good old days” conform a warm memory for most. With regards to fashion, we can probably all think of a clothing item from when you were young that you would love to still be able to wear. But would you also know what it would look like if you translated the overall mood of your childhood into an actual collection? Julian Zigerli made this thought come true with his latest AW collection, Larger than Life. We asked him how he did it and talked with him about his inspiration and way of working.
The AW16/17 collection Larger than Life is based on an insight into your own personal life. Was it hard to open up in such an intimate way?
It’s not the first time that I used my family and life as an inspiration; Julian Zigerli has been a very intimate brand from the beginning on. Our SS14 collection, for example, started out with the title My Daddy was a Military Pilot. I like to open up about those exciting ideas and to include my life experiences into my work. The approach is usually taken with a lot of fun and irony, so it’s not necessarily a very deep and personal life that I show. The translation into the collection and clothing is therefore taken with a certain distance. It’s more that the theme and inspiration gives an input of form, colour and materials.
How, in general, do you find inspiration for a new collection?
That approach is always very different. Season by season it happens in a new way. As mentioned before about SS14, I literally walked into my dad’s home office and the title just came to my mind. So there I started out only with a title. Other times I get inspired by artists, with whom I sometimes end up working together with for a print collaboration in the collection. Katharina Grosse was one of them. In general I can almost say, “the world is my oyster” – I find inspiration in daily life, things I see and feel and things that happen. The internet, of course, gives great inputs too.
And how did you come up with the concept of Larger than Life?
Family is important to me and I always love to look at our old family pictures, especially the ones of my mom and dad from when they were my age and younger. They were so pretty. It felt right to devote a whole collection to my family and my childhood. Larger than Life is the perfect title for it. If you know where the inspiration comes from, you totally get what it means, but it’s also important to me to keep a bit of a mystery to each title and collection. If you don’t know anything about the collection’s inspiration or title, you look at it and you still get a certain feeling. Colours, shapes, print, it all adds up to it. That feeling should represent the whole story behind each collection, because in the end, titles and the inspiration don’t really matter when a garment is hanging in the store or when someone is already wearing it. But still, you will feel the essence on how it was created and the spirit behind it, that’s what I’m aiming for.
Were there any family members closely involved during the process of creating the collection?
They usually always are. In particular my mom, she helps with the brand from time to time. Something she’s very good at! However, in the creative process I only rarely talk about things with them. When I told my family that the new collection is about them, they got excited, but were not interfering at all. They trust me with my work.
How did you translate your memories and the mood of your childhood into actual clothing pieces?
I started off with original photographs of my mom and some photos that my dad took, quite a literal translation. Then I also looked into colour moods and print moods from my ‘90s childhood pictures. I used my old plushies to recreate them as leather bags; I reproduced my most favourite jeans and t-shirts, which at the time were so worn out that they almost fell apart. This way they can live on forever now. I used comfortable and fine wool in neon pink, orange and yellow. These colours play a big role in the memory of my childhood.
Your childhood took place in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, are there characteristics of this time period that you wished would be more present nowadays?
Nowadays, I feel that fashion has opened up so much that you basically can relive whatever you want from the past. That’s a great thing; it means that you don’t necessarily have to miss anything anymore. I love the ‘90s, but to be honest, when I looked at all those photos of me as a young teenager… Let’s say around 1994, we didn’t look too great back then. The actual ‘90s style is quite horrible in my opinion. Luckily we have only good memories of it and we only relive the good parts.
How did your personal fashion style evolve throughout the years?
Oh you know, it’s a natural flow. I remember after two months of interning in the centre of London when I was 17, I basically discovered the meaning of fashion for myself. I started to explore a lot more; I was wearing crazy colours and styles and couldn’t stop shopping for new things. Mostly second hand stuff and other cheap items of course. When you grow older and you work in fashion, you realise what’s behind every single piece of fabric. The selection of garments in your closet becomes very individual and personal. Quality, and not quantity, becomes relevant. Today I feel very comfortable with my own clothing style; it almost feels a bit too grown up and calmed down. Even though I believe some people would still consider it a “crazy” style. That’s just a point of view I guess.
Instead of a traditional catwalk style show, you decided to present a conceptual moment piece (performance) in The Family space during Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Why did you do this and how does it fit the concept of the collection?
It wasn’t planned from the beginning. I discovered the work of the collective trio LaHorde from Paris and was fascinated by their performance work. When I started talking to them about my collection and ideas for it, they were immediately on board to create a show with me. The aim from the beginning on was to present the feeling of the collection rather than the fashion of it. So we went for a dance performance that went on for 3 hours straight. It was such a beautiful atmosphere, some people stayed with us for the whole time because they couldn’t get enough. It felt like a big and heart warming family dinner.
Could you tell a little bit more about the choice of using different dancers and the creative final edits in the film?
The idea was to show the diversity of a family. We didn’t only want to show young and pretty boys, but also some characters. LaHorde is very good in connecting different fields of dancing, so we decided to show the diversity also through dance styles. It was amazing to see how it all linked together in the end. Having filmed the whole presentation for 3 hours straight left us with a lot of film material. I gave the creative freedom all to LaHorde to do with it what they wanted. The spirit of the collection was already in the moving picture, but they went a step further and created a sensual piece of art with their team.
What is your favourite piece of the AW16/17 collection?
You can never pick just one. They are all my babies. But of course, there was a good reason why I decided to reproduce my favourite pair of jeans. Now with the fake ripped jeans print, it makes them even more amazing.
The core of your brand is bringing humour, positivity and love to its designs; do you feel the fashion world is lacking these?
Yes, I do think so. I am not the only designer who is spirited like that, but I do think we have it a bit harder in the very serious industry of fashion. Luxury and glamour are still the rulers. If you come with a relaxed and easy-going attitude, some might think the worth of the clothes is less. Last summer we used 20 skaters to present the newest line, whilst they were making tricks and spending an afternoon in the sun. It really was the perfect way to show the collection, but not everyone understands that skating and chilling and having fun doesn’t necessarily means casual wear. It’s the spirit that counts for me. That is what is luxury to Julian Zigerli.
The journey of your fashion label has been very successful. You’ve done some cool collaborations, earned multiple nominations and always surprise with your fashion shows. What can we expect from Julian Zigerli in the future?
The journey hopefully doesn’t stop anywhere near the near future. We still have a lot of ideas and always encounter new interesting people to work with. Spreading the Zigerlilove all over the world is our mission. Make the world a better place with simple things like a t-shirt or a jacket. We don’t want to move mountains, but just little stones, step by step. Staying creative in such a high level is what I hopefully can keep up for my work and my collections for myself. It’s what keeps me going. You have to love what you do in such a shark tank industry.