Monday, July 26, 2010
The Horst Interview: Asger Juel Larsen
Asger Juel Larsen Graduate collection
Exploring expressions of masculine strength, Asger Juel Larsen confronts his hero with the raw and severe reality of a future past. The dichotomy of ancient heritage and sci-fi scenarios is reflected through futuristic materials and an eclectic use of references. Armor evolves as the centre of Larsen’s menswear, marked by elaborate details and craftsmanship as well as a dark and grotesque vision.
Being perceived as a highly promising London designer, do you feel home in London?
In the beginning it took me a while to figure out what London was all about. I had to realise that everything I had imagined turned out to be completely different. The youth culture was much more on the edge than I had ever expected. And now, after three years, I feel more home in London than ever before. I love living in London. The possibility of doing whatever you want whenever you want is without comparison.
How has your design aesthetics evolved? What was the initial moment that made you fall in love with fashion?
A precise moment is hard to identify. The urge of breaking out of the normal pattern and exploring my surroundings has been within me since always. I liked daydreaming, I liked exploring, I liked dressing up. During my childhood, I used to hide in a small forest to escape from reality and create my very own dream world reigned by giants and dwarfs. Later, hanging out with the older boys at school fascinated me deeply. The way they looked, talked and acted moved me from within.
Your fascination for the raw and martial, your re-interpretation of medieval warfare marked the break-through for you as a designer. Where does your obsession derive from?
When I was little, I used to spend hours building massive fortresses out of Lego, Action Force or Dino Riders. I liked to set up massive parades of toy soldiers. Then, in one big battle that took less than two minutes, everything was torn apart. And I built the whole thing up again.
Asger Juel Larsen chain mail
In which extend do you feel attracted to the dark and brutal?
I feel attracted to it in both the real and fictional way. I never saw myself pursuing a career in the military, as I am way too rebellious, but I am deeply fascinated by the science that goes into the weapon industry. It is terrifying but still electrifying to see how that industry steps forward like no other. I actually relax when I watch the History Channel, in particular the new series about the Second World War in rare colour footage.
What do you think attracts people about your dark sci-fi theme?
A little daydream of becoming saviours in their own daily routine.
How do you perceive the contemporary mindset? What do you think is the essence of our time?
Responsibility in a fragile world.
Your sources of inspiration are manifold: Russian Tsar Nicholas II, architect Richard Rogers, the movie Terminator. Where do you see an aesthetic connection, a ‘black’ thread?
When I start a new project, I explore a wide variety of resources, something that kick-starts my creativity like nothing else. There is a link among them all. From the traditional and well-mannered principles of the past to the rapid future marked by technology and machines. The film ‘Titus’ by Julie Taymor portrays it very well. It is set in the Antique. Suddenly soldiers on motorcycles appear. I adore the incorrectness of that.
Richard Rogers Lloyd's Building vs. Metal Tube Waistcoat
If you were a character in a dystopic Asger Juel Larsen future, who would you be?
I would be the person in command of the Salvation Army that consists of humans and cougars who have been cloned to undertake the threat from intelligent manmade machines that aim to destroy anything living. We’re all wearing torn apart bodysuits in unforgiving dusty black leather with plated laser armour that can resist bullets of the strongest calibre. We shoot with plant fluid since that is the only ammunition that can break the components of the motherboard and destroy the machines.
You’ve been collaborating with Mauricio Stein for a limited sunglasses collection. The glasses can be interpreted as shields to protect the hero’s eyesight but also as an aesthetic filter to endorse him with an intensified view. Could one describe your glasses as an essential accessory to transport the wearer into a hyper-reality and advanced form of perception?
We wanted to make glasses that could unite the different looks in my collection. Therefore, we came up with the idea of making a double lens like a shield covering and protecting the face. Almost like a warrior helmet. At the same time it would be possible to flip the lens depending on the look or the mood of the outfit. We call them Austrian planet climber glasses. They can be used for transportation to another galaxy. It’s all about how far the wearer is willing to go.
AJL x Mauricio Stein flip glasses
How will your next collection look like? What influences are conquering your mind right now?
I’m currently trying to figure out what kind of fabrics and materials I want to use for my SS11 and AW11 collections. I need to be a bit ahead since I’m making two collections during the next half-year. Red Indians and African tribe men are on my mind these days.
Could you imagine evolving a softer, melancholic and sensitive side? What is hiding underneath the rubber cord armour and metal shields?
I’m not really into the whole bohemian thing. I like structure.
When did you cry the last time and why?
When my good friend Daniel died of cancer a month ago.
You are a master of craftsmanship, experimenting with unconventional materials such as PVC and rubber cords to create protective garments and stand-out-masterpieces like the infamous chain mail. How do you choose your materials?
I research thoroughly and test the materials. What works and what doesn’t. I like to use original materials. When I did my BA collection and had been researching the era of medieval knights I wanted to use genuine chain mail rings and not lightweight aluminium or plastic rings. It made the final outcome much more attractive.
You don’t flinch from getting injured or overly exhausted. Is the extensive physical effort an important part of your creative process?
I would prefer something in between but I must say, I do like making something from scratch and work with alternative materials that can be quite tough sometimes.
Any dramatic mishappenings?
I had a few problems with my metal tube waistcoat for the AW10 collection. I got the metal pipes as a Christmas present from my brother. I know it sounds like a wild present but it keeps the material costs down. After we had cut them, I needed to bring them to London and barely got them through customs. I was really scared they would confiscate them, since 300 small metal tubes easily could have been characterised as small bombs. In the end everything turned out fine and I could happily finish the waistcoat.
Are there particular elements you are obsessed with?
Do you think fashion correlates to sexuality, creating tension and desire?
Very much. No matter what direction your pursuing in fashion, it’s important to have tones of desire and sex. It looks good and it sells.
What does intrigue you about the male anatomy? One may describe your creations as manifestos of masculinity.
I like the torso. The main part of the male body exemplifies what kind of man you are.
Fall/Winter 2010 Lookbook
What does manhood mean to you?
Someone who can take care of himself and his loved ones.
How do you feel towards contemporary concepts of androgyny?
I love it. I see androgynous woman and men as the future. The London youth culture is blossoming with men finding their own feminine side while still balancing it with their masculine side.
Have gender definitions been erased completely? Or is it time to revive the archaic rules of sexual identity?
The past is the past and I like the transformation. You have the chance to be whoever you want to be whenever you want to. That is amazing and the only correct way. I hate discrimination.
Please picture the world in 2060.
Luc Besson’s ‘The Fifth Element’ says it all.
And finally, as who would you like to be remembered?
As a person with character.
Thank you very much, Asger.
Published in Zoo Magazine NO.27, 2010.