With so many designers trying to break into the fashion industry it takes more than just talent to become a success. In my opinion, Paris based label Aganovich has what it takes. In fact they are a breath of fresh air in this somewhat homogenized industry.
Founded by in 2005 by Belgrade born Nana Aganovich and her partner Brooke Taylor, I was introduced to the duo by my friend Jimmy Chan (he owns French brand Rue du Mail, and now Aganovich). Jimmy told me: “Rarely do we see a brand which not only focuses on design, but on the overall story. They breathe and live the world they created. They are really focused on creating art for our industry.”
Indeed, Aganovich can be categorised as an intelligent fashion label which is why you will find their clothes hanging alongside conceptual brands like Comme des Garcons and Maison Martin Margiela at boutiques like Dover Street Market in London and Joyce in Hong Kong (not bad company, I’d say!) Their inspiration runs the gamut from artist Rodchenko to early 20th century movements such as futurism, constructivism and Bauhaus.
But despite their cerebral approach to fashion, their clothes are also modern, fresh and wearable. Their latest spring/summer collection features half skirts and dresses that are structured on one side and loose and flowing on the other. Many of the silhouettes border on futuristic with rounded shoulders or cape sleeves, all in a white palette, punctuated with vintage green brocade. Apparently it is a homage to gypsies.
In person, the designers make as much of a statement as their clothes thanks to their incredible personal style. I sat down with them on a recent trip to Hong Kong to talk about their views on fashion and building a label today.
How did you get involved in fashion?
Nana: I studied an MA in fashion at Central Saint Martin’s but I actually hated it. It was like a pocket philosophy. Then after we fell in love we knew we wanted to work together. Fashion was the connecting factor.
Brooke: Personally, we are very into dressing. We love clothes. When we dress, we actually get treated better. It is a visual thing for other people. That’s why we wanted to create our own label.
You debuted your first collection in Paris in October 2009. How would you describe your style?
Nana: We actually end up covering a lot, so we want women to dress a lot and then take off their clothes. So at the first level, it would be covering and dressing, and then bringing this kind of seduction afterwards so that it is not obvious. Another element we are interested in is contrast. We are still trying to figure out things that don’t go together that will actually meet. That way we can try to find something that is new.
What type of women wear your clothes?
Nana: Right now we are still finding our voice so [the look] has to be hard. There is not much left for the customer to play with although in the end we want them to be able to do that.
Brooke: Our feedback from the stockists is that our clientele is more of the artsy women that want to look different [architect Zaha Hadid is a fan]. They are done with Rick Owens and want to wear something new.
I read you hate the term conceptual. Why?
Brooke: Many people call our work conceptual but the term seems so dated. Conceptual as far as we see it should only be the same as the term underground in music. U2 were a kick-ass Irish underground band with two great albums in their pocket before they went massive. For me conceptual should be the same thing, which is that you try to rethink the current status to come up with something new. If you get it right, eventually it won’t be conceptual.
Nana: We actually analyze what we think could be better, what might our problems be, and then come up with a better proposition that we believe in. Our design is not about beauty.
Last year you moved operations from London to Paris signaling a new era for you…
Nana: Yes now we have a studio and seven people working for us which is amazing. We are also closer to our factory – we insist that all our clothes are made in France. It’s an important part of the story.
Brooke: No matter how many designers you poach from London, the stage of creativity in fashion always happens in Paris. I recently read a book where a Japanese designer was asked why he moved to Paris. He said, ‘I came to be criticised, because if I want compliments I’d stay at home.’ We are playing according to those rules now. Paris is just refining the idea down to the absolute. You have to be sophisticated.
What designers inspire you?
Nana: We analyse a lot of designers. Some for their mistakes, others to learn about how they built their businesses. We have a lot of respect for all successful designers but at the same time we are trying to carve our own path.
What lies ahead for Aganovich the brand?
Brooke: Right now we are turning each opportunity into more opportunities. I have eight files on my desk ready to go with new ideas. We would love to do products from wallets to rings as well as men’s wear. At the same time it will happen when someone you don’t know sees in you something they like and wishes you do more of it. You start to feel what they identify as you, then you start being more you. Then it’s interesting, it’s a relationship and we can build more.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Brooke: If I think of Leigh Bowery, Rei Kawakubo or McQueen, you end up feeling a lot of emotion in their work. They gave so much outside of themselves. I don’t know if we will end up being that type of label but you I’d like people to look at what we do and really appreciate it.