INTERVIEW WITH VINTI ANDREWS
Looking back at street style trends in 2005 in Tokyo and Osaka, fashion icons wore Vinti Andrews, along with Vivienne Westwood archive pieces and the latest collections of new creators like KTZ and Bernhard Willhelm. The label created by Vinti Tan and Paul Andrews, who both graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2001, have created numerous masterpieces through the reconstruction of vintage clothing and upcycling of high-end brands, such as their remake of Levi's jeans as well as NIKE track jackets patched with geometric patterns. Their collections, inspired by the typical London culture of street style and underground music, have the unique anti-establishment edge of designers who specialize in remakes, but with a mysterious softness that seems to reflect their personalities. More than 15 years have passed since then. We interviewed the two designers, who continue to be active with their collections at fashion weeks, as well as their stores in London and Shanghai.
Nice to e-meet you again Vinti! How is London now?
London is starting to open up and people are starting to go back to work, but we can’t wait for international travel to start again, so hopefully not too long now.
Tell me the concept of your label “Vinti Andrews”.
The concept of the label is a kind of sub-culture anti-fashion, with outsider underground designs.
When and how did you come to start the label together?
We started working together at Central Saint Martins, and we started making items and clothes for London stores called Kokon to Zai and The Pineal Eye. Then we properly started the brand a few years later after Vinti finished working for Vivienne Westwood.
What is your design process working as a duo?
It depends on the season, but Paul generally designs the concept and Vinti does patterns.
How did you find your signature style, with reconstructing garments, recycling high-end clothing, detailed appliques and strong graphic?
We really liked the idea of taking something, a garment that people did not want anymore and breathing life back into it, making it cool. We also try to add details / handwork that adds a little extra.
I think it was almost 15 years ago when I came to know about your label through the street style magazines in Japan. Back then, many Japanese street icons wore your great pieces, such as distressed Levi’s 501, Nike patchwork tracksuit jackets, leather biker bags, etc. What was the opportunity and story behind the community in Tokyo?
Our first collection was pick up and bought by 2 stores, called Faline Tokyo in Harajuku and Midwest in Shibuya, and I think their customers were really into this kind of European taste in design that we were doing. Also Shoichi Aoki’s magazines, “FRUiTS” and “TUNE”, were into high quality vintage and designers’ brand mixing, and I think Japanese people really understand and value it.
Compared to the punk-ish mood of those archives, the current collections seem more subtle, soft and refined. How have your collections changed through the last decade?
When we started, we were really inspired by the UK underground music of that time which was Dubstep, heavy base electro and crazy hard bootlegs of mainstream pop. Those music was all crashed together creating the culture of the time, and I suppose we were doing the same with clothes at that time. We were trying to create something new via crashing brands, techniques and colours etc. We are still inspired by current underground music such as Burial, Overmono, Kucka and new White Ring etc, but the music now is built up by many layers and more subtle, and I suppose that’s what we try to create, building up a collection using many fine layers of different influences not just one or two themes.
Tell me about the AW21 collection, which was digitally showed in the London Fashion Week?
Yeah I moved back to my home town in Devon, which is a rural countryside area of the UK with great surfing and an outdoor lifestyle culture, so the collection was inspired by the surroundings. The design was looking at English winter floral gardens / the early 90’s skateboarding / winter surfing which were wrapped in a heavy Grunge aesthetic, and also the music we were listening to, from an English record label called Rocketgirl Records and especially a band called White Ring. We also worked a lot with an amazing photographer called Michiyo Yanagihara, so I asked her to come down to my hometown and shoot the collection on video using a local girl. I wanted it to be as real as I could to the English culture of this area, not just a glossy version of Devon and Cornwall.
Now you have a big fan base in China, with a Shanghai store opening a few years ago. What do they love about your pieces?
Yes I think people in Shanghai like more feminine sportswear reworked into light opened flowy dresses. Also our main store is in Shoreditch in London. It used to be a off-licence store, and we change it around slightly inside but kept the exterior. We carry a mix of simple basics and some more crazy re-make items that you can only buy there.
Who are your favourite designers of all the time?
We like early Helmut Lang and the 90’s Margiela, old Westwood and everything Hedi Slimane does, and Hermes is just fucking cool.
I think you have been very aware of sustainability from the beginning of your label, as many of your pieces have been handcrafted from the recycled or vintage items. What is your view on sustainability?
Yes, we try to make clothes last and be cool as long as possible. We like to buy quality ourselves, and we think it’s best to buy something you love that brings you happiness.
In those tough times, what would you like to communicate with people through your collections?
That it is ok to be different, and it is cool to go your own way.
Interview text_YASUYUKI ASANO