Clothes that make you think: Aitor Throup's designs land way out of the box

December 16, 2013

The first things you might notice about Aitor Throupís 23-piece debut collection of apparel and accessories are the skulls ó one out-sized, hollow-eyed and upside down, rendered as a black backpack big enough for a laptop computer; the second a satchel of gray melton wool that unzips across the mouth.

Then your eye will probably wander to the trousers that donít end at the ankle, continuing on instead into Kevlar-soled foot covers that make the pants look like a Goth-Ninja version of footy pajamas. Only on closer examination are you likely to notice some seriously bewildering technical innovations, like fused edge-to-edge seams that look more like cauterized surgical incisions than traditional garment seams, hidden buttons that open with a sideways tug and sleeve "systems" that articulate and conform to the body.

Although wholly functional and wearable, the garments are so strange and beautiful they begin to approach something like art.

The 33-year-old Throup (his first name is pronounced EYE-tor), is an Argentina-born, U.K.-based artist and designer who has been reinventing apparel from the buttonhole out since receiving his masterís degree in fashion menswear from the Royal College of Art in London in 2006, finally introducing his first full ready-to-wear collection in October in London.

Throup visited L.A. recently to mark his debut at H. Lorenzo in Sunset Plaza, the only West Coast stockist and one of only two in the United States. And he was just as intriguing and hard to define as his clothes. First, he doesnít want to be button-holed as a fashion designer.

"This is the thing with fashion design versus product design," Throup said. "The majority of fashion design is approached with so many ingredients already predetermined ó like if you need a buttonhole, you go to the buttonhole thatís been around since Victorian times. To me it feels dirty using that buttonhole. Itís not mine."

The solution? Precisely laser-cutting a rectangle of semi-elasticized tape and attaching it to the inside of the placket so a simple sideways tug quickly releases the button.

Throup also decided to approach the notion of pants with a fresh pair of eyes. "I kind of struggle with the idea of a garment finishing at the wrist or at the ankle," he said. "A pair of trousers? Iím thinking more like a pair of legs ó my legs finish at the feet." (The foot covers on the jeans and cargo pants can fold back to stow against the back of the ankle.)

"What my work is trying to do is say: ĎHey, maybe we can do things differently ó even down to the way we stitch things or the way we fasten things,í" Throup said. "It doesnít matter that itís clothing. I could do a chair and make the same statement."

The result for the consumer is a collection of clothes thatís such a departure from menswear as usual, it makes Thom Browneís shortened trouser leg ó the last big menswear sea change ó seem like an added belt loop by comparison.

Throup also eschews the conventional fashion industry approach of presenting seasonal themed collections, opting instead to add to a single, ever-growing body of work by tapping into four main concepts, or "design archetypes." For example, the out-sized skull backpack has its roots in a concept titled "On the Effects of Ethnic Stereotyping," in which Throup observes that as a result of global terrorist attacks, "the black rucksack is perhaps the most politically charged wearable object of current times, especially when worn by a non-Caucasian person."

Throupís collection is priced more in the realm of art than apparel ó an anything-but-basic black T-shirt costs $545, a white dress shirt clocks in at $1,389, a pair of footy denim trousers is $2,825 and the Mongolia Tweed Riding Jacket will set you back $7,395.

Still, of the 15 pieces H. Lorenzo added to its merchandise mix in mid-November, seven sold out within a week.

Perhaps thatís because for a backpack or a pair of pants, the price tags might be considered hefty. But for a piece from the debut collection from Aitor Throup, a designer whoís turning the menswear world inside out? Priceless.



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services