An Interview With Stefan Orschel-Read

Recently I paid a visit to the Orschel-Read studio to chat with menswear designer Stefan and grab an exclusive peek at his S/S 11 collection ( note the teaser image of some of his fabrics above). When I arrived Stefan was rounding up a day filled with faces as he’d spent the afternoon casting for his upcoming catwalk show. Impressed by his efficiency I studied the practically completed Spring/ Summer collection as the charming melody of his show music danced around the room. When the last model had sauntered out of the studio a relaxed and quietly confident Stefan chatted warmly about what we are to expect from Orschel-Read this season…

What is inspiring you this season and how did you come up with the concept for this collection?
This collection will be about classic English tailoring with hints of 70’s dandy styling. It tells a story of a young playboy on the south coast of France and Italy and his journey to become a fully-fledged adult, a man of responsibility. We have touches of both leisurewear and decadence but always with a more grown up edge.

Is this something that inspired the colour palette?
The colours transpired organically. As there is a lot of evening wear I wanted to avoid doing an entirely black collection and instead find something very flattering whilst picking up that 70’s influence. This was channeled through looking back at 70’s bond films; there were a lot of tuxedos with that little bit of a shine to them and plenty of dark navy. The aim was to achieve something a little more decadent than black to avoid looking funereal

Your fabric choice is often contrasting; leathers with luxury, ethically sourced materials with digital prints, what can we expect this season?
I’m really excited about my fabrics this season, as there will be a lot of understated yet luxurious textures. I’ve used dupion and raw silks as well as high grade Sea Island cotton. All the grey suiting is cashmere and we’ve used that cashmere on things like flight and biker jackets. It’s about pushing the luxury up on silhouettes we are already familiar with.
Along side silks and blended wools I have employed a very interesting bamboo fiber for my knitwear pieces. It feels softer against the skin than cashmere! However the key tailoring fabric is tonic, a somewhat shimmering iridescent dark blue.

Last season your models were adorned with chunky geometric jewelry designed by Marie Parsons, will you be collaborating with an accessories designer again?
This season the jewelry will be pared right down to 70’s inspired chain link cufflinks, all of which have been produced in-house. The eagle motif detailed on each cufflink refers to a military theme occurring throughout the collection.

What kind of music do you blare out in the studio whilst you’re designing?
It varies, my main obsession Is Tori Amos, I have every song she’s ever recorded! If we listen to her we’ll have about 7 days worth of music. However I do also enjoy some really naff music such as N-Dubz and Miss Dynamite. It’s good to have contrast between the classy singer/songwriter tracks and the stuff we just play to be a bit silly.

What do you do to get your models in the right frame of mind before a show?
If anything I actually try and hype them down! Often, male models tend to power walk. They are real peacocks! I think it is important not to alienate the viewer. I don’t want them to think ‘he looks cool in that’ only because he’s strutting like he’s worth a million bucks. I’d rather calm the models down and have them walk like they are listening to their ipod on the street, which is more difficult to portray.

Describe the Orschel-Read man?
He is constantly evolving. He is someone that is attracted by the allure of wealth and has a taste for the really refined; hand tailored suits. Someone who is in touch with his theatrical side, which is something that is expressed more and more in menswear. It’s no longer about conforming it is about finding those individualities that define us and allow freedom.

Do you think the niche for couture menswear has grown since you first launched your label?
Absolutely, which in an odd way has allowed me to step back and focus more on my ready-to-wear. When I started my label it was purely couture because I felt we were at a time where couture was relevant again for men, however this time it wasn’t for kings and emperors it was for Joe blog on the street. Since 2008 menswear has really exploded in terms of creativity, from street wear down to what we conceive as conservative on Savile row. Essentially couture for men has happened, the revolution came and it is nice that it has filtered back into the ready-to-wear. It’s OK and almost expected that a man should now dress to represent himself as an individual.

Pop icon Lady Gaga has been known to wear one of your designs, what do you think about your clothes being adapted to the female silhouette?
Whether I like it or not one of the underlying themes in my work is androgyny. Whilst I have no desire to design for women, that adaptation is inevitable and somewhat perfect. I don’t see a divide between men and women, I see differences but far more similarities.

Where do you see your label in the future?
I intend to maintain a London presence and to be stocked in more niche boutiques around the world, the Far East perhaps.

What are your plans once Fashion Week is over?
I will actually be in the second year of my masters at the Royal College of Art so as soon as this happens I’ll be designing my next collection and my collection after that and my graduate collection after that! The day after a show is a massive anti climax, you’ve had 6 months of manic work leading up to a mere fifteen minute show. The only remedy is to either get straight on a plane and go on holiday or get stuck back into work!

Lara Angol