WHO ARE YOU…? Louis Wong, designer at A.P.C.
Who are you?
I’m Louis Wong. I’m 38 years old and I have been a designer at A.P.C for 10 years. Over the past 3-4 years, Jean Touitou has given me the chance to create something extra within APC – a collection that bears my name, “Louis W”.
© Bruno Staub
Capsule collections are very common. But giving an ‘in-house’ designer the opportunity to produce one is much rarer…
It does exist, but mostly at Japanese labels. A.P.C. works in a very particular way: it’s Jean (Touitou)’s firm, and he is the master of the house. I work with Judith, his wife. Because it’s a very small team, we all work together to create designs.
There’s a family atmosphere here – we’re colleagues, but we are very attached to each other (laughs). I feel as though I’m a sort of ‘spiritual son’ of A.P.C. That might seem a bit strong, but I think that about sums it up, because people are always moving around in the fashion world. I haven’t done that: I have decided to spend time building a relationship with A.P.C.
Directed by: Adrien Cothier & Louis Levy
What made you want to forge such a strong bond with A.P.C.?
It’s quite a special brand – it’s not small, but it’s not a big luxury fashion house either. A.P.C. has a very strong and very distinctive identity, built around its founder. When I arrived, I didn’t know much about A.P.C. I came from the luxury world. When I got here, I discovered another way of thinking – another kind of design.
You say you came from the luxury world. Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I have an art history background. I’ve got a Master’s in it. At the time, I knew I wanted to work in fashion, but I was afraid of limiting myself, of going straight into clothes and never doing anything else. I still looked for internships in fashion at the same time. I got one at Vuitton… and I stayed there. It was a terrific experience, but the A.P.C. approach couldn’t be more different. It’s not a brand that operates under pressure to impress. When you work in the luxury world, you never see the clothes you have designed out on the street…
And was that the case here?
Yes! When I arrived, I rediscovered Paris’s 6th arrondissement. It was around the time of the baby rockers. I would go for lunch next to the Alsacienne [a prestigious local private school] and see all these kids smoking.
Visually, it was crazy: I would design little A.P.C jackets and see them on young trendies the following year.
Or on their dads – the neighbourhood is a bit like that. Actually having your clothes worn by people in their everyday lives is a completely different experience.
© Bruno Staub
How did the “Louis W.” collection come about?
As I’d been here for a few years, Jean asked me how I saw my career progressing. I had a cool job from the start, but the structure of the firm was such that career development opportunities are pretty limited, so my own collection was the obvious choice. Particularly as Jean had already worked a little bit with A.P.C Madras on a slightly girlier, more flowery line. He asked me what I wanted to make.
I thought long and hard about it. I loved leather, but ordinary, unironic leather – not luxury leather. That’s what gave me the idea to design a series of jackets. What I wanted to do, from the start, was to add visuals – something that told a story.
The idea was to do something that dovetailed perfectly with A.P.C.’s aesthetic, but at the same time to create my own story, to write a different script.
© Bruno Staub
It’s interesting that you use the word ‘script’. Almost everything you produce for your collection is highly cinematic. There are references everywhere every season, from Top Gun, to Gus Van Sant, to Grease 2.
Because I liked the idea of the leather jacket at the very start, my points of reference were bound to be films. I thought about French films, Depardieu’s cop movies in the 1970s, like Police by Maurice Pialat.
Or even the much more clichéd films of the 1980s, the college movies. The idea was to provide a counterpoint to chic leather, designer leather, big-brand leather.
What I was interested in were the leather jackets worn by bikers and the man on the street. The ones you see in second-hand shops and can’t wear because they’re so tattered.
Now, it’s grown, and I don’t just make leather stuff. There are a dozen or so pieces, including knitwear. I wanted to take the concept further, find new angles.
One of your collections is called “Escape” and is inspired by road movies. Another is inspired by all things Queer. The first overtly appropriated “traditional” masculine codes. Do you choose a theme each time?
Let’s say that there is a story each time. For the “Queer” collection, which you mentioned, I made a jacket with sheepskin on the outside. It was just after Frank Ocean had come out. I express what I am: I put the sheepskin on the outside rather than on the inside. Yeah, it’s a little bit conceptual (laughs). Each season has its own story.
© Bruno Staub
The last one had a strong ‘hunting-shooting-fishing’ feel, with very traditional chestnut-coloured leather jackets. You see it a lot in the streets, too. You often see young people with Barbours, even the cool ones. I presented that in January – not a great time in Paris… I asked myself: “Why work on such traditional clothes?” And I realised it was because there was something very reassuring about these kinds of clothes. So I called the collection “Comfort Zone”. It’s an item of clothing which makes you feel protected and at peace in a perfect, ultra-safe world.
Your “Escape” collection reminded me of Terence Malick’s Badlands, in which Martin Sheen runs away with his girlfriend on a road trip across America’s highways. Is there a connection?
I haven’t seen it (laughs). My point of reference was actually My Own Private Idaho, by Gus Van Sant. But it’s the same thing, it’s an American road trip movie, with guys who take to the road and soon enough don’t know where they are anymore. That’s why I often make short films: it allows me to show that guy in his jacket. Often, I let them wear their own clothes, so fashion doesn’t come into it.
Do you often make short films to go with your collections?
Yes, I had the idea for my very first collection. I was lucky enough to have some friends who were film students, and I thought, “Let’s go for it. We’ll make a film.” I do it about every two seasons now. I come up with the initial concept and my pals work on the casting and suggest things. That’s the way it’s done.
Your films tend to feature one or two characters going through an experience. It’s as if you enter their lives for a fleeting moment, and then leave again.
Yes, it’s very spontaneous. Our latest film, Audition, shows a leading man auditioning for a role. The guy was a friend of a friend. I hired him on the strength of his photo. We asked him questions and he improvised the answers. Everything slotted together nicely. It really made me laugh when he mentioned Top Gun as his favourite movie, as it’s one of mine, too. It’s such a weird film – so crazy visually.
Directed by: Grant Curatola & Louis Levy
And do you have any other cinematic influences?
I’d probably have to say Ridley Scott’s films. Carpenter’s horror movies, too – Carpenter is a genius. Or Last Year at Marienbad – more conventional, but superb.
You also mentioned college movies. I was wondering: do you design with a particular age range in mind?
Seeing as my collection is luxury leather, it’s a bit expensive, and I thought it might appeal to parents as well as their children. I could picture a stylish 45-year-old dad buying it for himself and having his son pinch it.
It is true that the price automatically narrows the age range of your clientèle. A few months ago, you retweeted messages by people saying that your clothes were much too expensive.
Yeah, that really made me laugh. It was very spontaneous. It was young guys saying, “Hey, dude. Your jacket is cool, but it’s a bit expensive“. And it’s true. Fashion sometimes has that absurd side – I’m thinking mostly of catwalk fashion – where you see really beautiful clothes on 16-year-old kids, and you wonder: when will they really get the opportunity to wear them on a day-to-day basis? That’s all very abstract stuff. But it’s also what is fun about it. You’re selling a dream, too.
Front-page photo © Bruno Staub