There are moments in fashion when a new designer comes along to make waves in an otherwise becalmed and conservative industry. The names Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and the late Alexander McQueen come to mind. More than just for shock value, avant-garde designers exist to challenge and broaden our tastes by introducing us to new silhouettes, proportions, and textures. They confront the perennial question: Has everything already been done? After meeting 22-year-old underground phenom Asher Levine and witnessing his debut show this past fashion week, I can say the answer is a resounding No. Levine, with his fascination with organic forms – nanomicroscopic images, cocoons – embodies newness. The designer took some time out from his ever-busier schedule – he’s in talks to take over a couture house – to discuss his inspirations, goals, and why he’s more than just the whiz kid behind Lady Gaga’s strait jacket.
I read that your SS11 collection was inspired by the biological kingdom. I’ve always been interested in science as a way of explaining our existence. Growing up, I remember spending hours looking at books on the animal kingdom, and continue to do so. During the development of this collection I researched nanomicroscopic images of elements and micro-organisms. I get pleasure looking at how beautiful the tiniest organisms are constructed. The clothing manifests this natural inspiration.
What was the idea behind your collection’s beautifully eerie promotional film? I travelled upstate during the development of the collection and I saw these amazing cocoons created by the local caterpillars. I thought it would be sexy to give birth to a new species myself, so I began developing a plotline around that theme.
What do you think the fashion industry is lacking and how are you filling that void? There is a lack in menswear development. Countless silhouettes exist that accentuate the male form and my goal is to unearth those styles.
Explain your process of creating a new piece, from idea to design. Each piece takes a unique path. Many pieces are a development from other styles, a kind of evolution, you might say. I prefer to design the eccentric pieces and use those as inspiration for the more wearable styles.
How did you get into fashion? Did you ever want to do anything else? I took a sewing class at a very young age and continued to make clothes through middle school and high school. When I moved to New York, I became involved in the underground club scene as an outlet to express my designs. I then started making designs for performance artists, and soon after, launched my first collection for Fall/Winter 2010.
At the show I noticed how tight you are with your family. I’m lucky to have a supportive family, I love them so much.
How were you approached by Lady Gaga to create custom pieces? Was it a collaborative process? Both pieces I made for Gaga, I was asked by her stylist Nicola Formichetti to design and make. Nicola is such a talent – his team would tell me what was on his mind, and I would make prototypes that satisfy both him and Gaga.
Lady Gaga in Asher Levine’s oversize motorcycle jacket. Photo by Terry Richardson.
Who are the people that inspire you? I am inspired by people who take risks and go against the grain of society. My network in New York encompasses so many influential artists that all inspire me collectively.
Where do you see your clothes being worn more – on the streets or in performance? Walking the streets is a performance.
You’re only 22 now. Where will you be at 32? I envision the Asher Levine line at a global level, continuing to influence contemporary menswear. I want to create an umbrella organization that encompasses both fashion and artistic expression.
Any plans to launch a womenswear line? I’m in negotiations to take over a couture women’s house, but I can’t say any more than that.
What can we expect next from Asher Levine? That I don’t even know, and it’s that unknown that makes me get up every day.
All photos and videos provided by the designer.