When I first stumbled upon menswear designer Chelsea Bravo and her incredible designs last summer during one of my late night Tumblr crusades I was totally blown away. The New York-born, London-raised Bravo studied Fashion Design at the University For The Creative Arts in Rochester and graduated in 2013. The collection that made me fall in love with her work is called Concourse and was inspired by the cubism art movement. The vision for the brand is to push contemporary menswear design forward through construction, shape and silhouette and she’s certainly done that as her collections are always unique and unlike anything I’ve seen before. A couple of weeks ago I got to ask her a few questions about why she decided to do menswear, her two latest collections, her inspirations and much more.
ITU: How and when did you get into fashion?
Chelsea Bravo: I was eight years old when I realised I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry. It was my mom who made me aware of fashion design as a career route.
ITU: What and/or who made you decide that you were going to create menswear?
CB: I decided I wanted to do menswear just before I started my third year at Uni. I wanted to challenge myself for my final year. The idea of translating my style of designing onto a male form was an exciting prospect for me because I really didn’t know what the final outcome was going to be. I ended up really enjoying designing for men and stuck with it.
ITU: Do you wear a lot of menswear yourself?
CB: I just buy a lot of oversized womanswear – trousers and shirts – but I never wear oversized top to bottom. If the trousers are more fitted then I’ll wear a looser top or shirt and vice versa.
ITU: Who are your favorite menswear designers at the moment?
CB: I don’t really have any, I try not to focus too hard on other designers. There are obviously the greats that will always be inspirations for me such as Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo for their thought process and concepts that surrounds everything they do.
ITU: What inspires you when you’re working on a collection?
CB: It depends, every collection starts of with a feeling or mood that I’m experiencing and want to express.
ITU: Your SS15 ‘Concourse’ collection is inspired by the cubism art movement. How did that come about?
CB: I was visiting the Tate one day and all of the art pieces that were capturing my attention were a part of that movement. I love shape, I’m always drawn to it and I enjoy working with it and translating it through design.
ITU: Could you elaborate a bit on the concept of the collection?
CB: The concept of the collection is to recreate the experience of an individual viewing an art piece in a gallery or in a museum using clothes. So, instead of a canvas adorned in paint you have the garments and the fabrics. The colours, patterns and textures can be seen as the paint. Concourse is its own work of art.
ITU: Will we be seeing more art-inspired collections or was this a one-time thing?
CB: I love bringing the element of art into my work so it might be a continuous thread in my collections.
ITU: You recently presented your AW15 collection at LCM. How did the crowd respond to your new collection?
CB: The response to the AW15 at the LC:M Designer Showrooms was very positive. The concept and direction of this collection was well appreciated.
ITU: The collection is called Wabi and is inspired by the Wabi Sabi culture. When and how did that idea start taking form?
CB: About two years ago I bought a book called Wabi Sabi- The Japanese Art Of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper. I have been very much interested in the Japanese aesthetics and way of thinking for some time and wanted to gain a greater understanding of their philosophy. I revisited the book last summer as I never finished reading it and everything just really sunk in this time around. I was understanding the concept of Wabi Sabi much better than I did the previous year. I related to it and fell in love with the aesthetics that came out of the concept. Wabi Sabi speaks about appreciating the natural decaying of artefacts and materials and not trying to stop the process or mask it, appreciating flaws and the natural flow of life and nature. I found the book highly inspiring and I really connected and related to the philosophies the concept entails. I still re-read chapters from the book to this day.
ITU: What is it about the Wabi Sabi culture that intrigued you?
CB: The simplicity, a pure expression, authenticity, appreciating things as they are and not what they are being constructed to be. This can all be found in the concept of Wabi Sabi.
ITU: The Wabi Sabi culture represents tranquility, balance and simplicity. Is that the aesthetic you were trying to create with this collection?
CB: Yes, this collection was about learning to appreciate subtle details. This can be seen and felt through the textures of the fabrics used such as organic brushed cotton and wool, cut out features seen in shirts and jackets, layering and the felt appliqué details, which were inspired by contemporary artist Christian Rosa. Each piece in the collection speaks softly and translates into a sombre and contemplative mood.
ITU: Where do you see your brand in 10 years from now?