A. Sauvage Interview from Whitewall
WALLPAPER FALL 2011
A filmmaker, photographer, and fashion designer, Adrien Sauvage is a bona fide triple threat. Interestingly, at six-foot-five, this 27-year-old once dreamt of playing professional basketball, not dancing on the silver screen in this first short film, THIS IS NOT A SUIT (2010), which was an official selection at the 2011 Sundance Film festival. Sauvage made the film in lieu of a fashion show for his first collection, with the same name, This Is Not a Suit, which he further illustrated by outfitting the likes of Venice Beach skateboarders with his Savile Roe cuts, then photographing them in his black-and-white series “Captains and Natives,” a sartorial celebration of bodies in motion. Inspired by his African roots, the designer returned to Accra, Ghana, to shoot the look book for his next collection, “Black Volta,” which combined his brand of classic English tailoring with traditional African fabrics, such as kente cloth. Not surprisingly, A. Sauvage has quickly built a reputation on individuality, and despite having no formal training, the Evening Standard hailed Sauvage’s designs as “the future of British menswear.” So what’s next for the designer? Here, Whitewall finds out.
WHITEWALL: You were born in Ghana, raised in England, and had dreams of playing college basketball in the United States. Then, at age 19, you changed directions and jumping into styling. How did you get from aspiring to being in the NCAA to working as a fashion stylist?
ADRIEN SAUVAGE: From a young age, having sporty siblings, I couldn’t really sit around reading books. So I took up basketball, which was a great way of disciplining the mind and body. But I found out at the age of 19, whilst touring Europe, that I was becoming more interested in people, architecture, and film. Guessing that once you play a game at a certain level you can apply that skill to anything, I decided to take up fashion. Within two years, I had taught myself how to speak Russian and started person shopping for private clients.
WW: How did you photography and filmmaking evolve:
AS: Spending many years watching black-and-white films and seeing Irving Penn’s photographs, I found it quite a natural progression to start documenting things around me. So I started my first project, which was a case study on individualism entitled “Captains and Natives.” After that, I was pressured into making a catwalk presentation, which I was reluctant to do, as I felt “real men do not go to fashion shows.” So, instead I decided to present a short film, entitled, THIS IS NOT A SUIT.
WW: As both the director and star of THIS IS NOT A SUIT, did you attend Sundance?
AS: I was actually shooting my new look book in Ghana, entitled, “Black Volta,” at he time. But I did manage to attend the last couple days of the festival and watch my film on the big screen. Park City was surreal—I met a lot of interesting directors, scriptwriters, and producers, with whom I am now in discussions and sharing ideas.
WW: Do you have any interest in directing feature films?
AS: Yes, I have already written a few, but watch out for my next short in September, Costumier.
WW: Will it follow in the footsteps of THIS IS NOT A SUIT?
AS: My films are mostly based on experience and what I tend to be feeling at that point in time, so it will include some familiar faces whilst keeping to to the brand’s aesthetic.
WW: Journal, a section of your website, blurs the line between travelogue, portraiture, and fashion photography. How did it begin?
AS: The Journal was set up to showcase off cuts of my photography outside of any guidelines. Basically, it consists of friends and family, locations, and people that I meet who are involved in my day-to-day life.
WW: Who are some of your favorite artists?
AS: Michangelo Antonioni, Irving Penn, and William S. Burroughs are a handful of. Inspirations who I believe have influenced my works.
WW: Who are some of the fashion designers you most admire?
WW: Describing your design concept, you’ve said, “I make clothes for people who don’t necessarily wear suits.” That’s clearly evident, given the individuals you choose to model your clothes and the way movement informs your work, physically and geographically, in “Captains and Natives,” the African craftsmanship of the “Black Volta” collection, and even watching you dance in THIS IS NOT A SUIT.
AS: It’s all about fluidity of a certain action performed in a suit, and the internal and external influences of individualism that allow the wearer to feel comfortable—whether they are a break dancer in Gerlin or a handball player in Venice.
WW: All right. NBA, past or present players, what’s your Dream Team? And who on that roster would you most like to dress?
AS: The Bulls in their prime, and, of course, dressing Dennis Rodman.
WW: The models you use include men of all ages, from bare-chested teens to silver-bearded gentlemen, as well as Coco Sumner. What drew you to her, as one of the few women included in that series?
AS: Coco appears as a native within the series and she is also a friend of mine. With or without the clothes, she has a natural, genuine style about her that I felt should be celebrated.
WW: Do you have any interest in designing a collection for women?
AS: I currently do in my costumier for private clients. I call it “menswear for women.”
WW: THIS IS NOT A SUIT shows off another skill, your dancing—A. Sauvage dancing in an A. Sauvage suit, starring in an A. Sauvage film—and one of the film’s final credits reads, “WHAT WOULD YVES DO.” Is that your motto?
AS: It’s a running joke i have with my partner. Whenever I’m faced with a creative quandary, I simply ask myself, “What would Yves do?” The motto with everything I do is, “If it’s not wow, put it in the bin.”