New Type #26: Herman – Raif Adelberg Interview

September 29, 2017 11:00 AM

Authenticity. It seems to be a lost virtue, the lack of which has caused many aspects of fashion, from campaigns to castings to runways, to have a formulaic approach with no sense of uniqueness. It is also the foundation of HERMAN, a gender-neutral clothing brand founded by Canadian artist and designer Raif Adelberg. But Adelberg is keen to point out that HERMAN is not a fashion label, despite his pieces being stocked in shopping meccas Barneys New York and Luisa Via Roma. HERMAN's ideology is rooted in celebrating personal style through the use of clothes as accessories in order to shine a light on one's point of view. Indeed, while on an aesthetic level, his clothes can be viewed as elevated streetwear, they are actually tools of enhancement for the confident, savvy customer who owns their sense of style and who commands a nuanced, yet striking presence. TWELV caught up with Adelberg on the heels of his Spring/Summer 2018 collection to discuss his early beginnings, his observations of the current fashion landscape, and his unwavering approach to style:

 

Mario Abad: Tell me a bit about your background. Has design always been in the cards for you?

Raif Andelberg: I pretty much grew up in the clothing and retail environment. My father had a showroom and my mom was in interior design. I've always had this urge to just create, whether it be with clothing or painting, it's truly part of who I am. I've been designing for the past 11 years but I also had my own store in Vancouver [Richard Kidd] that stocked brands such as Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Supreme, so I learned a lot about the business side through trial and error.

 

MA: What sort of gap did you see in the market that inspired you to launch HERMAN and why was the timing right?

RA: The timing couldn't be more right for me. Around two to three years before I launched HERMAN, there was this cusp of 80’s and 90's influence in fashion that was taking place, which really spoke to me. Those references became super relevant for today, where you saw women wearing clothing associated with men, like the draped pant suits made by Armani. I've been pushing pleated pants for years and now women were buying men's clothes. On top of all that, I've always loved a play on words, and (HER-MAN) could be that one collection for men and women I could really hone in on.

 

MA: Your studio is located in Vancouver. Why is Canada a solid base for you to grow and develop your business?

RA: Well I was born in Canada and grew up here for most of my life, so I always had that special connection here and didn't really see myself operating out of anywhere else. I produce most of my clothes here too, and it really allows me to maintain oversight and quality control over the entire design process. That said, I've always had a global outlook on things which is reflected in my designs. I travel about 6 months out of the year so I'm constantly on the move for my business. There are of course some challenges with not being based in a larger city like New York or LA, where there's a wider reach and bigger press. However, I've always liked being sort of a recluse and really enjoy being on my own in that sense.

 

MA: Why is California's skate and surf culture of the late 80's/early 90's a source of inspiration for you?

RA: What really inspires me most from that period is the style they owned. For me it's about having this presence about you where you're super comfortable in your total package. You'll see a guy in a dress right now for example who's owning that look and unapologetic about who he is and that's what does it for me. It's the presence, style and attitude of the rockers, skaters, and punks from that period what ultimately resonates with me.

 

MA: You've indicated before that a person's style is at the forefront, while fashion and clothing are just accessories. Do you believe style is innate or can it be learned and developed?

RA: I'd say a bit of both. You'll have people who really set the trends because they're the first to take risks and that's their innate sense of style taking place. Then, you'll have those who take inspiration from the hottest trends and try to emulate those looks, but those who really adapt it to who they are for their personal style is also commendable.

 

MA: What are the strongest cultural forces you believe are shaping fashion today?

RA: There are so many. I think what's most important, regardless of what's going on in the overall fashion landscape, is being authentic and having your unique point of view, whether you're a brand or a consumer. So much of fashion nowadays feels so contrived, but I really gravitate to those who have always stuck to their vision and sense of self. Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and John Galliano are some of my favorite designers who exemplify this more than most.

 

MA: Your Spring/Summer 2018 collection seems to come from a personal place, with renderings of your own tattoos and drawings, as well as past design references all featured. Can you talk about your mindset for this lineup and what drew you to include these aspects of your life?

RA: I really wanted to tell my story through these clothes. Having a voice and getting your message out to the world is important to me, so I revisited some of my artwork from sketchbooks and as you said I've included some of my tattoos as well. My mindset was very much about life's journey and everything one goes through from relationships with others to those with yourself.

 

MA: HERMAN is a relatively new project you've embarked on. What are you most proud of accomplishing thus far with this label?

RA: I'm most proud of staying true to who I am and creating this team around me who shares my values and what I'm all about. I've been able to keep a strong grip on my business's development with no distractions and not let it grow too fast or slow. I'm proud of being able to express my creativity and also apply my business skills.

 

MA: Your brand is stocked internationally in some of the world's top department and specialty stores. Would you ever consider launching a brick-and-mortar shop? Or e-commerce?

RA: I know many young brands who start out with a purely design background and embark on their growth into business that way. Having started out in retail first, I'm better enabled to make these sort of decisions at my own pace. So many stores out there right now are strictly about merchandising and really have no point of view. If I were to launch a brick-and-mortar shop I'd make sure to get my vision and point of view across and really make it an experience for shoppers. We are however launching e-commerce in January which I think is a really important and natural step for us.

 

MA: Looking ahead, what are some goals you've set for yourself and your team?

RA: My goal has always been and will continue to be to inspire, and to build a brand we're proud of.

 

 

INTERVIEW BY MARIO ABAD

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTO CREDIT: HERMAN

 

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