Interview: SAGITTAIRE A Debuts in Paris with Fashion Film "Samphrenia"

March 09, 2018 12:00 PM

Sagittaire A is a place deep within the Milky Way that emits radio waves, possibly the location of a black hole, and its perplexing, almost esoteric nature makes it a befitting name for the logo-less brand that debuted Paris Fashion Week this year with a short fashion film– the designers to remain unnamed. The brand’s team is “based in China, rooted in France,” and hail from non-fashion backgrounds, according to Sagittaire A’s Paris spokesperson Rafael Jimenez. The brand’s website is soon to launch, and on Instagram, their logo appears to simply be in Times New Roman all-caps, as if undecided. Instead of the garments bearing any brand emblem, familiar logos like that of Marlboro and Mastercard were adapted for the clothes. These decisions are rooted in the attitude that consumers won’t remember a brand’s logo at such an early stage in its lifecycle. “So why have a logo?” remarked Jimenez. The brand proffers unfamiliar standards such as this after a long-term observance and meditation on the fashion industry from the outside. 

“Samphrenia,” the brand’s fashion short was released in lieu of a traditional fashion show, and was based off of the Oscar-winning Milos Forman film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson. The film plays almost like a cinematic recording of a fashion show with the seats placed in the set, a mental institute, left completely vacant. Models were fitted with thick, creased leather boots with exposed zippers climbing the heel. They walked through the film with an unconcerned demeanor, slightly disheveled but at ease, sometimes smoking a cigarette or eating an apple. The collection’s boxy blazers and coats feature contrast stitching, asymmetric and distressed details, and deconstructed elements– vestigial third-sleeves fall down the coat backs of some looks– most reminiscent of Margiela, as are the white-gowned “patients” displayed going about their day in the institute. 

Only second to the product, the artistry behind each step in the design and production process is the essence of Sagittaire A. They hope to establish the brand without allowing marketing efforts or branding to distract from the fashion nor the artistry behind it. TWELV spoke with Jimenez to discuss the mystique; the independent, artisanal nature; and the curious story behind Sagittaire A’s carefully considered inception.

Watch "Samphrenia" and read the excerpts below:

The brand is described as being the result of a “long-term reflection on the fashion industry.” Can you tell me more?

The founders have been observing with a lot of curiosity how the fashion industry works, and how the system works– notions about quality, seasons, distribution, gender, status. They know from an insider, from the fashion circles of production, of high-end luxury labels. The founders are young people between ages 30-33 and self-trained in fashion. One studied business, one studied law, but they had been watching how collections were shown, and discounted immediately, and how the value of the artwork and the intellectual property were thought about.

They are obviously very influenced Margiela and by the Japanese movement, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons. They are in the school of philosophy of the people who like to put the spotlight on the product, on the creative side, and on the artistic side, as opposed to the more marketing-driven side.

The team seems to have a sense of secrecy.

For the moment, they would like to be considered as a collective that is based in China, rooted in France, who exchange information with different like-minded people in the world. They don’t like to put the focus on who is behind it, just that the artistry that is behind all the processes of creation is real, and is made for the brand, by the brand. 

 Is there a story behind the name?

Some of the members believe in a sort of mysticism and were really attracted by the idea of Sagittaire A, which is a place in the cosmos where certain radio waves are born, and it is believed that there are theories with the origin of the universe. 

 What was the starting point for the first collection?

The team does have a head of design. He’s a self-trained person. He’s a real library rat. He reads all the books. He only works at night. He hardly sees anyone. He has been investigating what would be the right collection for this. And to put it in a brief way– in the process of deciding what was right for this collection, he became crazy– and so he decided he would call the collection “Sample Schizophrenia.” Samphrenia is an abbreviation of both.

 And how did the film come about?

Well, when he was thinking about how to show the collection, he was watching a movie from the 70’s, called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which talks about a mental institution. The founder thought that would be the best way to illustrate his current state of mind. 

In China, he actually made a whole movie set. He directed the movie, and is self-trained in this as well— this was his first time. He made the models fly to China and woke them up at 2 in the morning to make them look tired. Everything is very thought through. All the drawings in the collection, he paints himself. He does the artwork, then takes pictures of it and does prints. Everything he makes, he wants to reflect a real state of artistry from A to Z.

 How has the response been since showing in Paris this fashion week?

We have great feedback from many opinion formers, stores, PR. The brand has an independent spirit. They really know what they’re doing in the long-term. It’s a life project, and they really want to do things right. I think time will tell what will happen, but the brand has time.

What has been the biggest challenge?

They’d been thinking about it for so long, and everything came together very last minute. They were looking for a signal to get it all rolling, and the biggest challenge was to move everything so fast, so we could reach the deadline. 

So, what was that signal?

It was the realization that we had reached the point where we had enough material and enough things to say, the right media to say it and the right structure. 

 

INTERVIEW BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

PHOTO/VIDEO CREDIT: SAGITTAIRE A

 

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