Now in its third collection, G-Star's Raw Research collections focus on taking denim to new levels of innovation. Creative director Aitor Throup has headed up previous collections stemming from inspirations like motocross style and the human body in motion. Anatomy and utility have been a defining characteristic in Throup's career. His debut collection "Funeral of New Orleans" was lauded for its futuristic thinking and modularity. The concept revolved around clothing for a New Orleans funeral band that transformed to protect the wearers and their instruments during Hurricane Katrina.
For his third Raw Research collection, the message is a deconstruction of the brand—literally and figuratively. The "Spiraq" denim consists of a long fabric that is then woven in a circular pattern to create an ergonomic shape around the legs. And Raw Research's main line is divided into two color stories—one that focuses on the truly "raw" state of denim, unwashed white Calico fabric, and the same silhouettes are then indigo-dyed to convey the blue hues of the fabric that are traditionally associated with it.
Presented during Paris Fashion Week on June 23, the collection also sees Throup's debut into womenswear. Still drawing heavily on messages of utility with plenty of references to the pragmatism of military garments, the collection toes the line between everyday utility and futuristic functionality. Pockets can be removed to become a bag, and outerwear can be worn off the body courtesy of shoulder straps.
In addition, the pieces will also be hand-dyed into 44 different color options, giving the versatile pieces even more personality. We spoke with Throup at Paris Fashion Week to discuss the new collection, his approach to design, and the continued blurring of the lines between menswear and womenswear.
What was the main inspiration behind the third G-Star RAW Research collection?
The inspiration is really denim itself. When you think about G-Star, you think about the denim innovation brand who's trying to push the boundaries of tradition. That's exactly what we did with the first two seasons. But I think the first two seasons were more about building a design language around the heritage of the brand, in order to take our abilities as a construction-like brand to the next level.
We feel like we created a really great foundation. In the third season, we really wanted to focus on what does innovation mean to us? What does denim mean to us like in the truer sense?
It's almost like we were forensically deconstructing denim—you have raw cotton fabric, and you have indigo. And what I realized is that the aesthetics of raw fabric is such a fundamentally different feeling, emotion and aesthetic to what we think of as "raw denim." It's this hard, heavy, utilitarian, hyper-functional fabric.
We were interested in how that's a more direct reflection of what our intention is as a brand. Because for us, the word "raw" means "real." It means true. It means true to yourself. That's why we're really interested in taking risks and making mistakes and we want to be a human brand. Deconstructing denim to its essence by redefining "raw" is opens all the possibilities, and breaks the limitations of what denim should be.
There's also to modular aspect to the clothing which is a recurring theme for you. At G-Star, it's applied to details like removable pockets that become bags. To what extent does modularity help a practical fabric like denim feel more technical?
The interesting thing about transform-ability as an exaggeration of utility is that it's also a philosophical reflection of what "raw" means to us. Because the fact is when you buy a garment, you have the choice to interact with it differently than someone else. Maybe you can take one pocket off and just wear those two or take them all off. That's also a reflection of celebrating you as an individual. You wear it how you want to wear it.
I think that what's interesting is that if you look at the G-Star archive, of course there's a huge amount of denim in there, and we have this huge respect for tradition of denim, but there's also a huge amount of non-denim garments. That's why we've always explored military and naval references.
I think that when you think about deconstructing denim, but also deconstructing utility through the archive of G-Star, it's really cool to bring those two things together—reconstructing them into raw denim fabric with new pattern cutting, but with utility aspects that come from non-denim garments. It's effectively the same formula that G-Star have always used but it's more systematic and more controlled for modularity.
This is the first collection where you designed a women's line. The pieces are very similar, but cut slightly different and with some new details, but ostensibly, a man could also wear some of the women's pieces. How did gender and the different shapes of men's and women's bodies factor into your design?
We're obsessed with product. We're a product brand. In the first two seasons, I was acting as creative consultant in the innovation lab and my background being in menswear, it was the most logical thing to focus these new design values and systems and formulas around menswear.
In October, when I became creative director, it was when we started developing season 3. All of a sudden my responsibility grew and I was thinking about womenswear way more than I was before. That's when we realized actually all of these things I've been so obsessed with all of my life, particularly in my professional life, are very applicable.
My obsession evolved from football into ergonomics, into transform-ability, into anatomy and articulation—all these elements. It was kind of sad to us how these values and these terms are intrinsically owned by masculinity. They're masculine values. But really, they are core product values that are as interesting and as relevant for women as they are for men. Because we start designing in such a systematic, logical way that's truly from product from the inside out, we don't start with a menswear garment and then tweak it for women. We start with a concept that then goes into a men and women's interpretations.
It seems like you design from the inside out. When you're looking at clothing and product and trying to develop it for a pragmatic purpose, does that make it easier for you?
Absolutely. What I realized recently, in the last year or so, is that this modular approach from the inside out—I actually am now beginning to call it an anatomical approach—and I've basically always thought to have this idea of designing from inside out. Start from the body and figure out the problems that are inherent in there, when you have flat fabric on a three dimensional moving object like a body.
Unlearning the predetermined solutions that exist, the standardized solutions to that core problem, and forcing myself to find new solutions to that problem has been what has driven my career. What that means is that you end up solving problems chronologically. You start with fabric, body, and you're actually putting yourself in a position where you have to solve a problem that someone already solved before with a set sleeve or an armhole. So through doing that you then get to another solution, and another solution, and another solution. When you do that anatomically, you're actually building these layers of solutions on solutions and then you end up with multi-layered garments.
Ultimately I realized that's actually anatomical design. My philosophical theory is that when we as human beings—who are anatomical beings—we understand what a hand looks like but subconsciously, even if you never think about it, you know that isn't a singular object. It's composed of these different layers that create the ultimate aesthetic.
My theory is that when we see objects that are also constructed anatomically: "What's going on inside there? What's this?" Through these layers of process, we have an emotional connection to it because we relate to it. It's built like us. And I think that's what can make a product or a brand human.
Beyond the calico and indigo collections, there are also select pieces that have been dyed in multiple colors. How does color play into notions of individuality as much as the modularity of the garments?
It's a perfect metaphor of "raw" as well. Raw is like: Be true to yourself. Be who you are. The real you is in there. Before the layers of persona that we create around ourselves. We encourage you to be who you are. You are beautiful as you are. That's the raw message of the raw fabric, raw cotton. The other end of the spectrum is that you can take that raw garment and interpret it in your own way.
And that exaggerated idea of democratic choice, expanding the amount of choice that you have, for you to select the one that you resonate with is also a reflection of raw because it's up to you to select the one that resonates with you. That's why color is so important. And also we're being real to ourselves because we're not being afraid of taking risks or making mistakes as a denim brand. We're not afraid of color. We're just being ourselves. We're experimenting. We're being a human brand as well.
The G-Star Raw Research III will be available in select stores starting December 2017. Now, read why tourist fashion is going to be next season's biggest trend.