“For Spring/Summer 2016, I wanted to tell a story about Vietnam,” says designer John Elliott.
“For Spring/Summer 2016, I wanted to tell a story about Vietnam,” says designer John Elliott yesterday morning before the runway show for his eponymous label. When I ask him if he means the war, if he’s making a political statement, we both realize we’re on different wavelengths. Elliott’s story is about running through Vietnam; a fusion of athleticism and military nostalgia perfectly in line with the evolution of the John Elliot + Co ethos.
“I’m not trying to make a political statement,” he explains. “What I am interested in though, is what I’ve seen from Vietnam in terms of color palette. If you look at the war movies from that era, they share a similar, pale, muted color palette, throughout cities, throughout countryside, even just the way that the sky is.” Whether military-influenced fashion can ever be apolitical is a question for another venue. Either way, the collection was a triumph for the brand.
For a label as distinctive as Elliott’s - with its signature layering and emphasis on denim, french terrycloth and jersey - crafting a new collection each season is a balancing act between novel ideas and looks that feel true to the brand. For Elliott, this balance is achieved by reworking the brand’s staples in new palettes, and innovating with his use of fabric and texture.
Breaking away from his usual studies in Greyscale, Elliot presented an array of washed out blue, charcoal, olive, gray and black for spring/summer. Print even found its way into the collection in the form of two stellar windowpane bomber-jackets. It wouldn’t be a John Elliott show if the styling wasn’t an excellent study in monochrome dressing though.
While the look may have been rendered in monochrome palettes, variations in silhouette and fabrication made sure none of them were dull. “I always kind of approach everything from a textile standpoint, because that’s really where I geek out at the end of the day,” says Elliott. What that meant was the texture of over-dyed french terry mixed with tencel, layered against mesh tights and shorts, crumpled linens and nylon technical fabrics. The collection definitely felt more utilitarian than Elliott’s more luxe collections of the past, which is fitting given the athletic inspiration. There was a unique tension between washed-out broken-down military garments, and tech parkas with drawstring waists and basketball jerseys. The collection was inspired by movement after all and the models marching out in a mix of Nike air rifts and military boots, with their hair and faces wet with humidity and perspiration definitely looked like they were emerging from some kind of marathon in the jungle.
It’s undeniable that Elliott’s designs have had a significant impact on the landscape of menswear and streetwear since the label launched three years ago. From high-street brands like ASOS putting side zips on their sweatshirts, to menswear staple Ovadia & Sons sending side-slit tees and sweats down the runway this week, Elliot’s influence is palpable. The San Francisco native isn’t letting the success and attention get to his head though. “All I want is to be able to continue to have the opportunity to wake up every morning and drive to my factory and work with my best friend Obu Yamumoto, who’s my guy, and be able to keep the lights on and eat. That’s all I care about.”
With a show like yesterday’s, the lights should be on for a while.
Text by Adil Habib for Highsnobiety.com