Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting a underground brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
Scandinavia has always been known for its sleek, popular models of design i.e. IKEA and Acne Studios. Descriptors like "nordic" or "scandi" have become lazy fashion-writer shorthand for a minimalist and uncomplicated aesthetic. However, there's one designer whose collections pop against the designs of his peers with purple/yellow colorways, free-flowing silhouettes, and a finessed execution of some luxury silk leopard print.
A Danish native, Martin Asbjørn began his eponymous label in 2014 after graduating with a degree in men's tailoring from The Design and Technical Tailoring Academy. In a nebulous fashion landscape, Asbjørn's designs are opening a space for men to express themselves, and in Martin's words, emphasize a kind of sexiness, for customers who are both "confident and playful".
Although Martin cringes slightly when using the "sexy" adjective to talk about his work, it's an integral element to his SS18 collection. The mix of loose shirting and vinyl trousers were informed by the effusive sexuality of Richard Gere in 1980. Speaking about the collection's conception, Martin explains the initial inspiration, "it's called "My Business is Pleasure" because the main theme of the collection was American Gigolo".
American Gigolo follows a successful, image-obsessed male escort living in Los Angeles. The movie broke Richard Gere into the mainstream, as well as being one of the first Hollywood films to feature full-frontal lead male nudity. Essentially, the film said that it's fine for a man to care about his appearance, clothes and material possessions. "I think [American Gigolo] was what put Giorgio Armani on the map as well because he did almost all of the outfits, if not all of the outfits for Richard Gere in the film," says Martin, "I love the fact that there's this scene where he's kind of playing around with his clothes, getting really into him dressing himself up. It's just something I can totally relate to and I feel like that is what's fun about fashion, creating a kind of confidence within what you wear."
In 2018, the concept of a man putting effort into his outfit (as Richard Gere did), might not seem so revolutionary, but Asbjørn is referencing a cultural change in how society viewed male self-expression that we take for granted today. This time period, and the "peacocking" that came with it are referenced in SS18's pastel shades, light-catching vinyl outerwear, leopard shirts, and the calligraphic branding which isn't unlike the font used in the title sequence for American Gigolo.
Martin's most recent collection for FW18, "TEENAGE DIRTBAG", saw the designer pivot towards a looser, and even more playful design ethos. The collection signifies the "ah, fuck it" mentality of being a teenager, emphasized by the large dramatic patches and raw, red/brown color pallet. Regarding his mental shift for FW18, Martin says "it was just me going back to what I liked about fashion, and I was just playing around with clothes, to mix up something that you wouldn't normally mix together to create something."
Riffing off his background in tailoring, Martin explains that when it comes to menswear, fit and longevity have to be prioritized above all else, "women have a tendency to maybe buy more clothes quicker, whereas men buy two things that fit really well. You can buy a jacket that you will have for eight years. I'm not saying that girls don't do that, but I feel like you have to have the fit right before the design, when you do menswear."
The past few seasons demonstrate that while Martin Asbjørn has cemented a strong visual language as a brand, it can still be refined to speak to different generations. "I feel like my clothes are fashion forward, but still clean" he says, "I have young boys, like 15-year-olds buy my clothes, but I also have guys who are like 40, 45, 50, buying them too, maybe the more tailored pieces." Throughout all his collections, Martin's designs harness the craft of fine tailoring, but realizes them through items like long-sleeve tees and checked hoodies. The result is a luxury casual-wear that is built to last, endure trends, all without resorting to the age-old "scandi" cliche.
Martin Asbjørn is currently stocked in Printemps, WISM in Tokyo, Storm Copenhagen and 424 in LA, and will soon be available at Machine-A in London, SMETS in Luxumbourg, Tom Greyhound in Paris and Harvey Nichols Hong Kong.
You can also shop Martin Asbjørn online, via their website.