Frank Tell Tells of Winter, Cannibal Holocaust



One of the more popular items from Frank Tell’s highly praised Fall 2010 collection, presented Friday at Milk, is his “little gardens” sweater, one of the most obsessively intricate knitwear feats I’ve seen this side of Tao of Comme Des Garcons. The colors are deceptively tranquil: icy blue, shot through with silver, white, and navy streaks.

Its inspiration? “You know the opening scene in Cannibal Holocaust?” Frank Tell says. No? “Where that guy is being crucified and there’s some really gruesome textures going on? There you go.” A rather unexpected origin for a collection that most will regard as dreamy, cold, and meticulous, yes, but Tell puts it in context. “The ashy grays and the ice blues also were inspired by that movie,” he continues. “The characters wore very distinct makeup in those hues. Even the community tree influenced how I thought about color and texture this season.” Indeed, there’s a lot of textural play in the “primitive futurist” feel of the steely-hued leathers, which are python embossed and create softly architectural shapes. A silvery minimalist blazer with zippers and a lightly structured shoulder hints at the space-age element Tell always brings to his work. “I was looking at the silhouettes from Star Trek,” Tell confirms. “See it in the shoulders? The shapes?” Despite numerous requests, Raphael Young’s custom runway wedges sadly won’t be available for purchase.

Tell’s editorial-friendly leather dresses and skirts feature an impressively complex construction, but manage to feel light and athletic—it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Times featuring an Olympic skater in the flared minis. Ice and snow are Tell’s milieu, after all. “I love the winter because you can envelop women’s bodies in cocoons. I hate the idea of being naked,” he laughs. There’s an aspect of primitivism we won’t be seeing in his collections any time soon.