Menswear Monday: Bobby Abley

Published May 5, 2014

There’s more to menswear than suits and ties. Every other Monday, we’re giving the fastest developing facet of fashion the attention it deserves and introducing the designers, buyers, trendsetters, and stylists you need to know. 

Thus far, London’s Topman-sponsored MAN show, which showcases the wares of three budding menswear talents each season, has produced such distinguished alums as Agi & Sam, Astrid Andersen, James Long, and J.W. Anderson. The next ex-MAN name that everyone knows may well be Bobby Abley, who’s showing on Topman’s shared catwalk for the third time in June. His clothes are bold, graphic, and play on potent pop-cultural symbols like Mickey Mouse, albeit thoroughly subverted (Walt would squirm at the sight of a grim, oversize top that read “R.I.P.” in Disney-brand lettering in Abley’s last collection).

Abley says that he’s continued to mine Disney ground for inspiration for Spring 2015. “I love those stories,” he tells us. “The one for Spring/Summer—it’s the one I’ve been the most into since, like, the age of five, but it’s never felt right to use it until now.”

“I don’t know if Disney are gonna be happy,” he laughs. We hope they’re not. The right amount of notoriety might assure him a successful first solo showing when he graduates from MAN the season after next.

DESIGNER: Bobby Abley

BASED IN: London

ORIGIN STORY: I think I was around 15 or 16 when I first got my sewing machine. Obviously it wasn’t as serious as it is now. But I remember getting my machine and somehow knowing how to construct garments, which is really weird because I hadn’t really been trained how to sew. But I was attuned to the details on certain things and figuring out myself how you put a collar on and stuff like that. So then I started to try and put my own stuff together. I remember specifically when there were the twisted Levi’s—I couldn’t afford them so I got like two or three different pairs of jeans and cut them all up and made a pair of jeans just by stitching. [laughs] The first garment I ever made was that pair of jeans that I really, really wanted.

TRADEMARKS: The bear, I guess, is a trademark, whether it’s on a T-shirt or featured really small within a print. I’m also trying to develop a sort of signature shape. There’s a specific silhouette of short that I always adapt into each collection, whether it’s Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter. It’s this kind of boxy, oversized short. I’d really like that to be a signature piece eventually.

CARE BEAR: The bear is actually a bear that my mum, when she was born—one of her family friends had bought this teddy bear for her. It was always on the table by her bed; I remember it. It was just always there and she would never put it away. It’s really old and the sun has faded it and it’s lost some hair and the squeak in its belly doesn’t work, but it was always still by her bed. I know how much she loves it, and when I moved to London she let me take it with me. And so because I know how special it is to her, I used the silhouette of the bear as a thank-you. It’s sort of caught on as my thing because I use it as a print or as a motif in each collection. I think she’s really happy that it’s got a new lease on life.

THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE ON EARTH: I go to Disneyland quite a lot. I think last year I went nine times? [laughs] Yeah, because it’s so easy to get to Euro Disney from London. You can be there and back in a day. So there’s been like a number of times where I’ve just gotten on the train at like 6 a.m., gone to Disney, and been back in bed by midnight. [laughs] But I genuinely love it. I don’t go out of my way to find inspiration because I think it has to come naturally, and at Disney, I definitely always find stuff there that I want to work with or play around with.

LONDON CALLING: One of my favorite things about London is that it’s so futuristic to me. You go other places like Paris, which is a stunning place and it’s amazing—I’m there twice a year for work—and I love the city but I find it incredibly boring. The same with certain places in Italy. It’s like it’s so time-warped. But with London, there’s a perfect mix of so much history and then right in the middle of it you get these massive glass skyscrapers. It’s a big patchwork city. It seems to be the birthplace of a lot of big, new things.

MAN’S MAN: [Being in MAN] has been amazing because it’s such an overcrowded industry, especially in London where there are so many new people popping up all the time. It’s just at a point where there’s always something coming up, something new. Sometimes it never happens for them; it just doesn’t take off. It’s just so lucky to be given the opportunity to actually go on the schedule. It’s really nice to know—because it is a panel of those industry experts that pick you—it’s really rewarding to think that these people are putting their faith in me. It changes a lot of things. You have to take it really seriously because people are putting that faith in you to deliver. And not everyone gets that chance. 

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