Menswear Monday: Tillmann Lauterbach

Published March 31, 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.

The word “heritage” might not come to mind when looking at Tillmann Lauterbach’s menswear; most of what he does looks so new. But, he insists, “we do everything the old-school way.” Lauterbach and his team do not touch computers (except, he admits, to answer emails), design everything by hand in a small three-story house in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, and work with small, family-owned mills around Europe and Japan. “Call me a hippie or whatever,” Lauterbach offers, “but I think it gives a certain energy and zen-ness to the clothes. Not too hyper-speed and not too copy-paste.”

All that said, the designer is not a Luddite. He blogs his work experiences and Instagrams his everyday inspirations. His business is growing, and he’s duly looking for real office space to house it. “In a non-conformist way, I definitely always had problems with a certain type of heritage,” he explains. He’s not interested in Old World airs. “But when it comes to heritage in quality and storytelling, I think that can be a beautiful thing.”

In practice, this design philosophy—heritage quality from a non-heritage brand—has been a challenge to uphold. “We’re a very small operation, and in the shops we’re hanging next to names like Dior and Lanvin. From season to season, it gets harder to get your voice heard, to get the right people to your show, and so on.” Fortunately two weeks ago, Lauterbach was nominated as a finalist in the running for the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, minting him with a seal of approval and a vote of confidence from a the huge, history-steeped conglomerate.

DESIGNER: Tillmann Lauterbach

BASED IN: Paris

SIGNATURES: Before I even started fashion design, I loved fabric and I was very interested in it. I went for four months to an internship at Luciano Barbera in Italy where I learned about weaving, the properties of wool, and all that. That was a great experience. I think I know my way around fabric and I know what I like. I love expensive fabrics, which has nothing to do with showing off or bling-bling, but just good quality. Even in their appearance, they can be humble, but as they age they’re very beautiful, or as you work with them. There’s a certain connection to nature in them. I like that idea, and I wasn’t seeing that in whatever menswear or womenswear I was looking at. So whatever sort of fabric I used, there had to be a story behind it or something about it—some reason for me to like it. It’s a bit vague, I know, but I would define that as part of my aesthetic.

HOME SWEET HOME: I got the lease from a friend who listed it several years ago. It’s a little English-style house, maybe 100 square meters, but on three floors, with a half under-the-ground basement. It’s very cute. It’s next to one of the biggest parks here and it’s very quiet and it doesn’t feel like Paris at all, which is actually the reason why I took it when it was free. It’s not super-equipped as a studio, so it feels very homey, but now we’ve reached a certain size and working just becomes very difficult. For the moment we’re trapped here together in our little puppet house, so to speak. [laughs] It’s good. I run this business like a family business anyways, so in a way it reflects a little bit of what we’re doing. I grew up in Spain and I’m very much Spanish in my lifestyle and my way of interacting with other people and all that. I really miss that kind of warm-heartedness.

TIES THAT BOND: The fun part is that these people who spend their lives and their passions doing work with fabrics—finishing, dying, these kinds of things—normally they’re not so interested in working with a small brand who only consumes a few meters each season. But actually they’re very happy, because when they see that you have a passion about it and that you come from a quite creative background, sometimes you give them ideas for the next season. So most of the time I’ve had very good experiences. And that’s a beautiful thing, when you create something with all your heart and someone else pushes you a bit further, and then at the end you come out with a product that’s quite interesting.

CLOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH: The best stories are the ones you can tell at a low tone. If you have to scream, something’s wrong. It’s like listening to music: if it’s music that you can only listen to when you crank up the volume to 200 decibels, I think that’s not good music. It should work in a conversational tone, and I think that same is true of fashion. All these things that I use to define my style are things that aren’t shouting out. I want the person to be seen—because that’s basically what clothes are: they’re the first visual information you give away about yourself—but I never want them to speak louder than the identify of the person themselves, because I wouldn’t want that for myself.

JAMAIS DÉMODÉ: I was very lucky that when I started with menswear, it was somehow happening that womenswear people were oversaturated with too many brands and just doing the same thing over and over. And so after the so-called “metrosexual” man discovered a new wardrobe, it gave a whole new dimension to menswear. And that’s a cool thing for a menswear designer, because you could let more creativity out in your collections, but you could also reach a bigger audience with it. I think menswear is very cool because in a way, I believe a man represents the way fashion should be. Men don’t change their wardrobe from one season to the other. They buy something of quality, even if it’s a little bit more expensive, and they keep it in their wardrobe and they wear it over and over. I don’t really like the word fashion or la mode, because it comes with démodé, which means that next season you need to wear something else. Honestly, I don’t believe that. I think that if something is good quality and made in a sincere way, it should be there next season.

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