Josep Abril: Renaissance Sartorialist

This month, I am on familiar territory to interview one of the Godfathers of Contemporary Catalan fashion, Josep Abril.

The award winning designer and concurrent darling of 080 Barcelona Fashion Week who dresses everyone from Sñrs Kortajarena to Velencosco recently relocated to a more intimate atelier in Example’s established Consell de Cent.

Standing outside a converted ceramics factory with pleasant garden space and imposing chimney, Josep welcomed us into his creative domain.

¨Normally the media stop here¨ he said taking us through his enviably stocked showroom into the secluded depths of his design atelier. Here, we were in a much more creative space. Dozens of rails pay homage to his previous collections while dozens of vintage uniforms give a nod to his future ones. A database of identity and detail waiting to be reinterpreted along with inspirations from his life and loves.

¨My favourite part about being a designer is in fact the process. All my creations and inspirations comes from old elements, especially clothing and uniforms.¨ Surprising Josep was not one of the current designers who looks toward the increasingly popular domains of ¨cool hunting¨ and ¨trend prediction¨ a la (WGSN) style. ¨They work better for the larger industry players, but they are not consistent with my philosophy.¨

Talking us over his most recent collection ¨My designs have a sobriety and minimalist element to them. There are no detracting features or bold striking colours. A strong colour can distract from the cut¨ he said candidly. I can safely assume for Josep, that the old adage of form follows function is a governing factor within his creativity.

Josep Abril

A nod to his utilitarianistic values can be seen from his passion of theatre costume design and commercial uniforms (As of late, the Ohm Hotel in Barcelona.) One certain trip to the supermarket with his children influenced him to design and engineer a (remarkably chic) utility style bag which looks both contemporary and is highly practical. Two governing bodies in any modern man´s wardrobe space.

Josep´s clothes fit these times of austerity well. ¨People have less money so they are looking for a more classical or key piece which has been well made. Right now, men will spend any money they have on technology, not clothing.¨

His collections are developed piecemeal with the hope that his aesthetic will one day become a classic. Quoting  inspirations such as Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto and Armand Basi as favourites and sources of stimulus, his choices of shape and sober palette can easily be traced from these catalysts.( Alongside curiously, an appreciation for the Catalan Maestro Chef Ferran Adria who captivates his public with  a deconstructed and creative philosophy to his cuisine. Perhaps a mutual philosophy shared by both parties?) ¨My wife is also a designer, so we work together in the design process. It’s normally governed by graphics, textures and shapes¨ which tells me that design is a concurrent skill utilised in the family. Two vibrant and well composed drawings from his children proudly adorn the office wall in front of our interview and discreetly nod to this creative family unit.

For Josep, fashion is a creative process rather than a business. ¨So many labels these days put brand equity before taste. Or, designing the clothes to compliment the models.¨ For him as a designer, this rips the heart from the sleeve of fashion. ¨To me the models are the presentation and not the inspiration. Even this growing importance of marketing is sterilising creativity and killing style. Once upon a time, you had customers coming to you because of your style. Now you have to go with the status quo and the business of fashion. This is a little tragic and defeats our role as designers.¨

Josep & Charlie

Charlie & Josep

A family trip to Australia and ´Madame Butterfly´ provided solid inspirations for his recent collection. ¨For me my stimuli are people, places, films and travel. I love Theatre. Both watching it and designing for it.¨ Josep´s world exudes intimacy; and like for any designer you just have to know where to look for it and how to translate it into your designs.

From my experience in the fashion industry, I can succinctly state that fashion is 85% business and 15% design, however for Josep, it’s the converse. ¨I am not huge on the management side. The technological and social networking fields play second base to me. Only recently have I updated my web branding, so I don’t know how this will stand me in the future.¨ I did acknowledge the impact of this observation, but with an aesthetic as strong as Josep´s I have no doubt he will continue to delight his audiences for many seasons to come.

So what are the designer’s thoughts for Josep Abril the brand? A diversity into more accessories, glasses or perhaps fragrances? Yes all this is a possibility, but for him the emergence of the technological fabric fashion revolution with smart materials, blends and resins is something to be considered in more depth.

Finally our interview was concluded. ¨My next collection for  a/w´15  will be called ´Ghost´¨ Josep informed me. And on this theme, we vanished into a night full of stars in the Catalan super city of Barcelona.