For his show at Milk Studios on Saturday afternoon, Patrik Ervell transformed the ground floor into a minimalist hangar, with a billowing parachute stretching from the ceiling and wind machines blowing down the runway. It was the backdrop to one of Ervell’s strongest collections yet, a tough and stylish take on Air Force themes, with bomber jackets and flight suits (and a welcome departure from the prevalence of lumberjacks on the runway). We sat down with Ervell the day after the show. Exhausted from celebrating, he positioned his chair strategically behind a ficus plant.
This show was a big step forward for you.
I hadn’t done a show for two seasons, I’ve been doing presentations. But it was time to turn up the volume.
You had one of the few men’s shows that wasn’t inspired by mountain climbing and took the flight suit route instead.
I’ve never been interested in dressing men like lumberjacks. I collect old military garments. There was one American night camouflage jumpsuit from the Vietnam War. It is completely black: all the hardware, the pulls. That was the starting point. A lot of details were borrowed from that garment, and jumpsuits and flight suits — these things that must perform these specific and intense functions, but if you take them out of that context, and put them into fashion, I think they can become something beautiful.
I liked how the wind machines served to blow the jackets open and reveal what's beneath.
Matt Mazucca, who I’ve worked with for three seasons, is an amazing set designer. Those were cargo parachutes; they’re not round, they’re meant to parachute crates. We found them on the Internet.
Okay, so what is the surprise about your label you were going to reveal?
We’re gonna start making women’s clothes, but in our own way. It’s not like, “We’re doing women’s clothes next season!” We’re not going to show on the runway. We’re starting very small. Some of the pieces in this collection will be translated to women’s pieces. Kirsten Dunst was wearing a full look at the show. Women already buy it. At our online store, 20 percent of our customers are women. We’re just adding certain proportional changes for women.
Your dad came to the show for the first time. What did he think about it?
I guess I’ll talk to him tonight.
I suppose he’s cold and Swedish like you?
He thought the silhouettes were repetitive! I don’t know. He’s my dad. He texted me something in Swedish about being proud of me or something. I don’t want to talk about this.
[We walk to Opening Ceremony’s showroom to view the collection up close. Ervell singles out a jacket.]
This is one of my favorite pieces. It’s a classic bomber in hand-painted silk; I did it myself. It won’t be that way for production. It’s almost like Neneh Cherry in a funny way, but for men. I can wear it. And I don’t wear crazy clothes. It’s almost all made here in the New York City area. We experimented with overseas production here and there, but the quality is so much better close to home. There is something missing when you just ship it off. "Made in the USA" was something people used to sniff at, but that’s changed a lot. To lot of buyers here and overseas, "made in USA" means something. "Made in Italy" is so overrated.
So tell me about the jumpsuits. Some are in rubberized cotton, which feels like paper-thin Kevlar, some are pleather.
A jumpsuit feels very powerful. You feel suited up for war or jumping out of an airplane. I know the pleather one looks a bit crazy, but it doesn’t feel crazy on. I thought pleather was more interesting than doing leather. I love technical materials. There’s something more loaded about pleather, but it's just polyurethane. I love polyurethane. There’s so many clever things you can do with it.