Behind the Collection: Lover

Innocence lost, Bob Dylan, Charlie Brown...gangsters of Lover Susien Chong and Nic Briand spill some secrets about designing for spring. By Christene Barberich
lover_portrait_instory"We always describe ourselves as the same record, different song," says Nic Briand, one-half of Australian label, Lover. His other half, Susien Chong, balances out the collection's signature push-pull between temptress and renegade, siren and separatist. "We both come from different backgrounds, but we share a similar sensibility and taste level. I like things heavier, Wu Tang Clan, comic books, Hendrix, and Susien is softer, Picnic at Hanging Rock, ballet, Roberta Flack."
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The opposing forces work, and over the past three years, Lover has become more than just another label sensation. The pair's expert fussing over embellishments, seams, necklines, and silhouettes have given the line a strong, sexy presence—clever, but not too clever. Their spring/summer collection is their best to date, yielding a number of irresistible pieces, including a slimmed-down military jacket and a pair of sweetly urbane Bermuda shorts. Here, Nic takes us behind the scenes of their latest undertaking, The Black Rose Army, and shows us how the duo's spring/summer line came together.
1. First, tell us how Lover came to be...
Susien and I had already been together for five years when we decided to start the label. It was a very organic decision, we just pooled our resources. Susien's background was fashion design, and mine was art direction. Lover is a mix and match of everything we admire and love, from Jean Luc Godard and early Woody Allen films to Black Flag and Marianne Faithfull, we always want those influences to run through each garment, each collection.
2. What else connects one collection to the next?
Each has a narrative and central character; it's the way that we work…everything springs from that point; from how the look-book shoot will go to how the character will dress, to the soundtrack of the runway show. Nothing is an afterthought.
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3. What's the breakdown of all the things that informed the spring/summer '07 collection?
The collection is called The Black Rose Army. The title came from the idea of a band of Lover soldiers all possessing immense beauty. It was influenced by the story of Patty Hearst. We always deal with the idea of lost innocence, that potent moment when someone's ideals are changing, when you are beginning to run with the wrong crowd, but you're still keeping up appearances. When we came across the story of Patty Hearst, the way in which she transformed from a media heiress to a timid college student to a hardened revolutionary was both incredible and a perfect fit for the label.
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The idea of conviction was influencing us a lot, too: standing up for your ideals, protesting. It's happening less now as people seem more concerned with themselves rather than the greater good of humanity. The second half of Martin Scorsese's documentary No Direction Home shows Bob Dylan going on stage night after night playing the music he wanted to play, even though he was being booed and jeered and people were walking out. He believed in it, and that really struck a chord with us. We also saw that kind of conviction in the performances of the band The Kills, their chemistry, the stripped-back sound, the unorthodox band set-up. It truly is one of the only original music acts around at the present moment.
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Other things that factored in throughout the process: Antonioni's Zabriskie Point; the first two Public Enemy albums; Glen E. Friedman's photographs of the L.A. punk scene; a box set of Peanuts with Charlie Brown; Joseph Szabo's Teenage; early blues players like Son Lightnin Hopkins and Robert Johnson; and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
4. Tell us about how it all goes down, the studio...what is your routine like?
At the beginning of each collection, we both sit down and begin to just write down everything that is inspiring us, from a song title, to a pair of shoes, to a film that we really want to re-visit. More often than not the larger narrative of the collection comes from that, and then other elements manifest themselves physically in the range, or the styling of the range. Next, Susien starts to develop our ideas into the garments, and I begin to create how the collection will be packaged and presented.
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Seeing as we live and work together, we never stop the clock so to speak. It's actually quite nice doing something like the grocery shopping and then all of a sudden begin discussing an idea for the new collection. We always say that we have some of our best brainstorms in the car traveling somewhere.
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5. What are the key pieces all about?
In terms of designing and presenting this collection, we wanted to represent the timeline of Patty Hearst from her heiress surroundings to dark revolutionary. Both the look-book and the runway show started with innocent cream white lace pieces, slowly working toward a more relaxed '70s Berkeley College aesthetic evident in the striped denim pieces, protest print tees, and western shirt blouses; then as Hearst is kidnapped and subsequently joins the SLA, we start to add the khaki pieces, mixed up with elements of her past such as a lace blouse. Then the finale being numerous all-black looks that complement the final stage of her transformation.
The khaki and lace looks were a particular favorite, as the combination was not one that should traditionally work, however it does and it displays once again the different elements of Lover all culminating together, lost innocence, hard-soft, masculine-feminine. Plus, we always have an element of the late '60s/early '70s running through our work. It's a period in pop culture where the level of authenticity, conviction, and new ideas is very inspiring. And definitely you can see elements of that period in this collection from the high-waisted denim shorts, smock dresses, and western shirts, but we are always very careful not to reference the complete picture. We want to keep one foot in the past, while the other is in the future.
For more information about Lover, go to www.loverthelabel.com
Innocence lost, Bob Dylan, Charlie Brown...gangsters of Lover Susien Chong and Nic Briand spill some secrets about designing for spring.
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