Dark Knight

Chaos has designer Jean-Pierre Braganza by the lapels.
By Gabriel Bell

"I have just had to move studios from sunny Deptford, south London, where I've been since the beginning," reports designer Jean-Pierre Braganza. On top of transporting his company across the Thames to Whitechapel, Braganza has his hands full with the daily demands of creating two seasonal men's and women's collections for his eponymous, self-contained label. "As I haven't had any investment or grants," he says, "the business is self-funded. I am not a great businessman, accountant, or boss, but I am forced to take on these roles."

Moving to London was a huge influence. This mess that is London is always inspiring me.

Sounding like an artist who'd rather be arranging line sheets than planning spreadsheets, he continues, "Running my label is an exercise in controlled chaos. I envy designers who are able to concentrate solely on designing. " His professional jealousy is only sure to grow in coming months as life has one more bowling ball to throw into the 31 year-old's juggling act. "My partner is giving birth in six weeks."
Jean-Pierre Braganza fall/winter '06 collection
But Braganza isn't fumbling. A brief survey of the looks he crafted for his spring/summer '07 collection—revealed this September in London—suggests he won't drop a single stitch. "I admire the dedication to perfection shown by the classics," he notes before rattling off the list of Rococo influences behind his rock-inflected wares, "Bernini, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Dürer."
While it takes a moment to find any direct traces of the 16th- and 17th-century masters in Braganza's cleverly scooped dresses and flowing, broad-shouldered men's blazers, echoes of the Baroque's attention to detail and precision—if not so much its color and ornament—are readily apparent in his tailoring. Despite the outsized proportions of some of his men's collars and sleeves and the expanded hips of his looks for her, there is little feeling of wasted material (in this case crisp, matte whites and dark, dense textiles recalling European nobility). In a testament to informed and inspired engineering, Braganza's models don't appear burdened by cloth despite the designer's considerable draping. Instead, the mannequins look dramatically windblown, as if posing for an Italian master's canvas.
Jean-Pierre Braganza spring/summer '07 collection
"I started working with volume and extremes in draping," says Braganza of his process this season. "I forced myself to refine the collection into my most restrained to date. It was probably the hardest exercise that I have put myself through." As well, spring/summer is free of the rock-and-roll motifs and crazy-print textiles that garnered him early attention after his graduation from Central Saint Martins in 2003. It's a welcome turn for the punk creator who proved his capacity for beauty, glamour, and refinement while working for Roland Mouret. But don't expect Braganza to venture too far from his usual cast of goth aristocracy and dark dandies for long. "I am happy with the result," he says. "But I foresee [next season] becoming more about release than restraint."

I started working with volume and extremes in draping…I forced myself to refine the collection into my most restrained to date. It was probably the hardest exercise that I have put myself through…I am happy with the result, but I foresee [next season] becoming more about release than restraint.

Given that Braganza often pulls from rather eldritch sources, his idea of "release" may prove downright scary. "I am fascinated by the dark side of the imagination," he says, offering a rogues' gallery of unsettling inspirations; Matthew Barney, Hans Bellmer, H.R. Giger, Salvador Dalí. Unlike his fellow emerging Canadian, Jeremy Laing, Braganza has not only chosen London as his home, but shied away from Canuk calm when questing for vision. "Moving to London was a huge influence," he says, noting that ever since he emigrated from Britian to the Great White North at an early age remained an anglophile and refused to learn French. "This mess that is London is always inspiring me," Braganza says.
Jean-Pierre Braganza spring/summer '07 collection
And so, themes of masterwork and mess are always popping up in his work, whether it's the perfectly crafted vampire cowls of his autumn/winter '06 line, the early collection he crafted out of leather rescued from the trash bins of Savile Row, or the curated bedlam of his studio. Considering his choices of inspiration, methodologies, and the very look of his eveningwear seemingly designed for the darkest nights, a little crisis and calamity here is probably more fuel for the fire.
Jean-Pierre Braganza is available in London at Two See, 17 Monmouth Street, +44 0207-240-7692, in New York at Seven New York, 110 Mercer Street,646-654-0156, and in Los Angeles at Fred Segal, 420 Broadway, Santa Monica, 310-550-1800. For more information, go to www.jeanpierrebraganza.com
Portrait by Lou Mensah
Chaos has designer Jean-Pierre Braganza by the lapels.

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