Cover photo: Lissete Norrby
Tomislav Mostečak was born in 1983 in Varaždin. He currently lives and works in Paris. He graduated from the Painting Department of the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts and the Faculty of Textile Technology (Fashion Design). After finishing his postgraduate Menswear Fashion Program at the Royal College of Art in London in 2010, Vogue magazine included him in the annual Vogue Talent exhibition in Milan. His graduation collection was available in stores such as the MACHINE in London and Lane Crawford in Beijing and Hong Kong. In 2011, he left for Milan, where he worked as Umit Benan’s assistant and for the fashion brand Trussardi, where Umit was creative director at the time. In 2013, he moved to Paris taking the position of Senior Menswear Designer in the fashion house Kenzo, where he works today.
On the domestic fashion scene, before leaving for London, you garnered significant attention with your One Is Many project. The project was awarded at the 040506 Croatian Design Exhibition. How do you view this early work today and its characteristic approach to designing garments?
The project was a result of my collaboration with the product designers Robert Bratović and Nina Bačun. One Is Many is a module-based multifunctional garment. Via a system of zippers, the modules can be rearranged, changing the purpose of the garment. As a designer of menswear, which is often devoid of decorations, I deliberate garments primarily through the prism of their functionality.
In what ways has your postgraduate study program at the Royal College of Art in London determined your work in the field of fashion design?
I came to London with very little tailoring and technical skills, and was surrounded by colleagues who had already done several collections and had lots of technical expertise. It is precisely this technical inferiority that has formed by aesthetics. During the program, I was exploring Do It Yourself techniques characteristic for certain subcultures. For instance, the mods tweaked their “cheap” wardrobe themselves by using shiny materials like mohair to make the tonic suit or sewed additional pockets onto garments by hand to make them look more glamorous. My graduation collection was based on techniques such as macrame and hand painting of leather on iconic garments such as the Levi’ s leather jacket or Levi’s 501 jeans. Such garments used to be imported into Eastern Europe from neighboring countries. The counterfeit versions of these garments that were available here were the basis for my collection. The end-result of the collection referred to the process of the manual creation of unique haute couture garments. In addition, during the study program I had the opportunity to attend a tailoring school in the fashion house of Brioni. This house is known for its custom tailored suits created in direct dialogue with the client, with the majority of the suit making process being manual. It is precisely these two approaches that have influenced my work the most. This bricolage approach is still present in my work. In addition to improving my technical skills by working on projects for fashion brands, I also gained the knowledge necessary for my further professional development. The Royal College f Art is well-known for its great ties with the industry, and in this sense it helped me a great deal to start working immediately in the global fashion industry right after graduating.
Can you discuss your work for the fashion house Kenzo, where you have been working for the past five years?
In Kenzo, I work as a senior menswear designer. In collaboration with the creative directors, I work on the general direction we will take for each season, which includes exploring and working out the initial ideas, selecting the materials, choosing the color palette for the season, the silhouette, fitting and the mood for the collection, which is later applied to the design of the fashion show and other commercial aspects of the brand.
What approach do you take when constructing the masculine identity in male fashion today?
In collaboration with the creative director, I begin each collection by constructing the so-called character, the inspiration for the collection, deliberating the interests, activities and functions of this character. Since the house I work for has set the character of the client back in the seventies, when it emerged, I try to situate this character in the context of new social, political and cultural realities. I base the construction of the masculine identity on the method of appropriating the visual elements of garments, which mark individual icons of style. By using the techniques of parody, pastiche, allegory or bricolage, I try to narrativize different ways of performing the male identity. I was recently working on a suit for Kenzo for David Byrne’s tour. It represents a hybrid of two suits from Kenzo’s Spring-Summer 2018 collection and an interpretation of a suit that I saw on photographs given to us by Ryuichi Sakamoto. In this case, I was interested in the stylistic and character overlap of two different, but still similar style and music icons of the eighties.
Considering you have a degree in both painting and fashion design, you often combine art and fashion in your own work. Can you explain this intertwining process and discuss how it manifests itself in concrete collaborations and projects?
My interest in male fashion is based on my fascination with the uniform and its functions. , My earlier works, which focused on the posture and gesture of the model, often dealt with the paradox of the uniform, which on the one hand gives the user its power and protection, and on the other its suggests vulnerability and deprives the user of his individuality since it is a sign of belonging to a particular group or institution. I am led by a sort of portrait approach, particularly in the first stage of designing the collection, when I contemplate the basic inspiration for the collection. In this, I mostly rely on re-appropriating the garment as the carrier of historical significance. I consider, for instance, the stereotypical representation of a man in a suit, a motorcycle jacket, bomber jacket or military uniform, in the context of the various ways they have been repurposed by members of subcultures or fetish groups. Today, the intertwining of art and fashion mostly occurs through collaborations with other visual artists. The collection Autumn-Winter 2017 was created in collaboration with the artist Maja Čule. The collection referred to, among other things, the subject of global warming. Maja’s work often takes as its subject matter technology and obsessive consumerist phenomena of our time. Her work on the collection revealed itself in the application of prints and graphics. Interestingly, in a reaction to the collection, Eduardo Williams made a short film. He is also interested in the impact of technology on humans through the prism of globalization, and his protagonists were simultaneously located on various geographical positions. The intertwining of art and design often occurs in the process of postproduction, almost through a filmic method, as a form of re-contextualization. In the field of fashion, this is visible through the casting and styling.
This year, you are a member of the Selection Committee for the 1718 Croatian Design Exhibition. Can you comment on the works in the category of fashion and garment design? What do the submitted works tell us about the domestic fashion design scene?
In the student category, I noticed that graduation collections actually get made; this wasn’t the case before, which I found to be the biggest disadvantage of the textile technology study program. Students also deal with local topics, which is very interesting and exotic. In the professional category, I was glad to see well-established brands that follow the fashion calendar and make seasonal collections twice a year.
Since you had the opportunity to study at the Royal College of Art in London, how do you compare it with education in the field of fashion design in Croatia?
I feel the Faculty of Textile Technology enrolls too many students considering the current economic situation in Croatia. Still, the greatest disadvantage of the study program is the inability to actually get projects made. It all remains on paper, while the practical aspect of design is disregarded. In addition to internship programs, study programs in London are based on a series of projects that get done in collaboration with brands, which simulate the professional context awaiting the designers after they receive their degree. Such collaborations are also often an opportunity to get a job after finishing the study program.
What kind of status does fashion design enjoy within the wider domestic field of design? Also, what is your view of the position and visibility of fashion design within the framework of the activities of the Croatian Designers Association?
Fashion design is still on the margins of the domestic design scene. This is understandable because in the other categories, such as visual communications or product design, there are clients actually commissioning the work. The fashion scene in Croatia is still reduced to self-initiated projects that function in the form of a small business or boutique, which distributes its own products. There is no distribution of collections by multi brand stores, which is how the fashion system works on foreign markets, particularly when it comes to smaller brands. I’ve noticed that some brands decided to distribute their products online, which I consider a great way of getting their products to foreign markets. I also noticed a lot of collaborations of fashion designers within other design categories, with designers helping with branding projects by designing uniforms. The CDA has advanced the field greatly by including fashion design in its overview of domestic design. A review of the most relevant works from the last two years will develop the discourse and educate the public.
Which fashion designers would you point out as the most relevant protagonists of the current domestic fashion scene? Can we situate their work in the context of the global fashion system and its trends?
There’s quite a few of them, I would point out Silvio Vujičić, Dioralop and Price on Request. I feel they are very relevant because they suggest a very clear image of their client. I like the approach of Gala Vrbanić within her brand Price on Request. She develops her new collections by recycling old ones, which is very relevant considering the frequent thesis of the saturated fashion market. Overproduction leads to unsold collections being burned due to the protection of the brand’s intellectual rights. The brand’s name itself questions the true value of garments in a democratic way, which in itself is great commentary on the current economic reality. Silvio’s Uskok is one of the more interesting projects from last year. His deconstruction of local stereotypes is a relevant topic in the context of the global fashion discourse. I also like the unique appearance of Dioralop’s pieces.