Portraits from Phipps, One of Paris Men’s Fashion Week’s Standout Shows

Inspired by climbers and cowboys, Phipps’ S/S20 show evoked the rugged archetypes of the American West. Here, speaking in his own words, designer Spencer Phipps tells Another Man about this collection

“Each season we have a different area of natural sciences that we explore. Last season was quantum physics, for example, and the one before that was about biology. This season we decided to focus on geology and the various ways that it has affected modern Western culture.

“One of the initial pieces of research that we started with was an essay by Frederick J Turner written in 1893 titled The Significance of the Frontier in American History – how the savagery of the Gold Rush or notions of ‘Manifest Destiny’ helped to define the foundations of American culture. It’s remarkably accurate even today. This translates in the collection into proper frontier-inspired clothes – duster coats, cowboy shirts and hats – stuff you can wear in the rugged terrain of the West. Cowboys and climbers, in essence. Wild and free individuals, tough survivalists. They’re doing their own thing, and living on the edge.

“We wanted a mix of characters to help shape the narrative of this sort of Richard Avedon In the American West world. It was very important for us that each of them told a different story and fit into their roles in each look. We were scouting some older guys in metal bars, and bringing in some actual guides from the Alps. We wanted different archetypes of cowboys – sweet young ones, heart-of-gold bandits, the tough girl et cetera. I wanted to get the real deal. For me it’s more about the vibe and the nature of the person that intrigues me – I like people that have had some life experience, I’m not interested in blank faces.

“The show title Like a Rock comes from the Bob Seger song that was used in Chevy pickup truck commercials through the 90s. I wanted the show to feel like an escape to that world – a reinterpretation of the Wild West – a trip through Yellowstone or something along those lines. It’s such a fantasy world for me. We knew we wanted to do it outside, and the Cité des Arts was nice enough to let us use their parking lot. The set designer proposed these smoking peat piles – it’s what they use traditionally to make coal – which fit into our geology theme quite nicely.

“Another direction we looked at was the sort of new-age idea of the spiritual side of geology. The notion of the healing powers of crystals. We worked with a digital artist to develop a series of prints based off real crystals and then made pieces in these prints – sometimes with the healing information printed directly onto the garment. We are deeply involved in responsible manufacturing and sustainability, all our products are made in the best possible means to protect the planet. We take this methodology further by trying to create desirability around the lifestyle of environmental respect. We create ‘purposeful luxury’ or the idea of developing meaningful and purposeful products all based in studies of natural sciences – objects that can teach lessons or enhance lives in some way.

“For me, this collection was a big step up. We really tried to focus on the image and language we create and go deep into our characters and the narrative around the brand. I think we really pushed ourselves to create special but authentic feeling pieces, while also perfecting our basics. I’m looking forward to starting the next one...”