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October 20, 2017
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Three looks from Todd Lynn's S/S 2014 collection. "Image courtesy of Todd Lynn."

If there is one designer name you ought to jot down for reference this coming season, it is Todd Lynn. His CV is certainly impressive, having worked with some of the world's biggest musicians. In the past few years, Lynn has designed outfits and collaborated on wardrobes for the likes of Bono, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Beyoncé, PJ Harvey, Janet Jackson and Marilyn Manson.

This musical connection reverberates throughout the sharply tailored androgynous designs and rock 'n' roll aesthetic produced under Lynn's namesake label, which he first launched in 2006 having completed an MA at the prestigious Central Saint Martins. Canadian-born but London-based, Lynn is gaining recognition throughout the international fashion industry. In October 2013, he designed a 12-piece capsule collection, Todd Lynn/EDITION for the UK department store Debenhams.

The Genteel sat down with Lynn in advance of London Fashion Week, which runs from 14th-18th February 2014, to discuss the challenges of working with celebrities, high-street collaborations and the blurring of gender in fashion.


Julia Parfenyuk: Tell us about the Todd Lynn woman - and who is your muse?

Todd Lynn: She's got a lot of courage and is self-assured. She likes fashion, but has her own look and her wardrobe feeds into that look.

Fashion for me is lifestyle; you dress the way you do all the time, not just for certain moments. I don't really have a muse per se. It's more of an amalgamation of the people around me and the clients that I have. They are the driving forces that give me what I need to design the collections.

 

Creativity may be the catalyst, but understanding the nuts and bolts is paramount to having your own label, especially today.

JP: What inspired you to establish your own label rather than work for a large brand?

TL: I had opportunities to work for large brands when I finished my MA, but I also had opportunities to stay in London and work with designers here. I didn't start my own label right after college, as there was a lot to figure out. This is a business after all.

Creativity may be the catalyst, but understanding the nuts and bolts is paramount to having your own label, especially today. In the 90's there were far fewer labels, but now everyone wants to be a designer, so you need to be one step ahead of the game at all times.

JP: You have previously worked with Roland Mouret. What key skills did you learn during this time, and how do you still use these skills within your work?

TL: Roland was very supportive when I was on the MA course as well. (I met him shortly after arriving in the UK to study.) He taught me that speed was important. I learned to be faster. Go through ideas and get rid of what doesn't work and expand what does. It was a valuable lesson and one that I use all the time.

But that [was] just the tip of the iceberg. I would say that I am constantly learning from customers, designer and artist friends and everyone around me.

JP: Since launching your own label in 2006, you have dressed the likes of Bono, Mick Jagger and Beyoncé. How did you find yourself dressing such big musicians, and what is a standout memory from these experiences?

TL: There are so many memories from all the work I've done with these musicians and I am very fortunate to have done it. There are lots of perks, in that you get treated really nicely (private jets and 5 star accommodations are just a couple of things on a long list!)

Todd Lynn Fashion Week

One of Lynn's designs on the runway.
Image courtesy of Todd Lynn. 

However, with these amazing perks comes a serious amount of work and very long days!

So, I have memories of drinking champagne on a private plane and working 18-hour days backstage getting a show ready! Still, I wouldn't want it any different. The hard work makes the reward that much sweeter!

JP: How does dressing a musician differ from a Ready-To-Wear client?

TL: Musicians come to me because they like my aesthetic, so the designing part is very similar to the RTW [ready-to-wear] collections (the technical part of the clothing is a different issue…)

There are parameters that are different than just fashion. When dressing someone for stage, their image has to transcend what the pieces are and their wardrobe has to function in a different way. There are different boxes to tick!

But at the same time, it's an interesting challenge and allows you to think of the personality while designing. You have to think about things like photographers and video screens.

The wardrobe needs to look good on stage, look good in photograph (often photographers only shoot the first three songs - before the make-up starts to run in rivers of sweat!) and look good on a huge scale in massive video screens.

They need to be able to move as well, in ways that we normally never have to consider when designing clothes for everyday use. And then there is the need for quick changes and clothes that get cleaned up to 4 or 5 times a week. I have had up to 20 duplicate pieces made for tours if the piece has a short life span!

JP: In October 2013, you launched a 12-piece Todd Lynn/Edition collection online and in Debenhams stores. Talk us through this collaboration.

TL: It was a way of meeting a broader audience. I have never believed that fashion should be exclusive to anyone. In the UK, and particularly London, everyone can participate in the fashion stakes because it's available at all price points. Great charity shops, great markets, amazing high street collaborations and of course great high-end fashion department stores and boutiques.

The great thing about the Debenhams collaboration is that they are coming to me to get my product DNA in their stores. It's the way it should be done, rather than other high street stores just copying designer's work. It's about getting the designers themselves to be involved, and getting paid.

The great thing about the Debenhams collaboration is that they are coming to me to get my product DNA in their stores. It's the way it should be done, rather than other high street stores just copying designer's work.

I am completely involved with the Debenhams collection that bares my name; every step of the way and I work closely with the team there. The styles are not the same as my own collection and there is a point of difference, but the aesthetic is mine.

JP: While both your womenswear and menswear collections are structured and androgynous, your clothes retain elements of both femininity and masculinity. What are your views on gender within fashion; and how important is it to distinguish between the two sexes in your designs?

TL: I personally think there is a very thin line that distinguishes clothing between the sexes. On the womenswear front, society has permitted the line to be crossed more. But in essence, that's one thing that has made fashion exciting. It's the blurring of the lines and the shift of stereotypical sexual power.

It's not a new concept; take a look at Marlene Dietrich and Tilda Swinton. Theirs is an exterior that exudes confidence, which is intriguing. It's this play on confidence that we like to see and makes fashion exciting.

Menswear is more exciting now as well. With kids experimenting with their look through youth subcultures, they are taking this into their lives beyond their teens and this is affecting the way they dress in their professional lives - maybe not to extremes, but in small ways.

Modern clothing is a social phenomenon where social groups are the deciding factors of how people dress and not so much about what a magazine or fashion press says is 'in'.

Todd Lynn Fashion Designer

The designer himself.
Image courtesy of Todd Lynn. 

JP: Where do you see Todd Lynn - both the designer and the brand - in the foreseeable future? What else do you hope to accomplish personally or professionally?

TL: I think that most designers want to eventually have their own retail spaces. It's paramount to be able to show the real vision of the brand. Retail is a place where, although the show is a catalyst for vision, it's the clothes - item for item - that is at the forefront.

I'd also like to expand the product ranges, such as accessories. And I'd like to get involved with theatrical design work, whether it be for stage productions or film.

There's a lot that I'd love to do!

JP: What are your three favourite pieces from your own wardrobe?

TL: I have a black leather jacket that I wear all the time. It's from one of the early collections. I think that's the staple that everyone needs. Thin cashmere jumpers (sweaters), I have many and wear them almost all year round. Again, everyone needs cashmere jumpers.

I love a tailored jacket, I have many from my previous collections, but my favourite is one that has metal bars holding the lapels together. I worked with jewellery designer Shaun Leane on the design of the bars.

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