There’s really a lot to say for this one. This is going to be a pretty informal overview of all the inspirations that went into the AW21 collection titled, “Pyrophyte.”
Over the summer of 2020 I was working on the SS21 collection & show while taking trips out to Lake Piru here and there. It was the main inspiration for the spring collection because during a time where we had to be inside all the time, it felt like one of the safest but also most relaxing and welcoming places to be. The SS21 show was green. Really green. I wanted to show something pretty amongst all the dark and bleak imagery and news of the first half of 2020 to give people, but mostly myself, an escape.
When driving in the areas we would go to & especially where we filmed the show, I started to notice that everything outside of the small safe havens we would go to to swim, were mostly burnt out. Canyons and mountains charred and sometimes just pure black. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for just over 4 years now but have never been here for long stretches of time like I had last summer. Seeing these burnt areas first hand gives the news stories we hear and read new context. I successfully showed a pretty, green creek for the SS21 show, but that wasn’t the reality of the area. For AW21 I shifted by focus to hopefully shed light on the actual situation of California’s wildfire season.
The first people I reached out to with the idea back in August was the US Forest Service. After a few rounds of communication we aligned on some key messaging and got to work planning the show. The main thing they helped with was location. A lot of the forest areas I wanted to highlight have been closed since the start of the pandemic. They gave us access to a few places where we could potentially use a firebreak as a runway. That was the original concept. To show the left and right of the runway as two different landscapes, one altered by fire and the other unscathed. I spent a lot of time thinking about this and was worried it would feel like we’re using it as a prop and romanticise the destruction. My main concern was Andre… He can’t shoot something without making it beautiful to save his life. (What’s up Dre?) After running through these issues I was having with the Forest Service I was sort of lost for a little while on this idea. That’s when they said “What about Mt. Wilson Observatory?”
For those unfamiliar, Mt. Wilson Observatory is an incredibly beautiful place just outside of Los Angeles with more historical significance than I could talk about in this format. Hubbel, Einstein… “The Sistine Chapel of astronomy,” is what the executive director Tom Meneghini refers to it as. You get the picture. In September of 2020, the area was hit with the Bobcat Fire. If you live in California you remember seeing it on the news, if you don’t, I encourage you to research it. 100 foot tall flames consumed 114,963 acres before it was put out. The observatory sits on top of the San Gabriel Mountains which was pretty close to being the heart of the fire. The observatory and everything it represents was spared from the fire, but only by 500 feet. On our first location scout our shoes got covered in the red Phos-Chek still on the ground. The news coverage shows the planes dumping it right on where we were shooting this show. I’ll link some at the bottom.
To me, the observatory represented hope. From the moment we first got there to check it out I was blown away by it. I had been up there before but only as close as you can get without the passcode for the gate, seeing it close up is a different story. I spent about 6 hours with Tom on the first scout just learning anything I could about the place and exploring anything he was kind enough to show us. The narrative of the show flipped for me that day. Instead of showing something that’s burnt, show something that was saved. Talk about what we can do to prevent this from happening again. On a base level, just get involved.
The show marks the beginning of our efforts to help the US Forest Service reach a new demographic. The forests of California are a driving force for inspiration of the brand as a whole and I’m truly excited to be a part of the future of them in any way I can. For the show itself we did a special capsule collection with the Mt. Wilson Observatory which is run entirely on grants and donations, and the National Forest Foundation whose focus is to preserve and protect our National Forests.
I suppose I should talk about the clothes themselves a little bit while we’re here. This season I wanted to refine and mature a lot of our silhouettes. This is the first time for a few categories such as coating and footwear. (We have our own boot now!!?) The majority of the garment fits have been slightly slimmed down and a little more fitted. The collection is primarily unisex for the first time with only a handful of mens and womens specific pieces. The shows and collections go hand in hand. The colour palette for the entire collection is inspired by an image titled “Western Wildfires,” by Elaine Thompson, depicting a river running red with Phos-Chek and scenic mountains in the background. A lot of the graphics have more direct references to the theme of the collection while the garments themselves have very subtle references to it. This is done through fabric choices and textures, hardware and functionality.
There’s a million more things I could say about this show and collection but I’ll cut it here. It’s scheduled to ship around July/August and I’ll go more in depth on some stories and garments when the time comes. In the meantime, PLEASE get involved with your local forests and parks. Even if you don’t have the time or abilities to donate or volunteer, something as simple as educating yourself goes a long way the next time you get out there.
News coverage of the Bobcat Fire: