Louis W. for A.P.C.

Louis W Portrait

For his second collaboration with A.P.C., designer Louis Wong is out to re-invent the classic American leather jacket. With references such as the iconic jacket worn by Tom Cruise in Top Gun, (or even the jacket Matthew Broderick wore in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) Louis aims to de-throne the now ubiquitous rock-n-roll black leather jacket with heavy metallic hardwire. For his third collection, coming out this fall, Louis looks instead to classic references such as the Wright brothers and even Shearlings worn by those featured in Jamel Shabazz’s “Back in The Days.” Think more hip hop meets Easy Rider: a real big, tough man in a leather jacket, not necessarily a skinny, under-fed one.

So, what happens when you take your dad’s jacket from the 1970′s and re-make it in luxurious ecru and dark brown dip-dyed lambskin or hazelnut-brown suede split calfskin? Well, I can tell you I will be on the waiting list when they release these jackets for women. They might be the nicest leather jackets I have ever seen. I have that feeling that now that I tried one on, I will never be happy without one. These jackets almost made me wish I was a guy. Or a bigger woman. I’m being completely serious. Louis has managed to take something beautiful and forgotten and revitalize it by using better materials than the originals were made in. Leave it to the French to take American classics and improve upon them. But of course.

I got to sit down with Louis and ask him a little bit about his diverse background, his various references and when he will start producing these for women already. Louis was also nice enough to share some of his image references for the collection, featured below here.

jamel shabazz
Photograph by Jamel Shabazz

Katherine Krause: Where are you from? How did you get started designing?

Louis Wong: My history? (laughs) I’m born in Malyasia but I grew up mostly in France, in Paris. Basically, I’m really Parisian even though I was born in Asia. I knew I wanted to work in fashion so I did an internship at Louis Vuitton and became the junior menswear designer there. Then I met Jean Touitou and I started to work for him at A.P.C.

Katherine: You said you are very Parisian. Do you think that influences your designs?

Louis: When I studied in Paris, I studied the history of art near the center of Paris in the sixth arrondissement which is the iconic area of traditional cultural Paris. I lived there and then A.P.C. is there and Jean Touitou comes from there. Like me, he came from somewhere else- he arrived from Tunisia and grew up in Paris. So I relate to that [Parisian influence] and he relates to that.

Katherine: Was it interesting to watch the brand grow from a small parisian brand to soemthing global?

Louis: Well it was still quite big when I arrived. Like Margiela or a lot of brands, it was first very big in Japan. When I arrived it was at a weird time when Japanese fashion had changed alot and had lost interest in western brands and was focused on thier own brands and it was strange because A.P.C related more to America somehow and focused in on [the Japanese's] true western spirit. So now I guess, yes, I think now A.P.C seems more famous on a worldwide scale but it was definitely already on its way.

Katherine: How is your brand, Louis W., different than the A.P.C. brand?

Louis: Well the concept is to be different than A.P.C. because they live together obviously- yet also to create a strong image whereas A.P.C. has a strong image of minialmaism about it- the vision of the clothing with this sort of retro look, retro perception. I really like leather jackets so I wanted to create and embody the vision of leather jackets and the person who embodies that vision, like the girl who wears the man’s jacket.

Katherine: Why specifically did you start with the leather jacket?

Louis: It was something that always interested me from french movies or in general. It is a garment that has a strong appeal- especially in menswear. I wanted to move alway from the obscure rock, punk or motorcycle reference. It was almost too much of a cliche. I think it is just a beautiful piece of clothing for a man. Some brancds make them really well but its just over-luxurious; you have to go to a super luxury brand and then it will be all branded. So my idea was to create a real classic leather jacket: appealing and simple.

US air force
Photograph courtesy of U.S. Air Force Archive

Katherine: So, you went back to bombers and avaitors?

Louis: Yeah. All the real classical ones as you imagine them. The idea was to focus on this super casual leather- that leather should be cool and masculine again not glamorous and cheesy. You know, in Paris, you see the dad on the motorcyle, in an old leather jacket; brown, all ripped- I think it’s a super cool look.. super causal leather. You dont imagine him in super posh leather- he just looks cool and basic. The idea was to try to create a nice simple piece with a strong vision behnd it.

Katherine: You picked specific films for reference for each jacket?

Louis: I picked references that created the mood for my 1st and 2nd collection. What was complicated was I’m inside A.P.C., so I am going to create a small brand of jackets so I knew it would be around ten pieces only so I knew they ahd to be really strong visually so the idea was really to push the image.

Katherine: And then you went from went the film references to the ‘Coming Out’ collection for F/W’13?

Louis: Well, the first collection was really about French movies- I always wanted to create that image of the bad boy in the leather jacket- really strong visually but not really specific to french culture. The second collection was still film inspired, but more so the American clichés – there are so many movies with so many icons that have leather jackets, James Dean or Tom Cruise. But I didn’t want to just do inspiration from another movie so the inspiration was Jamal Shabazz and the music in New York at that time- early hip-hop, rappers with such a strong creative fashion sense. I’d never sense anything else like that since the time of punk in the late 70s when you had all these cool Harlem kids with leather jackets. I love [Shabazz's] pictures- for me it relates to our time now: overdressed kids with shearling brown leather jackets and new sneakers, I think our time really reminded me of that. Our time is much more moneyed, related to brands and stuff like that but I love how the young musiscians were dressing themselves. I called it ‘coming out’ not for the sexual coming out but for creative expression and that was the inspiration for the all-white shearling jacket.

black sheep
Photograph by Louis Wong, ‘Black Sheep’

Katherine: Are you looking ahead for the next collection? Will you do more jackets?

Louis: For the moment, I am trying to be really pragmatic- while I am really happy with the response I need to be really realistic because leather jackets are expensive and we are in complicated times and I cant just keep doing really crazy leather pieces, so next season I am going to switch gears. The references are really different. I would also like to make more womens jackets.

Katherine: Did you already do a jacket for women?

Louis: We did one gold one for summer that was really just a men’s jacket but smaller. The response was great. So maybe soon we do a women’s and men’s.

Katherine: Are there any other classic pieces you would like to re-visit?

Louis: My brand is related to A.P.C. and they are really good with casual pieces and jeans. I tried to do a trouser- it was a matching outfit with the jacket. Maybe I will do the jackets in a different material? If I can push it to the womens that is already a big change. The big difference is that with Louis W., the image, the vision and the guy is evolving whereas with A.P.C. the vision and the person is already there.

The collection is available online and in A.P.C. stores.

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