Image courtesy of Jeff Forney
It takes about five seconds to classify Greg Lauren as the all-American boy, err… man next door. Except his shiny, wavy locks and disarming smile mean he’s too good looking to actually be your neighbor. He’s the guy playing the part of the guy next door in, say, Desperate Housewives. Which is appropriate given that before Greg ventured into fashion he was an actor. Depending on your choice genre, you may have seen him in Boogie Nights or A Time to Kill or The Wedding Planner. After five minutes of speaking with Greg, however, that snap judgment dissolves and a champion of loners who spends his days exploring the poetic impulses that drive our search for identity emerges. Upon second glance, even his classic blue jeans and white t-shirt—which originally seemed to epitomize the aesthetic of Greg’s uncle Ralph’s empire—read as a commentary on classic American style; they’re Ralph Lauren undone. The shirt has a few holes and the jeans are genuinely worn in. They look like they could tell stories.
Greg’s own story begins with art. Even before he began acting, he was a painter. And it’s through art that he became a designer. As an artist, he points out, the eternal question was and is: “How can I play with it?” He “played” with the notion of sartorial archetypes in his 2009 exhibition Alteration, for which he made clothing out of carefully crumpled Japanese paper, painting the surfaces to resemble fabric before constructing the pieces into classic garments, like nautical coats and motorcycle jackets. The works both explored Greg’s relationship with fashion and challenged viewers’ notions of image and identity. Fashion design using actual fabric, Greg explains, is simply “the new medium.” As an artist, he is removed from many of the mundane preoccupations of other designers; instead of being fanatical about output, he’s obsessed with ideas.
Some of Greg’s most renowned artworks focus on superheroes and cultural icons, like Batman seated alone with a cup of coffee in what appears to be an empty diner. Another is of Clint Eastwood, rambling off to nowhere, with no one. He sees these characters as embodying a loner quality that resonates with him. The images and their protagonists, Greg explains, reflect our desire to slip quietly through the streets or the need to have a solitary cup of coffee and be alone with our thoughts. He defines the brooding present in these moments as the “pain beneath the beauty.”
This melancholic fixation also explains the destructed nature of the garments that make up Greg’s eponymous collection. Classically beautiful and powerful pieces—tuxedo jackets and double-button blazers—are stripped down to their essence. Double-faced cashmere is peeled away, exposing the garment’s underbelly. The resulting creations, mainly jackets and outerwear, propose a new idea of beauty, recalibrating…
Looks from Spring 2011
…preconceived notions of idolization.
As Greg explains, “I spent years of my life dressing for an ‘image’ and I realized that I wanted a more authentic expression of myself.” He was perplexed, for example, by the power of pinstripes: What gives the stripes their overt authority and why, as an artist or actor, would he choose to wear pinstripes, the uniform of Wall Street bankers? While Lynn Phillips of the New York Times recently offered an historical explanation to this conundrum, Greg offers an experiential one, hand-painting haphazard pinstripes onto his blazer so that at first glance it appears that the wearer had a run-in with a freshly painted wall. Greg is also preoccupied with military garments and their symbolism. Puzzled by his own fixation with military jackets, he was motivated to explore what drives our desire to, in essence, impersonate a soldier. This examination…
…resulted in the construction of jackets from military bags, blankets and sailor jumpers, which he cuts up and realigns. Greg also upends traditional notions of elegance by using seam-binding ribbons to finish garments, flipping suede inside out and leaving leather edges raw.
He’s interested in clothing that has a “soul,” that exposes a part of the human experience and ultimately challenges the idea that it is “bad to wear our feelings.” No place is this more apparent than his “journal jacket.” The piece was born of Greg’s trip to Paris following his mother’s death. While past trips to the City of Light involved dinners out and parties, this one was about wandering the streets alone and discovering a new side of Paris and himself. The jacket is patched with details from the visit, including pages from his journal and receipts from a bar. It is obviously one-of-a kind, a notion that appeals to a number of his stockists, like Barneys. At this point, everything in the Greg Lauren line is produced in limited numbers, with bespoke details like embroidered “x” marks and handwritten notes imbuing each piece with a latent nostalgia for a moment that existed somewhere, sometime, even if it wasn’t yours—until it becomes yours.
Looks from Spring 2011