L.A. based menswear designer Elliott Evan single-handedly designs and creates all of his items at his secluded studio located in the edges of downtown’s Art District. There he meticulously and painstakingly constructs his pieces, primarily his one-of-a-kind leather jackets made out of thick animal skin, e.g. buffalo and horse. Additionally, his studio doubles as a garage where he also quietly works on restoring classic two-stroke motorcycles. His discreet and solitary way of working on both his clothing line and street bikes reflects not only the kind of guy Elliott is, but the type of person he designs items for – the lonesome road warrior.
As a graduate from San Francisco’s Academy of Arts University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design, the 27-year old’s rigid architectural clothing also shows his readiness to artfully experiment. Elliott’s Gothic pieces are usually well tailored with prominent large collars (that at times convert into a hoodie), sleeves that are fitted with constricted elbows, and shoulders with sharp edges. However, even with a flare for dark distinctly shaped pieces, he also instills a level of masculinity, high craftsmanship, and functionality to his well-constructed garments – something that stems from assembling machines.
His second collection premiered early this year at NYFW, his third collection recently had a soft release, and he just celebrated the launch of some of his items at Church Boutique. We visited Elliott at his studio so he could tell us more about his approach to menswear, his creative process, and the moral obligations of using leather.
LAC: What’s your approach to menswear?
When I approach menswear there are obviously confines to what a guy is willing to wear. If it becomes too crazy then it becomes just out-there fashion. Although with my stuff, I will go out there and make these crazy shapes – but at the end, it’s about masculinity and making a guy feel like a guy. Usually the places that I focus on are the sleeves and the shoulders. If you don’t have strong shoulders, it’s like all elements of a man are lost. Some of the things I have been striving for are these accentuated shoulder points. You can see the articulation in the sleeves as well. For me it’s important to get that strong arm shape. That kind of element is super important. It’s tech within fashion. I build motorcycles, and it’s all the same. I approach a jacket with the same mind set. I like stripping it down and re-assembling with crazy construction.
LAC: What is masculinity to you?
I have in mind this perfect guy who is looking for freedom, he’s looking for escapism, and at the end of the day he still has to be a man with a perfect jacket. A perfect jacket can change how you feel and act, and I want to be responsible for that; for someone to wear one of my jackets and feel masculine.
LAC: Do you think it’s still masculine to be into fashion?
When I was going to design school there was a strong stereotype and that was something that I was constantly approached with. In our day and age it’s changing. If you are dressed a certain way you can exude power, confidence, and feel maybe a little bit more manly. For me with clothes it all comes back to this feeling of insecurity when I was a kid. Now, if I’m wearing a certain something, the clothes speak for me. I don’t have to do anything. That is a powerful thing for me.
LAC: When did you start becoming interested in fashion?
I always knew I wanted to be involved in artistic things. At 16 I was interning at a store then I moved to the bay area for business school. That didn’t work out so then I ended up in art school.
LAC: Where do you think your clothing falls into, everyday wear or more costume because it’s so unique?
I’m always evaluating. That’s one of those things, especially because the art school side can make me fall into the costume’ish area but in the end it needs to be worn. I still have to maintain a level of well constructed jackets. There’s that great quote by Bill Cunningham, “Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life.” I create the armor.
LAC: What do you think of the fashion in LA?
Well there’s a strong sense of this LA fashion scene, and I just don’t want to be a part of the same type of silhouettes that they are doing. I want to experiment with something a little different. I just had a release at Church. They have a few selected pieces. They’re the only ones who have my stuff right now. Church has been the biggest step forward.
LAC: Do you feel like an outsider with the other designers here?
With me I do feel a little outside of the circle just because of the way I construct. But everyone here does such great work.
LAC: Let’s talk about your second collection that showed at NYFW…
That collection was closest to my heart. It really showed the guy I have in mind. It was a lot of fun, first time in New York.
LAC: Who are the designers you are looking to right now?
Carol Christian Poell. He has a message to what he is doing. I strive to have my construction like his.
LAC: Your image is so dark, how intentional is that?
It’s just expressing that darkness a lonely artist often feels.
LAC: How did you get into building bikes?
Again, it’s all about that ideal badass guy. If you’re a rider, your jacket is a necessity. So, I had this archetype for what a cool guy was. I just started hoarding and building bikes. It’s just another art project.
LAC: The motorcycles you work on are classics. Do you intend to also make timeless clothing or are they of the times and are you going to change as time passes?
I want everything I make to last, especially when using animals. You want to make sure you are using it correctly. The leather pieces I use are left over pieces. They’re not perfect and I like to integrate those imperfections into my jackets.
LAC: Do you feel you have to respect the animal when using its leather?
Oh yeah. I hope I’m doing it justice because I want for it to come to life. And I’m not doing a mass production. I’m doing a single jacket out of scrap leather from a different production who had no use for it.
LAC: What’s next?
Well NYFW is just around to the corner again, so I want to refine my work.