Inbar Levi is not the most attainable of clothing labels. The Los Angeles based designer controls who wears her utilitarian, unisex garments – so you better be a friend or inspire her in some way if you want to be seen in her clothes! With that said, it is a good thing she has a lot on or surviving off her limited collections may not be feasible; she’s a photographer, an artist, a writer, and lastly a woman.
Highlighting the blurred lines of gender, her brand is all about the individual. Whether it be an artist or skateboarder, she photographs them, capturing their quirks and confidence in her clothing. The Central Saint Martin’s 2013 MA graduate is all about individualism, she never felt the need to assist other designers and launched her label straight out of school. She wanted to remain free and unconfined; her creativity never hindered.
Wonderland gets to know Inbar Levi, but don’t expect her to be turning out the pockets on her garments (that would reveal too many secrets).
Where are you from originally?
A small Surf town north to Tel Aviv. Growing up in this culture melting pot, gave me the confidence and freedom to take chances and to take off to London at 18.
You studied at CSM graduating with your BA in 2010 followed by your MA. Why did you decide to move to LA after and launch your label there?
The only way I would have stayed in fashion post CSM was to have my own brand. While still living in London I would spend long periods in LA and NY. LA really grabbed me, I felt the need to stay there longer cause I felt like I didn’t figure it out completely yet. It felt like there were endless opportunities and I only just begun to scratch the surface. By the time I got to LA I already lived a few lives and it felt like the right place to be reborn again, the brand is just an extension of me.
What Californian subcultures inspire your brand?
It’s not so much subcultures as it is individuals. Casting is a huge thing for me. When I photograph someone in my clothes it’s specifically about them, something about their charisma and attitude is fascinating to me. In addition to that, if they happen to be a promising artist or a great skater then it is just a bonus. I’m all about exceptional characters and unexpected beauty.
Can you tell me more about any work experience you have and what designers you have assisted prior to launching your label?
I went straight from the MA into making my own line, I never worked for anyone else. I didn’t feel the need. The time with Louise Wilson as a professor is the best work experience you can have, you learn how to teach yourself everything, cause there is no other way to survive it. You mainly learn what you never want to be doing and that was one of those things. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that I knew I couldn’t be creative in, to be seated in front of a computer 24/7 stuck in an office, it’s where creativity comes to die.
For SS16 you didn’t line your garments and had minimal branding. When your a new brand isn’t it important to get your name out there?
Your name gets out there when people feel both comfortable and powerful in your clothes – when people have fun and good experiences while wearing your clothes – not necessarily when they are being forced to become a walking billboard for your megalomaniac needs. If your name is worth knowing, the world will make sure it’s known, the clothes will be meaningless as just bundles of fabric. It’s only when someone wears them that they receive their purpose, the context and their reason to exist.
For AW16 you have added a lot of text onto the clothes. What inspired some of the quotes?
The messages are a game of text and imagery, I’ve constantly used that method in my collections. Perhaps this time it’s much more in the spotlight and profoundly unapologetic. The tees are a summary of the rest of the collection. A synopsis if you like, they’re immediate answers to questions you never thought of asking.
Your MA collection in 2013 appeared to be more feminine while your collections have become more masculine, despite your aim to produce utilitarian, unisex clothing. Do you sell more to males than females?
The intention of the brand is to construct clothes for people to wear, feminine and masculine are terms that are completely irrelevant these days. I don’t know one person that always feels one or the other. I make gear for human beings and that’s for whoever wants to interpreted it however they wish to do so.
Is your clothing reflective of your own style? Are you a bit of a tomboy?
You can only be called a tomboy if you make sure everyone is aware of you being a woman, it’s not something I tend to present myself as, ‘I’m a designer, a traveller, I make things, I’m a photographer, an artist, I write.’ But a woman is not the first thing that comes to mind.
You feature a lot of pockets on your garments. Are you a pocket person – what’s in your pockets right now?
I hardly ever carry a bag, when all my possessions are in my pockets I feel a strong feeling of security, I want the person who wears my garments to feel that same feeling, to trust that jacket to be your own sanctuary. Pockets are little containers of secrets, I value secrets very much that’s why I can’t tell you what’s in them.
You also practice photography. How does it influence your label?
It’s how a process of creating a collection begins and ends for me. A lot of my photographs are photos of my friends in their natural habitats. It effects how I direct all my shoots, nothing ever faked or edited out, I try to stay true to the person in front of the lens, to the situation. You got to be respectful to the truth, especially in an industry that basically photoshopped itself into a cliché.
What’s next for your brand?
I produce in small quantities and that’s part of the reason why it’s been pretty challenging to get your hands on a piece, I’d like to keep it this way. If you’re a friend of mine or if you inspire me in any way than you probably already own some of it, if you want to wear it then give me a reason why you should.