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Made for somewhere between the club and the curb, HUGO fits are formed to the sound of the Berlin streets.

All clothing and accessories HUGO

All clothing and accessories HUGO

We all know London, Paris and Milan are Europe’s fashion frontiers, but strolling just a step behind in the shadows (or rather, preoccupied dancing in Berghain at 4pm on a Sunday), Berlin has always felt like an outlier to be observed; a cooler cousin who doesn’t care about your trends, actually, and probably tried, tested and topped them two seasons ago, dear. Since 1993, HUGO — part of the HUGO BOSS Group — has been tapping into the effortless style of its home country’s capital, dressing down the main line brand’s immaculate suiting with streetwear inflections.

After a quiet departure from the runway format at Berlin Fashion Week AW13, HUGO made a confident, even experimental return to the catwalk at Pitti Immagine Uomo for SS18. Helmed by Jenny Swank Krasteva overseeing womenswear, and Bart De Backer looking after the men’s looks, the line reaffirmed itself as covetable and commanding, with collectable branded twists. Keeping up with this year’s logomania love, amongst the tech-focused materials and melange of sport and formal silhouettes sits HUGO Reversed, HUGO’s mirror-image focused logo flip line for SS19.

Armed with an all-singing, all-dancing runway return and with every aspect of contemporary dressing covered, we caught up with menswear designer Bart de Backer to talk about his own individual twist on this season’s streetwear staples in the Reversed capsule.

All clothing and accessories HUGO

All clothing and accessories HUGO

Hey Bart! So, tell us, how did you first start working with HUGO BOSS and more specifically, HUGO?
I studied fashion in Antwerp and I worked for Ann Demeulemeester for four years. She’s one of the reasons I studied fashion, because when I was a young kid I saw a show from her and I was completely blown away. After that when I graduated I did some freelance work. The typical story of a designer! Then I found a job in the Netherlands with a very classic menswear brand, where I learned everything: the basics and the real craft of tailoring. Then I found a job at HUGO BOSS, I started working there for HUGO, I was responsible for suit jackets and after two years I became responsible for the HUGO menswear brand.

Now it’s very streetwear driven, streetwear inspired, but at that time it was all about innovative tailoring. We had super slim suits and started to mix tailoring with sportswear. HUGO started in the 90s and at that time it was all about the oversized, bigger shapes. There was a real connection with the street, although it was still very grounded in the HUGO BOSS world, this almost uber-manly world. Now we’re actually going back to the core. That’s also one of the reasons why we went back to Berlin as a design reference and for the SS19 show. If you think back 100 years ago, the Dadaism movement started there. Almost very political, but also very avant garde art movements happened there, and in the 70s David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, they recorded their most innovative albums there. So it’s a very interesting city. If you walk around the street you see so many strange personalities around, but what I find interesting is they experiment, that’s what the future of the brand should be, it’s about an individual person following their own path.

What do you like about being able to refer back to the 90s as a decade in particular?
I was thinking about it yesterday because I lived in the 90s, I started my fashion education then. The 90s for me was the period where – streetwear always existed, but streetwear was always a niche – streetwear became mainstream.

When you look at logomania at the moment, for me that’s a consequence of what happened in the last two decades in fashion. You have your high street stores, and they can do everything that is on the catwalks; how do luxury brands or premium brands differentiate? It came to a point where maybe a lot of brands thought the only thing now is actually to – I mean at this moment, because things will evolve again – put their logo on their clothes.

The reason that I turned around the logo for the HUGO Reversed, when the whole logomania started… I couldn’t imagine our customer walking around with just the logo but I found the visual aspect super interesting. So I thought, ‘Let’s just turn it around!’ Then you can’t really read it immediately, but it’s still a statement. It stands for the values of the brand again: looking at things differently. In 1995 we had a perfume campaign ‘Don’t Imitate, Innovate’, so it’s encouraging people to follow their own path, to do their own thing.

All clothing and accessories HUGO

All clothing and accessories HUGO

We know you’ve had people like M.I.A and Wiz Khalifa perform at your shows, as outspoken pop provocateurs, do you think they’re representative of HUGO’s ethos?
That’s the thing I like about them, they just follow their own thing. When I talk to M.I.A – and you don’t find this so often anymore – she’s very politically engaged and she really cares. That’s what I find interesting about these personalities we have affiliated with HUGO, they have strong opinions and are there to express that and use their medium to support their values, their stances on human rights and more. I like to work with people who have a story to tell.

People with something to say! And what’s the next step in establishing HUGO within this huge HUGO BOSS family and defining what HUGO is going to be?
There’s so many steps! We opened stores in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Singapore and Tokyo in the last six months. So the next step is focusing more on creating a stronger personality – a stronger brand message. When I think about people who wear the brand, I don’t want to say: ‘This is the outfit, just wear it.’ No, pick a piece and combine it how you want to, I even don’t mind if they customise it! We had a few shoots with Anwar Hadid and he loved a red belt bag. I gave it to him and he completely customised it, he put some white marks on it, and I kind of like that, when people buy something and make it their own. I want HUGO to become a brand that gives people the possibility to express themselves and add some of their personality.

Taken from the Winter 2018/19 issue; out now and available to buy here.

All clothing and accessories HUGO

All clothing and accessories HUGO
Photography
Finn Constantine
Fashion
Kamran Rajput
Grooming
Aga Dobosz at Carol Hayes Management using YSL Beauty
Model
Finn Hayton at Select Model Management
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