14 Apr Roman Handt’s Supernatural Marvel-Inspired SAFW S/S Collection
This year, on top of the usual glitz, glamour and general OTTism that is SA Fashion Week, another Marvel-lous spectacle took place on the ramp. Five up-and-coming designers from across the African continent assembled to showcase their fashion lines, completely inspired by Marvel’s iconic Avengers characters, including Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow and Thor, in celebration of the May release of the latest flick, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
While Roman Handt’s collection, entitled The Super (Natural), was by far the most extreme, extravagant and exciting of the Marvel competition, this was ironically nothing out of the ordinary for the avant-garde menswear designer. True to the world of super heroes and villains, Roman’s collection featured shiny metallics, masks, dramatic silhouettes and a dazzling colour palette of slime green, lumo yellow and toxic turquoise.
Of the collection, Roman had this to say: “The absurdity of the garments are intended to instruct us to tolerate the chaotic disorder of existence and to explore the notion of improvising life as we go along. This sort of freakish fashion invites people to examine the bizarre with a satanic sense of pleasure – a sort fashion therapy. It’s a humouristic demonstration against the current state of affairs, with preposterous proportions and monster-like clothing that eludes the laws of gravity. The wearer enters the realm of the supernatural by default, a part of our human evolution that is Super Natural.” We decided to speak to the designer to find more about the collection and his atypical approach to fashion design.
Can you please tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are now – how long has your label been going, and how have you developed and honed your design process and aesthetic over time?
I graduated from LISOF in 2000. I then spent close to 5 years abroad and worked in the fashion industry in Europe. On my return I decided to exclusively focus on menswear. I started designing under my own name in 2010. I realised very early on upon my return that the local industry was under threat from ‘imports’ and decided to focus on craftsmanship. This allowed for a totally different aesthetic, especially in local menswear.
Do your inspirations and references change with collections or do you have an ongoing creative muse?
We follow our motto: “Like man, ever evolving”. So our inspiration is always changing.
Do you have a defined idea of the Roman Handt man? Please tell us about this figure.
A fashion-forward person. Super aware of international trends. A trend setter, NOT follower. A sense of humour is a must! This person also experiments with their look on many complicated ‘fashion’ levels. They definitely communicate strong opinions and social commentary through what they wear.
What attracted you to the SAFW Marvel brief, and what inspirations did you draw from the iconic Avengers comic?
It’s something I hardly do – design according to a brief. It’s good to do projects like this once in a while to test your design scope. The concept of using alternative fabrics and disguising them as clothing turned out to be the main theme. It gave the garments a sort of ‘super-power’.
How did this show in your collection?
Hardly any of the fabrics in the range are traditional ‘clothing’ fabrics – most are ‘techno-textile’ (technology inspired textiles). We used acoustic crepes, outdoor foils, speaker cloth, industrial mesh etc. to create high resistance clothing.
Working with unusual materials and construction techniques as well as creating extreme silhouettes is not new to your design aesthetic. Please tell us a little about what appeals to you about the limits or avant-garde edge of fashion.
It’s a cat walk show and I like to entertain. It’s an extreme visual to help carry the concept I’m working with. I’m not dictating a look, but I rather suggest solutions to questions modern men have about their role/place in contemporary society. All the pieces are extremely wearable once the ‘catwalk’ look is stripped down to its fundamental garments. My looks should evoke conversation and also be remembered – otherwise it’s just design pollution.
How and where do you see your label fitting in (or not) to the South African fashion scene?
We promote confidence in the local fashion arena. If you are uninterested in fashion, our work will not make any sense.
Please tell us more about ‘guerrilla couture’ and your brand’s phrase ‘Like man – ever evolving’.
Guerrilla couture is a style of construction that allows each piece that we make to be unique, like couture, but we do not follow the rules of couture construction as they take too long and are far too expensive to produce. The phrase was coined in Berlin not too long ago. There is a movement to DOWN SCALE which makes it possible to make ‘one-off’ pieces for clients again. Mass production is frowned upon these days and has MANY NEGATIVE connotations. “Like man, ever evolving” is about referencing the future and making predictions instead of what’s ‘IN’ now or referencing historical or vintage clothing.
Is fashion art?
I would have stated with confidence a few years ago that IT IS NOT. Fashion has always been a craft to me, not art – but the boundaries are getting very blurred these days…
Do you translate your runway collections into ready-to-wear ranges? If so how, or if not, why?
There are garments that could be produced on mass if it had to happen, but I stay away from that completely. I choose not to compete on that level of the clothing industry – it’s insane for a small business to even think that they can compete with what is going on at the moment in retail. Deflation should be a huge wake-up call to anyone selling anything at the moment.
VIDEO – I can say no more for now 😉
All photos by Planetivan
Watch the runway video for The Super (Natural) collection