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Interview: Alexandre Plokhov

Alexandre Plokhov offsets the end of experimentation with traditional hard work.

Alexandre Plokhov is wearing all black, with oddly tailored pants, an off-kilter leather vest and a Danzig hooded sweatshirt. It is likely he is the weirdest dresser to own a cashmere Versace suit, given to him as a gift when he was menswear consultant at the Italian fashion house. Before Versace, he was one-half of the game-changing duo Cloak, creating, with Robert Geller, beautifully draped men’s clothing of soft leather and stiff denim until disbanding in 2007. A Russian emigrant who’s long lived in New York, Plokhov is back with his own eponymous line and it is really pretty, with emphasis on long-lasting fabrics, symbolic tweaks on old classics and, for the first time, womenswear pieces. A music freak, his latest collection is inspired by Sisters of Mercy’s singer Andrew Eldritch, and it is reassuringly almost entirely lacking in color.

Why do you design almost only in black? You live in New York, and to me that’s how people dress—I’m not saying I’ll never use color, just not right now. Especially after Versace, it’s nice to do what you’re comfortable with.

Black doesn’t connote danger anymore? You have to get over that! I think we live in a time when there’s almost no rebellion, and there’s no shock, so it’s a kind of post-everything society.

Do you consider your work avant-garde? I don’t consider my work avant-garde in any way, shape or form, because I think there is no avant-garde anymore.

That’s disheartening. I think we have the internet to blame for all of this. I mean, I think the whole idea of avant-garde was because you had to step out of your comfort zone and out of the realm of your peers to find something out. It’s way too easy right now—everything is accessible. Albums lasted longer. Trends lasted longer. Now everything is measured in weeks. I don’t want to be pessimistic, I just don’t see how anybody can continue to be an avant-garde designer.

How do you counteract that when you’re designing? I just think of the things that make me interested in continuing to do the things I’m doing—like a new cut of the blazer, or a new fabric development. I was not trying to push anything, really, but on the other hand, it’s time for preppy to die. I mean it will never die, obviously, but just let it go—let Hilfiger do it. He’s very good at it. I mean, it’s like seriously, why would a younger designer now do preppy? Like short trousers with a swanky jacket—where’s the cool in that?

The cool that you’re interested in seems more like a music cool than a fashion cool. Music is lasting, fashion is not. Fashion is very cyclical and fashion is so fast that every six months, you need to create something new. Obviously with musicians every record has to be something new, but the great records last forever.

So does a great suit, or a great shirt. A great bespoke suit does, because it’s actually meant to last 10 years, and if it doesn’t then it’s not a great bespoke suit. I do have seasons and we have to deliver to stores, which is the business of fashion, but I think the reason that some of the Cloak pieces are still relevant, and hopefully my new collection will be relevant, is it’s not necessarily trying to follow the trend, it’s just trying to build the ultimate wardrobe piece by piece. So from this collection, you choose one thing. It’s the great leather jacket or the great blazer or the great pair of trousers. To me, that’s how men dress. They don’t change everything every six months.

That’s so practical. Fashion is really not about fashion shows at all—it’s about hardcore logistical things. Fabric needs to come on time, then they need to cut it, then they need to make it, then we need to ship it, then the store needs to pay, blah blah blah. That’s really 90 percent of your life. Because fashion shows are these fantasticephemeral things that disappear in seven to 12 minutes. But before that, you’re creating, you’re making patterns, you’re fitting, you’re choosing fabrics. It’s not really about making beautiful sketches—I mean, it helps. But it’s not really about that.

Interview: Alexandre Plokhov