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Interview: Louis Wong of A.P.C.

February 27, 2013

You might not know the name Louis Wong, but you've definitely seen his work as the designer behind A.P.C., which has become a cultural identity and a cult as much as a brand of clothing. He's just a quiet, unassuming dude, which fits the French company's ethos of quiet, minimal clothing quite nicely—in fact, it's Wong's stylistic reserve that makes A.P.C. stand out in the noisy world of fashion. He's the kind of designer who will consider his time well spent fitting the perfect flannel and selecting the softest shearlings for the insides of suede boots rather than sprinting to keep up. Just last season, he struck out on his own and formed his own namesake brand, Louis W., under the A.P.C. family, and true to form, he's keeping it simple, focusing largely on leather and producing only seven pieces each season. We caught up with Wong at the Mercer Kitchen in New York to talk style, music, the shiny gold jacket he designed for Louis W, and just what makes A.P.C. the coolest brand in the world. Plus, check out pictures of the Louis W. spring 2013 line throughout.

Do you think A.P.C. embodies a particularly French way of dressing? It’s typical from the area where we are in the 6th Arrondissement—you have all these people who are almost aristocratic in their way of wearing clothes. It’s dressed up in a really low-key way. Low-key dressed up is a really beautiful code, but it’s not posh. It’s like dirty clothes, dirty trousers. You see it on young people, you see it on really old people. I really like that combination, and I think it's really A.P.C.. Beautiful shoes, maybe, but the coat is going to be really worn out. People don’t really like fashion, but they like to be really well-dressed. There’s a difference, you know?

What is it about A.P.C. that makes people go bananas? It’s practically a cult. Especially in America I’ve noticed, in New York people go really crazy—I think it started from the jeans. I think people like the idea that they can find dyed blue jeans and it’s not going to change every season. The fact that it’s the same is really important, especially because there’s so many people being different all the time, and at least at A.P.C., we don’t really follow [the trends]. We show looks, but we know that it’s just A.P.C.—we know it’s the beige coat, the jeans, the nice navy sweater, and you don’t think too hard about it. I think that’s the big quality, and I think that’s what people think about it. It's about making something slightly different—how can I tweak a garment just enough to keep it casual but to make it ours?

What are the three things every guy needs in his wardrobe? I would say Clarks desert boots— you can’t go wrong with Clarks desert boots—but not other brand desert boots. I think they are the perfect shoes. They don’t go out of fashion, and I love that. The beige ones go perfectly with jeans, and that’s really good. Good boxer shorts. Sunspel makes nice ones; they’re a British brand, and they do the most beautiful ones ever. And then a navy sweater. I’m going to go with A.P.C. on this one.

Tell me about Louis W., the offshoot line? The idea is that with [Louis W.], I can focus on a new concept. I thought it was funny to do only leather and focus on a new image. It was really important to have the boy who embodies the brand, and that’s something I really [embraced] from the start. The collection is small—seven pieces. In the leather universe, it’s something that speaks to me in the more real guy kind of way, even if they are models. It’s always a bit urban, I think.

Tell me about that gold jacket. My first question is: did it sell? Yeah. With girls mostly, but I knew it would be more popular with girls.

It’s so A.P.C. in a way, because even if it's shiny gold, it’s not flashy, like Versace or something. To be honest, at first I didn’t want to do one, but it was a really beautiful metallic quality from a really beautiful Italian factory with the most beautiful color. But metallic gold was obvious, and anything more subtle would be too subtle. It’s a really specific gold, like a light pink gold. It’s not like a Versace gold. I thought that made a slight difference, so that it’s not too over the top.

The bomber jacket seems to be the central idea behind the collection. I always think designers overdesign leather, and it’s always complicated with these mini-studs and this whole rock n’ roll thing going on. It kind of makes it cheap, I think. So I wanted to do the proper real leather gear you can see in vintage stores without [them being aged] and feeling filthy. At least for the first collection, I wanted to create the proper basic leather jacket of the perfect quality. Usually, they are really bulky jackets; we call them Bombardiers in French.

A.P.C. has gotten super popular with the streetwear crowd. Are you conscious of that when you’re designing? It’s funny that you mention it, because it’s kind of the new direction we’re going in, too. Now that we’ve really established ourselves in a Parisian style, [A.P.C. founder] Jean [Touitou] really likes hip-hop and things like that, so more and more we are going to that, and I adore all of the streetwear brands. I actually think they have to be American to be cool, but that’s why Paris is trying to be New York at the moment—it's because everyone likes Supreme, whether they are from LA or NY. I went to LA last year, and by the main stretch of Fairfax Avenue, all the stores around there I found beyond cool, because [the clothes they sell are] so basic. You just have T-shirts and nice caps and these funny objects. I think it’s really inspiring. The really cool direction of fashion is this. There’s not a whole lot of design to it, but it’s so strong and honest because it’s the young kids that like to wear it. It’s a direction I really like.

What’s been inspiring you lately? The music and hip-hop scene of the late ’70s, early ’80s. I don’t know if you know the photographer Jamel Shabazz, but I actually think our time reminds me of the late ’70s, when the young kids were really proud and dressed up and had this cool attitude. I think today is exactly the same, except there is more to the story. People like ASAP Rocky and this new scene coming up; Mykki Blanco, Le1f. It’s really inspiring. Also, what inspires me is that last year when I was here and at the Hudson Pier, someone told me to go to this vogueing session, and there were all these kids who were so dressed up. Not even like posh outfits—like ridiculous outfits, putting things together.

Does that mean we might see A.P.C. doing leggings for guys? Uh, probably not. But it’s still inspiring.

Interview: Louis Wong of A.P.C.