To call Patrik Ervell a fashion designer is a bit of a misnomer. Fashion is transient, ephemeral, a fleeting whim that Oscar Wilde once described as “a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” Fashion is unsympathetic; it disregards the needs of the wearer and has no interest in practicality or appropriateness. Its constant change, obligatory and arbitrary, leads not to better clothes, but just more of them, ready to be consumed and disposed of by the end of the coming season. Yes, Ervell designs clothes and he shows them every six months, but his is a slow and steady method. He doesn’t need to redirect his fascinations so often because he would never dare suggest anything so irresponsible to begin with. The motivation for Ervell is not some spectacular novelty—no trends, no gimmicks. He deals instead in solutions. “How does the garment work?” he might ask. “How does it better one’s life?” This I am sure he has often pondered. He subtly tweaks his repertoire of modern classics: styles borrowed from work wear, military uniforms, tactical gear, and other high-performance garments. He takes their matter-of-factness, their pragmatism, and imbues them with a contemporary elegance. His philosophy of dress, built around the idea of elevating the necessities of life to the heights of luxury, has remained roughly the same since his debut as a designer nearly ten years ago. In the end it’s about problem solving and, in this sense, Ervell is not so much a fashion designer as an industrial designer who happens to make clothes.
One of Ervell’s signatures is his adaptation of technical fabrics, often sourced from military and scientific origins. He allows their pure innovation and explicit modern appeal to displace fashionable clichés like “fur” or “cashmere.” It’s an ongoing conversation in his collections that has reached a poignant development in his partnership with Maharam. Just as he has been keen to source military nylons and reflective metallics used by NASA, he has taken to interior textiles—fabrics that not only need to perform but also must please the senses. They are designed and they are engineered. They must keep through the wear and tear of daily living and, most importantly, they must not go out of fashion. In fact, they stand immune to it. These are materials made to last in every way.
The intricacies of developing such textiles is as nuanced as the work of the finest mills in Lyon, France, where rich silk brocades are woven for Parisian haute couture. Ervell put this quality to use, applying an array of equally exquisite textiles to classic pieces—a raincoat, a blouson jacket, a varsity—each refined with the lines of brutalist architecture as inspiration and distilled to their most essential form, the better to let the fabrics shine. A coat in what Maharam calls Mimic, an antimicrobial polyester-backed polyurethane, was resplendent in its engineering, its sheen looking every bit as luxurious as a double-faced silk. Perhaps more obviously sumptuous was Mohair Extreme. As the name suggests, it’s a mohair textile with a fuzzy pile construction, an alluring alternative to a plush velvet and probably a lot warmer. Ervell showed it in a camel color; classic and unassuming, it was as rich as any mink. The modernism of these pieces was not compromised by the rest of the collection. Ervell showcased mock neck knit tops, not unlike the kind made by Under Armour but rendered to make sense for everyday use. Pants and sleeves utilized elastic cuffs, a functional detail adapted from sports clothes but useful for keeping out the cold. Ervell executed the detail with delicacy that allowed it to go from embarrassingly casual to exquisitely formal. It’s the evolution of Ervell’s modern uniform, the look of progress and of the future.
The thing with Ervell’s clothes is that the collections he designed at the onset of his career look as right today as his most recent designs. They age well and for all clothes, not just the fashionable ones, this is incredibly rare. This trait was amplified this season by the incorporation of interior textiles and it underscores Ervell’s sense of savoir faire; this is the effort of designer who is truly trying do the right thing. In a world where a whole paradigm can shift with the click of the mouse, where attentions and allegiances are easily dropped and dismissed, a sense of permanence and longevity can be infinitely inviting. It’s hard to find. In fact, you could call it a luxury—a modern one that Ervell has cultivated in spades.
Jeremy Lewis is the editor and founder of Garmento zine and a contibutor to vice.com, i-D digital, Encens, and Fantastic Man.
Images: Art direction by Lucas Lefler and photography by Richie Talboy.