Australian designer Justin Cassin is more than a menswear designer, he’s created a multi-functional menswear lifestyle brand that fuses streetwear aesthetics with classic menswear looks.
Last year, we interviewed Cassin before his successful onsite show. This year for MBFWA, he promised an event that was going to be more than your standard runway show. With multiple musical acts and over 2,000 invited guests, the Luna Park event promised to be a spectacle the likes of which had never been seen in MBFWA history.
However, the show over-promised and under-delivered in regards to the hype. Subsequently, many fans and fashionistas left angry and confused.
Firstly, we spoke to Cassin ahead of his daring MBFWA runway show to learn more about the collection, then again in the days after the show to hear his side of the story on exactly what happened that night.
Congratulations on returning to MBFWA for a third year in 2019! What can we expect from this year’s collection?
If I can only use two words to describe the Resort 2020 Collection, I would pick balance and inclusiveness. It is definitely my favourite Resort collection thus far.
In terms of balance, we can see the comprehensive range of colours which were featured in Resort 2019 but we also see the return of more distinct shapes and fabrics especially evident through the outerwear and the different layering possibilities which were dominant themes in Resort 2018.
The idea of inclusiveness comes from the extensive range of influences I was able to draw from when I designed this collection. At the time, I was working predominately in Singapore and the Hong Kong office and just like Australia and New Zealand, these two countries are so multi-cultural which I absolutely love so the aesthetic for this collection will fit and I believe attract a much broader demographic — it features a very city and metro visual to everyday smart-casual with the signature relaxed sophisticated minimalism of the brand.
Word on the street says this might be the biggest show in MBFWA history with over 2,000 attendees. What do you want the show’s attendees to come away feeling?
Amazement. Surprise. Loss of words! I want everyone to leave being taken aback by how different the show is. With the music and dance in addition to the actual runway presentation, it is intended to be a whole sensory experience and I want to make sure that it is not your standard runway presentation that goes for just fifteen to twenty minutes. I also want to make this into a huge show and leave a deep impression especially because the label is receiving a lot of attention and love overseas. So my team and I will be focusing on further expansions back home in the United States and Asia for a while.
In the great words of Anna Wintour, fashion is about change and evolvement and she is not just talking about the clothes, but everything about a label, from its delivery to the contemporary e-commerce experience. I absolutely cannot agree more, and I take this quote very dearly to my heart. This year, I wanted to try something completely different by extending the show invitations to not only individuals in the industry like buyers, editors, reporters but also design students and especially the label’s past consumers. I design for consumers, so I feel that it is important and only fair they get to have access to the show as well. In life, I strongly believe in inclusiveness and equality and I want my label to reflect this.
You have five celebrity runway models this year. What do you think they add to the show?
I never want my brand or my designs to be exclusive to a specific demographic and that is why I don’t believe in having exclusively male models in my runway shows because when I design, I don’t think about how it will look like on a high fashion model but individuals from all walks of life. By having them join us this year with their different images, appearances and body types, we are able to efficiently send a message that my clothes are not about being exclusive but inclusive; so as long as you like the clothes and you feel good in them, you should be able to have access and wear them!
Where do you go for inspiration when working on a new collection?
Each collection is different because I aim to tell a different story through each and every single one. Sometimes it could be films and music of a certain culture and sometimes it may be the history but at the end of the day, the main sources of inspiration behind every single collection are my personal travels and life experiences at that point in time. The perfect example would be the Resort 2018 Collection which was a lot darker because it was reflective of the years of studies and hard work to get to that stage of being able to show in fashion week.
Do you have any designer heroes?
Any designers who are always curious, innovative, aiming to evolve and not restricted by traditional labels.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be?
Hugh Jackman and Ezra Miller.
How important is sustainability to you in the new eco-conscious climate?
It is very high on the priority list and something I feel very strongly about. For example, during the sampling and production process, I always participate in every single trip and do my own research into the raw materials and fabrics and speak with our quality and assurance managers about relevant issues such as chemical dyes and coatings.
Another very important sustainability issue is the idea of ‘fast-fashion’. As I have been telling my friends who are not in the fashion industry for a very long time, move on from ‘fast-fashion’ and invest some good money into high-quality pieces that will compliment you for a very long time.
What don’t you leave the house without?
It depends on where I am! I tend to be in Sydney during the summer months, so I never leave my apartment here without my absolute favourite pair of sunglasses at the time and right now it is LeSpecs. No matter where I am though, I will never leave the house without my iPhone; I’m always on the run but I need it in order to regularly check my emails otherwise I will get into trouble with my own staff again.
The second part of the interview took place after the Resort 2020 show. While Cassin’s collection was flawless, the show’s schedule and production left some in the industry feeling less than satisfied. We wanted him to share his side of the story.
We were backstage and able to see the models and collection up close, everything looked amazing and the details in the collection are flawless. What was your inspiration behind the collection?
I was living predominately in Asia when I was working on this collection. The fast pace of the Asian cities definitely influenced me quite heavily and the idea of a sophisticated colour palette to let you travel seamlessly from work to personal gatherings — colours that allow you to stand out with confidence without being loud and bright. By including and having more of these colours, the overall mood of this collection is definitely quite fun and young yet at the same time urbane and cultured. It’s a tricky balance which the label is known for.
We applaud you for planning such an ambitious show; it’s always inspiring to see people striving for more radical progression. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite hit the mark and there are reports of attendees feeling disenchanted with the experience. Where do you think the disconnect between concept and the delivery happened?
As opposed to saying it was a disconnection between concept and delivery, I think it’s more of a disconnect between the individuals behind these reports to the contemporary fashion industry.
Designers all around the globe are being innovative and taking different approaches when it comes to fashion week; for example, some are no longer following the traditional fashion week calendar while others are choosing to showcase their designs in more experimental locations.
All the sensory activations from the music performances to the dances — they represent what my brand stands for which is being inclusive and fun. I never want to make the mistake of taking myself or life too seriously. My worst nightmare is actually when people come to my show and they leave without feeling anything at all. Even if it is a feeling of confusion, I want to make people feel.
It was also a show dedicated to my consumers and I want to give them a worthwhile show whilst understanding the brand values instead of repeating the standard fashion week formula which I’ve already done in Australia and overseas. I was so honoured to have Ivan Bart, the Global President of IMG Models, join us again this year and he is one of the forefront figures when it comes to truly understanding and shaping the fashion industry and he absolutely loved it! He called it a “consumer-facing fashion storytelling” event and I cannot word it better myself.
It is important to be open-minded and acknowledge that the global fashion scene is rapidly changing, and this is evident in not just clothing but how designers are choosing to present their work. I do believe that it is important to encourage and appreciate anyone trying to do something different and leave a mark in such a competitive industry.
What can we expect moving forward with the Justin Cassin brand?
We are now moving into the three-year mark of the label and I would definitely say we are ahead of schedule in terms of what I had envisioned when I first started the label in 2017. I am incredibly grateful, but I also have no plans of slowing down. If anything, I am feeling more inspired and motivated than ever because of all the love and attention we are receiving.
In the next twenty-four months, the label will be solely focusing on its growth and expansion in the United States and Asia. Last year, the label expanded into China with online stockists and opening the China International Fashion Week. In the second half of this year, the label will be stocked with Robinsons in Singapore and we will be doing an exclusive runway launch event and then followed by something special in the United States early next year.
View the full Resort 2020 collection from Australian designer Justin Cassin in the gallery above.