Scott Sternberg’s L.A.-based men’s and women’s clothing label, Band of Outsiders, was once a darling of the Hollywood cool crowd, favorited by fashion editors, stylists, and even Michelle Obama. Launched in 2004 by Sternberg, a former CAA agent, the brand experienced a fast rise over the course of a decade and abruptly shuttered last year after failing to pay its debts. Tonight, a new Band was born when three young graduates of Antwerp’s famed Royal Academy of Fine Arts - Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel, and Florian Feder - staged a comeback show as part of New York Fashion Week.
“It’s a delicate thing, re-envisioning an American brand with so much heritage, and a lot of designers probably wouldn’t say yes to it,” Hodel, 32, said a day earlier as he and his cohorts previewed the collection in a studio on West 29th Street. “There’s a lot of pressure and responsibility. We wanted to do this because it’s such an outsider task to do this, which very much reflects our careers.”
Weber, Hodel and Feder met at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where they were they might have described themselves as their own sort of band of outsiders. “We were three straight guys in fashion school,” said Feder, 34. “We definitely stood out.” Weber, 34, added, “We all loved cars and football—European football, that is. You could say it was love at first sight.”
From there, they went on to launch a men’s shoe line in 2012 called WHF and have all had stints working at major labels, like Dries Van Noten, H&M, and Louis Vuitton.
“People say three is a difficult amount to work with, but it isn’t,” said Hodel of their working dynamic. “Being Swiss, I love the idea that if there is one who doesn’t agree, two agree and you can discuss with the majority. Working on our shoe brand was a good learning process for this and now everything just works.”
From the minute they started on Band at the end of last year, the three have been careful to avoid following the creative path Sternberg had laid out with the brand’s previous collections. “We still work with American inspiration, but the idea of proportion and fit doesn’t reflect our aesthetic so we felt like we had to change it in order to have credibility,” said Hodel. “We thought it was best not to try and imitate someone’s work. He worked for 12 years on this brand so we can’t take that away from him and we have to make it something different.” The guys have never even met or talked to Sternberg.
Two things, however, remained the same from the old Band, the brand name and the city Los Angeles as a core inspiration. (Backing comes from CLCC, a Belgian fashion fund backed by Belgian shipping magnate Christian Cigrang).
Every other month since signing on to the project, the three made trips to Los Angeles to go through the brand’s archives and soak up the L.A. attitude. Having grown up idolizing '90s, American streetwear and skate culture from afar, their approach has a nostalgic bent to it. “From early on, we were in love with American streetwear,” said Hodel, with Feder citing the heyday of Tommy Hilfiger as a big reference point.
The collection of 32 looks that hit the runway Saturday night was a mix of Americana, collegiate-inspired workwear and sportswear pieces for men and women – letterman jackets, flyaway pants, and reworked sports jerseys and plaid shirts in luxe materials sourced from around the globe.
“Comfort and quality was for sure the main starting point,” said Weber, noting that the price points will be similar to the old Band (around $150 to 400). “We wanted to think about what we or our friends would like to wear. Very sporty-tough.”
The casting, too, was a large focal point for their debut show. They selected a mix of models with widely varying looks, hoping to reflect their own band of outsiders. “Imagine it like a breakfast club of today, a group of people who could end up being thrown in a class together,” said Hodel. “There is no type in this cast, every character is on its own. We started making up stories yesterday about them— the quarterback making out with this girl, the shy guy...Together as a group, they are the band of outsiders.”
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