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Since its inception three years ago, Colmar A.G.E. has invited international creative forces to reinterpret the Monza-founded fashion and lifestyle brand’s archives. Following the A.G.Es of Shayne Oliver and White Mountaineering, Colmar appointed Iranian designer Morteza Vaseghi as the creative director. Made against the backdrop of the pandemic, this unisex, conscious capsule collection provides the uniform as we work towards a brighter tomorrow. Are you ready for the A.G.E. of Morteza Vaseghi?
An internationally acclaimed designer, Morteza Vaseghi is best known for his publishing projects Recens Paper and Wallet that he co-founded with editor Elise By Olsen. Here, as he translates his fascination with conceptual thinking from the printed page to the human body, the Tehran-born, London-schooled and Oslo-based talent applies a laboratory approach to his fashion practice. Under his creative direction, Colmar A.G.E. introduces futuristic organic forms that could translate an advanced vision of the holistic co-existence between humankind and nature.
Throughout the collection, abstract forms and shapes are extracted from the mountains of Cortina d’Ampezzo and customized with a contemporary style through rich color schemes, futuristic silhouettes and technical materials. As the collection launches at LN-CC and we share the campaign visuals, Morteza talks us through his well-crafted, much-needed narrative of technological innovation, historical admiration and desire.
Ciao Morteza, how are you?
I'm good, how are you?
Really well. Thank you so much for taking the time out ahead of the launch to chat with us. To kickstart this conversation, could you take us back to the dawn of the A.G.E. of Morteza Vaseghi?
Firstly, this project has largely followed the pandemic. I remember returning from one of our early pitch meetings with Colmar and it was January just before the pandemic hit. After returning to Oslo, 10 to 15 days later, the world turned upside-down.
So you worked on this collection against a backdrop of an ever-changing ‘new normal’.
Exactly. The process we had discussed just couldn't be followed. I was supposed to spend time there, visit the factory, but so much of it was moved online. After the first couple of months of shock, we began to adjust. The entire team just found a way to move forward.
Now, most people will know and love your work within publishing. How did you begin to translate your fascination with conceptual thinking from the printed page to dressing the human body?
I come from a background immersed in a culture of clothes and fashion. I was brought up polishing my shoes every.very Friday with my father and my mom taught me to take care of clothing early on too. The whole notion of if you buy good clothes, you take care of your clothes and they will last your lifetime. On top of that, my mom truly loved fashion, I grew up flicking through Vogue in the toilet.
So it's nurture, through a process of osmosis, it was bound to be in you.
Yeah. I think my mom is really proud of me. Then of course, my publishing work and my design work for the last nine years has focussed on the culture sector, mainly within fashion. I've been involved in the industry, consulting for brands and have spent the last few years thinking about creating more advanced merch, it was always the playground. When this opportunity came up, I took it and pitched the whole collection, integrated the archive and added my own narrative, and they loved it.
Would you say this collection has been a natural stage in your creative evolution?
For me, this entire process has felt like returning home. It truly feels as if I'm where I belong, despite not coming from a maison background.
Well, we've both been in the industry for long enough now to see how fluid the roles are now. Roles are not as set as they once were.
I really like that fluidity. For me, it has been a smooth transition. It has been a very natural way to come here. I know there's mixed feelings about people coming from different backgrounds, from different disciplines, but I've always believed that if you're a creative designer, or an artist, you can cross disciplines, as long as you treat it humbly. As long as there is a certain skill set and you have the ability to communicate your vision with people who possess certain skill sets you don't, then you can still produce work within different fields.
What was the starting point from a design point of view?
Colmar had a target audience and shared the key reference points of mountains, hiking and of course, the archive. For me, mountains were an important grounding because it's Colmar's territory and they became a symbol too. I checked into the archives and the Colmar team were so generous in sharing everything they had. This company started before World War II making gaitors, so I had to make one for sure and then we began exploring other elements. For me, it was about creating a storyline and managing the narrative.
Throughout the collection, there’s a dialogue between and coexistence of, humankind and nature? To what extent did the pandemic influence you?
There was a little doubt. From agreeing to and pitching this project, the pandemic altered plans. I tried to envision a post-pandemic future. For me, there were parallels to previous crises, and the hippie movement that came after. Prior to the pandemic, performance clothing was so technical and militant. I just thought, 'after we make it through this crisis, we're going to go out on the other side wanting something softer and closer to nature'. It was about creating a softer, more conscious futurism. There's a term used in the industry now, space hippie, that works.
In your previous answer you mentioned creating a storyline, what was the narrative?
When I was pitching the collection, I imagined a movie. We have a climber or hiker who is supposed to face this mountain – a challenge in life as a metaphor – through the journey of reaching the peak and coming back. What would that person wear in my fantasy world, according to all the parameters from Colmar. So the clothes are designed through different stages of the hike.
The collection’s contextual point of reference borrows elements from the mountains of Cortina d’Ampezzo, was this a personal attachment or more of a Colmar association?
It's one of the most famous mountains and Colmar have close ties. During my research, I talked with the team over there but I instantly fell in love with the visuals. So, we went there for the campaign and everything just came together.
What would you say you are most proud of?
I'm really proud of what we managed to do given the circumstances. I think the team's adaptability has been powerful. It's about the human connection and the way that we managed not just the design part, but the campaign, the production. In regards to the collection, I'm really happy. I feel like a kid at a candy store when I look at the collection. Of course, there are.
What has it revealed to you about your creative approach?
It has brought everything together. Earlier in my career I found it difficult to to focus on one discipline because I've always had different interest and at times, I've came across as a jack of all trades and master of none. Within this role as a creative director, I see how a previously negative thing can be a positive. As a creative director, this understanding of the holistic picture has been useful. I've really loved the whole process, from pitching to designing, to the production to the campaign and retail positioning, So I think this has been an affirmation, it's been the right move, if that makes sense.
Lastly, beyond product, what do you hope people take away from your A.G.E as it were?
Positivity about the future. The future is not doomed. Yes, we have huge challenges from the climate crisis to race issues and unfair working situations, but I think collectively, if we all focus, there can be a positive future.
Borrowing your mountain metaphor, working together as a collective we can all climb that mountain.
Look, there's no doubt that there's tough times. If we come together and work towards a better future. I think we can overcome almost anything. Humanity has recovered many other different challenges in the past.