Conner Ives: Fashion’s Newest Prodigy
Isaac Perez Solano,
When I was digging into the world of Conner Ives, I came across some quotes about him made by one of his closest friends, the model Josephine Sidhu. She said: “ There’s an appreciation for the other person, that’s what makes him and what he does even more incredible to me.” There’s an easily candid nature that Ives poses in person and it translates to his work. Or as Sidhu put it, “He doesn’t overcomplicate, it’s direct and beautiful. The world he creates is dreamy and surreal, I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
I’m not going to start this interview with a question mentioning your experience pre and after the MET ball, seeing your work on Rihanna or trying to dig into your current life as student in Central Saint Martins. Maybe you can undress your feelings a little bit, what else is happening right now in your life?
There is a lot happening in my life right now! I’ve said a lot it and think those experiences definitely changed the amount of work had outside of school and the demand, but other than that to much has changed. I say this quite regularly, but I compare the way that I work now to even how I was when I was 16 because I’ve really always done this (make clothes). But now I’m trying to keep my head a bit, and slow down. I’m focusing on being a student, and not trying to go too fast. But always stay curious and busy.
How do you manage to articulate your thoughts and translating them into pieces of work?
I just do it! Not a very satisfying answer I know, but I’ve really always struggled to answer the question of how or why because I can’t imagine a life where I don’t do what I do in some way. I feel that that notion applies to every aspect of my life also because I think of many things in the same way. The way I work, for example, is very similar to the way I lead my life. The two become quite entangled, and couldn’t really think of a time that I’m not working and I love that. It doesn’t feel as if its work so I’m lucky for that but I’m constantly thinking about it, or shopping for pieces, or planning new looks. I’m quite consumed by it.
You are at the nest point in your life when the spirit is armed with ideas and it’s ready to use its power to agitate people. How do you manage to separate yourself from the constant gurgling of references to create with such individualism?
I really try not to be afraid of referencing. A lot of my work really focuses on the appreciation and display of alters-existing objects. So I like to think of everything as relative. While these are my designs, they come from pieces that were previously designed by someone else; and I try to honor that. I love that sentiment, and think it relates to my appreciation of hand-worked clothes.
What’s the greatest thing about being in your 20’s?
Everyone envying you for being in your 20’s. Being desired?
Is there any difference in being 21 in New York and being 21 in London?
I’ve realized that there is quite a binding relation in being 21, so I don’t really think it matters where you are. I loved the energy in London, and it’s why I moved here, but lately have been feeling that way equally about New York. We’re all excited as well as tired of the way things are. Eager.
I remember thinking that you look like a [Jean] Cocteau painting, but with modern edge, especially while watching the SHOWstudio panel. Considering two extremes: John Galliano and Martin Margiela; how important is, for a designer, to create its own character?
I would say I probably relate more to the latter but can respect them both for different reasons. Margiela was quite smart to do what he did, because it gave him something that you lose with success and cannot buy either. I would say anonymity isomer desirable than the attention. While I haven’t had nearly as much, even I feel overwhelmed at times with the attention that the work has attracted and I definitely try to keep a private life. I think more than anything it’s attractive as well, to make people wonder. To be desired!
You are from Bedford, New York; and now, you’re living in London. So, I’m keeping things with an air from this side of the Atlantic and taking the words of writer Ali Smith: What’s the point of art, of any art, if it doesn’t let us see with a little bit of objectivity where we are?
I totally agree with this. I feel like what I do is so referential to parts of my life living in certain places; and am equally inspired by my childhood in upstate New York as I am currently at St. Martins and in London. I really love the duality of it, and how different they are in comparison. They inform me equally, but for such different reasons. I see my upbringing as this romanticized viewed lens of a perfect childhood, surrounded by nature. London has been much more a struggle than a romance, but for all the best reasons. London was the first time on my life I was forced to grow up.
It’s crazy because our actions can make us followers or leaders, according to the politics of the world. What do you think about these two boxes?
I guess would consider myself both? It’s a weird answer, and I think many would claim to be the latter. Or would assume that would claim to be a leader. The truth is I’ve learned a lot watching other people mess things up. I think of that as the trait of a follower. But I’ve learned from those mishaps, and try to take everything as and experience to learn, even if I’m not directly affected by it. However, I’m quite independent, and enjoy being seldom.
I think it’s almost a part of the job now, because most of the time I’m working on something, and get consumed by it, as I’ve explained before. You’ll blink and 3 days have gone by and you feel like your back is permanently hunched; but I never question if it’s worth it or if I’m missing out on something. I probably am.
You said once that your use of recycling is a really natural reaction to that dissatisfaction and wanting to change how fashion works. What else do you believe in to conquer your dreams in good terms?
I could explain most of my dreams now as wanting to make a body of work that speaks for itself. Something that is truly beautiful to me. I think it is with the themes that I’ve touched on here; but another dream of mine would be to disappear, or have the ability to. And just leave the work. I think I get more preoccupied by myself and my own image now than I do the work. It’s funny how that works, but I feel even lately that I strive towards that, and have been reaping the rewards. Furthermore, my eternal dream is to create work that is honest, inspired and wholeheartedly me, and I feel that I can confidently say that I’ve accomplished that. It’s only the beginning of it, and I want to push it much further, but I like the trajectory I am on. I feel no expectations and try not to put myself under too much stress, just enough. Dreams would be to stay busy and stay happy.
And now for the banal, but not least important: you have previously highlighted that you don’t like the M word (M for MUSE), but is it the same with the concept of innovator? If so or not, do you have a theory about it?
I think I only said that because I’ve grown tired of the word, not the concept. I’m surrounded 24/7 by people that inspire me and challenge me. Whether it’s a model, my classmate, a friend. They all blend into one for me, and so many of my collaborators will be both models, friends and classmates. I think all of these are just buzzwords, that in my opinion are overused in modern fashion critique.
And what about beauty pageants? Have you ever been inspired in the designs shown in the Miss Universe Competition, for example?
Yes! I love beauty pageants; the pomp and circumstance of it all. There’s so much to a parent that people overlook. Those girls most of the time are wicked smart, and can probably also ride a unicycle and speak 5 languages. I like anything carrying passion, it is something that girls strive for and want, and will often win in glorious ways. I love things that others reject as frivolous, or out of touch. I think they fail to see the real beauty in it; the human spirit of that isn’t too cliché.
Do you think a young designer should have this in mind to navigate in the deep waters of the fashion industry?
I guess I can never say no, because context is everything. So much of what has happened to me so far I could have never imagined myself so it’s hard to picture what I will and will not do. But I think even now, I’m weary and quite selective of the projects I take on. I’m still so young and, as I’ve said before, most of what I do is done by me; that there is a physical limit to what can accomplish to the level I would like.
I’m only 21, I’m trying to slow down. Do things I truly and honestly care about. I have plenty of time. And I plan to be here for a while.
Do you have any idols?
Yes! I have many. Most of my answers you’ve probably heard before but my parents are huge inspirations to me. I could never remember a thing that they didn’t support me doing, and I’m eternally grateful for that. And I share this with them so much, and they influence much of it because it’s all based on memories of childhood or family heirlooms.
I always remember my dad telling me about his heroes when I was a kid, and them being so diverse; ranging from Amelia Earhart to Malcolm X but all being chosen for specific reasons.
He always seemed so wise and intellectual to me, now and when I was a child so I really value that relationship.
My mother too, taught me so much about style and taste and sophistication that really feel that most of my choices to this day are probably informed by her still.
Have you met any of them? How was the experience? (if the idol was or is alive)
I got to drink G&T’s with Tim Walker in a tent at a festival in Cornwall. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. He is magnificent.
Have you done anything to belong?
Everyone has done something to belong. There’s comfort in it; and it’s a very human tendency. But I try now, to never sacrifice myself in the process.
Isaac Perez Solano
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