Excerpts from a conversation with designer Michel Berandi and Sartorialoft's David Choi for Scoute magazine.
Michel Berandi is a designer who does not adhere to the conventional. His works appear to be products of a fantastic lucid dream. This may be the singular reason his line sold out in a shop when Cirque du Soleil had encountered his work. His emotionally charged and refined designs are tempered by an intuition that has been honed by years of experience in the industry. Though he is uncompromising in his approach to design, he understands the need for accessibility. This is the ideal that gave birth to the MB999 line, which is available in addition to his more aggressive main line.
Michel is one of the few individuals that gives freely of himself. Whether it be his spirit poured into his design concepts or his soul for an interview. So to transgress from the norm, I think in this case, getting familiar with the man would grant greater insight into his work than simply meeting the designer's persona. Welcome to a conversation with Michel Berandi.
Michel. How is it that you perceive humanity?
Nature's weakest species of animal, yet one which wields the most force. A breed whose instincts have been displaced by intellect and whose intellect is totally devoid of intelligence. A mass of contradiction.
So do you feel we are progressing or regressing as a whole?
The world has progressed technically and scientifically with enchanting speed, also we live in the most peaceful and most prosperous time in the history of mankind and yet people are more intrinsically unhappy than they ever have been. We have more personal liberty than we have ever had in the entire history of the world, to an almost absurd degree, and most people are still feeling the influence of oppression and tyranny. I wonder what conditions these people would have to have in order to feel that they've true liberty. I don't understand it. I think it was in the 1950's, Charles Darwin grandson, Charles Galton Darwin, wrote a book entitled "The Next Million Years." Essentially he said that this is the best that it's ever going to get and the only way that it could go was down. There's going to be over-population with apocalyptic results and that you better enjoy this period of peace and prosperity while you can, because it won't last forever. Just look at the numbers, with the numbers of human beings, logistically, it just can't continue in this direction.
That's pretty bleak. Haha. Didn't know you embraced the old Malthusian logic. Well, given the current geoeconomic situation. What role do you feel fashion plays on the global stage and what is its impact?
I think that fashion has severed into two distinctive classes just as the eco-social classes have. There are more and more poor people, who are by priority oblivious to fashion design and for decent reason, but whose freedom of choice to consume is more and more controlled not only by the money in their wallets but mostly by their primal social environments. There‘s enough in the market for people of both classes to truly express who they’re as human beings, but they just don’t. Then you have the social elites who also are controlled and manipulated by its social environment even though they have the money to freely express their individuality. People need to feel loved and accepted, rich or poor, so their consumerism is fuelled by social-status quo label-dictatorship or existential void and lack of passion. Anyway, my point being that having cash or not doesn't necessarily make you someone with great style or someone interesting to look at.
What are some key experiences in your life that had shaped your point of view as a designer?
The Damned’s gig in London circa 1978/79. My first screening of Alejandro’s Jodorosky’s The Holy Mountain and Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour. Those provided compelling wallpaper for the mind, but my deepest key experiences are mostly literary. Aldous Huxsley for precision, Allen Ginsberg for flow, William Blake for beauty, Ed Sanders for smartness & coolness, Anthony Burgess for linguistic joy, Fredrich Nietzsche for historical vision and Frank Zappa for weirdness. Issac Asimov and the Marquis de Sade remain perhaps my favorites overall. But what I like most is journalism, especially when it involves science and engineering. I also like incendiary political writings and propaganda. I like religious fanaticism. I like encyclopedias, dictionaries and almanacs. I hate comics. I hate dirty writing. I hate any writing associated with Rock Music. I like newspapers and magazines and advertising. I love the sound of people talking, because they actually sing-and essentially in a strange way that has become the main poetic source of my designing works.
I like the way you think. What is it you turn to when seeking inspiration?
Going to the zoo and observing animals and insects. Exploring flower shops as well. Books on art and architecture and human anatomy. Music of course. So many creative ideas can take shape from those experiences. Sometimes ideas, at least the decent ones, don't show up at all, I then escape in the company of good friends to enjoy great food and wines. Previously in fashion there has been Hitlerian Nouveau and Stalinist Deco but I don’t think there has been a sincere styling understanding of the greatest iconography of the modern age. There has been no true mix of the occult and science. That art has either lacked viable social purpose or has existed in only one dimension for one particular cause. The Michel Berandi label has generated some heat due to that integration but ultimately people are opting for safer forms of expression to wear. However, most pieces of the collection produced eventually sell out and become a collector’s item. Its likes Hardcore music- we make our own milieu and fortunately its approximating Pop culture in the same way Black Flag approximated Black Sabbath.
What is it you hope to accomplish with your contribution to fashion?
Fame and fortune! Nah... just kidding Dave. For almost a diabolical decade 1995- 2002, I edited and published Panik Magazine, an Outlaw Pop Art magazine in opposition to both the underground and the establishment. It was a forum for extreme ideologies and inclinations, manifested as political pornography, psychosexual terrorism, scientific threats and infernal texts. It was graced by contributions from the best artists and writers in America- famous, infamous and unknown-each driven by unusual passions to excel and influence and go all the way. I would like my work related to fashion design to be perceived as an improvised answer to the hogwash of the day, and my association as being analogous in practice to what was happening in hardcore music in the early 80s': do it yourself, make your own medium, ignore authority, function over form. In fact I have hoped that I would be perceived as something like a rock band- an art group in the tradition of Metal Hurlant, something that could be subtitled "Journal of Preventive Sociology." A fusion of realism and surrealism born in frenzies of beauty and anger: An outlaw, liberal, fascist, sci-fi time bomb. A pornographic fusion of social hygiene and surely decadence.
You have been working in the industry for some time now. What made you decide to branch out and start your own line?
It's an interesting question to me personally and one I have asked myself before. If I recollect correctly it was out of necessity and survival. It was the first job that came to me when I was looking for work six or seven years ago. This girl I worked for made custom-made clothes for rock stars. She needed help. I needed a job. It's that simple. I took that job and took it a bit further I guess.
A designer's life is very demanding. What happens when you are between collections?
After a collection is completed and finished there is nothing. Emptiness sinks hard. Teeth grind deep from creative imperfections.
So how do you fill that void we call time when you finally have some to spare?
I don't create. I study and learn and absorb-and practice. I watch and wait for art to get real, for Science Fiction to become fact and for people to get smart. Needless to say, I get disappointed. So, I try to spend a lot of time on the moon and a lot of time underwater. I learn how to make love and how to hate.
This interview can be found in its original format in the Scoute archive section.
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