When Patrik Ervell met Peter Hujar

Patrik Ervell wasn’t supposed to be a fashion designer. The American-born son to Swedish immigrants, had the desire to travel the world as a diplomat. Studying political science and art history at Berkeley University, he recalls studying for art history exams in the kitchen of Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. A fashion programme is not on the curriculum of Berkeley University, but it still counts Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, the Creative Directors of Kenzo, and founders of Opening Ceremony, as alumnus.

Ervell’s interest in fashion began in his late-teens, when he discovered Nick Knight’s imagery of Helmut Lang. This wasn’t enough to sway him into the industry, as he continued on to take the initial exam for Foreign Service and sent his CV to The Economist. But, following 9/11, he found himself interning at V Magazine. At the time, V Magazine was running on a small scale, and Ervell was soon named Associate Editor. Whilst working there, Ervell had a growing frustration to make things, rather than just work with the ideas and clothes of others. He decided to take technical classes at Parsons the New School for Design, attended by Donna Karan and Tom Ford, before starting his line.

Ervell Hujar SS15 Campaign
Patrik Ervell x Peter Hujar SS15 Campaign

Patrik Ervell the brand, began as a graphic t-shirt line of faded busts shot from an unusual angle, whilst he was still working for V Magazine. It sold in Opening Ceremony when both Leon and Lim were managing the cash register. He decided to take a giant leap of faith in 2005, in his debut runway collection. His Spring/Summer ’06 collection was a tight edit of menswear essentials, including a trench, shirts, jeans, and his idea of the perfect sweatshirt. His debut defined his design mandate: classic, masculine silhouettes with high-tech fabrics. Since then, Ervell has locked his focus on detail, fabric and print, rather than dramatically reinventing menswear.

Patrik Ervell x Peter Hujar SS15 Campaign
Patrik Ervell x Peter Hujar SS15 Campaign

For Spring/Summer ’15 he used the archival images of photographer Peter Hujar for his campaign. Hujar was a photographer famous for capturing the intimacy of his subjects – downtown New York artists in the 1970’s and 80’s – with a timeless quality. One of his most famous images is of drag performer, Cindy Darling, lying on her deathbed staring beyond us. As a gay man living in the height of the AIDS crisis, death remained close to Hujar’s work. He was part of a community that often came face to face with its own mortality. Thus, his photographs are highly emotional and stripped back. When he passed away in 1987, he left a large body of unseen work, which Ervell was able to access.

Ervell’s campaign is one without clothes yet it expresses the texture and poignancy with which Hujar explores decay, sexuality and death. The images may have been taken in 1981, the year Ervell was born, but they express the relationship between clothes and interiors which Ervell explored for the summer season.

Image source: Complex