Fashion Interview: Florian Wortmann
Creative Director of the brand CG – CLUB of GENTS Florian Wortmann about the collection against racism developed together with Business Punk, the responsibility of fashion and the mods as eternal inspiration. An interview by Siems Luckwaldt.
With the joint collection of Business Punk and CG – CLUB of GENTS we set a fashionable sign against racism. What was it that gave CLUB of GENTS the idea for this collaboration?
We had the idea over a year ago and in the meantime the political situation in this regard has unfortunately further deteriorated; take for example the election in Thuringia or the shooting in Hanau. Now, to mark the launch of the collection at the end of April, we want to stand firm against this tendency more than ever. However, the idea originated as a comment on an unpleasantly polarizing debate about refugees; it was then clear to us that as a brand we had to take on right-wing extremism and let our community know how we see things politically and socially.
For some time now, NGOs and marketing professionals have been stressing the importance of demonstrating a clear position, especially among young target groups. However, taking a political stance is always a balancing act. Was there any push-back internally?
In general, we’re a brand that makes quick decisions. However, when we were looking for potential partners we noticed that not everyone was willing to get on board with the idea. Not every medium was as open as you are – and not every specialist retailer shared our sense of urgency and enthusiasm towards an anti-racism collection. There were heated discussions between our sales department and retailers, but with Breuninger we have found a strong retailer to stand by us.
Do you think there is a secret to having fewer reservations?
I think that having reservations and being fearful of negative feedback will prevent us from advancing, both as a company and as a society. We need to be brave enough to stick our necks out and have the courage to take risks. Of course, with any commitment you leave yourself open to attack, but if that was the only argument there would have been no women’s movement, no fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community or, if you want to go back in time even further, no end to slavery in the USA. Anyone who waits for others to take the lead plays straight into the hands of destructive forces!
Political messages in fashion have a long history; just think back to the punk designs by Vivienne Westwood or t-shirt slogans such as “We Should All Be Feminists” by Dior. Why is this such uncharted territory in the world of men’s fashion?
My grandpa once said about our industry: “Young man, if everyone started walking around naked, you’d be out of a job!” This makes it blatantly clear how important our products are and how much significant attention they attract. Fashion has a large audience and anyone who has the good fortune to be part of the industry has great responsibility to contribute positively, innovatively and constructively to debates and also point out grievances and undesirable developments.
Some of the outfits and their messages are bold and eye-catching while others are more subtle. What are your personal favourites in this capsule collection?
Definitely the slogan t-shirt, particularly as it’s the first time that we, a men’s fashion label, have created a piece that can definitely also be worn by women. We made sure of that when designing the cut. For Dress-Down Friday, the short-sleeved shirt with the stripes is perfect.
Tell us more about who inspires you during the design process.
We have been heavily inspired by Britpop, so we like to look to legends such as Paul Weller from The Jam. He’s an eternal Mod and also inspires us as a trendsetter. Mods were working-class lads who were sick of wearing jeans, so they scrapped all their money together to have tailors make Italian-inspired suits for them. They wore them on their Vespas with parkas over the top to protect them from spray. It was the beginning of an iconic look. Working-class life meets la dolce vita and it’s with this mindset that we view each new collection.
Do you have a favourite moment in fashion history where a designer used the runway to deliver a message?
Definitely the 2006 unisex collection by Jean Paul Gaultier where, as one of the world’s most renowned designers, he covered the topic of unisex fashion in radical way. It was called Gaultier². Fashion became a commentary on the times, and not in a purely artistic way, which I find somewhat difficult and unworldly, but in a very wearable way.
As a young label belonging to an established brand, how crazy can CG – CLUB of GENTS get?
Of course, there are CEOs and partners above us, but at the moment we are lucky and privileged enough to be able to set our own limits.
Capsule Collection 2020
Europe 2020 – nationalist and right-wing populist movements grow stronger, racist incitement and discrimination increase CG – CLUB of GENTS does not close its eyes, but sets a sign against racism. The Capsule Collection “SUIT YOURSELF AGAINST RACISM” in cooperation with Business Punk has a clear message: Respect Everyone! Especially when it comes to racism, there is no “maybe” or “question of perspective” for either brand, but a clear statement that is expressed through the limited collection. The urban, edgy style sets the tone with black and white outfits. In this way you also take a stand and make your contribution to the protection of human dignity and diversity. From autumn 2020 the Capsule Collection “SUIT YOURSELF AGAINST RACISM” will be available in our Online Shop.