Save the world and have fun
Berlin is in turmoil.
In the week we host the second edition of our BERLIN festival, BERLIN – a celebration of our hometown and those who share it – Reference Studios takes over one of the city’s craziest brutalist buildings, the Bierpinsel , inviting DJs, artists and brands to turn dystopian space into a temporary creative utopia. One of those brands is Phipps.
Phipps is still a newcomer to the scene (his eponymous label was founded in Paris in 2018) but is making waves by merging American quirks with a European fashion school. The label has just released new pieces for FW21, but its lead man wants to expand the Phipps universe by giving people the chance to purchase the archival and vintage pieces that make up their wild mood board.
I meet San Francisco-born Spencer Phipps outside of Bierpinsel in Berlin in what appears to be a van-slash-RV hot dog selling motocross, ice skate and wrestling gear from the ’80s and’ 90s . “These are the stuff we buy to be inspired by our pieces,” says Phipps, wearing a full bouldering outfit with hand bandages to boot. “Phipps Gold Label is mostly vintage that I prepare for our audiences and most of it comes from my personal archives. It is above all a project of passion, because I love to collect this kind of thing, but it also complements our main collections.
Phipps tells me about a wide range of Gold Label items he has purchased across the world, all of which are sewn with a known Phipps Gold Star and sold. Among them are Hulk Hogan’s “Thunderlips” wrestling shorts and a The North Face jacket that “probably dates from the ’90s.” Phipps clearly does not discriminate.
Add that vintage Gold Label movement to the fact that Phipps just released a T-shirt with the American NGO Ocean Global that reads “Save the Fucking Whales” and you would think the designer is embarking on an environmental mission with the brand. But he is realistic. “When you start talking about sustainability and we’re all doing good about it, it gets really wet very quickly,” he points out. “No one wants to be told, ‘I’m better than you and I try harder.’
“If you can make it fun, you can include people. It’s like, ‘no, actually, you don’t have to wear naturally dyed sheets for the rest of your life – you can wear vintage motocross pants too! ”Says Phipps.
If you visit Phipps’ own Instagram, you’ll find photos of him climbing American cliffs and exploring mountain trails at the nosebleed level. The natural world is clearly important to him on a personal level, and he won’t compromise for the sake of his brand.
“We started to get interested in technical outdoor equipment,” says Phipps. “But to be perfectly transparent, it’s the hardest thing to do in a sustainable way, in terms of fabrics and factories. I prefer to take a category that we can manage to do in a sustainable way and perfect it.
Phipps has a definite vision, and it is paying off. But how did he get here? Well, at what might seem at odds with his personal style and that of his label, Phipps trained under both Marc Jacobs and Dries Van Noten before creating his eponymous line.
“With Dries, we had a great relationship when I was there, but I scared him very much,” he laughs. “I brought in research elements that were a little outside his usual references. I was like “look at that S&M harness” and he said “OK…” I really wasn’t the normal person in this office. “
The Phipps Fall / Winter 2021 collection has just landed at the Highsnobiety Shop. He mixes the American credentials around which Phipps grew up (and has continued to adore and collect ever since) as well as European influences that can be associated with his impressive educational background in the fashion world.
“By staying true to this world of nature, survivalism and melting ice, we wanted to do something nautical for the fall. Looking at the stereotypical characters around it, I wanted to reinterpret them with a little disassembly of these hyper-masculine silhouettes. Let’s do some ice crop clothing, but with pink faux fur coats instead.
Scroll down to buy more from the Phipps FW21 collection.
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