Most designers in the process of finalising their graduate collection remain in a dreamlike state when it comes to picturing their big fashion week debut. Comparatively speaking, Per Götesson is an anomaly. The Sweden-born designer joined the menswear Fashion East roster only a day after debuting his MA collection from the Royal College of Art back in 2016. Though a massive jump, he approached it head first: “To be honest with you, when I graduated I was 29 so I think it was just the right time to start, otherwise it would’ve been too late,” he tells over a quick phone call before he propels the Per Götesson brand into new, foreign lands at the Paris showrooms. “As you get older, you get less willing I guess to risk things, you need to be willing to screw things up a little bit.”
Making his solo on-schedule debut back in January, Götesson is still a young brand of sorts, yet he’s anything but naive. With a list of big name stockists that a juggernaut house would envy, plus a quick return to the classroom; now teaching menswear students at London College of Fashion, the designer is cramming a rolodex of attributes that can usually take decades to achieve into a mere three years.
His relaxed approach to tailoring goes hand-in-hand with a terrific knack for draping, wrapping large heaps of fabric around the form of the wearer to create silhouettes that are often grand in size yet tender in their subtle intricacies. Pushing the capabilities of what a decent pair of jeans can be has become a key totem of Gotesson’s œuvre. Denim is flipped inside out, upside down and swollen to massive proportions with jagged hems and exposed zips left firmly in place. “I always liked an exposed hem, I think every season I’m trying to refine that. It’s not only the exposed hems but there were elements of how the garments were sort of structurally put together,” he says. “There were kind of cut lines of styling that were just there because of the draping, and we decided to preserve those but then finish them off properly. Make something, keep the process. But every season I’m trying to elevate and explore that.”
The combination of these distinct brand signatures has advanced traditionally demure menswear silhouettes whilst maintaining a clear sense of Scandinavian practically. Waistlines stretching to The Biggest Loser before-photo proportions are equipped with hidden belt loops, key holes of sorts, so you can tame the masses of material intro ruched waistbands. Did such considered elevations stem from his own difficulties in finding clothes that are interesting yet practical? “I mean I guess in a sense yeah, what I try to do and I think our brand is adding to this masculine wardrobe, is a sense of poetry, a sense of sensitivity – in the lines, in the cut, which I think isn’t necessarily done so much in ready-to-wear menswear,” he explains.
Göttesson spent most of of his childhood in the Swedish province of Småland, a large chunk of it in Björksnäs; a remote village buried deep in the forrest. His introduction to fashion wasn’t flicking through the pages of Vogue, or Harpers Bazaar for that matter – pop culture was basically alien territory. Instead, playing with dolls alongside his sister and experimenting with his own personal style was the catalyst. “I feel like I was always into fashion, but I discovered fashion in a popular culture way later. So I came in with this weird self idea, I guess, of what fashion was,” he chuckles. Then came an obsession with Madonna when she was at her most brazen, spiralling into a love for Jean-Paul Gautier, Maison Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester.
Studying in Stockholm before completing his MA at RCA, Göttesson originally had dreams of being taught by Louis Wilson at Central Saint Martins: “But I went to the RCA interview and I had this great feeling about it, so I decided not to go for the CSM application.” A short stint working on the Cheap Monday design team paired with an intensive course regime meant he was all clued up in terms of technical skills to begin developing his own brand.
From the get-go, advancing notions of masculinity has been a clear focal point of Göttesson’s design intentions, interwoven with his own experiences as a queer man. “Sometimes the clothes are more flamboyant perhaps, sometimes they’re more subtle, I think most of the time I aim to make the wearer or the customer, or whatever, myself, feel good,” he says. “It’s not about making the wearer feel uncomfortable – I’m trying to add something which is more emotional for the person who’s wearing it.”
Rather than a riotous parade of gender bending androgyny, there’s a delicate queering to what Göttesson does. For SS20 the spliced shirting and peeping v-lines from his preceding collection were exchanged for t-shirts that fit slightly on the shorter side and shirting gathered into pillowy sleeves. “My clothes are sort of based on my own experience, my own feelings as a queer man. But it also could be men similar to myself who are comfortable with the typical image of what a man can be. But there are obviously layers to that, and it’s layers I’m trying to portray in the clothing,” he continues.
This chorus of tailoring bloomed with romanticism and sensitivity, with sprays of refinement signalling toward a more mature design ethos for Göttesson. The trousers, previously so big they could float behind the wearer like a bride’s train, now slightly brought in as if a jacket had been wrapped around the waist. New elements to the designer’s repertoire like bleach-washed long-sleeves carried a subtle sense of sexiness, whilst 3D-draped tech bombers made in collaboration with Kathy McGee were louche but highly wearable. “I always wanted to show ideas about the drape sometimes in a more commercial sense,” he says.
Hints of sophistication were still met with a nuanced boyish energy. Jackets were adorned with bottle caps and dainty necklaces carried lighters, crafted by partner and on-going collaborator Husam El Odeh, whose trinkets have become synonymous with the brand. “What we have discussed specifically this season that we almost learn from each other with our pieces,” he says. “I don’t really show Husam so much of the drawing or development. We work quite separately but we work from the same kind of references or direction I guess. Then it kind of comes together at the end, it’s like an ongoing communication, I think that’s how you can feel a dialogue between the clothes and jewellery – It’s constantly that kind of flirting.” Charmingly disheveled silver pieces were lodged onto caps and inhabit the creases that warp around the wearer, as if a magpie’s treasure chest had been raided. The pair themselves make an all-star appearance in the new jewellery wardrobe, with portraits of both El Odeh and Göttesson from their school days delicately beaded onto panels that can be affixed to t-shirts, jackets and on a tiny baccy pouch-sized cross-body bag.
“It was his idea,” Göttesson confesses. “I talk a lot about, in this collection specifically, trying to define this kind of new masculinity, and those portraits of us two together in the end became really charged because we were talking about things that we feel personally,” he explains. “It wasn’t intended but it was kind of this undercurrent that I think always happens when we develop pieces for the collection.” It’s this on-going development that is integral to Göttesson’s appeal. His ability to deconstruct, then delicately restructure mammoth heaps of material into crafty silhouettes that then drape into tender folds and creases, is spearheading a new dawn of dress for the men of today. Finally menswear is getting some poetic justice.
by Paul Toner
Photography Jason-Lloyd Evans