They’re a four-man band currently on tour, sharing the joy of their music with the world. Right now, they’re in the midst of performing six sold-out nights—but one of their members have also got something exciting to add to the mix. If anyone’s still wondering, the band in question is Coldplay, and its bassist Guy Berryman, is showcasing his other strong suit—that of design—as he brings his Amsterdam-based fashion brand, Applied Art Forms, into the local market for the first time.
Berryman identifies as a few things; a musician, a collector, a designer. His foundations in architecture and engineering inform his utilitarian design ethos—with clothes that are precise in its make and considered in its materiality. But it is his affinity for collecting archival pieces over the years (one he’s no doubt honed to perfection from touring the globe with his members) that first spurred him on to make clothes for himself, and for people. A fashion enthusiast himself, he quotes the work of Martin Margiela, Helmut Lang, Raf Simons and Katharine Hamnett as some of his greater inspirations whose work he always ascribes to: “Whilst working from their archives, I had the ability to see what those guys were doing and how they interpreted things in the 1990s, when their labels were at their prime.”
Yet, a contemporary approach to design remains a priority for him—and it’s something he’s excavated in the brand’s signature designs, such as the AM 2-1 Modular Parka that can function as a classic military parka, an office coat, or a vest, all at different times of the year. But if one were looking for a more familiar entry point to the brand? It would be the label’s ‘Love is The Drug’ tee—for which Berryman has designed a Singapore-exclusive colourway in line with the brand’s debut on our shores. Beyond the popular graphic tee however, a range of the label’s outerwear signatures, trousers, shirts and an all-new jewellery collaboration with Hannah Martin have also arrived in-store.
We join Berryman at Dover Street Market Singapore—where his collection is now available—as he shows us his clothes and speak to Vogue Singapore about his creative inspirations, his idea of what a perfect garment is and how the ‘A Vanitas’ jewellery collection with Hannah Martin first came about.
Congratulations on your launch in Dover Street Market Singapore. How are you feeling about expanding to Southeast Asia?
Yeah, we were just in the Philippines and we’re going to Thailand next too. I’m excited to be here. It’s great to be playing here, it’s great to be introducing the brand to another Dover Street Market; we’re already in a few around the world, and I love it all. I love the fact that we can sell our clothes…it’s a bit like music, I love that we can display our clothes globally and people can enjoy them.
Much of your utilitarian design ethos surrounds precision in materiality and well-executed moments of construction. How would you say your background in engineering and architecture informs your design process?
When you’re making clothes, you’re doing engineering. Only it’s with fabric and thread rather than bricks and metal. And with architecture, you deal a lot with form, shape, and texture. And so there’s actually a very strong connection between architecture and clothing as well. So when I was studying in university, I always imagined that I’ll be working in the field of architecture with buildings or industrial design furniture, because those were things I was interested in. But since I’ve become a touring musician and started travelling the world, I’ve spent a long time going to different cities, and found myself more and more interested in finding vintage garments and have amassed quite a large archive.
So as we were finishing a tour and decided that for the first time ever, we’re going to take a break and not spend as much time together in 2018, I had to decide what I would really like to do. So I decided I wanted to re-engage with my earlier disciplines of design and manufacturing. I looked at my archive and felt that it made sense, I could draw inspiration from all the pieces that I’ve learned from and combine it with ideas from another in order to make something new.
In your eyes, which of Applied Art Forms’s creations is something that is central to the brand’s ethos?
I still feel like the modular parka is something which we’re very proud of. We launched that piece when we launched the brand. It was really important to me that our first piece was something that showed a high degree of complexity. That was a very difficult jacket to make because it’s a system of its own. It’s the shell, it comes with a full sleeve liner coat for very cold weather. The length of the coat is adjustable so you can either have it cut off at the mid calf or you can fold it up with these Velcro tabs and wear it at the knees instead. Or in the summer, you could take all the liners out, fold it up and have yourself a very nice collarless jacket. A lot of our styles are made to carry over the seasons because I don’t like the idea of getting rid of an old collection just to usher in a new collection. It’s so stressful and wasteful and we’re ultimately hoping to design clothes which are classic and timeless.
Who remain your creative inspirations to this day?
There’s a group of designers; Margiela, Helmut Lang, Raf Simons, Katharine Hamnett; they were all inspired by the same vintage style that I’m inspired by. It was quite interesting for me because I was working from those archives and had the ability to see what those guys were doing or how they interpreted things in the 1990s when their labels were at their prime. So that was quite informative; we could make sure we were always doing something different from what had already been reinterpreted before. The one thing we do try and do when we work from these archival pieces is to take the essence of the piece, and modernise the silhouette. So our garments are much wider, we work with dropped shoulders etc. because I feel like these details are much more contemporary.
Describe what a perfect garment is to you.
Perfect garments are pieces that you can wear with anything else, you know? It doesn’t require a huge amount of styling. Something you can wear all year round. Something which will look better and better as it gets older. And something that just makes you feel at home, every time you put it on.
In your eyes, who is the Applied Art Forms consumer?
Everything was designed around a male figure at first; I design clothes I would want to wear myself, basically. Although we are starting to shoot campaigns with women, because women look great in our clothes. But I think the kind of people that really understand what we’re doing are people who are quite well-educated in the history of menswear. I know a lot of women who primarily wear men’s clothes only.
People who appreciate design, detail, and manufacturing; I think they’re the people who really understand what we’re doing. They’re also repeat customers—often enough, they’ve discovered the brand, and they’re coming back for other designs. Building that community is really important to us. We’ve even done open studios in Amsterdam and people who want to see the creative process can come down to see how everything works.
Your ‘Love is The Drug’ tee is something that was initially a part of a Valentine’s Day capsule collection two years ago but it’s now become something of a cult item in and of itself. What led to the decision to take the collection further?
It’s really because everybody kept emailing us, and it got to a point where we decided to just keep making it. But it acts as a good access point to the brand and reminds me of something Virgil Abloh said before; that to start a brand you have to have one thing that everyone kind of recognises, and it’s probably a graphic tee. And it works.
How did your jewellery collaboration with Hannah Martin first come about?
So I didn’t know Hannah at first. I met her two years ago, when she approached me in an airport and asked me about my earrings. I couldn’t remember—it had been so long—and then she went: “I made that.” We had a good laugh and I had to go into my photos and scroll all the way back to find the first picture where I didn’t have it on. I found out that I got it in 2006, and she told me that if I got it in 2006, it was when she had first launched her brand. It was just her and she would have made it personally by hand.
It felt like the universe was telling me something because I had bought it and forgot about it for almost 20 years but at the same time, I had been looking for a partner to help make some jewellery for the brand. It was all sort of strange, so we stayed in touch and I asked her if we should do something together. She agreed and we started working on some ideas. If you look at Hannah’s style, she’s very rock ‘n’ roll, very punk. So I started thinking about what we could do, and what would make sense for both brands. We thought about this famous Dutch style of painting called ‘Vanitas’ which prompts people to think about the futility of life, and the cycles of life and death. The word stood out to me and hence we thought about a jewellery collection that would surround the fragility of life.
Do you have a personal favourite from the ‘A Vanitas’ jewellery collection?
So this Razor Wristband is actually based on a hospital wristband. Think about how the first thing they do when you’re born is to put a wristband on you to identify you. And quite often, you get another one when you’re on your deathbed in the hospital. It’s a strange little object that symbolises the bookend of life. It’s funny, because when we made it, I just thought it was a nice concept. But now that I’m wearing it every day, it’s actually given me something back: I’m starting to believe in the message. It makes me think about the decisions I make every day and how I can be better.
Lastly, what’s a piece of advice you have for anyone who is looking to start a new fashion label and what’s next for Applied Art Forms?
You have to be passionate about it. Don’t do it if you think it’s going to be a great business or it’s going to make you money. It’s possible to do that, but the sheer amount of work involved in running a fashion label is incredible. For us, we just want to stay focused and try to just do our own thing. We’ll continue to draw inspiration from fashion’s archives, and continue to offer styles which people will be excited about. We just want to make garments that you can wear every day for a long, long time.
Applied Art Forms has arrived at Dover Street Market Singapore and on the DSMS online store.