Salehe Bembury is no fresh face in fashion. Previously helming Yeezy and Versace’s respective sneaker departments, the prolific American designer is best known for his innovative use of organic shapes and nature references within his conceptions. He is also lauded for multiple successful past collaborations with footwear powerhouses, including New Balance, Vans and Crocs.
His latest collaboration sees the footwear designer veering out from his niche—by teaming up with luxury outerwear giant Moncler, with a capsule collection that sits as the latest edition within the house’s Genius roster. This marks the designer’s first venture into ready-to-wear, with a wilderness-inspired range of utilitarian garments that offer functionality while remaining modish. Effortlessly sitting in line with a current fashion favourite—’gorpcore’—a style that mixes traditional hiking gear with luxury streetwear tropes. Think collarless puffer jackets, quilted vests and gore-tex parkas in earthy tones of moss green and sunset coral, finished with unparalleled construction synonymous with the brand.
Fittingly, Moncler’s signature Trailgrip sneaker sees an updated design, in a jubilant burst of vibrant hues and quirky textures. Everyday wool beanies and wide-brimmed caps round up the collection, versatile accessories that would work with most wardrobes. The campaign—lensed by Bahraini film director Hala Matar and photographer Lauren Kim—was set within a forest trail, decked with lush greenery and the light pitter-patter of raindrops. It provides a sense of utopia to viewers and transports them into a fantasy realm where fashion and art coexist in harmony with Mother Nature.
Ahead of the collection’s global launch, Vogue Singapore speaks to Bembury on his creative process, references and personal experience working with the luxury house.
How would you define your design language?
My design language exists between recognisability and utility. I often enjoy hearing what my audience sees in my design offering because in many cases, the common threads are unseen by myself. I design from the gut so often a lot of the cohesive executions are not intentional. There are some more advert signature details of my work that would be easy to list but what excites me more are the intangible ones that my consumer sees.
“The purpose of a collaboration is to get two brands to reach a destination that they couldn’t achieve on their own, one that comes from a place of authenticity.”
People talk about collaboration fatigue, but some of the best designs come from them. What is the true purpose of a collaboration? What are the best things that come from it in your opinion?
The purpose of a collaboration is to get two brands to reach a destination that they couldn’t achieve on their own. I make sure that all of my collaborations come from a place of authenticity. I believe that the consumer is getting smarter by the day and then they can immediately tell when they’re being lied to or when the story is not sincere. This collaboration involved two entities that prioritise the same thing. Those priorities exist within the outdoors and utility. Sitting in a room with a partner that speaks the same language made the creative process extremely easy. I think the best thing that comes from the collaboration is a shift in perspective, whether it is subtle or drastic, you are being forced to see things with new eyes and that’s valuable.
How does your design process change from collaboration to collaboration?
My design process doesn’t change from collaboration to collaboration. The change that happens is the brand. With that change in brand comes a change in consumer and change in opportunity, a change of environment, potentially a change in price point, and ultimately a change of product offering. The most exciting thing about every collaboration is that you approach them the same way. However, every single one is different; it’s the most beautiful union of ideologies.
What was the best thing about working with Moncler?
Moncler has been doing Moncler Genius for a handful of years now so they have the system of creative conversation, creative execution, development, marketing, and the end goal of the installation down-packed. Working with Moncler Team members was extremely easy.We shared priorities in the outdoors and utility. This resulted in an extremely easy collaborative and creative conversation. I spent close to four years designing for Versace and traveling to Milan every month. Having the opportunity to return to Milan to design my Moncler collection was a treat. I was significantly inspired by Milan before and this was no different during my Moncler experience.
“Every single collaboration is different, it’s the most beautiful union of ideologies.”
What do you hope people take away from your collection with them?
I don’t believe it’s for me to say what people take away with them. This is my first ready-to wear collection, I am extremely excited to see what the consumer values and identifies. If anything I am hoping that the audience notices the continued common thread of my work. While I think it’s extremely important to maintain the values and ethos of every brand I work with, it is also my job to introduce newness.
How did both parties initiate this collaboration, and what is your impression of Moncler in the past?
I grew up in downtown New York, Tribeca specifically and I was constantly surrounded by aspirations of outerwear. One of those brands was Moncler. It was a brand that I saw almost daily. At a young age I quickly identified that they prioritise utility and their design execution was at a level that I have not seen with some of the other outerwear brands of my environment. This collaboration was born simply from an alignment of priorities.
Why did you choose to collaborate with a theme of nature this time? I’ve noticed that you often draw inspiration from outdoor and natural elements. Could you tell us about its influence on you?
I moved to California about seven years ago and in that time, I’ve spent a significant amount of time in nature both camping and hiking. I start most of my days with a morning hike and that experience has acted as a significant influence in my design work. This experience in the outdoors has acted as a significant catalyst in all of the work that I created in the past five years. There is both inspiration and additional opportunity when it comes to the outdoors. It is a category that has often been exclusive and I believe there’s an opportunity to welcome it.
The Moncler x Salehe Bembury collection is available to shop at selected Moncler stores and on moncler.com from July 14th 2023.