Stefan Miljanic could be one of the most inspired designers today. In addition to crafting a stunning vision of nascent Industrial New England through his apparel, he utilizes the very equipment and processes from the Gilded Period that gave birth to denim. Stefan draws from this period due to the incredible, small-scale, handmade New England inigo-dyed denims that became so distinct and respected. Imagine a culture on the brink of industrialism with a Utopian vision hanging within reach - but there is also a saddness communicated through this clothing, a people losing touch with nature, becoming more mechanistic, and the eventual loss of these handmade paragons due to the increasing demands and profit-driven culture.
What I believe Gilded Age has captured in its clothing design, in addition to an ongoing pursuit of sustainability, is the promise (whether it came true or not) of a bold new world - and the lost art of gorgeous, small-scale, organic, handmade garments. Anyone that is anti-fur, has Tshirts with clearcut forests that reads "unnatural history", and dyes organic cotton with volcanic mud, persimmon juice, or indigo is certainly a Discerning Brute. I had some time to interview Stefan recently:
DB:What is it about fashion that motivated you, and how does that tie into the vision of the kind of world you want to live in?
STEFAN: As an applied art, fashion is a great influence on the culture and plays big part in determining course of behavior of any civilization. In the past, fashion greatly differed from country to country and the differences were much greater than today. In the era of Internet, fast communication and sharing information one can easily see and absorb what happened on the Milan, Paris, London, Tokyo etc, fashion runway, as well as check what people of these cities wear on the streets, clubs, work... This phenomenon gave a birth to something known as International fashion, were the guy on the streets of New York may dress like a guy in Milan. While everyone is gaining great deal from sharing information, one also tends to loose a bit of its own originality. Acknowledging this new reality as a benefit, I also like to go back in the past (turn of 20th century in New York and the North East) and search for the essence of American style and bring back a few threads that can refresh and reinforce it.
DB: You use organic cotton, natural dyes, and antique equipment. How did this come about and why?
STEFAN: As Gilded Age is inspired by artisanal craft, hand done product, old textiles and older methods of producing textiles, it was natural for us to look into organic and natural fibers, natural dyes and all other components of garment design and production that would give us this this unique casual luxury feel.
DB: What was the inspiration behind the menswear in the fall 2008 collection. Do any artists, writers, or philosophers inspire your work?
STEFAN: Inspiration for Fall 2008 collection was drawn from the achievements of some great American merchants and pioneers of commerce from the early 20th century such as Frank Woolworth, Benjamin Altman, Andrew Carnegie and others. These men, who where great builders, art collectors, and philanthropists, not only built some of the greatest business concepts, but left permanent marks on New York City's architecture, art and lifestyle. Our world is full of great people, places, creations and events that influence us everyday to create and move our world forward.
DB: If you weren't designing clothes, what else would you be doing?
STEFAN: I would go back to painting... or perhaps even writing.
DB: What changes do you see happening in the world, and how do your clothes help us to adapt to those changes?
STEFAN: We all are so busy with our own lives that sometimes we fail to notice constant change that is happening in front of our own eyes. The wheel of our civilization is spinning faster and faster. Just in the last 200 years the world's population has increased from a billion or two to 7 billion and it is projected to go to 10-12 billion in the next 70-100 years. It doesn't take much thought to predict the way the wind of change will blow. For one thing, it will be increasingly important to focus on sustainability in all spheres of life. That includes fashion of course.
DB: What does the quintessential 'Gilded Age' man look like on paper?
STEFAN: Gilded Age man has great sense of style, he is worldly, in the know, accomplished or is heading in that direction, thoughtful, well traveled... We are still painting the picture of this man. :)
DB: I noticed there was no fur in your fall collection. What is your opinion of the fur and exotic animal-skins trade?
STEFAN: Unless we enter New Ice age, fur is not necessary.
DB: It seems there is an entire generation of young people who want accountability and to redefine what "cool" is. What is your definition of cool, of chic, and of luxury?
STEFAN: Obviously there are many levels of cool, but cool to me is - not trying hard! My definition for luxury could be - feeling good. In today's modern world you never know when you are going to be stuck in rush hour, going through security in an airport, stuck on a plane, etc. With so many discomforts in life – feeling good in your clothing is a luxury.
Gilded Age Organic Denim
DB: What album are you listening to most right now?
STEFAN: Bunch of stuff... just lot of good music that helps nurture creativity.
DB: What advice do you have for any Discerning Brute; a type of man who considers himself 'ethically fabulous'?
STEFAN: Perhaps the best advice I could offer would be - just relax (dude)!
DB's Etiquette Recommendation: It's great that Stefan is outspoken concerning environmental and social issues. He is even openly opposed to fur. The few things I would ask of him would be to find alternatives to wool (cashmere) and leather, and to use more organics. Regardless, other designers should look to Gilded Age as an icon of ethical fabulousness and certainly follow Stefan's lead. Thanks Stefan!
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