When Art Becomes A Dress
There is a sort of magic to a DELPOZO gown. Perhaps it’s the enchanting collision of opposites – understated versus bold, organic versus structural, delicate versus strong – that make the wearer feel as though they’re dressed in something straight from their dreams.
Josep Font is the architect of these dreams. Appointed Creative Director of DELPOZO in 2012 following the death of founder Jesús del Pozo in 2011, Font approached his new role with a determination to rejuvenate the 40-year-old Spanish house while honouring its traditions. He brings an imaginative craftsmanship to his collections, fusing structure, volume and proportion – aptitudes he honed while studying architecture in Barcelona – with whimsy and a fantastical femininity.
Inspired by art and colour, by cities – Font has lived in Paris, where he started his career and launched his eponymous label, and has spoken of his love of New York – and rural landscapes, as well as by emotion, Font creates garments that embody the qualities that, to him, are symbolic of the DELPOZO woman: delicacy and strength. The softly spoken designer took a moment away from his work in Madrid, Spain, to share stories of his childhood, his inspirations and his thoughts on design, femininity and beauty.
WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF FASHION?
When I was young, my mother would take me shopping with her. We would go to these elegant boutiques in Barcelona. I would watch her try on her clothes and she would ask for my opinion.
DO YOU RECALL THE FIRST GARMENT YOU EVER SKETCHED OR CREATED?
Yes, it was a cocktail dress. It was awarded the national Air France prize and the design was exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Mode et Textile in Paris. It was a chocolate brown cocktail dress with a floral print in different brown and beige shades. It was very Mediterranean.
WERE YOU CREATIVE AS A CHILD?
Like any other child growing up in a small town, I longed for discovery and to see the world. I liked painting a lot as a child, and since I can remember I’ve had this personal vision about the world and about beauty that I had to express.
YOU INITIALLY STUDIED ARCHITECTURE. ARE THERE ELEMENTS OF THE DISCIPLINE IN YOUR DESIGNS?
Whilst being a creative programme, architecture was a more traditional study field. I gained appreciation for proportion and volume, which you can identify in my collections.
TALK ME THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS – HOW DOES AN IDEA FOR A GARMENT OR A SILHOUETTE MANIFEST?
In my work there’s a lot of creative research. I need to study colour and fabric to be able to create with these elements a new silhouette and shape. I’m old school, and most of my team is as well. Many of my designs will start by being draped on a mannequin to find the perfect balance of volume and structure. I’m a perfectionist and it is hard to say when a design is completely done. With time ideas evolve, so it’s quite hard for me to say a design is finished. Sometimes I’m working on a piece and I can’t envision it right, so I let it rest and go back to it later with a new and fresh perspective. You could say that my limit is when we need to ship the collection for fashion week.
DELPOZO IS KNOWN FOR ITS FAIRYTALE FEMININITY
– WHAT DOES FEMININITY MEAN TO YOU?
For me femininity means modernity, freshness and a bit of a juxtaposition between being delicate and being strong at the same time, and having a defined attitude.
I FEEL LIKE YOUR DESIGNS FUSE A PRETTY DELICACY WITH A STRONG ELEGANCE. WOULD YOU AGREE?
Completely! I feel you can be both at the same time. One does not eclipse the other. For Spring/Summer 2015, for example, we used bold graphic colours and in other parts of the collection, subdued pastel tones or our craquelé-effect fabric: it’s a delicate organza base that is thermo fixed with a PVC layer. I think balancing opposites makes the result interesting and refreshing.
THERE’S BEEN A STRONG FOCUS ON MASCULINE, MINIMALIST SHAPES AND NORM-CORE STYLES FOR WOMEN THE LAST FEW SEASONS AND DELPOZO FEELS LIKE SUCH AN ANTIDOTE TO THAT, ESPECIALLY WITH ITS GOWNS. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE A DELPOZO GOWN TO MAKE THE WEARER FEEL?
Comfortable and elegant. I like the idea that the woman who wears DELPOZO, whether a gown or a tailored jacket, feels her own self while she is in our clothes. She doesn’t dress to call attention – she does it for her own pleasure.
DO YOU DESIGN WITH THE SPIRIT OF A CERTAIN WOMAN IN MIND?
In my mind, the DELPOZO woman has no nationality, age or particular description. She recognises well cut and finished garments and looks to dress herself in a way that she is not standing out, but she does naturally.
THE SPRING/SUMMER 2015 COLLECTION FEATURED POPS OF NEON AND COLOUR BLOCKING. DO YOU ENJOY EXPERIMENTING WITH COLOUR?
Yes, all the DELPOZO collections evolve from very important colour research. For the Spring/Summer 2015 collection, I found inspiration in Interaction of Colour by artist Josef Albers, which explores different ways of colour blocking.
FLOWERS OFTEN FIND THEIR WAY INTO YOUR DESIGNS, TOO. WHAT IS IT ABOUT FLOWERS AND FLORAL MOTIFS THAT INSPIRE YOU?
I look for organic references that are feminine and also delicate, which of course many times turns out to be a floral inspiration. In most of my collections, which is not to say all, I like to add organic elements – whether a motif, a fabric print or even through the use of volume. For Spring/Summer 2015, several dresses and cropped jackets had what we called ‘petal sleeves’ that reminisced the shape of a petal.
HOW DID YOU MANAGE TAKING THE REINS AT AN ESTABLISHED, ICONIC HOUSE AND INFUSING IT WITH A CONTEMPORARY, YOUTHFUL AESTHETIC?
When I arrived at DELPOZO, I knew I wanted to launch the brand internationally and rejuvenate it. We continue to work with a great team of seamstresses, embroiderers and pattern cutters who bring that prêt-à-couture spirit to the more modern and timeless aesthetic that is infused with the colour palette and volume I apply to each design.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE RISK-TAKING WITH HONOURING TRADITION?
I pay homage to traditional craftsmanship by using couture techniques and applying them to modern silhouettes. The choices and combinations of colours and fabrics create something fresh, modern and unseen.
YOU’RE KNOWN FOR YOUR TECHNICAL PRECISION WHEN IT COMES TO CREATING PIECES – HAVE YOU ALWAYS DEMONSTRATED SUCH STRONG ATTENTION TO DETAIL?
Yes, it’s fundamental to my work and it’s in my nature. You really have to see the whole picture when you create, not just colour, fabric, the details of the lining or the embroidery. Even the button and thread are crucial to achieving the right result.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF BEAUTIFUL DESIGN?
For me the key of any design is a balance between volume, colour and shape. It’s about the proportion achieved, which I learnt from my training, that makes a design work or not.
YOU SEEM TO BE INSPIRED BY PLACES AS MUCH AS BY ART AND EMOTION. DO VISITS TO OTHER CITIES OR TOWNS INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
Absolutely. I’m inspired by trips, but also by movies, by art exhibitions I visit and plays I go to, especially ballet performances. There’s a specific place, which is in the Costa Brava, north from Barcelona, where I am able to relax and inspires me every day. I go there every chance I get.
WHICH DESIGNERS HAVE INSPIRED YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
Pedro Rodriguez and Balenciaga. I admire the use of volume in their designs and their aesthetics. They both had their own particular visions about beauty.
WHO ARE THE WOMEN YOU MOST ADMIRE AND WHY?
The American actress Jean Seberg. I admire her modernity and indecency.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?
The Red and the Black by Stendhal. It was the first love story I ever read and it stuck with me.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE ARTIST?
Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was very modern for his time and became the mirror for modernity. When you look at his art, you can see that he was and still is very modern.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG?
‘Que reste-t-il de nos amours?’ by Charles Trenet. It brings back fond memories of time spent at my grandparents’ home.
AND YOUR FAVOURITE FILM?
Any by director Jacques Demy. His films illuminate life and make you smile.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE AN AVERAGE DAY FOR YOU, IF YOU HAVE ONE?
I wake up early, and arrive before my team to the atelier to get a head start on the day’s work. Throughout the day it will be a mix of meetings with my team, with the seamstresses and pattern makers, fittings, appointments with fabric suppliers, and moments like this one, giving interviews.
WHEN YOU AREN’T DESIGNING, WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
I like to browse furniture stores and art galleries. On the weekends I try to go to the countryside.
IF YOU WEREN’T A FASHION DESIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
I think due to my architecture studies, I would have gone down the path of an interior designer.
Hair Alexander Soltermann
Make Up Emma Miles
Model Hanna Sorheimat VIVA London
Photographer assistant Davey Clarke