A few weeks ago we had a conversation with Band of Outsiders founder Scott Sternberg.
Scott is known for being a bit of a film fanatic, so we discussed with him his relationship with cinema and how it influences his design work. Along the way we also talked about his recent love of musicals, why he's so very fond of polaroids, and which film stars, living or dead, he would most like to dress in Band of Outsiders pieces.
In fact, Scott got so involved with this last part that we had his answers illustrated by our friend at Little Doodles. Browse the feature to see the results.
oki-ni: Hi Scott, whenever we read things about you on the internet people tend to lead with two things: first, that you used to be a Hollywood agent; and second, that you really love film. We're not one to break a trend, so what made you give up Hollywood for fashion?
Scott Sternberg: Well, Hollywood kinda sucks. The business part, that is. It takes a really long time to make a movie, and a whole lot of people and boatloads of money. The development side of the business is particularly douche ridden. So, I decided I'd just watch movies instead of trying to make them.
oki-ni: But even though you're not directly involved in Hollywood anymore, you are based in LA. How does the perceived glitz, glamour, and celebrity of that location influence your work with Band of Outsiders?
Scott: My Los Angeles is quite far from the L.A. you describe – I like to think of LA more in terms of a
Nathaniel West novel or Raymond Carver short story. In that regard, there's a narrative approach to how I put together a collection, and certainly an influence from the weather and laid back lifestyle.
oki-ni: Fans of fashion or film will probably know that the name Band of Outsiders is borrowed from Goddard's 1964 film Bande à part. Did you chose the name simply because you like the sound of it, or is there something deeper than that?
Scott: I chose it at first because of the phonetic impact, how different it sounded from other fashion brands at the time, but still powerful and appropriate somehow. Then I had to work out all of the other associations – the connection to the Godard movie and my experience with film in general, the literal interpretation of rebellion and solitude, and the contradiction within the phrase itself as one doesn't think of outsiders being part of a community – and make sure everything still felt honest and not too serious.
oki-ni: Last year you put together an all-singing-all-dancing West-Side-Story-inspired show at Pitti, which was a compelling blend of cinema, theatre, and fashion. What made you reference a musical?
Scott: I was watching tons of musicals at the time and they just felt really fresh – the tone, the production design, the Technicolor, the goofy male leads – and it seemed like a particularly insane, fun, big, and American way to approach Pitti.
oki-n: Are they a recent interest or a life-long obsession?
Scott: I wasn't such a fan of musicals growing up – they were my sister's thing – but I have grown to love them through all of the Pitti research. I'd say my faves are Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Funny Girl, Grease, Mary Poppins, the first Muppet Movie, and the South Park musical.
oki-ni: In the past we've written about film's ability to create fashion icons, but which, in your opinion, are the strongest looks in film history?
Scott: Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor – he pretty much wears the same thing throughout, a melton wool peacoat, grey tweed blazer, Shetland wool sweater, chambray shirt, faded denim. Bud Court in the shearling peacoat and plaid turtleneck in Harold and Maude. And of course Sean Connery wearing nothing but a diaper-like cod piece and a gun holster in the completely friggin' insane, cult sci-fi classic Zardoz.
oki-ni: Do you ever use characters from films as direct reference points for collections, and are there any overt film references in this season's SS12 pieces?
Scott: Sure, there are always film stills up on the board season to season – lots of Jean Pierre Leaud from Truffaut films. SS12 lightly references Gene Kelly in Singin in the Rain, George Chakiris in West Side Story, and the uptown snobs in Whit Stilman's Metropolitan.
oki-ni: As a supplementary question, which film stars, living or dead, would you love to dress in Band of Outsiders clothing and what pieces would you put them in?
[We had intended this to be a short, almost throw-away, part of the interview, but Scott really went to town on it. So much so, that we had his five answers illustrated by our friend Little Doodles. See Scott's choices on the next page – you can also click and shop certain items.]
1. Eric Cartman
"The horizontal Breton stripes in this hoodie and sweat short look would accentuate Cartman's most charming asset, his horizontal stature."
2. Bella Lugosi
"That guy needs to LIGHTEN UP. A fresh white tank and a pair of bold yellow chinos would be just the ticket."
3. Kermit the Frog
"I'm always one for green on green, so I think Kermit would kill it in this nylon varsity jacket look. It's kind of a dad look, and Kermit's really that father figure of the Muppets, so it's fitting in that regard."
4. Gandalf the Grey
"This degrade windbreaker and white denim look would have so much more impact than that ratty old cape when everyone's favourite gay Wiz emerges from Fangorn forest as the reborn, all powerful Gandalf the White in The Two Towers."
5. Inigo Montoya
"There's nothing tougher than a black leather jacket. In combination with the splatter paint tie and aggressively patchworked boat shoes, Prince Humperdinck will be running the other way before our hero can even mutter, 'My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'"
oki-ni: Continuing the film analogy, we see a distinct similarity between fashion designers and film directors. Apart from the fact you both yell "cut" at people, you make calls, have a vision, and tell a story in a creative and compelling way. Would you go along with this or has your experience differed?
Scott: I think the parallel is in the need of both mediums for a singular vision, for one clear creative voice to drive a project or product, while at the same time relying on a pretty large team of craftspeople to help carry out that vision. But making things vs. filming things is quite different – the considerations of making a commercial product someone will actually wear take fashion or any sort of industrial design into a totally different place than filmmaking.
oki-ni: You've used actors and comedians in your polaroid lookbooks for Band of Outsiders. As a cinephile, why did you decide to use Polaroid over film?
Scott: Polaroids are quick, easy, and relative to any other type of film (vs digital or video) really cheap. Quick and easy become super important when shooting somewhat famous people who don't necessarily love getting their picture taken.
oki-ni: Apart from looking pretty good and adding some star appeal, what extra element do actors bring to your lookbooks as opposed to actual models?
Scott: Actors are usually really funny, and bring a bit of lightness to the whole thing. Serious, brooding fashion campaigns don't have much of a place at Band of Outsiders.