September 13, 2016

We catch up with Black Rabbit founder and designer, Leo Brancovich about drawing inspiration from military detailing, creating timeless pieces and his love for the aesthetic minimalism of Japan.

UO: Who is the Black Rabbit customer?

For the time being, we’re small enough to say that they are one of a select few!

Our intention has always been to allow an audience to form around us. We hope our customer is attracted to the very “personal” inspiration we draw from: the Japanese ideas in the pattern cutting, the military detailing and our unique fabrics.

UO: What has been the most difficult aspect of starting your own brand?

Apart from the challenges that every start-up faces, I would say the most challenging aspect has been encapsulating so many ideas in a collection which, for the time being, is quite small.

UO: What is the design process like at Black Rabbit?

With such a unique set of ingredients, our design process is one of evolution. Our designs morph from season to season, new silhouettes are placed on existing designs, while small details change. This is all closely allied to the deep fabric research we carry out each season.

UO: What did you learn from your time at G-Star and Diesel that has informed the creation of your brand?

I think it’s the vast archive of ideas that never found a home within the identity of those brands. I’d have to say that it was my time as Creative Director at Dainese – a world leader in technical motorcycle wear – that influenced me the most. There, I was exposed to projects as diverse as data tracking suits for GP racers, rider airbags and even an experimental zero-g suit for NASA’s Mars program. That kind of experience tends to make you challenge your preconceptions.

UO: What makes Black Rabbit different from other menswear brands out there?

Honestly, my stubborn ignorance of what the others are doing! I’d also like to think that my designs are inspired by sources which are close to the hearts of my customers. I start from an engaging theme, not market analysis.

UO: The military-style of Black Rabbit is clear, but what else inspires you during the creative process?

I think it’s important to clarify that the military element in the collection is a homage to the thorough functional design that military clothing exemplifies. Aside from that, I’ve been strongly influenced by my love of Japan. I realise that for some the idea of Japan as the bleeding-edge of style is tired, but for me my relationship with the Japanese aesthetic is more profoundly rooted. I’m drawn to the notion of a culture expressed so succinctly in its aesthetic ideals.

UO: You still loosely label your collections by season; How hard is it to remove yourself from the traditional fashion schedule?

Clothing is freeing itself from its traditional cycle bit by bit. However, it’s going to be a while yet before this becomes noticeable for the consumer. The tough bit is for the buyers, who currently rely on a fixed schedule. Under current circumstances it’s unreasonable to expect them to visit your showroom multiple times during a season. For our own online sales, it’s a different matter.

UO: Would you agree that your brand fits a ‘quality over quantity’ ethos?

Well, it’s kind of smug to sit here in our cosy Amsterdam office and claim ‘quality-over-quantity’. On the other hand, I can’t deny that my experience of ‘mainstream’ fashion has convinced me that sustainability can only be achieved by lengthening the fashion cycle. Put simply: clothes need to last longer and fashion must become less fleeting.

UO: How would you describe the style of Black Rabbit in three words.

Army. Kimono. Invention.

UO: Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?

Our Cayuga anorak is exemplary: an anorak based on a Soviet desert cap, with kimono sleeves and stainless-steel/nylon/cotton fabric. It looks evil! A comparable anorak, you won’t find.

UO: What can we expect from Black Rabbit in the future?

My main aim is to innovate to an ever-increasing degree through our fabrics. Our collaboration with Dyneema will be on sale next spring. We worked with them to bring the world’s strongest artificial fibre to an international audience. It was an exclusive opportunity to work with ultra-light Mylar composite fabrics, so tough that they require lasers to cut them – and so light that the hangtags almost weigh more than the jackets.

I believe that working closely with textile mills is the most exciting and rewarding path for a brand that wishes to really innovate.