Ervin Latimer on running a responsible fashion brand
Ervin Latimer has been hailed as one of the strongest voices of his generation of designers. Now, the Helsinki-based creative is on the verge of launching his own brand, Latimmier.
Interview JOHAN MAGNUSSON Photography SOFIA OKKONEN
Ervin Latimer is a fashion designer and the founder and creative director of the ready-to-wear label, Latimmier, to be launched this summer. After showcasing his thesis collection at Aalto University in 2018, he’s worked as a designer at brands like 1017 Alyx 9sm and Heliot Emil. In 2020, he was awarded the Young Designer of the Year in Finland.
— Alongside design work, I also lecture and write about the intersections of queer culture, anti-racism, masculinity, and fashion. My brand, Latimmier, exists for the performance of masculinities. We want to help anyone, regardless of their gender, to express their masculinity through clothing and redefine who can perform masculinity and what kind of clothing can be done to do that. Our design story draws from the queer history of ballroom mixed with the traditionally masculine silhouettes of western menswear.
Does the fashion industry really need another brand?
— To be honest, I think this is an essential question. As designers we are, ultimately, creating desirability and dreams of what the world should look like. By that I mean, the decisions we make with the silhouettes we design, the models we decide to use, the collaborators we deem interesting, usually either enforce a pre-existing norm or go against the grain. Fashion has a long history of creating very specific norms in relation to beauty, body, masculinity, and so on, not to mention the exhausting norms of working in fashion as a low-level employee. It’s easy to shrug shoulders and say ”that’s the way the business works,” which is why it’s very difficult to enact any change. And that’s what this is all about to me personally: expanding and redefining the notion of masculinity to enact positive change in our industry and in our community. I feel we’re living in this age of overflow of fashion, overflow of beautiful images, overflow of cool concepts, and because of that, fashion needs a deeper purpose to justify its existence, Latimer explains, adding,
— At Latimmier, we work four days a week, we combine strong values with questioning the ways we approach gender in fashion, and we want to show examples of how social sustainability should go hand in hand with ecological sustainability.
”At Latimmier, we work four days a week and combine strong values with questioning the ways we approach gender in fashion.”
Last January, you debuted your new line through a quite spectacular and much-talked-about show during Pitti Uomo in Florence.
— Yes, we staged a small ballroom-inspired presentation with models cast from Finnish and Italian ballroom scenes and with me hosting as my drag alter ego Anna Konda. I introduced the performers individually and commented on the look while they walked and performed on the runway one by one. In the end, I lip-synced to Tina Turner’s ”Typical Male” with everyone dancing and performing and having a blast. This was a perfect way to bring a jolt of energy in the middle of these trying times, and also a way of showing the roots of our design story and why we approach the notion of masculinity in fashion as a performance, regardless of our varying gender identities. I’m particularly happy with our relaxed tailoring and shirting with strong, thought-through details and rich and luscious knitwear and leather pieces. I’m also excited to expand the idea of Finnishness and, more broadly, Nordicness through Latimmier, as I think the global audience might not be aware of how many amazing creatives we have here that don’t fit in the norm of Nordic fashion.
Will we see more brands challenging norms, perceptions, and ideals in fashion from now on?
— I think the young generation of designers will definitely continue in this direction. What’s funny is that I don’t think our generation sees the work we do as revolutionary as it is perceived. I think it’s because the will to challenge norms doesn’t come from a place of so-called ”shock value,” but rather from a genuine need to see oneself and one’s ideas included in the norms of fashion. I cannot wait to be older and see what the next generations of creatives do and how old-fashioned this moment will feel like.
Your first collection is set to launch in July. What else is coming?
— I have some very interesting collaborations and design opportunities waiting for me. Also, I’ve been asked to join the board of the Foundation of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, so I’m curious to see what other type of change I can help to enact in the field of culture in Finland. And rest assured, Anna Konda will also return to the stage as soon as the pandemic allows us to have a proper party.