We’re constantly on the lookout for new brands that aren’t just trying to be the next buzz name, but actually have some substance and salient thought behind them. part/WHOLE is an emerging menswear label from Boston that has a highly attuned artistic & architectural point of view. The founder and creative director is the aesthetically astute, Stephen Hopkins (pictured below). We caught up with him for an interview, and he gave Style.No.Chaser some keen insight into his clothing brand. Read below:
Tell us about the origins of part/WHOLE and the science behind the brand’s name?
The name part/WHOLE comes from the general phrase, “part to whole relationship” that is commonly used in design and architecture. I see a part to whole relationship as a design intent or idea that supersedes both scale and discipline. The “part” provides a moment in which something is cropped or a framework is placed around a moment (my “Life/Death” shirt for example) and leaves the contextual whole, open to interpretation. I think this relationship is very apparent within photography, especially architectural photography where one can zoom-in on a detail and then zoom out to see the completed building. I’ve come to understand the part to whole relationship in an architectural context because of my background as an architecture student. I’m very interested in structure and the idea of an assemblage of many elements coming together to form a whole. part/WHOLE is attempting to take that idea from architecture and apply it to a clothing context. Four years ago, a friend and I started a streetstyle blog which eventually morphed into an online and print magazine that was dedicated to providing content including interviews, articles, and editorials with/about designers and artists from many different mediums including fashion architecture, photography etc. I had been wanting to dip my toes in clothing design for a while during that period and eventually we made a run of one shirt we called the “Rebar” shirt. From there I wanted to make a collection of pieces around one idea instead of just another one off piece. Since then I began working on my first collection called, “Hands of Man.”
Did you have a background in fashion design before starting your brand?
I don’t have a formal background in fashion but I started an online and print magazine called Metropolitan Society as mentioned above. Through this, we conducted interviews with designers and artists from many different backgrounds including fashion. We also photographed, directed, and styled fashion based editorials for the online and print. That experience was essentially my entry into the fashion world.
Tell us some more about your debut Hands of Man collection?
Hands of Man takes the same idea of a “part to whole” relationship and applies it to the anatomy of the hand, and representations of the hands and arms through European art movements and religious artwork. The idea is to zoom in on hands and arms and see how they can be used as storytelling tools. It also takes religious undertones and symbolic movements and gestures that are common to Christian artwork and attempts to abstract them. For example the drapery used in the background of the lookbook hints at the texture of a priest’s vestments. During my design processes, I was looking in at things like DaVinci’s Study of Hands, and pairing it with Pirenasi’s studies of friezes; the work of Francesco Borromini, and then juxtaposing it with something like Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of Horatii, for example.
Can you tell us more about the artistic direction of the lookbook shoot?
The portrait images were all taken in the backyard of my home by my friend Ghalib and myself. I made a makeshift studio set out of some bedsheets and drapery. It was very DIY but I think we made it work. The small religious sculptures and statues are pieces from my childhood home. Some were made by my great-aunt, others used garden features at my home. All of the other images (the buildings, column details, etc) were taken by me during a recent trip to Paris.
What plans do you have for the growth of the brand, and are you carried at any well-known retailers?
This is the first collection of the brand so I’m trying quite militantly to keep it all in-house and to interact with customers on a personal level. As for the first part of the question, I would like to begin working on installations and pop-up shops in which there aren’t just clothes to purchase, but rather an all encompassing experience of the brand for people to see, hear, touch, and pass through.
Would you ever venture into women’s wear?
I think much of street culture and street fashion has evolved from this idea of womenswear v.s. menswear, and has sort of gathered around design statements or design intentions that stretch beyond sex or gender identification. The clothes aren’t made for a particular gender or sex but rather for someone who understands the ideas and consciousness within the design process; and that can be anyone.
Who are some of the designers that you look up to in the fashion industry?
Many of the things that I look in at are central to the concept. By that I mean if I want to make a graphic that evokes a certain feeling, that could come from anything from materials, biology, art, architecture, etc. I have a much deeper interest in bringing things into a fashion context rather than reinventing the wheel. With that being said there are many people in fashion design I highly respect. I think Craig Green is great. Rick Owens has created a world far beyond clothing and it’s remarkable. Boris Bidjan Saberi, early Helmut Lang, Jun Takahashi, Errolson Hugh etc. I think Sam Ross really gets it and is making strides. Kang Hyuk is one my favorite designers right now.
What inspires you?
Inspiration for me comes in many different media and forms. But I break it down into two different types of inspiration. One is derived from moments that happen throughout a day in which there is an assemblage of random things that come together to form a moment of inspiration. For example the texture of concrete, the way light may be shining in just the right way, the flapping of plastic in the wind. I try to capture these moments by taking photos on my IPhone and then I try to implement it in the brand, maybe through images of product or within the product itself. Many times, it’s the wear of a material, cracks on a building, the random imperfections that make each part of something unique. Another way inspiration strikes is through seeking. That comes from books, artwork, or other intentional or “completed works.”
5 years from now, what do you envision as the evolution of part/WHOLE.
In 5 years, I’d like to see part/WHOLE cross into a number of different design disciplines from inhabitable installations, furniture, industrial design based products, etc. I’d also like to continue questioning materiality within a clothing context.
To keep up with part/WHOLE, follow the brand on IG: @part_whole