Thomas Van der Jeught Likes to Play with Fire

Men’s designer Thomas Van der Jeught left the minuscule (but not non-existent) fashion community of Antwerp for the even more minuscule fashion community of Vienna. Because, when you’re a graduate of the Royal Academy of Art, the kind of school that encourages risk-taking, that’s what one does. In the Austrian capital, he joined the design team of Fabrics Interseason before a stint in London working for the men’s label Blaak before a quick return to Vienna.

Van der Jeught’s collections are an exercise in fabric manipulation — strong, canvas-like pieces coexist with deconstructed, frail ones. Burning and singeing are techniques that factor prominently in his spring collection. As inspirations, he cites the seemingly irreconcilable artists Marina Abramović and Serge Lutens for their emotional and graphical weightiness, respectively. Intrigued, we wanted to know more…

How would you describe your line to your best friend?
A collection for an individualist, someone who knows how he wants to look.

How would you describe your line to a potential buyer?
My collection combines strong and elegant aspects with great caution. Therefore, the design is a mixture that contains experimental, canvas-like pieces that coexist with deconstructed, minimalistic ones. I see my work as a changing continuation.

When and why did you decide to become a fashion designer?
Around the age of 19. I liked the expression of fashion and it is very direct. It doesn’t stay a concept, but becomes reality. It comes alive.

Why Vienna?
I lived in London, which I love a lot, but i saw the possibility of doing my own collection in Vienna, where I love the architecture, culture, nature, and all my friends here. As time changes, so can the city a live in.

Can you tell us a bit more about finding inspiration in Marina Abramovic? Have you met her?
It started with going to an exhibition of hers at the Galerie Krinzinger in Vienna called WITH EYES CLOSED I SEE HAPPINESS. She was also there and talked about art. I felt very related to her work, spiritually and aesthetically.

How does aggression factor into your collections?
Aggression is a statement, a way of interactive communication more than a form of active destruction. As my design aims to enhance the intimate relationship between skin and garments, aggression is displayed by the shapes, the particular forms of the garments. The shapes show a certain rawness by being industrial, burned, edgy or stiff. It’s also the way I felt or feel about the fashion industry.

Since you mention it, please explain the burning.
I made the pieces perfect first. I search for the right proportion and shape using quality fabrics, then I burn them. The burning I did because you can barely control it. It shows reality.

Have you been told your pieces look post-apocalyptic?
Not yet. If so, maybe it’s symbolic of an evolution or a new beginning in my work.

Does the man who buys your clothes want to grab attention or be left alone?
None of both.