The Label That Dare Not, or Cannot, Speak Its Name

Based in Austria and wielding the longest name in fashion, House of the Very Island’s Royal Club Division Middlesex Klassenkampf, But the Question Is: Where Are U, Now? has a lot of explaining to do.

In an interview for Hint some time ago, founding member Markus Hausleitner did just that: “The ‘House of the Very Island’s’ part means a closed system, and it’s inspired by films like Paris Is Burning, with its house fights and vogueing competitions. The ‘Royal’ thing is a little bit of a problem. ‘Club Division’ is our, or my, connection to nightlife. The term ‘Middlesex’ has a double meaning for us. There is the part of the UK called Middlesex, but mostly it’s the gender thing, as in which gender you are performing at the moment. It’s also the name of a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. In German, ‘Klassenkampf’ means class war. ‘Where Are U, Now?’ for me means changing, positioning, and steadily challenging.”

The men’s label is closely linked to Vienna’s queer art and music scene. Those likely to wear a signature piece include the philosopher Judith Butler, musician Janine Rostron of Planningtorock, and self-described transgender warrior Leslie Feinberg. Further, the designers of House of the Very Island’s all attended the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, under the tutelage of guest professors Raf Simons, Viktor & Rolf, Jean-Charles Castelbajac, and Veronique Branquinho. What was the biggest lesson learned? “That life in fashion is not easy,” said Hausleitner.

To celebrate its ties to the art world, for fall House of the Very Island’s sought inspiration from the visual arts’ most obvious signifier, the frame, inviting another of its founding members, artist Jakob Lena Knebl, to present a cheeky live performance on how to make art.

The collection blends global street style with classic menswear details, as well as organic cottons, Italian wools, and heavy Austrian outerwear materials. Artisanal French jacquards dissolve a classic houndstooth pattern into multicolored layers. The resulting combinations are paired with relaxed, plain black and off-white pieces. Other jackets and coats are layered with blue cashmere and adorned with reflective elements, reminiscent of frames opening into another dimension.