PRINT Summer 1995



WITH ITS SOBER, SOMETIMES ANODYNE, but never banal style, the clothing designed by A.P.C. embodies designer Jean Touitou’s personal philosophy: his rejection of fashion as an index of social status. This is not to say that by emphasizing functional simplicity and quality, Touitou is attempting to bypass the seasonal ins and outs of fashion; he simply wants to work the system with a twist. This moderate approach to revolution is certainly at the root of his success with his intellectual though never quite left-bank Parisian clientele—an anticonformist but socially well-established crowd.

Touitou likes to call his very simple ready-to-wear line “unnoticeable clothes.” The idea of a “radical normality” perfectly captures the spirit behind the label, though Touitou is not trying to justify his project with theoretical language but merely to differentiate himself from the antifashion, back-to-basics trend epitomized by the Gap and Calvin Klein, with whom he is often mistakenly associated. His “hysterically normal” clothing also signals his rejection of the signature, of the ’80s designer name-game, even though he got his first introduction to fashion during that decade, working for Kenzo and agnès b.

Touitou’s first line of menswear arrived on the scene with no designer label attached—only tags that read “Hiver ’87” (Winter ’87). A year later he founded A.P.C., or Atelier de Production et de Création (Studio for production and creation), which works on the principle that prêt-à-porter, like couture, is born in a laboratory of ideas and executed with the skill of a craftsman. Composing his own colors, creating most of the fabrics, and preserving a physical, intimate relation to his clothing are, for Touitou, matters of integrity.

Touitou’s way of looking at fashion reflects a certain nostalgia for the collective spirit of the ’60s, when it was still possible to believe that the demands of the market could be adapted to the needs of the individual. “The idea . . . is to credit a group of individuals who are going in the same direction. Ideally, there would be no designer label at all.” The appeal of such an ideology has not been lost on A.P.C. customers. It is precisely because these clothes have functioned as a kind of password in artistic circles for more than five years that the faithful are increasingly nervous about the commercial success of the designer line with the generic label.

Fully aware of the risk he is taking, Touitou has expanded his operation to include a small record label (his first two CDs, coproduced with Bill Laswell: Robert Lloyd’s Think About Brooklyn and the compilation Think About Mustapha), and has opened recording studios in various locations. He also publishes a mail-order catalogue, offering olive oil next to X-Girl T-shirts and even the opportunity to sign up for a correspondence course with the French conceptual artist Gilles Mahé. It remains to be seen if, having opened a boutique in New York and several in Japan, A.P.C. will be able to keep its promises and maintain its dissident spirit.

Olivier Zahm is a frequent contributor to Artforum and an editor of Purple Prose.

Translated from the French by Sheila Glaser.