Mad About The Boy: An Interview With SHOWStudio Editor Lou Stoppard

With the massive outpour of round the clock fashion coverage and inundation, SHOWStudio editor’s Lou Stoppard still firmly stands out. As a writer, broadcaster, and curator, Stoppard offers both a conceptual understanding of fashion as well as an open-mindedness to the changes in the industry that allows her work a warm resonance that rings true throughout the media. As SHOWstudio editor, Stoppard has picked the brains of designers ranging from Nasir Mazhar, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Public School, Cottweiler, and many more. Perhaps most infamously, Stoppard was granted a two-hour interview with Kanye West following his Yeezy Season 2 presentation. In all her interviews, Stoppard manages to ask thoughtful and conceptual questions while still putting her subjects emotionally at ease. As a result, her video interviews offer true portals into the inner-workings of designers’ brains.

Lou Stoppard’s exhibition Mad About the Boy will be showing at Fashion Space Gallery London until April 2. Stoppard curated the exhibition as an exploration of the concept of youth in the fashion industry, specifically how the idea of the teenage boy is constructed through fashion collections and images. The exhibition combines the contributions of designers such as Raf Simons, Hedi Slimane, Gosha, Jun Takahashi, JW Anderson and others with those of artists and image makers like Larry Clark, Nick Knight, Judy Blame, Mark Leckey and others to construct and break down the fantasy of the teenage boy.

Stoppard took the time to answer some questions we had about the exhibition.

Adam Lehrer: Do you think that the ideas presented by designers such as Raf have been positive in shifting ideals of masculinity at large?

Stoppard: I think it’s definitely becoming easier for men to say they are interested in “fashion.” Alex Bilmes, editor of Esquire, talked about this when I interviewed him for SHOWstudio’s In Fashion series. He mentioned that for a long time men felt comfortable saying they were interested in “style” but not “fashion.” [The idea of fashion] felt fey or niche. I think that has changed. Partly this is due to the spotlight on menswear and with the way that designers are speaking to men. Designers like Raf often draw on obsessions or ideas that tap into a collective consciousness: certain musical genres, films, and books (you saw that particularly with the David Lynch tribute at his [Fall-Winter 2016 show). I think menswear designers of late often explore rites of passage and themes of growing up that tap into men’s sense of their own masculinity. There’s also a wide range of different views of ‘manhood’ presented in menswear- much wider than the vision of femininity presented by womenswear.

"I do think that part of the thing people are obsessed with to do with youth is this idea of freedom: freedom to create, freedom to reinvent, freedom of indemnity. And part of that is the notion of experimentation that people tie to youth."

Lehrer: Do you find that there is ever disconnect between how male teenagers are presented in fashion and how actual teenagers in real life dress and what they are interested in?

Stoppard: Of course. Though I think certain rites of passage or events and ideas all people connected with as a youth – sex, space, social groups etc – crop up again and again in fashion’s depiction of the boy.

Lehrer: What is it about youth that you think so fascinates fashion?

Stoppard: That’s sort of what I’m trying to explore with the exhibition. I think to some extent it’s aesthetic: fashion loves a slim and lithe body. On the other hand it’s more abstract: youth is fleeting which appeals to an industry that is all about change.

Lehrer: You've said there is an element of nostalgia in the ideas of youth in fashion, can that ever be stunting to a creative process? 

Stoppard: I think nostalgia is, to a degree, inevitable. Designers tirelessly reference their obsessions, which do tend to be formed during formative, youthful years. They often reference the things that first got them interested in fashion and style; bands, icons, clubs and so on. To a degree it’s about looking back but it’s also about reinventing. They make things the way they wanted them to be, or create characters they wished they could have been. You see that a lot in the work of people like Jun Takahashi and Hedi Slimane.

Lehrer: I know you quite like wearing certain menswear brands, do you think the explorations of youth in menswear has led to this gender fluidity in the products sold by high fashion brands?

Stoppard: I do think that part of the thing people are obsessed with to do with youth is this idea of freedom: freedom to create, freedom to reinvent, freedom of indemnity. And part of that is the notion of experimentation that people tie to youth. There is a whole section of the exhibition about gender fluidity. When you look at the way someone like Alessandro Michele at Gucci looks at gender it is very much tied to the freedom of the kid.

Lehrer: Was there anything particular about the work of Tony Hornecker that you thought he could add to the overall feel of the exhibition?

Stoppard: Well Tony did the set for all those original Meadham Kirchhoff presentations and shows, and I knew that I wanted to restage a bit of their SS 13 menswear presentation, which is one of the most beautiful and intelligent fashion displays I’ve ever seen, so working with Tony just felt so apt. Ben Kirchhoff also suggested Tony as being perfect to handle the restaging, so obviously it felt respectful.

Lehrer: I know the exhibition explores different ways that the male youth has been portrayed in fashion, but is there any singular idea throughout the various images that you feel could sum up the entire idea of the exhibition?

Stoppard: It’s about cycles and tropes, in a way, I suppose.

Lehrer: Do you believe youth in fashion will always be a concept heavily explored, or will we move on at some point?

Stoppard: Almost every designer draws on their own life and formative influences, so I think youth will always be there in fashion, even if it’s only due to creatives reflecting. 

Mad About The Boy, curated by Lou Stoppard, will be on view until April 2 at Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion, 20 John Princes Street. Text and interview by Adam Lehrer. Photograph by Flo Kohl. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE