The name Alon Livné is one that the international fashion community has come to know well as of late. The talk of last season’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City (NYFW), the young Israeli designer — who began his career in Europe’s premiere fashion houses at the ripe age of 17 — has officially arrived.
Having worked with the likes of Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli before breaking out on his own, in addition to winning Israel’s version of the reality TV show, Project Runway back in 2009, Livné’s star reached a high at his premiere NYFW’s show during the Fall/Winter 2013 season, and has been steadily rising ever since.
A favourite amongst trendsetting celebrities, the designer has dressed a-listers including Beyoncé, as well as her backup dancers during the R&B star’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. And, as if counting the great Queen Bey as a patron wasn’t already impressive enough, the cherry-red chiffon-paneled gown donned by the songstress during the tour, won itself a spot on Vogue.com’s roundup of “Beyoncé’s Best Performance Looks” shortly after it made its stage debut.
Since fashion lovers first met Livné on Project Runway, his creative vision has been distinguished by elaborate, sculptural works that showcase decadent couture handwork. This signature style has taken many forms since the designer’s Project Runway days, from high street fashion collaborations including the launch of “Diamond,” a capsule collection designed by Livné for the popular Israeli label, Castro, (fittingly represented by actress Gal Gadot, the face of the brand) to a collaboration with the iconic denim label, LEE, which saw the unique contrast between the designer’s preferred feminine lines and denim textures in the one-of-a-kind “Art Ballet” collection, right on up to the Ready-to-Wear collections that have been dominating the runways at NYFW.
Livné most recent collection for SS14 is a brilliant demonstration of sartorial workmanship. It shows the designer’s taste for architectural silhouettes matured into chic constructive designs that weave together enigmatic and playful visions of femininity, while exuding futuristic fervor. The collection is a graceful skip from his more demure FW13 line, for which Livné explored the darker shades of fashion. For his latest Resort collection, the designer once again highlights the feminine form, this time concentrating on the natural lines accentuated by soft silhouettes, contrasted by ornate detailing.
Boasting praise from the high priests of fashion, such as Women’s Wear Daily, who credited Livné for successfully taking a “risky path with an unconventional lineup, aiming to stand out from the pack,” with his SS14 collection, it would seem the young Livné is heading a class of his own, and doing it with evolving flair.
Eager to get to know fashion’s hottest up and comer, we caught up with Livné to chat about his inspiration and his future in fashion.
To start, tell me about what inspired your career in fashion? Fashion design was evidently something that appealed to you at an early age. You were so young when you first made your name.
I feel very blessed to be doing what I was destined to do. From a young age, I always knew I would be a fashion designer. As a child, when adults asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would never say what I “wanted” to be, but instead said I would be a fashion designer. Even my parents were surprised at my determination, and my mother has been an unfailing support from the day I was born.
That determination has certainly paid off. In terms of your vision as a designer, are there any work philosophies or design traits that you’ve carried over from the time you spent at Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli?
Ultimately, I’m very drawn to the concept of transformation and morphology; Alexander McQueen was an expert at that, and it greatly influenced me. I love the idea of fusing something otherworldly, robotic, and futuristic with something elegant and strong….my version of a modern Kafka. I think Cavalli is a master of embroidery and intricacy and McQueen influenced by the future, the past…dreams.
How does your own vision differ from the fashion houses you’ve worked at, and in what way does your SS13 collection tap into these design qualities?
Well, I’m attracted to colour, but also to black; I think it’s interesting that my FW13 collection was all black and sheer, and my SS14 collection is all color. I don’t like working with animal skins – I have cats and I love them so much – I think that using animals is like skinning and wearing your pet. Even for my SS14 collection, I used vinyl not patent leather – it was keeping more with my ’80s theme and had the shine and flexability that patent leather did not – but originally, it was motivated by my desire to stay away from using animals in any way.
Aside from the labels you worked with, are there others that you especially admire and find inspirational?
My favorite American designer is Rodarte, to me it is the opposite of commercial brand….it feels European — it’s about passion and quality and emotion.
What about artists or elements outside of fashion that inspire you as a designer?
For my SS14 collection, I was highly inspired by many forces, they are a mix of music, art, books, culture. For music for SS14, I was highly inspired by Grace Jones, Daft Punk and Lady Gaga. Visually and artistically, the concept of the 1980s covers of the science fiction magazine OMNI with illustrations by Peter Sato [inspired me]. I’ll always love Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis forever, and the apocalyptic book, The Crystal World, which J.G.Ballard penned, is a seminal piece for me.
I can see definitely see the sci-fi influence in the collection. You must have been thrilled by the positive reaction the collection received at NYFW?
It was amazing. We had amazing celebrities there – Paris Hilton, Rose McGowan, Crystal Renn, Iggy Azalea, and Natalia Kills….the collection looked incredible moving on the runway, it was truly a dream come true. Style.com called me ‘The Next Big Thing”….it was really more than I could have dreamed for. And all at the Lincoln Center – it was phenomenal!
Away from the runway, what is the most interesting bespoke piece you’ve worked on to date?
Creating the custom outfits for Beyoncé’s tour was certainly a surreal experience! I was in New York City following my first U.S. presentation in February 2013, Beyoncé’s stylists (Raquel Welch and Ty Hunter) had attended my show, and directly afterwards requested the entire Fall/Winter collection to show Beyoncé. It was so exciting. Shortly afterwards, they called to ask if I could come and fit Beyoncé in a specific dress from my collection, which they wanted modified for performance purposes. It was a good thing I was still in New York, meeting with stores for market, because next thing I knew, I was in a car heading to the IZOD Center where Beyoncé was rehearsing. There I was whisked backstage, where I meet with Miss Tina (Tina Knowles), Raquel, Ty, and Beyoncé herself, of course. She was so kind and very gentle – I immediately felt relaxed with her. I designed several gowns for The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour – a second set I also designed in New York over the summer, and because I didn’t have an atelier stateside, Miss Tina gave me space in the office, a private room, a sewing machine and one of her amazing tailors, so that I could create in peace. It was incredible of her and so very generous.
Looking back to the days before celebrity clientele, do you attribute any of your success to winning Israel’s Project Runway? What were the effects of this, especially immediately after the win?
Well of course winning Project Runway was a huge moment in my career. I had a feeling – but literally, nothing more than a feeling – that it was possible that I might win. So, my business partner (and husband) Gil and I planned that the first free-standing Alon Livné store would open a few days after the winner was announced – no matter what the outcome. We took the right gamble, I won, and that was the first of my two free-standing stores in the epicenter of Tel Aviv.
And now you’ve made it on an international level. Your shows at NYFW are standouts, with the designs being quite decadent. Would you say your vision for womenswear is one distinguished by luxury and glamour?
Well yes, I think fashion should be fantasy of course and the materials I use are all deliberate.
Can you give us an example?
I needed to use Swarovski home collection for some of the crystals for my Fall/Winter 2013 collection because I wanted them huge….it’s about thinking outside the box!
Who ranks as your favourite person you’ve dressed so far, and what about her style makes her the ideal Alon Livné woman?
Oh Beyoncé for sure…it was such an exciting, intimate experience and beyond my wildest dreams. I’d love to dress Gaga though. Our colors are totally in sync right now, as well! I think she is a genius.
Big fan of her style then I’m guessing?
I love Lady Gaga! She is so irreverent and incredible. She is my inspiration.
As a designer who started in the industry at a young age, what advice would you give to someone looking to break into fashion?
I would suggest that they follow their gut, stay true to their visions and never ever give up the dream!Published January 8, 2014