Gustavo Lins

Every art discipline is enriched by people straying from their original metiers. The celebrated Swiss dramatist Max Frisch, for example, found his way to the architecture of the ego and its deconstruction after studying to be an architect. Similarly, Brazilian designer Gustavo Lins transfers the structural principle of building to the soft fabrics of his couture, like the late, great Gianfranco Ferré, known in his day as the “architect of fashion.” Says Lins: “I really do get the feeling of expressing the spirit of architecture via clothing.” He has made the human T-girder formed by the spine and shoulders, turned upside down, a leitmotif of his designs.

Born in Belo Horizonte in 1961, Gustavo Lins initially studied architecture in Minais Gerais and Barcelona. But one of his professors noticed that his passion was rather directed elsewhere and told him “to reconsider what materials he’d rather be working with – glass and steel or linen and silk.” His answer was to move to Paris in the early 1990s to complete his studies. Meantime he learned his craft in the fashion world as an assistant, among others to two great eccentrics of the Paris couture scene, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. What he was fascinated by most was “the structure of shaped ‘clothes’ [wrapped] around the bodies.” His approach to designing clothes was strictly architectural, proceeding from two-dimensional sketches to volume. “At a distance, it is an object. Once worn, it becomes a space. I construct it, but it is the person with her mind and intelligence and personality who occupies it.”

Lins attracted attention with his extraordinary designs for Louis Vuitton and Kenzo before starting his own Gustavo Lins label in 2003, where the T in his Christian name is upside down as a trademark. A recognisable characteristic is his strict sense of geometry. He loves asymmetrical details such as a bare shoulder or lapels running diagonally into each other. Stylistically, he is strongly influenced by Japan and East Asia, being particularly taken with the kimono and its formal idiom. This classy reticence is also evident in the concealed identifying feature of his fashions. Only initiates know who is wearing Gustavo Lins, because, like the embroidered rectangle featuring on the back of pieces by Martin Margiela as a subtle signifier, the genuine Lins can only be recognised from the visible seams that hold together his jackets and trousers. The label itself is discreetly hidden under a triangle of leather on the inside.

A guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture since 2007, Lins not only likes working with unusual and exclusive materials such as recycled leather. (He has even thought about using porcelain for appliqué work.) His view of fashion also offers a surprising take. Describing his style as “jetty elegance,” he draws attention to a detail often forgotten by designers. We should pay more attention to the “back of dresses because the back is the side we cannot see. It is for me the intuitive side of a garment.”

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