Jacob Birge is black. Never beige, grey or- God forbid- colourful, the founder and owner of Jacob Birge Vision is unapologetically ultramodern fashion. Outspoken, opinionated and always faultlessly dressed head to toe in his own label, to meet him is to broaden your fashion horizons. Ask him his career aspirations and the answers are on the tip of his tongue- become one of the most influential designers in fashion history. Be a creative director for Balenciaga, Celine or YSL. Ask his favourite look of the season and the answer comes even quicker- his own. No-one can fault Birge’s confidence, at least.
Luckily, his collections to date have more than lived up to the hype. Having encountered many avant garde designs in my time, Jacob Birge Vision is still unlike anything else seen to date. On our first encounter, I recall a full suit of body armour, a relative walking human armadillo. Leather, neoprene-like fabrics and unique fastenings all featured heavily. This season, cutting edge fabrics are the look du jour. Plastic visors, perforated jackets and oversized nylon trousers sit harmoniously alongside the soon-to-be classic leather finished tops and paneled pieces. The collection focuses on “the changes which occur throughout human life”: garments are increasingly paneled to represent the initial chaos then eventual equilibrium sought throughout existence. Silhouettes are innovative as ever, completely distorting normal proportions whilst somehow still managing to flatter the female form.
Initially studying chemistry, Birge’s strengths in the fields of science and mathematics are often reflected in his designs. In his breakthrough graduate collection, leather plating formed an almost skeletal outer shell on separates whilst an innate understanding of the human form allowed pieces to be cut in innovative, modern ways without completely alienating customers. Waists are still emphasized, the classic hourglass shape still sought. Despite his insistence that he is poor at drawing, Birge’s route to fashion fame came when he entered the Offfashion Awards whilst still studying for his chemistry degree. He went on to win, so gaining free entrance to TEKO fashion school in Denmark. After two years at the establishment, Birge relocated to Edinburgh College of Art to continue his BA Honours degree in Fashion Design. Thanks to a last minute change of direction, his graduate collection evolved to become one of the most talked about of his year. Following this long awaited press attention, Birge decided to throw himself full time into creating his own brand, winning funding from the Starter For 6 program along the way. The designer’s use of sound design, visual installations and fashion films as well as straight up design have more than sealed his fate as a cutting edge brand. Indeed, it is this angle he took whilst showing at London Fashion Week last month, combing a live band and media projection to create a novel catwalk show unlike any other.
It is perhaps Birge’s fashion inspirations which allow for such strongly designed Womenswear collections. Unlike many other designers, Birge does not draw inspiration from fellow industry insiders; instead he looks to the very people he aims his collections at. Strong, fashion forward women who are open to taking fashion risks. Birge seems to thrive on customers who are open to new concepts, brave enough to break the fashion barriers. Anna Freemantle, head of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival and somewhat of a muse to Birge, is often called into play. With her statuesque model manner and strinking blonde buzz cut, it is easy to see why such a high fashion brand sits so well with her. Indeed, to discuss Birge’s ideal model, one instantly gains a deeper understanding of his goals. His brand is fashion, clothing; not people. Anyone too womanly, too sexy, is too much of a conflict with his pieces. When a brand markets itself as “innovative”, “unconventional” and “ultramodern”, it seems somewhat impossible for it to appeal to every style. However, the more I get to know Birge, the more I come to think this could not be further from his goal. Jacob Birge Vision is aimed at the “blacks” of the fashion world; no beiges or greys allowed.