The Lucid Dreams of Eckhaus Latta
I began to worry after leaving the Eckhaus Latta SS15 show that someone had slipped me a tab of LSD. The entirety of the show was accompanied by a static buzzing reminiscent of bacon sizzling on a grill, a children’s choir with a live band sang wordless melodies on loop, and the runway, an installation from artist Alex Da Corte, was covered in shredded lettuce. The arrival of the models enhanced the surrealism tenfold, in a collection that can best be described as "domesticity by Dali." Shorts made from terrycloth bath towels were paired with rust-colored denim vests, halter tops made from pillowcases rested beneath custard aprons and overalls with absurdly large pockets. Accessories ranged from platform heels made from infusing two pairs of tennis shoes together to playing card hair clips to tube socks that were literally painted onto models’ legs. To top it all off, the show ended in a dance performance that had models cowering together in huddles while the children’s chorus continued to screech overtop of them. Needing a little lucidity, I sat down with the two designers, Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta, to get some clarification about the collection and their inspirations.
So you all met in art school. How much of your artistic training would you say affects your work?
Mike Eckhaus: Well, it definitely does. We went to RISD, I studied sculpture and Zoe studied textiles, so neither of us have any training in making clothing. So inevitably our educations in studio art heavily inform the clothes we make.
Was it challenging making the transition into fashion?
Zoe Latta: It was challenging, but we didn’t really think of it that way. The
challenges didn’t present themselves as barricades but more as obstacles. So there were—and still are—many learning lessons.
ME: We’ve learned along the way how to make clothing, and we just kind of figure things out.
This collection is incredibly domestic, given your choice of materials and the overall presentation. Was that a mindset you had when designing it?
ZL: It’s funny, that’s something we were told about our last collection.
ME: I think it’s more of something like a trope or theme in our work. It’s not an intentional thought, it’s just there in the work that comes out. We never enter a collection with specific sources of inspiration; it’s very scattered and varied. When we do have a source of inspiration we try and move as far away from it as possible.
ZL: I also think we investigate materials very viscerally: things that pop up in our lives will become the inspiration, whether it’s towels or fabric. Just things we get excited about.
How important is the runway show for you?
ME: We love doing runway. Seeing the clothing in motion, it’s just active.
ZL: Presenting your collection in any format, video or live, etc., it’s a very important part of the process.
ME: It’s that aspect of telling a story; it becomes an essential part of the work.
Your work has this wonderful quality of androgyny and playing with gender. Where does that idea come from?
ME: We approach dressing very personally; neither of look at clothing as being gendered. The way we approach clothing is such an emotional reaction that you don’t have to think of certain things as being culturally appropriate or relevant.
ZL: Well, obviously, some things fit a woman’s body better than a man’s body, there is a standard that way. But we really don’t think of playing with that relationship as a statement. There are a lot of clothes we share, regardless of body type, and when we use that there’s no kind of agenda—just how the work turns out.