Brian Swift Is The Designer Making "LGBT Nightlife" Clothes For The Everyday
Instagram may be a platform ruled by algorithm and the ever-shifting landscape of influencers vying for follower engagement, but there’s something unique about this platform, where no other app can compete—its infinite and unparalleled scope for discovery. The weird, the wonderful. The new, the absurd. The directional. The down right incredible.
Many may consider falling down the rabbit hole of Instagram a ‘time wasting’ task—and to them I say ‘on the contrary’. Discovering a fresh, like-minded creative is like coming up for air, invigorated by the encounter—living for color and fun and attempting to make the world a better place through their art. These people, for the most part, convert to collaborators and some often graduate to genuine friends.
During one of my most recent spirals, my eyes were assaulted by a startling explosion of color and sparkle (two of my favorite things), in the form of a collection from an emerging designer—one I immediately thought to be a mash-up of MC-Hammer-meets-Sergeant-Pepper’s-Lonely-Hearts-Club, in the best possible way.
Enter Brian Swift: a most unassuming, articulate and polite, neoteric Parsons graduate, who has built the foundations for his namesake brand on his fascination with emerging technologies and the imagining of what they might look like in the future. Possessing a natural curiosity for the inspiration behind design, as opposed to an appreciation for the end product alone, Swift is more interested in understanding the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what’.
We met up to shoot his latest collection Blockchainizer, talk tech and inspiration, and what’s coming next.
A New York City kid, Swift is quick to mitigate the assumed excitement and fabulosity such an upbringing might suggest with “it’s not as much fun as you might think.”
A self-professed computer geek growing up, he was more interested in experimenting with his computer and taking things apart, “even if I was incapable of putting them back together again.” And so began his preoccupation with deconstruction—an ongoing probing questioning that has carried through into his design process—triggered by the realization that he was existing in a purely manmade world.
“I think I became interested in fashion when one day walking through the city I ‘woke up’ and realized that there wasn’t a thing in sight that was created by nature,” he says. “Buildings, pavement, cars, and the clothing on the people around me were all designed and made by other people. From that point on I was always trying to figure out and understand how and why the things around me were made. I found clothing particularly mystifying, in that there were so many styles, shapes, colors and materials and I couldn’t explain the first thing about any of them.”
From the limited knowledge I have garnered about Blockchain as the underlying technology of digital currencies, it is considered by many as subversive counter culture tech, because of its decentralized network and self-auditing ecosystem. Your thesis collection, Blockchainizer, is inspired by this technology. Tell us more.
The collection title really gives it away, but yes it is. I found that many people I spoke to were opposed to the idea of Blockchain for reasons they couldn’t explain. I think this reluctance stems from how cold and austere the design of consumer technology is these days. I started by imagining what the future of consumer technology might look like, then tried to bring that technology to life in my fabric development.
In designing the collection, I described it as “decentralized,” much like blockchain itself. I wasn’t looking to dictate any full looks to anyone, but rather hoping to invite them to remix and mashup the looks for themselves. I think that’s extremely important to me. I would hope that people don’t just wear the things I make as I designed them, but that they mix and match and restyle them to align with their personal style.
Has the mood and style of Blockchainizer set the blueprint for Brian Swift the label?
The Blockchainizer collection is reflective, sparkly and colorful, and if those three words don’t apply to my future collections, I would be very surprised. If my work inspires just one man to try a color or print that seems too bold to him, then I’m happy.
My brand is about pushing the menswear market to be more forward thinking. I want to show men that there’s not a single color, print, silhouette or material in all of fashion that they should be afraid of. [That said,] it makes me happy to see anybody wearing my work, in any context. When I’m designing, I’m usually picturing the work in the context of LGBT nightlife. Think disco balls, laser lights, lots of glitter, and great music. LGBT nightlife has historically featured interesting and expressive outfits, I just want to help keep the party going!
Fashion is not something that most people need to take seriously, so I think that we should all try and have a little fun with it!
If my work inspires just one man to try a color or print that seems too bold to him, then I’m happy.
As a massive advocate of having fun with fashion as a personal mission, I’m excited to see more designers bring a sense of playfulness into their work. Amongst your influences, you credit Jeremy Scott—King of sartorial satire. Why is it so important for you to have humor at the centre of your work?
Having fun is critical for me because a lot of menswear is really constrained by “tradition”. I’m not interested in thinking outside the box; I’m interested in making fun of the box for even existing.
Humor is a great way of communicating that message because it shows that the people who don’t conform to traditions aren’t suffering for it.
Amen to that Brian! I think most of the world would benefit greatly from not taking themselves so seriously. So what does the future hold for Brian Swift? What can we expect to see in the near future?
As far as my personal design work goes, I’ve been toying with some new categories that I think my style works well with: athletic wear, swimwear, and technological accessories.
As for my next life plans, I’m looking into menswear design jobs. For everything I know about fashion there’s ten things I don’t and I want to keep on learning!
Photographer: Corbin Chase
Styling & Model: Gemma Sherlock aka The Scarlet Bob
Makeup: Jenna Wren Make Up
Fashion: Brian Swift
Stay tuned to Milk for more forward-thinking fashion