Designer Spotlight: Interview with Laurent Bitton, co-founder of Iro
Too cool for school
Purveyor of French insouciance Lauren Bitton chats to Buro about the cool kids of Iro and the brand's first-ever collaboration with a certain high-profile Polish model
Ripped T-shirts, quilted leathers, and above-the-ankle skinnies; the Iro girl is indeed too cool for school. French brothers Laurent and Arik Bitton founded the label back in 2005, its rock 'n' roll aesthetic and devil-may-care attitude plugging a niche in the industry in the early millenium.
Prior to the birth of Iro, Laurent Bitton was a musician in New York City, but it's clear that his talents are not just limited to score sheets and guitar riffs. Each season, the cult brand — of which Arik still has a role in but shys away from the spotlight — puts out a collection brimming with attitude and their signature effortlessly cool vibes which their loyal following snaps up. Models Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid and Hailey Baldwin are just a few names part of that crew. Bitton tells us in the interview that Iro gets the cool girls, but yes, we knew that already.
As he went on to describe the Iro man and woman, we knew that this was a designer whose work is led by a certain lifestyle and vibe, and maybe that's the secret to the inexplicable allure of the brand — he also mentioned that he's 'never inspired by fashion'. Bitton also names the musician responsible for his latest ear worms that's now the soundtrack to our summer, talks the brand's first collaboration set to launch early next year, and tells us what to expect from Iro come spring/summer 2016.
It's all about the attitude. At the end of the day, everybody wants to seduce someone, be loved by someone, and be socialised, in one way or another.
How did you and your brother come to start the label? At that time, I was living in New York and him, Paris. We were in the music industry but decided to transition to fashion. I wanted to bring the intellectual spirit of rock 'n' roll over — there weren't any clothing brands like what I had in mind at that time. Clothes were girly, feminine, and so very romantic. In 2005, you couldn't find a casual brand with a rock 'n' roll and masculine aesthetic, so that was our project: To bring the essence of music to fashion.
Why the name Iro? My brother became the artistic director and worked behind the scenes. Our brand name comes from the word 'hero', to signify the people who work hard but never get seen. We spelt it as Iro so no matter what accent you have, it's said the same way as we do.
Describe the Iro woman and man. She's a cool and edgy girl that feels comfortable in her own skin. She never tries too hard; it's effortless. It's the same for men, but the difference is that the Iro guy is really masculine. He has his bike and a '70s Mustang. He likes to live alone but opens up to the people he loves; a tough guy on the outside and soft deep down. Every season of ours has its own story and inspiration that comes from movies and music. We have an identity, but not a static look. It's all about the attitude. At the end of the day, everbody wants to seduce someone, be loved by someone, and be socialised, in one way or another.
What's coming up for you and the brand this fashion month? Will Iro be having a presentation? We show four times a year for our main line and collections. We have a presentation in our showroom for all our international customers in Paris coming up for spring/summer 2016 ready-to-wear.
What were the key influences for the upcoming collection, and what can we expect? We wanted to bring back the sexy evening dresses for spring. They're easy to throw on and you don't have to put much thought into it. So it's long dresses and oversized jackets that match high-waisted skirts and trousers. We love that silhouette. You tuck a ripped T-shirt into high-waisted pants and you're done. We plan it around one key item, and the rest are super basic and casual. We never do looks that are exaggerated in its entirety; we like to match the basics with crazier stuff.
Are you open to collaborations with other labels/personalities? It's so timely that you've asked this question because we're actually currently working on our first collaboration ever, with model Anja Rubik who starred in our fall ad campaign. We're known for all the top girls that we've shot for our campaigns (previously Karlie Kloss and Karmen Pedaru, to name but a few) for six to seven years now. They also love the brand. We get the cool girls and they've become interlinked with our vision, so we decided to launch a capsule collection with Anja Rubik. This venture is permanent as we believe in clothing that work year round, both for winter and summer. It will be in stores next year in March.
In your opinion, what is the one item that a lady needs in her closet? If it's a basic item, I would choose a leather jacket, it's a staple of ours. You have to keep your leathers in your closet for at least 10 years as it changes every year and constantly expresses something different. Clothing to me gets better with age. If it's something seasonal, I would pick the high-waist skirt and the oversized coat.
How did the Clay t-shirt come about? Linen T-shirts were our staple too and we decided that it needed to be able to express more than it already did. We wanted to make clothes that looked lived in; something with character. We literally wanted to sell 'old' t-shirts that are new, so we put holes in them. You get to buy something and immediately feel like you've had it forever. It's magic.
What is your ideal outfit? Something with James Dean or Kurt Cobain vibes. Dirty jeans, old T-shirts and plaid shirts. Also, leather that's been worn for years.
As your background is in music, can you share with us the one song that you have on loop at the moment? I'm obssessed with Gary Clark Jr. The sound is a combination of the '70s and the '80s and I just know that he's going to kill it in America. It's becoming more known now and it's sort of like rock blues if I had to name its genre. I like what he's doing. He's my favourite artist right now. But, my all-time favourites are Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.