versions of jonah leslie
can you tell us how this project started? why creating a brand universe of your own?
Hard to find a distinct starting point for this but if I had to find one i would say it started at Cafe Jones in Nolita in the summer of 2015. I was having dinner with Suzanne Rae (who has her own line of ready-to-wear) and she said flat-out that she was willing to actually help me produce stuff, in New York. That I MUST start making clothes. She had mentioned this before but this time she was serious. She was like, "you can use my connections here for fabric sourcing and manufacturing, I'll help with the pattern making, let's do this man!!". I mean, this girl could work with any number of people, so it meant a lot. Plus she wanted nothing from it. Meanwhile, around that same time, another friend who does bags and has worked with Yohji Yamamoto in Tokyo, collaborated with Bernhard Willhelm and Ann Demeulemeester kept insisting that we make stuff together. In both cases I got on board and began sketching stuff and outlining ideas etc. I had samples made in NY too. Of course I don't live in NY so the process took longer and made me realize two pretty obvious things. 1- Move everything to Montreal if you're actually gonna do this and 2- What should I do with the branding? should it be called ibiki? if not then what?
I took some time to think about all this, digested and restructured. I developed the branding side with Alexis Coutu-Marion of Charmant & Courtois (who I work with on most graphic oriented projects). And found myself a production manager in Montreal, which is essential because I don't have time to take care of that end.
Both those things happened this past September-ish. Then, I was eager to start releasing stuff so I decided to do a first collection nice and easy. Something I could realistically have ready in time for the holiday pop-up we did in December.
we know ibiki is very much inspired by art, whether it be graphic design, performance art or photography. which artists and/or art movement inspired this first collection?
Creatively this is more or less the grander scheme of my process; Firstly I am very aware that everything and anything which my senses absorb end up building the reference source for both my consciousness and subconsciousness, which then pours into my creative work. So I am careful to chose where I go, what I listen to, what I look at, who I decide to be around etc. I put myself in situations where I'm feeding my psyche with great stuff all the time. It can be going to a museum, or looking at the sky, or reading certain books, or traveling to specific places etc etc. The difference is in what Museum did you chose to go to, what book did you read, etc. You make choices, and also for me it's important not to be lazy. I constantly feed myself stuff. Sometimes just observing whats going on around you once in those situations is good too. I combine that with self-censorship. I don't watch a lot of popular stuff like, the news... for example.
I feel like I've done a self-taught masters in 20th Century art and design already and my interests have since expanded into areas I was always curious about but limited in my time to learn about because of this Masters! ... I really did study a lot. These days I'm learning more about Astronomy, Anthropology, Biology, Anatomy and Physics.
artwork and symbols seem to be at the center of this collection - can you talk about the meaning of these graphic elements?
I like to keep things very elemental as starting points. And this point wasn't super easy because it's a collection based on graphics on clothes... Something I don't naturally gravitate towards all that much. But it made sense to start with. Then I was thinking about what to start with, also keeping in mind this theme of Le Partage we had for the pop-up.
So, we made a sun, and a moon. Pretty simple! We also included a scatter of the ibiki logo because Versions and ibiki are so closely related. And lastly I used this photo I took of a sculpture by my friend Luc Paradis (who is represented by Parisian Laundry). I had this photo as my profile on like whats app and insta for ages and just loved it. Turns out Luc named it "Space Gazer"... before knowing we'd made a sun and moon graphic.
So it all just came together, like that.
finally, just cause we're curious, do you have a favorite piece?
Not really. I'm in Mexico now and I've been wearing the black moon hoodie a lot though!