Henrik Vibskov’s Introspective Approach to Outsider Fashion

Text by Michael Cohen

One of the most exciting dialogues in fashion occurs between tradition and rebellion. For Henrik Vibskov, reactionary deviation from norms is not a design objective. “I never do market research,” he says. “I don’t have a clue what people want, I just give them what I think is good. Wearability can mean so many things—I never make clothes that dictate how to wear them; they can just fit a lot of people.”

Vibskov perceives his audience as “a new man in a technical and modern world with his heart in homey grounds.” Hence, his fascination with the machine era: “This atmosphere is easy to express with sharp silhouettes—I use graphics to contrast with the straight lines of the prints.” His bold color palette and shocking graphics are his surly signature. “I am into contrast,” he explains, “colors that exist in their interaction with each other and the fabric. For S/S 2009, my contrast is red to white and orange on jersey and cotton. Both materials are sleek with smooth surfaces, which makes the contrast very strong. It hurts the eye a bit.” He satisfies the new man’s yearning for groundedness with African and Mexican cultural influences. “I am interested in outside cultures as I am a very outside person myself,” he explains. “I have a boat and every free minute is spent on the sea.”

For F/W ‘09, Vibskov took a traditional inspiration from the Wilhelminian era. Applying classic elements and tuxedo derailing, he crafted oversized suspenders, disproportionate bowler hats and contrasting prints.

 Amidst the performative showmanship of Vibskov’s installations, the ordinary crisp, white button-down or pleated shorts may appear out of place in such avant-garde showings. But in fact, his shows often include Scandinavian classics. Having graduated from the fashion program at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, Vibskov is not naïve to technique. Impeccably made and imposible to classify, Vibskov’s creations exude high fashion.

“He’s struck a very nice balance,” says Seven New York buyer Joseph Quartana. “I know he has over 130 stockists! Considering he’s ‘avant-garde,’ that is very impressive.” Quartana explains part of Vibskov’s odd, outsider appeal: “One interesting point about Henrik is that he is one of the few cutting-edge menswear designers who is actually straight. This makes a big impact in his work’s appeal to the straight masses, at least on a subconscious level.”

Vibskov’s first career retrospective “The Visit,” a series of interactive installations, recently showed at MU Einhoven, and “The Fringe Projects,” a collaboration with Andreas Emenius, is slated to fill the entire Zeeuws Museum through June. Blessed with a flair for the unorthodox, Vibskov is also a visual artist, filmmaker and drummer.  Vibskov has been the only Scandinavian designer on Paris Men’s Fashion Week’s schedule since 2003, his shows notorious for their intensive, atmospheric installations, as in “Big Wet Shiny Boobies,” “The Land of the Black Carrots” and “The Fantabulous Bicycle Music Factory.” Yeah, it’s that kinda’ party.