Robert Molnar

What has been your proudest moment?
I’m very fortunate to have had many…when I made “paper-like” clothing and my mother requested to be buried in “paper” panties that I was making at the time of her death.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
My mother being buried in “paper” panties.

The joke encapsulates both the manner of Molnar and the style of his clothes: a twisting, macabre, ironic viewpoint that lends itself easily to the darker sides of fashion.

Molnar is an oddity in the fashion world, because if anything, he seems quite opposed to branding and self-promotion. You may be more likely to know him from his work as a stylist, where he specializes in shoots with actors and rock stars (at the moment, he is working with Benicio Del Toro and Sting). Yet one will not see Molnar putting cheeky ads in magazines or using his celebrity “ins” to make his line more popular. As he says, “I design because of my passion to create…it’s not about the desire for fame or excessive money.” Designing, for Molnar, is about “constantly creating new lines within a confine of tradition that also steps out beyond comfort zones to allow people to find new ways to express themselves.” It’s the passion, sweat and blood that go into creating the clothing that Molnar appreciates most about his work and accordingly, his clothes reflect this, as he strives to eschew commercialism completely when designing. He says, “If I’m sketching and I think the garment is too salable, then I change the direction of my pencil.”

Molnar’s collections might be best described as “haute goth.” It’s for those who like the élan of Yves Saint Laurent, Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens, but who want to wear something that is not mass-produced and mass-marketed. But don’t let this fool you into thinking Molnar’s look is limited to a singular style: with the right attitude and a certain predilection for dark hues, anyone can pull off his clothing and look good doing it.

Fittingly, when asked about his inspiration for the collection, Molnar responds, “politics, the state of the world and depression always inspire me.” The collection evokes elements that both oppose and enforce one another—confidence, loneliness, power, strength and despair. Molnar synthesizes these aspects to produce elegant and dark effects. Of particular interest are the habit-like black coat and dark body suit, reminiscent of a worker’s uniform. Both represent what Molnar does best: taking the quotidian and forming a bleaker, tortured, stylized simulacrum of itself. The looks abound with unexpected draping and detailing, and weighted, heavy fabrics that are paired with featherlike ones. In Molnar’s world of the form-fitting yet form-distorting, where texture is as much of an element as construction, the work requires reflection to appreciate fully.

It’s no surprise, then, that the collection is so sought after. Each piece is meticulously constructed and examined. Molnar oversees every aspect of its production process, employing small, American workshops to create a limited number of pieces. Given its small but committed fan base, Molnar has created a powerful collection meant for a very discerning crowd.

The work proves that every man, even the least sardonic, has a darker side that he wants to show off. And given Molnar’s sartorial skill, one can begin to understand his mother’s desire to have something special created for her by her incredibly talented son.

–  Max Kessler

photography Steven Chu