BEHIND THE SEAMS: Malan Breton
It’s one thing to take over fashion in the USA, it’s another thing to take over the world. That’s exactly what internationally acclaimed fashion designer Malan Breton is doing. Having a fresh perspective on menswear by bringing his Taiwanese influences and bold patterns, Breton has set himself apart from the get-go. Breton came on our radar last Spring with his inaugural NYFWM show, where he stepped outside the box by using androgynous model Rain Dove along with more traditional male models.
Having spoken to Breton, he brings not only a staple elegance to his craft, but also an actual caring to everything he does. Every fabric, every stitch, and every model choice is all a part of Breton’s creation as he exudes passion for the industry unlike any other. Mentor after mentor, Breton is poised to share his journey with us. Sitting down with the designer, we got to chatting about the premiere of his documentary, the inspiring country known as Taiwan (we can’t wait to visit!), and the beginnings of his career as he forayed modeling experiences into fashion design. He answered a few more in depth questions for us before jumping into our lightening round of 21 Questions.
Labeling Men: So you’ve been around the industry, starting as a model and then going into design. How did you make that transition?
Malan Breton: When I first came to New York I was modeling. Three years later, I started acting in shows on Broadway. I was discovered by an agent, was signed, and started doing voiceovers. At one point, I was coming back to New York from Dallas, Texas for a Broadway audition, but got a very bad feeling when I went to the audition because the casting director was rude to me. I walked out and called my agent saying, “I’m not going to be acting anymore.” And my agent goes, “How do you expect to make money?” Off the top of my head I said, “I’m going to become a fashion designer.” So a week after that I met Arnold Scaasi, who started to mentor me. I created a few of my own pieces here and there. Years before I actually worked with a company in London where I learned the construction of menswear. So I’ve had intermittent careers in fashion, from modeling, acting, and to other forms as well. But I’d never been to design school, so Scassi helped me pull everything together so that I could launch my company. While working with Scassi, I researched Charles James, Scaasi’s mentor, for countless hours on how James builds his corsets and how construction was done. Basically when I build a gown it’s built the same way Charles James builds a gown in his era. I had my first fashion show at NY Fashion Week during SS2014 and I suppose the rest is history.
Labeling Men: We are big fans of your prints! What draws you to such vibrant, exquisite prints that not everyone takes advantage of? Malan Breton: I come from Taiwan. So if you ever go there, it’s very visual with an abundance of color. All the architecture, nature, and scenery becomes a melding of colors. You suddenly see how these natural colors work with the constructed elements and how everything flows together. That’s how I work with colors in my collection. I believe very much in nature and how it can create these beautiful colors, fish, flowers, and landscapes. There’s not this idea that, “it can only be these four colors,” the idea is, “these are the four colors and then these other 18 colors can also all work together to make a beautiful garment.” I try to use color tastefully because sometimes it can be a bit too much. But I really love color, texture, and vibrancy.
Labeling Men: What was the thought process in filming a documentary on your journey traveling back to Taiwan?
Malan Breton: I wanted to go back and show people where this use of color, texture, and concept came from. Filming the documentary was an opportunity for me to go back to some of the sites and locations that I saw as a child. I wanted people to understand and see how certain elements inspired the fashion. I hope that I was successful in doing that. I’m actually going back to Taiwan this summer as I work on this television project that will help viewers get a better sense of Taiwan culture.
Labeling Men: What are your plans for Menswear Fall?
Malan Breton: Menswear for Fall is going to have a lot of my traditional elements. But there’s also going to be fabric weaving elements that I saw while in Taiwan. There’s textures and things that I don’t think people have seen before. A lot of it is ecologically friendly and I hope people respond positively to that. It’s amazing that we can make these beautiful garments from fabrics and dyes that aren’t harmful to the Earth. I believe that we should take care of the Earth and that we need to teach that to the next generation. This collection will speak to that.
Labeling Men: How was collaborating with Rain Dove?
Malan Breton: I worked with Rain when she first came to New York and was fresh on the scene. I believe I met her before the September 2014 shows. I was drawn to her energy, just compelled by the way that she is so vocal about her mission in life and about her advocacy for equality. She's a lovely, kind person in general and outside of work. In all honesty I wish her so much success, she’s on her way to great things. She has to meet Karl Lagerfeld, he’d love her. I’m hoping that with her next trip over to Europe she’ll get to meet Karl and other individuals that can help her take what she’s doing to the next level. It’s not just being a famous model for her; it’s the fact that she has a voice about things. That’s a necessary element in the world right now!
Label your design aesthetic?
East meets West.
Floral or paisley patterns?
Designer to watch (besides you) right now?
Catherine Belluardo. I love her boots designs.
Three visuals in nature you pull inspiration from?
Ocean, fish, and birds.
Unique step in design process?
Dance, making sure the muslins can move with the dancers body, for ultimate comfort in real life.
What do you look for in a model?
Describe your day in three word.
Press, business, design.
Artistic skill you want to learn?
Favorite go-to outfit?
My black wool chalk stripe suit first introduced in my Spring 2012 collection. My leather motor jacket and denim for casual days.
Rain or snow?
One thing you liked most about styling celebrities?
Do you believe people have auras?
Person you look up to.
My mentor Scaasi, RIP.
Los Angeles or NYC?
Early bird or night owl?
Favorite color at the moment?
I have actually been exploring the recreation of Technicolor hues in film, and fashion, so those are my favorite colors of the moment cyan, magenta, and yellow.
One trend in men’s fashion you love?
One trend in men’s fashion you wish would go away?
Trends make life fun, otherwise we would be living in a grey world. I love trends, but tread lightly on the use of them in my own line.
Was there anytime you were "star struck"? If so, then who?
Being a part of the entertainment industry my whole life afforded me the opportunity to befriend many great stars from all over the world, but the one person I was most star struck by was Elizabeth Taylor. Great stars are always so gracious, it was a blessing to know, and work with many of them.
Words to live by?
"Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"
Find out more at malanbreton.com
By Nisim Frank