An interview with A Cut Above
The path of a brand is very much determined by its creators’ ability to stay true to its values, to be creatively honest. Robin de Flô, An-Josefien Falelavaki and Joaquim Barriach are the people responsible for A Cut Above, a Belgian brand that first emerged in 2011.
The brand’s leading trident is determined to make of those strong beliefs their original mission. From the streets of Antwerp, ACA delivers collections that fully respect an unrivalled conviction: designing whatever you want whenever you want to.
The origins of the brand, streetwear’s state of the art and the new Spring/Summer 2014 collection are just some of the topics of an enlightening conversation with Robin de Flô. Read below.
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ACA started out as a high-end streetwear store in 2008. We introduced a lot of (then) startup brands in Belgium, such as Norse Projects, Bleu de Paname and Libertine-Libertine that have now become industry staples.
We were always very on point when it came to finding new brands, but unfortunately, the local market was a bit behind. With pain in our heart, we had to close the store in 2011.
A couple months later we were contacted by the buyers over at Hypebeast who saw some things we had done. They wanted to purchase some of our name brand pieces and posted them on the HB Blog and Store. Due to this coverage, more and more stores picked up on ACA and the rest is history.
Who are the creative minds behind the creation of the store and of the brand?
I used to run the original ACA store by myself and towards the end of 2011, I met An-Josefien Falelavaki. She’s the person that actually pushed me to start focusing on the brand and get the ball rolling again. The two of us decide on which pieces will actually be made and we work together on the products from start to finish.
Our graphic designer is Joaquim Barriach, who lives and works in Barcelona. He takes care of all our graphic designs and is just as essential to the team and the overall feel of the brand. He is also the graphic designer for “11 by Boris Bidjan Saberi”
How would you define and categorize A Cut Above as a brand?
Personally, I’m an 80’s kid, so I grew up with skateboarding, punk and hip-hop. At the same time, living in Antwerp you would really “live” what was happening with Belgian fashion.
It was all very much underground still and very exciting to see these designers turn into the greats they are today. I would say that equally influenced my sense of fashion.
An-Josefien, on the other hand, is very much a 90’s baby so she has that poppier – a bit flashier edge. The combination of these 2 totally different tastes is what makes up the chemistry of the brand.
It’s very hard to pinpoint exactly what we’re about. We just do whatever we like, whenever we want to.
What can you tell us about your creative process? Is it methodical, chaotic?
Two times a year, we head to Barcelona for a week or Joaquim comes over to Belgium and we just throw ideas out there. Most of the time we’re pretty much on the same page after a day or 2 and by the end of the week, the collection is done.
Inspiration usually leads to creation – what inspires you the most? Ideas, beliefs, ideas, material objects?
When I’m not working I’m always on the hunt for vintage clothing, just going through piles of crap until I come across that one piece that makes it worth the while.
A lot of times, we just go from there, adding graphics, work on the fit and turn it into our own rendition of that piece.
Your background is one of knowledge when it comes to all things streetwear and beyond – what are your views about the current state of the art of the business and of its creative approach?
It seems like everybody nowadays wants to have their own brand in the same way that everybody wants to be a DJ or photographer or artist. At the end of the road, there’s always the ones that come with originality and invest in the quality and longevity of their brand (or art) that will stand out. We’re not really worried to be honest.
What really determines that a brand gets noticed and eventually becomes a reference? The ability to be original, creative statement?
Like I said before it’s definitely about originality and carving out your own path. Even when there’s some hardship and setbacks, I think it’s important to stick to your original plan and just do you. Of course, there has to be some luck involved, so once again the Hypebeast thing was a blessing for us.
‘Perpetual Youth’ is one of the retaining phrases of your most recent SS14 collection – what does it mean for you? Is it really what we all search for, one way or the other?
I think it’s more about re-inventing yourself time and time again and just keep going, not ever settling for anything.
I would hate to live a run-of-the-mill life and end up being stuck at age 60 looking back at life, regretting not doing all the things I wish I would have done.
What was the mainframe for the creation of SS14?
It was very much a throwback to the early years at Raf Simons from about 1997 to 2002.
I used to do the very early runway shows and Raf was always genuinely interested in what we were all about, from the way we dressed to our outlook on life in general.
In every next collection, you would see certain references to the kids he worked with at the time.
So we thought it would be good to take it all the way back there and do the same thing in regards to his work.
Finally, what is there to know about A Cut Above’s upcoming creative path?
For the moment we are finishing our SS 15 collection just in time for the tradeshows and we’re very pleased with the outcome.
There’s going to be a big change in style, so we’re very excited and curious how people will react once it comes out.
We’ve just opened our first ACA Flagship Store in Antwerp and we will be launching an ACA Sports line this fall as well.
By the looks of it, we won’t be going anywhere soon.
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