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Notion 064 Dialogue: T.Lipop

Ahead of this season’s London Collections: Men shows, our writer RENA NIAMH SMITH meets River Island’s latest menswear collaborator, the fabulously talented TOM LIPOP.

Tom Lipop is becoming known for a fresh take on menswear design. An innovative approach to pattern cutting is the handwriting for label t.lipop, he plays off functional detail with luxury fabrics, mixing sportswear and suit shapes. “It’s all about taking the tailoring form and moving it forward. We use a lot of classic silhouettes, but within that silhouette there’s a lot gone on to try and change that, and bring it forwards into more the future.”

Although pared-back, he sidesteps the “minimal” label so many labels love, preferring the term less is more. “I just like stuff that’s clean. Our suiting, we try not to put pocketing on; that actually came from my dad, when I bought my first suit, he was like, “don’t undo the outside pockets, because it ruins the silhouette if you put stuff in there, so I figured why have the pockets there at all?”

The Autumn Winter 2013 collection was inspired by the cool clean landscapes of Scandinavia and Austria, where Tom regularly spends summers, Arctic fur trims add a luxurious touch to clean, modern tailoring. With a palette of greys, blacks and browns, leather and print were the playthings in a simple collection.

As he lounges against a concrete wall in the Brutalism of London’s East End on our shoot, his laddish charm breaks with twinkling, cheeky sparkle. He wisecracks that he only got into fashion to be around the girls, and it’s hard not to believe it. Unassuming and relaxed from the off, his attitude is refreshing. “To be honest, I just kind of fell into fashion. When I was younger, I always designed football kits, but I never though I was going to go into that industry.”

Tom played semi-pro football until an injury took him out of the game at 24.  He still regularly has a kick-about in Shoreditch, but it is not an escape from fashion. “I play football with six or seven of the lads, like I play with Agi and Sam, Matthew Miller and Aitor Thurup and Steve Salter, and we all go and play football together,” he says. “It’s not expected of us, because we’re not that normal, gay guy that’s designing clothes. Everyone’s a straight man working in the fashion industry, doing their own thing. So I think it’s just changing, the industry is just changing as a whole.”

Tom has been named as first menswear designer for the River Island Design Forum initiative, a collaboration bringing rising stars to the fore. The collection will be shown in a film in June at London Collections: Men as part of BFC Initiative Fash/On. Tom saw an opportunity to give regular guys something of a slightly higher calibre. “We’re using a lot of nice finishes, nice fabrics, and it’s just something we can give to the masses as opposed to the luckier few.” In an era when rapper A$AP Rocky name-drops Raf Simons and Kanye West cites Phoebe Philo, when it comes to real men, it’s all about having a high fashion edge to your swagger.

Tom is looking forward to showing his own line in the third men’s fashion week in London. He reckons the sportsmanlike mentality keeps things interesting between designers. It helps keep a level head and clearer playing field. “I think it’s just that the men are a lot more laid back and cool with each other. There’s not so much competition, everyone’s mates; it might not make sense but that’s how everyone feels. It’s an exciting time to be part of menswear.”

Field Notes:

1. Tom Lipop’s 16 piece collection with River Island will be available from September 2013. Prices range from £30-200.
2.  He was put off from studying architecture by the long training process, completing a BA in Fashion and Textiles at Bournemouth in 2007.
3. He starred on the third series of Project Catwalk, where he clashed with then Grazia editor Paula Reed, who named a harem pant design he did the ‘poo pant’.
4. He lives in East London with his girlfriend Emma and their pet pugs.

Photography: Chris MacArthur

WORDS: Rena Niamh Smith

Notion 064 is available online, at WHSmiths and all good independent newsagents. Get your copy here.

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