Before starting out as a fashion designer, Patrik Ervell had plans to travel the world as a diplomat, though things changed pretty quickly after he made up his mind to do fashion. Renowned as a designer who takes a step back, isolates himself and focuses on a singular vision, Ervell applies a level head to each design, producing masculine collections of innovative classics. Recently, VICE caught up with Ervell for an in-depth interview charting his evolution as a designer, from starting out to where he is now. Check out an extract below and read the full interview here.
VICE: If you started off as a political science and art major, how’d you get into fashion back in the day?
Patrik: I had inklings of it in high school the way everybody does when you’re starting to experiment with how you dress and what subculture you belong to and what music you listen to. That’s something all teenagers do. I didn’t start looking at fashion—as in the fashion industry—until college. There were a lot of people who I went to college with that ended up working in fashion, which is weird because Berkeley doesn’t have any fashion program. Like, there’s Carol and Humberto from Opening Ceremony and Kate and Laura from Rodarte. None of us studied fashion, but we all ended up working in the industry.
Were you guys a tight knit group of friends?
Humberto and I were close friends. Carol I didn’t meant until a few years later. Kate and Laura—I would say we were friendly, but we weren’t buddies. I remember studying for an art history final at their house. We were in a lot of the same classes, because we were both doing art history stuff.
What was Humberto like back in the day?
I’m four years younger than he is, so he had already left school, but would sometimes come back for parties. He had this crazy loft in San Francisco that seemed like the coolest thing. It was a big open space in the Mission, when the Mission was still kind of bad. There would be hookers and stuff outside. This was around the time I started thinking about fashion. I think he was, too. I mean all of us kind of were.
So you wanted to be a diplomat, right?
Yeah, I was going to join the diplomat corps. I went through the whole process. I took the Foreign Service exam, which is this intense written exam. If you pass it, you have to go to Washington DC for a second interview. I passed it, but then I decided not to pursue it anymore. Instead, I moved to New York City a week after graduating.
Did your folks freak?
For them moving to New York is like what you do if you’re young and ambitious. They didn’t object to it or anything.
What are your parents like?
They met in San Francisco in the 60s, which always seems like a crazy time and place. They met there; they didn’t meet in Sweden. So they were these two Swedish people in their 20s in San Francisco during the 60s when it was this weird capital of counter-culture. I wish I could say my parents were counter-culture, but they weren’t. They were pretty buttoned-up people. In a weird way, I feel like San Francisco during that period drew a lot of normal people who just thought it seemed cool. I think maybe my parents were those people.
Was there a defining moment when you were like “I don’t want to do this diplomat shit”?
I think I always knew it wouldn’t happen. And all my friends from my year moved to New York. Every year there would be this wave of people who would leave for New York, like immigrants in a way. I just went along with all my friends,.