By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Frank Ford, one-half of the German design duo Loyandford, was talking recently about his newest favorite client, a Catholic schoolgirl who wandered into their Chung King Road boutique looking for a prom dress -- in turquoise. Before landing in California, Ford and his partner, Stefan Loy, raised a sensation in their homeland with clothes inspired by the Baader-Meinhof gang, the early-1970s Marxist brigands. When their Chinatown store opened last fall, cognoscenti ransacked the place for Loyandford’s “machine gun” print, a Russian Kalashnikov stenciled onto sheer dresses and stockings -- amusing, but not the kind of wardrobe to inspire inquiries from a teenager hoping to find a dress to match the promise of a night perfumed with the velvet aroma of gardenias.
Vocal, impressionistic, Ford brushes aside the highbrow irony; he is interested only in the surface of things. “The machine gun can really be elegant,” he says, deploying his Alexanderplatz accent to make “elegant” sound suave. When the high school girl walked in, here is what he saw: “She looked like deep winter. Scottish. I was seeing her with her father -- I don‘t know where her mother was -- in this, like, Craftsman house, all painted in white. I said, ’Girl, you come back in a week, and I‘ll make a dress in turquoise for you.’ It will be Catholic Girl, with a little bit of this Carrie thing,” he pronounces, pointing to a diaphanous lace number with spaghetti straps that he‘s somehow going to transform into the demure dress Carrie wore to her prom. “Deconstructed Catholic Girl, nothing showing -- no tits showing on that stage,” he says, waving his hand at the end of an outstretched arm.
Ford, whose real name is Frank Schuette -- he changed it to Ford because in German, fort means leaving, “I am gone,” he says, and Schuette “sounds bad in English” -- is talking rat-a-tat-tat while Loy is gliding silently about the store, like a dancer on a walk-through. Along with their assistants, Liz and Henri, they are arranging the clothes and fiddling with the lighting for a preview, to be held the following night, of their fall 2001 collection.
The ground floor of the store is empty, except for a two-tier platform -- a pair of stepped white Formica cubes, one draped in faux mink -- that will become the pedestal for the models. Ford rehearses the setup. He breaks into stride with all of the calculated insouciance of Gisele Bundchen, and casts that lacerating look of contempt that dominates the runways nowadays. The difference is, when he drops the pose, Ford swoons in laughter.
About this time, roughly 24 hours before the show, pandemonium rightly ought to prevail. Loy seems unaffected. When Ford, suddenly alarmed, asks, “Where is my dog?” and, upon spotting “Officer,” a black terrier foundling, blurts out, “Oh, cool,” Loy drifts further outside the ambit of Ford’s self-induced commotion. The plaintive anxiety showing in his eyes is enlarged by the gogglelike, black-rimmed glasses he is wearing -- hiding his face while magnifying his introspection. Whatever is on his mind, he is keeping mum.
Stefan Loy, 36, grew up in Munich, in the shadow of the ruthless idealism that propelled Baader-Meinhof -- “the only time,” says Ford, 35, who was raised in Berlin during the same era, “that something was going on that would change the whole mentality of all Germany.” A decade and a half later, Loy graduated from the design academy in Munich with a less than rosy view of the erstwhile revolutionaries. “I found out they were rich kids. It is easy to fight for the poor if you are rich and always have money,” he says in a soft voice.
By 1993, he‘d teamed up with Ford, a veteran of the retail vintage-clothing business and a consultant to fashion magazines. Their first collection, Label 3000, which emerged from the European rave scene, exploded. They took old clothes -- “horrible neon sweaters, so bright, so terrible,” Ford declares -- and patched them together into new items. The line made them famous, and dragged them down. “When we started,” Loy says, “it was one-of-a-kind. But the demand was so big, we couldn’t support it. It lost its handwriting.” They chucked the business and went their separate ways -- Ford to New York, Loy to Japan.
At their Los Angeles boutique, tucked into a quiet pedestrian lane at the northernmost end of Chinatown, they‘ve renewed their collaboration. By convincing the building’s owner that they would use the built-in birch cabinetry with pebble-glass shelving, reminiscent of a 1950s haberdashery, they were able to sign a lease. On the rack are some of the “deconstructionist” pieces that are Loyandford‘s trademark -- sheer tulle vests with crewel embroidery, T-shirts with sweater sleeves or ball-gown ruffles, black fiberfill ski jackets with the sleeves hacked off and left unfinished, the Christmas-window batting exposed at the edges. a
Loy and Ford seem to come at their clothes design from two places, the intellect and the id. When they worked apart, Ford says, “in my clothes, the straight line was missing, in his, the craziness.”