Yigal Azrouël Would Like You to Define Your Waist

Yigal Azrouël, in his studio, with some looks from his lovely ladies’ spring ‘08 line.Photo: Melissa Hom

At February Fashion Week, young Israeli-born designer Yigal Azrouël triumphed: He showed on a day with rain so nasty it was practically biblical, but his collection was so must-see that nary a buyer, editor, or fashionista could keep from trekking to West Chelsea for the event. And Azrouël’s collection was more than worth it, with impeccable draping and textured fabrics that appealed to a more sophisticated customer. But always versatile, he’s also collaborated with K-Swiss on new lines of men’s and women’s sportswear. Since clearly the man knows his stuff, we had to pick his brain for a bit.

What inspired your recent collection?
For fall ‘08, it was all about the process of design and working with new fabrics; it wasn’t about a painting or artist. I was working with really rich textures and embroidery that brought tonality to a moody palette. For my menswear, it’s always about what I want to wear; it’s very personal.

Has the response been different from past ones? We’ve heard nothing but raves about it.
The editors and buyers have always been so kind, but I think the difference could be that I’m starting to reach a wider audience. More people are mispronouncing my name.

Fall ‘08 had a different feel than your other collections — more grown up, more high fashion. Where did that come from?
My collections evolve every season, naturally, because I’m still a young designer and am learning and growing with each season. I also drape more than I sketch, so it’s really about the physical act of working with fabric and seeing where it takes you.

Your last show was on the first day of Fashion Week — the weather was absolutely dreadful. How concerned were you that it would affect the turnout since you weren’t at the tents? And speaking of, why weren’t you at the tents?
I like to choose spaces that are unique and have their own energy. We showed at Eyebeam in Chelsea for fall, which is a really beautiful, raw space and was the perfect backdrop. I like to create a complete environment with the right setting and music that create a mood. I wasn’t worried [about the weather] at all — we had a great turnout, and it was a lot of fun.

The man and his menswear.Photo: Melissa Hom

How did your collaboration with K-Swiss come about?
I wanted to design a cool men’s sneaker for my spring ‘08 show, and I thought K-Swiss would be the perfect partner. It has taken off in a great direction. I’ve been wearing K-Swiss since I was a kid, and I feel like my sensibility — especially with menswear — is about bringing high design to classic silhouettes and sportswear. I want to create a fresh perspective for them.

How’s the partnership going? Do you enjoy working with them?
They’re wonderful to work with! I also started designing a women’s collection for them. Both men’s and women’s Yigal Azrouël for K-Swiss collections are going to be sold in my boutique and other boutiques starting this summer.

What else are you working on aside from the K-Swiss project?
I am opening a store out East very soon, so that’s a huge project right now. I am also building a house in Playa Negra, Costa Rica, with Dror Benshetrit. He’s an incredible product designer and we are both surfers, so it was time to build a house there.

What was the first designer item you bought?
A Comme des Garçons T-shirt, which I still wear. It has aged really nicely and has great texture.

What trends do you love for spring?
I like neutrals worn with very bright colors and a more body-conscious silhouette, like defined waists.

What trends do you wish would go away?
The baby doll! That should be for girls only, not women. In menswear, I don’t necessarily dislike the skinny pant, but I would never wear it or put it in my collections. I like a relaxed fit.

What fashion objects are you lusting after right now?
I found this beautiful green vintage Rolex from the sixties with a curved face. It was too much, so I didn’t get it but regretted my decision and went back. Of course, someone else had bought it.

Where do you shop?
I like flea markets and NY Vintage but also really like boutiques like Atelier and IF. BDDW has incredible furniture.

What designers do you love?
Yohji Yamamoto, Comme de Garçons, and Martin Margiela are favorites. I really admire Vivienne Westwood, too. I pretty much wear my own designs most of the time.

What staple item should every woman have in her closet?
I think my shrunken leather jackets are versatile. You should have one if you are a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of person, and you should have one to wear over your gown.

Which of your pieces are really popular right now?
My experimental jersey T-shirts fly off the shelves. I make them every season in a variety of styles and a new color palette. I work with a fabric mill in Italy that makes a really fine yarn, which is then washed in a type of milk so it’s the softest jersey in the world. The more you wear it, the better it gets.

What can’t you live without?

Yigal Azrouël Would Like You to Define Your Waist