Texting with Heron Preston Before the Presentation of His First Collection

Having worked with a long list of collaborators — including Nike, Kanye West, and the New York City Department of Sanitation — designer Heron Preston is set to present his first collection this evening at Paris Mens Fashion Week entitled “For You, The World.” Building off his sustainable uniforms for New York City sanitation, the collection continues Preston’s focus on how the recycling-based logic of streetwear can be platform for environmental change. The collection was also inspired by the heron bird, about which the designer confesses he is working on a fashion nature film with the National Audubon Society.

032c’s Thom Bettridge texted with Preston in the lead-up to the presentation, who shared backstage polaroids of the collection.

Tell me about the concept behind your first collection.

The concept “For You, The World” is an idea of this romantic dialogue I have. It’s fuelled by my curiosities to be better by reducing the impact on the environment through design processes. I ask myself how I can do that, because I care. Second to oil, the textile industry is the most polluting in the world — and guess what, I am part of that problem! But how can I be a part of the solution? There are many ways I am starting to learn. I still don’t know fully how, but I am exploring, and curious, and I think this the start of a special journey collection after collection. Aesthetically, it’s a bunch of vibes from my past and the meaning of my name that have all been layered together. You’ll notice the Russian word for style, “СТИЛЬ,” on all the garments. Subtle hints. That first appeared on a collar I did with Show Studio about three or four years ago. It’s like my unofficially sub-logo at this point.

How did the meaning of your name get in there?

The heron is a bird that has 64 species. It’s super beautiful and the color palette was also incorporated. For example, I was looking at a photo of a heron bird eating a fish on Google, and its mouth was this awesome orange color. I also looked at what I’ve been wearing over the year and made my favorite pieces.

So you were replicating items you bought in the past?

Well, I looked at what I wear. Like, I wear sweatpants a lot. I wear hoodies. I’ve been making t-shirts and hats. And windbreaks. So I decided to put those in the collection. I also did one replica of this skull in flames shirt.

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Something I wanted to ask you about was this line from your press release about your aesthetic mission to loop together luxury and streetwear. What is the goal of that mission? Does streetwear still need the concept of luxury?

What I notice is that fashion wants to be street. But then kids in the street cry and hate when they find out your shirt was made from a Gildan blank. Look at what Gucci, Vetements, and now Louis Vuitton is doing. And then look at what I’m doing: a cut-and-sewn collection made in Italy. We are all starting to play on the same field. We are starting to perform on the same stage. I’ll be sold on the same racks as these luxury brands.

It’s interesting because this week in Paris has been the apex of brands showing this intense fascination with working with big, multinational companies. Supreme and Louis Vuitton. Junya Watanabe doing North Face jackets. Balenciaga making hoodies with the Kering logo on them. Given that you’ve had your own history of working with big companies like this, why do you think there is this fascination?

It’s the stories that are possible to be told through these types of relationships that you can’t really do on your own. It’s authentic in this way. So I think brands are bored and want to tell different stories. Raf Simons said in an interview that we don’t live up to our potential as an industry. We could do so much more, but why don’t we? It should be limitless. Do this. Dream up a collab that had never happened, and then ask yourself: Why hasn’t it happened yet?

Does this feed into what you were saying before about sustainability? Is this the route to actually making these changes happen on a real level?

Yes, this is definitely the route! The future is different industries coming together. There are so many wicked issues that could use the help of a designer or artist — different layers of stories for true breakthroughs. For example, a sanitation department and a fashion designer coming together. It’s time to be completely unpredictable. I’m obsessed with the National Audubon Society. I’ve been speaking with them to make a nature film on heron birds with fashion looks incorporated into the film. It all depends on what you have and what you care about. And really pushing those desires in far out ways.