Question and Answer: Professor. E, Ken Rao, and His Team on Their Creations
In terms of Artisanal avant-garde labels, what comes to mind is often the classics lines such as Carol Christian Poell, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Maison Martin Margiela. However, in the last 5 years or so, a new wave of artisanal avant-garde clothing labels have begun to sprout anew, growing alongside the popularity, and scarcity, of older labels. From this new crop of labels has emerged Professor. E. With keen eyes on tailoring, eccentric cuts, and complex patterns, Professor. E has shown the world what they have to offer to the artisanal avant-garde scene over the past two years. We at ARCHIVE.pdf recently got the chance to catch up with Ken Rao and his team, wherein they offered us a glimpse into the whimsical world of their own making.
Enter the world of Professor. E, one of renaissance eloquence mixed with modern sensibilities, all with an artisanal touch.
Photo 1,2,3: Professor. E Archives
How did Professor. E start as a label? And how has it progressed over the years?
Professor. E's basic style is an extension of the 'Re-Lab' project, which was first developed by the founder Ken, and the designs are strongly artisanal in nature. The 'JCKA jacket', which is a dismantling and reconstruction of the Japanese Kendo fabric and Chinese Tang suit, has won the hearts of many supporters. In order to present a more diverse range of perspectives and content integrity, Ken decided to develop a team approach, moving away from random development to the intentional rule of quarterly releases.
Would you or your team consider the 'JCKA jacket' to be a piece that is emblematic of Professor. E's approach to menswear?
No, the "JCKA" was just an opportunity for us to launch Professor. E. The design concept and technical qualities are part of the Professor. E's style, but it does not represent all of Professor. E.
ReLAB - JCKA JKT
Where did the idea of the designer being a virtual entity come from? Was this implemented at the start, or was it implemented later?
We started when we published it (the designer) as 'Professor. E', but of course, the concept was still quite rudimentary during the start-up phase, as we would discuss how to present its identity. One interesting thing was that the role was not yet standardized at the start-up stage, which led to a number of media articles featuring different brand stories, but at the heart of it was the idea of representing a team as a whole. As a fashion team, while we are technically distinct, we are intertwined and inseparable when it comes to fashion ideas. Professor. E is a collective representation of the team. It means that it (Professor. E) is not one person's perspective, but rather a combination of the perspectives of each of us involved.
Where does the creative inspiration for Professor. E come from? If there isn't a single source of inspiration, what are the influences that drive Professor. E's offerings?
A little must be said about the character design behind the scenes, as we set Professor. E in the "Age of Discovery" (15th-17th). Through this setting, the team was given an imaginative boundary to examine and explore the culture of the period, from the Baroque and Rococo styles of painting, to architecture, the scientific discoveries of astronomy and geography, as well as reflecting on the colonial conflicts and the exotic fantasies of the mainstream Western vision. This richness of the period has served as a source of inspiration for us.
Photo 1 and 2: F/W 21 lookbook
In regards to not having a public-facing designer or creative director, has this or does this ever cause difficulties? If not, does it make things easier?
The difficulty for us is how to shape the context of the character, for example, how to make it more attractive? A character that does not have a real identity tries to raise the question of 'iconoclasm', and if one lacks the ability to think, one tends to follow the designer or the brand blindly for the sake of convenience (the energy cost of thinking), as is the case in all fields. Even though we are aware that public curiosity about what goes on behind the scenes of a brand is obviously unavoidable, this does not mean that the idea of 'decentralization' is futile, but rather that the point is to 'rethink' the unbreakable, anchored and deified mindset of an object.
What collection or collections are the teams at Professor. E most proud of?
We try to put our best foot forward with every release, but we always learn more in the process. It makes us realize that we have to remain humble, that we can't pick the season we're most proud of at the moment, and that we'll be proud of ourselves as we mature.
Photo 1: F/W 20 lookbook Photo 2: S/S 20 menswear lookbook Photo 3: Professor. E Archives
Finally, if the virtual designer could "speak" for itself, what would it want to say to it audience?
Although Professor. E has a concrete silhouette and a mask that seems to refer to "me" and create a strong image. But I hope that you will be able to look past the vague appearance of my clothes and appreciate the subtle variations in fit, cut and texture of the fabrics that I wear, and enter the imagery and stories of "Professor. E".
Photos 1,2,3: Professor. E Archives Photo 4: F/W 20 Editorial
Special thanks to Ken Rao and the team at Professor. E for making this article possible.
Writer: Isaac Davis