Trace Ayala could well be the man responsible for one of the millennium’s most referenced celebrity outfits; the infamous double denim get up of Britney and Justin circa 2001 that as recently as last year sparked a Tweet from Miley Cyrus telling, “I want a boyfriend that will wear jean on jean on jean with me.”
Though Clash is too shy to ask and the internet has yet to tell, Timberlake’s best friend and business partner fills our heads with intrigue as he let’s on: “I was Justin’s assistant for years, and I had a sewing machine on the bus. I don’t want to say we started it, but the patchwork denim and all the patchwork stuff like that...”
Shut the front door stuff this might not be, but for the one time teenage girls for whom the image is practically five Buzzfeed threads in one, it’s certainly an interesting indication of how Justin’s pre-Tom Ford wardrobe came to be.
Ayala is in town to talk all things William Rast, the label he set up with said best friend in 2005 that conjoins both men’s grandfathers names; the label that picked up Brand of The Year at the 2011 American Image Awards and won them such comments from Women’s Wear Daily as, “this label just might have the stylistic chops to contend with the European giants in its category,” following their AW10 catwalk show.
Despite these accolades and a collaboration with Target grabbing the attention of US consumers (plus Justin’s obvious fame), interest in the UK never grew quite as strong. But with a so-called ‘rebrand’ on the horizon, this is all set to change.
Speaking to Clash alongside Creative Director Marcella Lindeberg – the third member of their party is presumed warming up for the second London night of his 20/20 Experience tour – Ayala says of the label’s initial hopes: “When we first started the brand, our intentions were to create a brand that was the exact mixture of Justin and I.”
“We had this guy playing to 20,000 people a night, while I still live back in Tennessee, so we wanted to take those two worlds and pull them together and see what happened.” The result is hefty in the denim department but increasingly strong in the smart/casual eveningwear area too.
A former member of the Diesel clan – the brand’s heritage alongside her Italian blood certainly make a dent in the collection today – Marcella’s first stint with William Rast was alongside her former husband in 2007; 2014 sees her take the title solo.
“I mean, it’s an iconic look, one, and two, we’ve always done it; since we started we prefer to work with biker culture and denim,” the Milanese designer says of the brand’s foundations in denim and leather.
“Back in the day when we started doing fashion shows in New York, the direction was a denim/biker collection. You know, we were very forward thinking back then, so that’s how everyone knew us,” she concludes.
“I think it’s as simple as function, truthfully,” Trace counteracts. “I actually went to the Natural History Museum yesterday and it’s so crazy how leather, is really the first fabric the human wore ever.”
While their ideas might not always compliment each other, the idea of showman meets functionality is revised several times throughout our conversation. For Marcella, this is the essence of what she creates.
“For me, that I’m not from Tennessee is an inspiration. I mean, odd to say, but it’s really where everything started, where everything is intertwining; country and rock, a big melting pot,” she says. “The inspiration in front of my eyes is a very simple one, Justin and Trace and their differences. I am almost like a translator of their friendship.”
The new collection is a compelling translation, with pieces of red and black dipped in studs, plaid and fringing, complete with the obligatory shirt and tie.
Words: Zoe Whitfield