Patrick Bateman shouldn’t be anyone’s role model. As literature’s premier psychopath, the horror icon has sliced and diced more people than Jack The Ripper himself. Undeniably a figure of pop culture thanks in part to the expert performance of Christian Bale in the 2000 film adaptation, it's the original 1991 source material by queer writer Bret Easton Ellis that informed LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi’s A/W 23 collection. With every season inspired by a different novel, Nouchi’s latest explores the critique of New York City’s era of excess and the toxic masculinity that thrived in it. Catching up with one of Paris’ emerging provocateurs, Nouchi discusses how he’s reflecting and reframing these themes which feel more relevant than ever.
For the unanointed (i.e. those who don’t follow the label’s thirst-trap-filled Instagram), since 2017 - when the unapologetically queer designer founded his eponymous label — he's been putting queer desire at the forefront while challenging societal expectations of masculinity. Any cynic might scoff at the scantily clad models, friends and fans looking sultry (and sweaty) in LGN underwear and swimwear (a big part of the brand’s business model) but upon closer inspection, the brand’s ethos is about a lot more than sex appeal. While much of Nouchi’s designs are defined by a refined ease and sensuality that feels quintessentially Parisian, he isn’t afraid to explore the tension of conflicting ideas in order to present a man that isn’t so easily defined.
‘Society tells you that you have to be a certain way if you’re a man. You have to have certain jobs, you have to have a certain attitude. And for me, that always pissed me off because I can say ‘yeah I’m queer’, and I’m really proud of that, but it’s not the only thing I am. I can be sensitive, I can be sexual, I can be funny, and I can be dark at the same time,’ Nouchi tells me over Zoom.
A certified literary fiend, it’s his love of reading that’s the starting point of every season with the controversial novel American Psycho being his latest prose of choice. ‘There is plenty of material with this one. It’s still so relevant, even if it’s a critique of the 80s. All the topics and all the violence in the book still apply now. It’s really a book regarding toxic masculinity,' Nouchi says. ‘What I like about American Psycho when I first read it was how it shocked me. Which is so cool, because you have a reaction when you are reading something. This is what I want to instil into the brand. I don’t want to be beige. I’d prefer that people love or hate it because at least you have a reaction and provoke a debate.’
This inspiration translated into a collection that explored masculine archetypes through the wardrobe of Patrick Bateman. Opening with office attire reminiscent of the power dressing that dominated the 80s (shoulder pads included), Nouchi twists the tried-and-true silhouette with even broader shoulders and an almost feminine cinched waist. Traditionally feminine codes are rampant throughout the collection as a means to challenge the hyper-masculinity of the novel’s protagonist, with skin-tight cycling shorts, and draped jersey that hugs the torso. The latter, of course, is appropriately rendered in scarlet red reminiscent of blood.
Another key factor throughout the collection was its use of texture, with full looks comprised of mohair and leather (a first for the brand). As for accessories, model’s clutched axes and chainsaws that were wrapped in leather, rendering them useless for their violent intentions. Exceptional styling by Marc Goering is what really drives home the collection's nuanced narrative with latex gloves in black and red springing to mind sex clubs and serial killers.
After all, sexuality is a big part of American Psycho. As a gay writer himself, many have interpreted Bret Easton Ellis’ magnum opus through a queer lens, viewing Bateman’s misogyny and obsession with appearance as a signifier of his own closeted homosexuality. No matter how Batemen chooses to identify, it’s these themes around appearance and materialism that feel so relevant to contemporary queer culture today. ‘People should always try to look their best because someone will always be thinner and better looking’, says Patrick Bateman in a line that sounds suspiciously like some of my own interactions with muscled men on apps like Grindr.
‘In the last few years, I’ve seen Patrick Bateman costumes for Halloween coming up a lot. It wasn’t the trend 5 years ago. It means something,’ Nouchi tells me. ‘People are obsessed with their body and their image like Patrick Bateman.’ You only have to look at social media to understand how queer culture has developed a hegemonic language with social currency in the form of chiselled bodies, trendy haircuts, and designer clothing. ‘It’s a bit of a joke because as a gay guy in Paris, the gay community loves to put people in boxes and categories.’
It’s this desire to not be defined that Nouchi actively challenges with his collections and nowhere is that more evident than with his casting. With a clever mix of models, street casting, and celebrities, the designer is presenting a world that is equally realistic and fantastic. This season saw Emily in Paris star Lucas Bravo and the classically Hollywood-handsome actor Zane Phillips walk the runway. With that being said, LGN is also one of the only shows since men’s fashion week started that can boast about presenting models of varying sizes down the runway, something Nouchi is passionate about ingraining into his brand’s identity. ‘For me, it makes the look desirable. You have this realness in proportion,’ says Nouchi regarding his choice of models. ‘If we do our job good, it has to fit everyone’.
While previous collections already featured models of varying ages and shapes, this season was the first time the brand had samples in multiple sizes, greatly improving its casting options. What would Patrick Bateman think of that? From a queer perspective that champions community and acceptance, LGN Louis-Gabriel Nouchi expertly reflected on the dark themes of American Psycho that are just as relevant today as they were in 1991 while reframing themes through a utopian vision putting diversity at the forefront. As the brand continues to develop, for Nouchi it’s all about continuing to challenge expectations. ‘It’s the line between what society tells us to like and what we want to like. And that's a struggle for everyone.’