Mikhael Kale On the Allure of Street Style and His Summer ’20 Collection
"I always prefer to shoot outside on location. I just feel like the natural element really enhances the aesthetic."
“I’m drawn to street style. I get a lot of inspiration from the streets,” says Canadian designer Mikhael Kale, who just returned from Paris where he shot his Spring/Summer 2020 campaign in some pretty unusual locations—right outside some of the most high-profile shows at Paris Fashion Week. From Balmain to Vivienne Westwood to Alexander McQueen, Kale turned up at the show venues with an army of models in tow, dressed to the nines in his latest collection, which is inspired by the Renaissance era. He and his team—stylist Dwayne Kennedy and photographer Calope—shot his S/S ’20 lookbook over the course of the city’s buzziest and most fashionable week. We sat down with Kale to find out what he loves so much about taking to the streets.
Tell us about your S/S ’20 collection and what inspired it.
There were a lot of Renaissance references… Victorian and Renaissance. Those are things I’ve always been drawn to. We decided to look into things like quilt making. It is abstract, but essentially I was kind of drawn to the deconstruction of a quilt. There’s a blue outfit that has a padding of sorts, but it’s a very light padding and it’s also sort of falling apart. So it’s a study of that [period] but with contemporary shapes and silhouettes.
Where did the idea to shoot your lookbook at PFW come from?
I know a few people in Paris, they’re really cool kids who always end up going to the shows and the parties. And so we kinda got together after-hours and they put some of the dresses on and then they were like, ‘you know what, we’re heading to the shows tomorrow. Let’s wear it.’ And so the group of them wore it and the reactions were crazy. Everybody went bananas, like they weren’t even shooting the celebrities anymore. It was pretty amazing. Italian Vogue featured it. Vogue Hong Kong featured it. Naomi Campbell featured it on her YouTube channel. So we decided to do it again this season.
Tell us about some of the models you worked with.
There were three amazing Canadian models we shot with. Ali Morgan from Toronto—she walked for Y/project, she walked for Rick Owens. We shot together three or four years ago in Toronto, but we hadn’t had a chance to shoot again since, so we ended up getting together in Paris. I was really excited to work with her again. Another Canadian model that I used, who is also amazing, is Kellyanne Bilodeau. She’s from Quebec. And then there’s Jayden Waller, who got the most reaction outside the shows. Like for instance, we shot in front of the Balmain show venue and Kris Jenner had just arrived, literally moments before Jayden, and was standing maybe 10 feet from her. But the moment Jayden stepped out, nobody was shooting Kris Jenner. I swear it was the most insane thing.
How did you decide which shows you wanted to shoot out outside of?
I guess I’m drawn to certain collections. I’m also drawn to street style. I get a lot of inspiration from the streets. So it wasn’t just about me wanting to shoot in front of a specific designer or show. But I was interested in what Vivienne Westwood would do or who would be going to a Vivienne Westwood show. So it was a combination of people that I follow, street style I follow, photographers I follow and then also the venue.
You said you’ve always been drawn to street style. What is it about fashion on the streets that appeals to you so much?
I think that’s where the real show is. It’s not in a confined space. I’ve never really felt comfortable in a confined space that people don’t have access to. I think people should have access to fashion. I think that they should be around abstract ideas and make their own judgment. I think that’s really where it all happens. I always like to shoot in the streets.
What do you enjoy about the process of being outdoors?
I never shoot in studio. I always prefer to shoot outside on location. I just feel like the natural element really enhances the aesthetic. I think it’s great to have an environment because it says so much more about what’s happening.
Of all the environments you’ve shot in, what have you personally found the most exciting or stimulating?
I would say anywhere there are groups of people. I’ve shot in New York, Milan, Rome, London, Toronto! Fashion only works when there’s a response and it can be bad or it can be good, but it only happens when people talk about it. Yes, I’ve shot in front of really beautiful places but in terms of there being a discourse and a conversation… I feel like that’s what fashion should be. It should be a conversation and not everybody should like it. I think a lot of people actually should not like it. I am sure there’s lots of people who have opinions on what I do but I would rather that than no response, you know?