Milan Vukmirovic, the man at the helm of Ports 1961, makes heads turn wherever he goes, whether it’s right here in Hong Kong, on the beaches of Miami, or during the men’s fashion weeks in Europe.
Vukmirovic is the current designer and creative director for Ports 1961 menswear, but he also wears the hats of publisher and editor-in-chief for Fashion For Men, a biannual magazine showcasing the season’s most beautiful male models clad in equally beautiful designer clothes. As an established fashion photographer, Vukmirovic’s photographs have been used for editorials in Fashion For Men, i-D and Made in Brazil, and in advertising campaigns for brands such as Ports 1961, Armani and Hugo Boss. Back in the day, Vukmirovic also co-founded the world-famous concept store Colette – which still stands on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris – and then worked as a buyer for the fashion emporium. A few years down the line, he co-founded and took on the role of corporate officer of The Webster, a luxurious multi-brand boutique located on South Beach in Miami.
Following stints at the Gucci group, Trussardi and Jil Sander, Vukmirovic’s latest incarnation is as creative director and designer for the Italybased brand Ports 1961, and he visited Hong Kong this spring to unveil his latest line of Ports menswear as well as to open an exhibition of his photography, Skin, at Lane Crawford. In the past year, Vukmirovic has managed to revamp the menswear side of the relatively under-theradar label (which was founded in Toronto in 1961 by Luke Tanabe) and turn it into a cool and contemporary brand, building a new fan base of fashion-savvy men, and even some women too.
His second collection for the house, spring/summer 2016, debuted at the Piazza Ognissanti in Florence last June with dashing day-to-night ensembles (we love the embroidered Kilim T-shirts, military-inspired outerwear and colourblock trousers), an unbeatable model line-up (Marlon Teixeira, Ben Hill and Lucas Müller …need we say more?) and surprise appearances by his good friends – fellow street-style stars Simone Marchetti and Nick Wooster. The collection, which is in stores now, very much mirrors Milan Vukmirovic’s personal style: elegant, chic and effortless.
How did the Ports collaboration with Lane Crawford happen?
They liked the show [in Florence] and the spring/summer collection, so they decided to buy it here for the store and do a nice launch. They contacted us and said, “Listen, will Milan like to show his photography exhibition here with the clothes?” I’ve never done that before and I said, “Yeah, why not? It could be really nice.” I like Lane Crawford a lot. I just love the selection they have, so I felt very proud when they asked me to present the collection and show my photographs.
Why did you pick these street-style stars – Simone Marchetti and Nick Wooster – to walk the show?
When I started at Ports, I accepted the job because they asked me to do a collection that looks like me and make clothes that I like to wear, because they were looking at all my street-style pictures. When I was starting to think about the Spring/summer collection, I already had in mind that I wanted to do the show in Florence. So I proposed it to Salem Cibani, my CEO, and said, “I would love to do a street-style show because I think a lot of guys now are very influenced by street-style guys, more than a fashion show.”
Do you have total creative freedom when designing for Ports?
Completely. A lot of people ask me,“Who is the man you design for?”and it’s me. I design for me. I want to wear 90 percent of everything, because I’ve loved fashion for a very long time, I love to change my look and my clothes. I always think about me first. I want the collection to be very cool and young.
How would you describe your personal style?
Comfortable and easy. I love street wear and sportswear. I always try to be chic and elegant even if it’s sporty.
What do you look for in a male model?
There are different qualities. Sometimes people say to me, “You only like muscular guys and I say, “No, it’s not true,” because actually this model [Justin Gossman in Gucci on the cover of Fashion For Men Series 5] is very, very skinny. I like modelling. When I was very young, I did it for a year or two, so I have a lot of respect for models. I think sometimes, with fashion, now a lot of it is about celebrities, but I think there are really beautiful guys everywhere. For me, when I do an editorial, it’s like a movie. So I do a casting and I look for the perfect guy for the perfect story. Of course for Gucci now, with Alessandro Michele, I’m not going to take a body builder, because first of all, he will never fit into the clothes, but that [body builder type] is just not the spirit of Gucci right now. I really like to choose very precisely which model I use for which brand. If you look at fashion shows right now there are a lot of, well, “ugly” models – because that’s the trend. But if you’re asking me what I like, my choice will always be, even if someone is not beautiful, but has a personality then. There, I find beauty, and this for me, is very important. So it’s not just about aesthetic beauty, but it’s also about personality.
How does retail experience help with what you do with Ports?
When Ports asked me to come to work with them, they were aware of my 360-degree experience, because I know a lot about how fashion works. When I did the concept of Colette, I was buying for them for four years and I was in the store, I was doing the windows and the displays. I think it’s important when you’re a designer or a creative director to also know what the clients want or how they think, because it’s very different. You have to understand them and you have to understand how this works. Also, as a buyer, when you do collections, you know the buyer is not going to buy everything you do. Sometimes they’re going to buy the most easy or most commercial pieces, so you have to know a little bit how the buyers are working too.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It depends. It’s funny because it’s like a flash. Sometimes it’s when I dream, very often when I travel. Most of my ideas, I have on the plane, or when I’m in the taxi. I don’t know if it’s something about transportation but it’s when I have music on and music is a big source of inspiration for me. What I say to a lot of students or young people who say, “I want to be Milan Vukmirovic,” I tell them, “When you’re young, you have to read a lot of books, a lot of magazines, you have to travel, you have to watch a lot of movies or listen to a lot of music.” You really have to fill yourself with a lot of things, because after, you can digest it all and be creative. I think it’s very important to open your eyes and look at everything.
You’re a designer, creative director, publisher, editor-in-chief and photographer, among others. Do you see yourself as your own muse?
For Ports menswear, yes. For the rest, no. That’s why maybe I’m also a photographer and a journalist, because I love creative people. So thanks to Fashion For Men I can meet and interview, like you. Interviewing people is amazing, because you have a short amount of time with the person you like, so for the magazine, since five years ago, every time I love a collection I’m like, “OK, I love Prada so I’m going to do a big story on Prada.” Or if I want to do a designer like Jonathan Anderson, I really like him, so I wanted to have a conversation with him. I enjoy this very much. So for Ports, yes, I think a lot about me and what I want to wear, I don’t think too much about the trend, but for the rest I’m very passionate about other creative people.