Escapism is a pretty potent emotion and one that Palmer West and Jonah Smith are well used to tapping into. The duo produced films like Waking Life and Requiem for a Dream and now run LA-based clothing label Aether Apparel which specialises in multi-weather outdoor gear for people who don’t want to sacrifice every semblance of style.
Launched three years ago, the pair have found the transition fairly straightforward. “For us moviemaking is creative but it uses both sides of your brain – you have to work to budgets and to time-frames and make it work as a business. The clothing business is actually very similar even though there’s a different vocabulary. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of crossover there was.”
They say they made films that “we would rush out to see opening weekend if someone else made them, films we wanted to see as fans” and have carried a similar approach over to creating product for Aether. It was their frustrations with the existing outdoor lines that led to the creation of their own.
“We always joke that we started Aether because there used to be two choices – you could be fashionable, aesthetically and age appropriate and cold and wet, or you could wear defensive clothing and look like you were lost in a city looking for a lift line, and have to apologise every time you went somewhere nice. Pretty soon after starting Aether we realised we had hit a nerve.”
There’s a strong visual element to their lookbooks which you’d expect given the pair’s background although they insist it isn’t as “calculated” as building up a brand “We go by our instincts rather than chasing what we think people will want.” There’s an “unspoken DNA” of love of travel and so they source and commission imagery which taps into this idea of the elsewhere, even though the clothing itself is very much designed for the everyday environment.
With a planned move into womenswear next year and continued expansion into stores, is there any chance they will return to movies? “We would not say the door is closed but the independent market we used to thrive in has kind of disappeared. We do miss the camaraderie of being on set with 150 people working for the same vision and post production was fun. But we don’t miss some of the people…”