Graphic designer Job Wouters, who goes by the creative moniker Letman, could not have asked for a better introduction to the world of fashion. For his fall-winter 2012 menswear collection, Belgian couturier Dries Van Noten enlisted Wouters and fellow Dutchman Gijs Frieling to cover the clothing with their art. The theme, developed by Van Noten, was Oscar Wilde meets Frank Zappa. While Frieling spoke to the latter persona, saturating entire suits with psychedelic scenes, Wouters (to more eye-pleasing effect) turned Wilde’s words into hand-drawn, multi-hued calligraphy that adorned white shirts and jackets. The artists also designed the backdrop to the show, staged at Paris’s Grand Palais. While models sauntered down the runway, painters on ladders worked away on the 50‑metre-long mural, wielding brushes dipped in gradated paint. In Wouters’ font, which resembles a cross between Western poster type and Chinese characters, they turned an excerpt from Wilde’s novel Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime into the romantic fragments “All my poets look…Exactly like poets.” The effect: fashion bloggers ate it up (one suffered an “attack of extreme love” ), while online commenters were divided on the collection. “Can men out there relate to this?” one asked.
Graphic designers sure can. The collaboration demonstrates that high fashion appreciates artisanal typography. And while Wouters has developed treatments – a mix of illustration, graffiti and graphic design – for the print campaigns of such brands as Audi and Tommy Hilfiger, his Van Noten collaboration is destined to make him a household name. The timing couldn’t be better. Gestalten has just released his first monograph, Letman: The Artwork and Lettering of Job Wouters.