Vizeau has an online reputation as a premier not-safe-for-work destination. Its underwear images are repeatedly downloaded, copied and masturbated over. In fact, as many people visit the site to drool as they do to shop. Over the years Vizeau has gained an underground following of men who love its sleek, supportive and overtly sexual clothing. In his first Canadian interview, designer Marcus Roche offers fab readers insight into what makes the elusive, hyper-smart designer tick.
Max MacDonald: You have no idea the insanity Vizeau causes. I think your website photos have been emailed back and forth across Canada thousands of times. How did Vizeau begin?
Marcus Roche: Much of modern life requires a certain amount of fame, but my focus is more about the products. The concept was more as a natural evolution after spending years in the women’s design business, making comfortable and creative underwear and swimwear. Much of what I learned from fashion had to do with inventing a language — key elements — the way you have in houses founded many, many years before ours.
One of the first things any gay consumer notices about Vizeau’s website is how hypersexual it is, yet it sells. Did you specifically make it so sexy?
I was not alone in developing this concept. We were four friends who met and had some drinks and long discussions about our respective fields and what it meant to have an identity based on gender. The original pieces were an experiment in bridging lingerie with traditional men’s garments. I found the cuts and seams followed the natural outlines of my body and that of my models with a lot more ease and sensuality. I am deeply grateful to the models, who were pivotal in expressing their thoughts and feelings through the fittings.
I was recently at Winter Party Festival ’12 and found too many guys were in board shorts, not showing a lot of sexuality. Do you find that men are courageous enough to wear Vizeau to the beach?
I had grown tired of long shorts but still couldn’t find swimwear that wasn’t retro inspired or monastic-like. So, I began testing the waters with some of the pieces and had the equivalent of a quiet frenzy around me. I asked a few friends to try them on, as well, but they would usually go to clothing-optional beaches or highly sexualized clubs.
Have you ever designed something, made the sample, looked at it and said, “I think I’ve gone too far.”
We go through cultural shifts every few years, and in a conservative environment the things that give me pleasure suddenly become attacked — like in the years of Prohibition when people would have to enter speakeasies or places where they could be safe to have fun and express themselves. I love the spirit of adventure, and my hope is to have it become an option to any male looking to explore his self-image or the self-expression that could open interesting worlds to him.
Friends who first looked at the Vizeau site years ago said they considered the pieces “two strings and a napkin.” Many gays look at your swimwear and think, “I can’t fit into that!” Who do you design for?
I design for a variety of body shapes. Sizes vary from XXS to XL, which we have fitted on customers and models. Good design can make anyone look great. The secret is to avoid the extra-tight and uncomfortable fit. Great tailored clothing glides on the figure.
What do you say to gay men who believe your line promotes body fascism in the community?
I experimented with a slender model and showed it to a few other professional friends from absolutely different backgrounds. Most agreed that a healthy and perhaps slightly muscular body would be accepted across the board of sexual preferences and tastes.