When the pandemic first made physical presentations impossible, PHIPPS seized the opportunity to showcase our SS21 collection in a format which was close to our hearts, and true to the core of the house: the Western. This week, pay tribute to the film history that made Spirit of Freedom possible.

Taking a cold, hard look at American history, the resulting trailer for a would-be cinematic release is at once tongue-in-cheek and educational, insincere yet unflinching in its authenticity. On the backs of a misfit cast of PHIPPS favorites, the collection charts a rocky path through the desert landscapes of the United States; repurposing roadside iconography to reflect the good, the bad, and the ugly of the American dream. The film takes its cues from seminal Western films-A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in the West, Silverado- as well as more recent explorations of the genre such as The Revenant or Wild at Heart.

Spirit of Freedom follows Mathis Chevalier as the unnamed protagonist, a young man on a mission to find his brother in the wake of a family tragedy. His journey leads him on a wild adventure through the desert towards enlightenment, self discovery, and certain danger.
The film highlights the main themes of the Western: self-actualization, unknown or hostile landscapes, hero versus villain, and revenge.
PHIPPS aimed to participate in the varied tradition of the Western by drawing mainly from Italian auteurs, synonymous with the Spaghetti Western. Looking away from the ‘American’, or ‘classical’ Western, which is usually ideologically conservative and perpetuates the myth of the frontier, the ‘revisionist’ Spaghetti Westerns which began in the 1960s are considered a critique, or even exposé of this very myth.
In the words of Sergio Leone, the pioneering Italian director we have to thank for the Dollars Trilogy:

“[American Westerns have] always seen the problem from a Christian point of view- how characters and protagonists always look forward to a rosy, fruitful future; whereas I see the history of the West as, really, the reign of violence, by violence.”

Leone’s gritty vision of the frontier reflected the disillusionment of post-war society, turning the Western into a self-conscious genre concerned with questioning the founding precepts of the American nation.
It is interesting to consider the role of the Western today, when the disillusionment with frontier theory and masculine tropes (such as the cowboy) has only grown. PHIPPS has attempted to subvert these archetypal figures in hopes of reinventing the Western for the 21st century; taking a fluid, performative take on traditional masculinity that rejects uniformity and embraces a playful butch attitude.
Going beyond either the classical or the revisionist Western in favor of a Romantic, and ultimately optimistic narrative, the PHIPPS neo-cowboy trades revolvers for poker chips, a horse for a Jeep, and violence for brotherhood, but keeps his boots.

“I was tired of running. I was tired of a system that failed me. That failed us.
I wanted something better, a future of my own.
With my own rules. With no one else to answer to- but the spirit of freedom.”