An Interview with Matthew Miller

Originally intending to join the army and later considering to study forensic science, Matthew Miller gave fashion a stab and enrolled in menswear at the Royal College of Art and has grown to become one of the hottest young generation labels to show at London Collections: Mens.

Inspired by words, images and current news, Miller's work has been sparking a fuse between fashion and politics aiming to create a canvas for the wearer's identity through a design aesthetic that merges utilitarian tailoring and luxe sportswear using innovative fabrications. Ahead of his show at London Collection: Mens this Sunday, STYLEFAN stepped into Miller's new design studio in Mile End for an exclusive interview with the humble and honest designer about his global venture. 

My label is still under my name but I believe that clothing is a canvas that people wear so therefore it should be labelled as such.
— Matthew Miller
I find imperfection more beautiful than perfection. It’s reflect in the casting it reflects in the fact that we take really expensive fabrics, rip them up and hand sew them back together to give them scars, to give them decay and to give them a sense of texture that perfection couldn’t give them. It’s the fact that they’ve been destroyed, which gives them unique quality - nothing else.
— Matthew Miller

Tuck Muntarbhorn: Tell me about the past five years of your life.
Matthew Miller:
Briefly, I graduated from the RCA and freelanced for quite a few different companies, set up a business in London when menswear in London wasn't really that big and kind of grew the business with London Collections: Men and that's how I'm here!

TM: What inspires you Matthew?
MM: A multitude of things it's never just one thing - it's words, it's images, it's events around the world or it could be a singular moment in time.

TM: Could you tell us a specific moment that inspired a collection?
MM:
Last season for AW14 I got ten different people to write down the way they were feeling unanimously and turned that emotional anarchy into clothing. It had nothing to do with seams or anything like that - everything came from the fact that people were being able to say what they want and how they feel and then translating that into clothing.

TM: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
MM:
I don't know actually - I'm not your standard fashion designer. I went to college and did something that's called 'foundation arts' where you basically get to try out every type of design and art discipline for two weeks. At the time, I was interested with identity and how clothing defines identity in other people's eyes and that you could project different things through clothing. It started off very naively and for some reason I just ended up where I am. It was never pre-planned...it was just something that happened to me.

TM: How would you relate the concept of 'fashion' to that of 'style'?
MM:
They're two different things but they do intertwine and interact with each other at certain points. Style I would say is timeless and fashion I would say is of a time.

TM: What adjectives would you use to describe your style?
MM:
I don't even know how to start that there's so many words!

TM: How did you develop your sense of style over the years then?
MM:
My sense of style developed through experimentation as a teenager and I'm probably still experimenting with it now. I deal with clothing and identity and self-projection everyday so it's something that is constantly evolving and is an on going question I suppose.

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TM: When and why did you add 'Untitled Mixed Media Dimensions Variable' to your clothing tags and labels?
MM:
My label is still under my name but I believe that clothing is a canvas that people wear so therefore it should be labelled as such. So, when you get a piece of my clothing it has a tag with my name on it as I made the canvas, but, from then on...the person who wears it adds an inherent value to it that no one else can, so therefore, adding something to it that I can't. So, it goes back to identity - the way that you wear things and moments in time. When you fall over and stitch your jeans I believe you shouldn't stitch that up, as it's a moment in time that you should never forget!

TM: Why did you choose these words specifically?
MM:
If you look against any piece of modern art in any gallery, generally when an artist can't give something a generic title - that's the 'Untitled' part. 'Dimensions Variable' relates to the human form - we are different so there is no exact measurement. 'Mixed Media' means that the clothing and the canvas is always going to be made of different things so when the person is wearing the canvas they're going to add things to it - whether it'll be a scuff, a mark or a scar that means it's 'Mix Media' and can be made of different things.

TM: Describe the Matthew Miller man and woman. What's their lifestyle?
MM:
The Matthew Miller man and woman is someone who understands the design philosophy. Someone with a deep understanding of the world and life and is not necessarily the most flamboyant person in the world but understands the beauty of everyday I suppose.

TM: How is this reflected in your castings each season?
MM:
It complete reflects in the casting each season. I always look for someone with character. You look at a lot of the big models on runways and the models are always chiselled - an image of perfection. I do quite the opposite - I'm looking for a scar, a juxtaposed nose or something that makes you look at someone and go 'wow' they're stunning but I don't know why. They're not 'magazine beautiful'...they're beautiful in a completely different way.

TM: Where are you from originally?
MM: I'm from a place called Stoke-on-Trent which is north of London and south of Manchester - a small industrial city, famous globally for ceramics.

TM: What was it like growing up there? What were your childhood and teenage years like? 
MM: Growing up on Stoke-on-Trent I would say was quite isolating in good ways and in bad ways. It's good because you can get into trouble but you can never get into too much trouble because there wasn't that much there. But on the other hand, we didn't really see what was going on in London, New York or Tokyo.

TM: Is there any chapter from your teenage years that has marked and influenced your creative development as a menswear designer?
TM: In my early years, I grew up on a council estate in Stoke-on-Trent and I just always questioned identity and what made the people who lived there, them. That whole question was when I started experimenting more with clothes and I was obviously the whacky one dressing up!

TM: To what extent does your designs reflect upon your past experiences and memories? 
MM: I think to an extent we are all impacted by our past. You don't know anything that you haven't experience or read or been told about - you can't just make things up. You have to reference your own history or someone else's. There's no denying that we're all basically referencing our history and our past.

TM: Why do designers like you keep referencing the past throughout their collections?
MM: I think there are a lot of designers who do look towards the future but I don't think you can move towards the future unless you fully understand the past. People need to understand something - a time or something to put it against. It's just the way the human brain works. We're all humans who want to say 'that's that and that reminds me of that'. It's not just designers who do it, people on the streets do it, journalists do it all the time - if you read a review they tend to reference new designers to old ones - it's a way of creating a story in the reader's mine of how things work. It's not just design it's communication. 

TM: You originally intended to study forensic science at university. What made you change to fashion?
MM: I went to university and I didn't know you could make a career out of drawing or art. I was originally going to go in the army when I was sixteen! I went to an army college but I didn't like being told what to do, and then I ended up just going to university for six months. Then I went back to Stoke and I then enrolled onto my foundation and then went to Manchester.

TM: When did you move to London? What was it like when you first moved to London?
MM: I moved to London straight after my BA to go to the Royal College of Arts. But when I moved here it was terrifying - I felt like I was an immigrant from another country. I ended up working on a building site for a cash-in-hand job because I needed the money to pay the bills. So it was a really weird experience moving here to be honest with you and I witnessed a lot of incredible poverty and people trying to get by in life. Finding my way for the first six to twelve months was incredibly difficult. It's an amazing place London, but it can be incredibly hostile at the same time. 

TM: What makes London unique compared to other cities?
MM: The people. It's exactly what you said earlier about diversity and multiculturalism. You don't get it anywhere else in the world as much as you do in London. It's not the indigenous population, it's not the typography, it's not the environment; it's the people who come together, who are completely different and make something that no one else could do. 

TM: What aspects of living in London do you draw upon for inspiration in your collections?
MM: London can be quite a volatile place, and that volatility I think always comes through angst and aggression that always comes through my clothes. In London there's that freedom to say what you want and be who you've always wanted to be - the rest of the world would attack you for being that but in London it's free to do it and I think that's incredibly inspiring. It makes you as a designer think 'well I can be free and do what I want to do'. 

TM: What did you gain most out of studying your MA at the Royal College of Arts?
MM: I can't put one thing down to it. I'm a massive fan of the Royal College of Arts - they gave me so much for so little back and I've been a supporter of them ever since. Every time they've asked me to do something - I would do it for them. It was such an inspiring place - I had eleven people in my class, probably five from the UK and six from around the world...everyone had these design ideas, mixed with product design and car design and they constantly had new design concepts. It was two years of constantly talking about design and how personal it was for you - it was just insane, it was so good! 

TM: As part of your MA, where did you conduct work experience?
MM: During my MA I won a few design awards - one was called the Umbro design award which allowed me to work on a project for Umbro which lasted around six to eight months. It was a really unique experience - we were designing the future of fashion and that opened my mind up to technology and smart fabrics and how forward thinking sportswear was. I also as part of the RCA, worked with Brioni and went to their headquarters in Penne, in northeast Italy. 

TM: What did you learn from these companies that wasn't taught at the RCA?
MM: I think whenever you go through education you've always been taught about fashion and when you're in a company you're always taught about product. How it has to turn around into a product that people can find value in and either paying to that, subscribing to it, or whatever you want to do and that's a complete difference. 

TM: What's your starting point every season? 
MM: I usually start my collections every season with a series of words. I find them very powerful and as soon as you hear one you can get a thousand images in your head and generally from words we do research and expand on the words to start the collection. 

TM: Do you incorporate other art forms into your designs let it be art, film, music or literature?
MM: I think music's really important - it's incredibly important. We always really struggle to choose the music for a show. It can make or break a collection in my eyes - it has to say something, it has to be inclusive and it has to grab people's attention and drag them in. Music's one of them things it's just like words - you hear it and it can send you to another planet and you can get a thousand images, so is literature - words are very powerful, more powerful than bombs! 

TM: What do you find more beautiful - perfection or imperfection? How is this reflected in your designs?
MM: I find imperfection more beautiful than perfection. It's reflect in the casting it reflects in the fact that we take really expensive fabrics, rip them up and hand sew them back together to give them scars, to give them decay and to give them a sense of texture that perfection couldn't give them. It's the fact that they've been destroyed, which gives them unique quality - nothing else. It's that kind of view of things that really underpins the aesthetic of our design. 

TM: What do you find most difficult in your design process? What do you do when you hit a brick wall?
MM: The most difficult [thing] in design is time - there is never enough time. We have to really change a collection every six months and that is a difficult thing to do. It's the most challenging part. 

TM: Is it the industry that is forcing you to producing every six months?
MM: The whole point of the six-month calendar is starting to be questioned. Will it change? I don't think so. I think it's even in the communication of design, in the reporting of collections. If in the reporting of the collection there's something that wasn't new - it's bad. So it's not even designers who need to change...it's the communication and consumption which has to change as a whole. There's a whole process of people involved from factories, textiles to designers, reporters and magazine distributors to the end consumer - all of them have to align and re-evaluate the whole process and that's such a hard thing to do. 

TM: What do you think about the extravagance of the fashion industry whereby designers may be forced to spend large sums on shows or presentations to establish their names? 
MM: I think they get tricked into doing it - to be honest with you. Two seasons ago we just photocopied invites on a piece of paper - it was on the worst paper that we could find and the whole point of it was to say that this is just as beautiful as invites that would cost five-thousand pounds to make. It goes back to our belief as a brand and a design house - the fact that beauty is not the most expensive thing in the world. 

TM: Do you think young designers could start out independently and maintain that independence even while growing to a global scale? Will you remain independent forever?
MM: I think independence is something I've been thinking about more and more recently because obviously a lot of young designers take on investments and bigger companies come in and support them financially. I've been thinking is there a way of doing that without that support - so far I haven't come to a conclusion to be honest with you. It's certainly an option and so is independence - both sides of the coin are one you could grow very quickly with the right support and the right finances but obviously you lose your independence and the other side is that you keep your independence but you don't grow as quickly and you maybe won't ever achieve the wider goal through the lack of resources. 

TM: As you are stocked internationally, which market is most responsive to your brand? Why do you think so?
MM: My first stockist was IT in Hong Kong and I've had that stockist ever since - fingers crossed we keep that stockist! That was the first market to respond...but then recently over the last year, the British market really responded and this last season and the season before it really has exploded here in the UK. So I'd say at first it was Hong Kong and Asia and now it's slowly growing across Europe.

TM: Do you find it quite ironic that Asia picked you before Europe?
MM: Yeah! But not so - I think Asia at the moment is much more rapidly forward thinking in terms of identity and clothing to be honest. The UK has always been a pioneer in it but at the moment it's certainly Asia. 

TM: Do you consider having your own store one day? What will it look like and where will it be?
MM: I've considered it a lot. To own your own store you can project your own concept and your own identity straight away. But I am actually opening my online store and that's going to be the first step of it and the packaging is going to be the concept and the way of projecting the brand philosophy. 

TM: What is the significance of the packaging? 
MM: I just think that when you receive something the first thing you touch is the packaging - it's really important because we're all very tactile people. We all have these insane senses of touch, smell, perception, depth and taste and to actually get something and touch it - that's the first thing that you touch even before the product. 

TM: What do you think about e-commerce and how it has changed our way of consumption?
MM: It's still changing it's insane. It's a market that's so volatile though. We've seen so many e-commerce sites collapse, major e-commerce sites over the last twelve to fourteen months - it just shows how volatile the market is and if you get it wrong you can collapse a business over it. I think we are changing - I think in Europe we are the leader in mobile phone shopping, in the UK there has been an insane take up and it's not going to stop - it's going to carry on evolving!

TM: Do you think this will this ever lead to an absence of a physical store? 
MM: I don't think it makes sense to do that. We sell physical products - it's nice to actually walk into a store and chat to someone and know about someone's world rather than just being digital, it's nice to have both - you can't really just have digital without touch. Until digital technology can create physical touch you won't be able to get rid of stores because people love to touch fabric and love to know about the sense of proportion and sit back and look at something and a screen doesn't really have that emotional attachment yet.

TM: Fashion is moving at such a fast-forward pace in this digitalised era. What role does technology place in fashion?
MM: Technology has allowed my label in particular to communicate with the world on a massive scale...and it allows us to grow quickly. But it also allows everything to be consumed straight away. It's a double edge sword it has its pluses and it also has its negative sides. 

TM: What are your thoughts on celebrity endorsement in fashion and how fashion is represented in the media?
MM: I struggle with celebrity endorsement in fashion because I just think it's a really lazy way of promoting a garment. Where I find that in a product or garment the real value is in the skill of the worker, the manufacturer, the material producer you know that's where I find the inherit value and to take this away from this beautiful chain where several different people have handled it...and really manipulating it to something that is a beautiful final product and then just to say 'let's just put that on a celebrity and that's going to make it better!' - it completely distorts the whole idea of that beautiful object, it bastardises it. 

TM: How important is the role of social media in fashion? How have you used social media to shape your label?
MM: Social media for me is important but it's not really shaping the label. Social media is just reporting on the design philosophy - we're not a brand with a completely boring product that needs social media to make it more exciting. We are an exciting brand in which social media communicates to the world what's going on. 

TM: Do you feel that technology is the most efficient way to innovate in menswear?
MM: It's the easiest way to innovate at the moment because we're in a technological and software boom. Everyone now has a smart phone and access to the Internet - it allows an individual to reach a vast market straight away. 

TM: Is it challenging to constantly innovate and push boundaries as a designer?
MM: It is challenging; it’s really challenging to innovate and push boundaries but it is that challenge that I enjoy so it's not really a chore - that's the exciting bit! The exciting bit is research and development, it's the questioning, it's the ripping up, it's merging two things together - that's the really exciting and energetic time of a collection. 

TM: Finally, where will your label be in five years’ time?
MM: I honestly don't know! I don't know where I'm going to be in five years’ time. Your guess would probably as good as mine! I didn't think that I'll be in London now; I didn't think that I would move to Manchester from Stoke when was in when I was sixteen. I didn't think that last year I would travel to Hong Kong, Japan and New - I take every six months as it comes really!

TM: Perhaps where would you like to be in five years time?
MM: I'd like to be just happy doing what I'm doing. Whatever that seems to be, whether it'll be design - I'm a great believer in doing whatever you want to do and just being the best at doing that. So I've always said that if I ever chose to go and be in the army I was going to be the best at it, if I was going to be a forensic scientist - I want to be the best at it, if I was going work in the kitchen or if I was going to sweep the street - I would want to be the best at it, and as long as you just want to be the best at whatever you do - that should be enough! 

Matthew Miller Autumn/Winter 2014 Looks:

Matthew Miller Autumn/Winter 2014 Campaigns:

www.matthewmillermenswear.com

Credits
Interview: Tuck Muntarbhorn
Video: Xiao-Wei Lu
Photography: Haley Ma
Assistant: Shrai Popat
Imagery: Courtesy of Matthew Miller

Royal College of Art MA Fashion 2014

Presenting the work of thirty MA Fashion graduates across menswear, womenswear and knitwear, the Royal College of Art MA Fashion 2014 show, marked Professor Wendy Dagworthy's last show as she retires in July after a 16-year tenure at the RCA as Dean of the School of Material. Known for training the likes of Burberry's Christopher Bailey, Nina Ricci's Peter Copping and new generation designers such as Erdem, her final show was an execution of artisanal talent with students utilising high-tech practices underpinned by a rich narrative ranging from minimal to loud collections. Here are STYLEFAN's top picks from the show.

Menswear:


Dan WJ Prasad

Prasad, winner of the last edition of the Brioni Award, presented his final collection titled 'The Emergence of An Idol' which is based on progression modelled on very personal incidents while referencing historical secret membership groups such as the Freemasons. Based upon traditional tailoring techniques with aid from the Italian tailoring masters, Brioni, Prasad flawlessly fused the softness of drape and the hardness of tailoring. 

Faye Oakenfull (Knitwear)

Oakenfull showed a collection inspired by her Great Uncle Walter: a romanticised image built from the remnants of a man who died too young due to AIDS, kept alive in old letters, belongings, photo albums and a favourite niece’s fond memory. A vibrant, textile led aesthetic with a nod to AIDS Memorial Quilts, Keith Haring’s jeans, nostalgic embroidery, old prints and handcrafts. 

Johanne Dindler

Dindler took inspiration from African costumes alongside 1970s fashion and graphics and 1990s hip-hop attitude. Ending his looks with a multicoloured fox and rabbit fur coat embellished with nylon frills and Swarovski crystals, this was a bold sportswear collection filled with big, strong shapes and various textures with an 'I don’t give a f***' attitude.

Raj Mistry

Inspired by the wealth of cultures and religions of the Luton community, Mistry's collection reinterprets sportswear and traditional Asian garments with innovative and high-tech cutting. The colour palette takes its lead from Luton's football club: orange, blue, white and black.

Riona Horrox

Luxury Rock. Horrox drew inspiration from punk and rock and roll and showed a collection gripped with stains, sweat, oil and chains. Horrox's dark collection was crafted with details from 1970 punk fanzines and hand printing via photo etching on leather, wools, and denim. Classic silhouettes were realised, mashed with punk wear and metal studs. Furthered with Kurt Cobain memorabilia embroidery, this gives us a hint to Horrox's muse.

Sungbin Cho

Inspired by the fauna of fanciful animals and freaks in the unknown world, Cho expressed the work of photographer Joan Fontcuberta in his collection through intricate details with various coloured materials and fastening parts which physically manifest a Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Womenswear:


Emma Hardstaff

Through fabric manipulation, Hardstaff creates the illusion of a constructed and recognisable garment conjuring iridescent beetles covered in layers of delicate white tulle, creating a hard-soft juxtaposition. Offered in shimmering pink, green and blue, each look had an 'exploded silhouette' drawn in tightly with elastic to create oversized yet defined garments

James Kelly

Inspired by flash backs, Kelly creates oversized jackets and coats, seemingly being released from a myriad of textures. Hair and feathers in blues, greens and greys adorn the seams of trench coats and nylon sportswear that trail on and fall behind the girl as if she's wandering through an enchanted forest in her memories

Janni Turtiainen

Turtiainen took inspiration from a bottle that has no discernable inside or outside for her silhouettes. She plays with her garments by combing her soft draped tops with rough and tough denim to create a singular visual experience. 

Katie Roberts-Wood

Roberts-Wood's collection marks a synergistic approach between textile technique development and silhouette. The linking layered technique creates fabric and form through repetition of a single unit: a wave; reflecting natural and mathematical influences. 

Louise Bennetts

Building upon her love for construction, Bennetts created a series of well-constructed garments by creating large silhouettes that seem to peel out of the clothes before being concealed again. In this black and granite collection, Bennetts utilises industrial materials and steel corset boning as her main scaffold to create her sculptural shapes. Bennetts also worked with dancers to mark dynamic movement and a touch of femininity in her designs alongside core architectural influences. 

Marta Jakubowski

Inspired by the loss of her mother, Jakubowski expresses pain, madness and sadness through her designs. The silhouettes are inspired by traditional tailoring and connect to metal head-pieces which are inspired by orthopaedic apparatus. Light jersey becomes a veil attached to the train of another dress symbolising an umbilical cord between a mother and daughter. 

Photography: Dominic Tschudin (Courtesy of the Royal College of Art)

Forward PR Autumn/Winter 2014 Press Days

Forward PR showcased the latest collections of their represented brands last week. It was an event that allowed these designers to present their latest collections in an informal and intimate setting, and a real chance for various editors to handle to the various collections.

Busardi Autumn/Winter 2014:

Busardi Autumn/Winter 2014

Busardi Autumn/Winter 2014

The standout of this event was Busardi’s latest collection which was a hybrid of sorts: it combined the traditional Thai couturier methods that we had seen in previous collections, with lace appliqué in the form of 'thorns' and darker shades emphasizing the more subversive side of the label. Classic colours of rose pink and sky blue mingled with the provocative slits, shorter cuts and richer and darker colours: plums, crimsons, royal purples, dark blue and black. Busardi Muntarbhorn discusses how her ‘girls are no longer prim and proper this season’, and this was certainly true, whilst keeping the label’s signature use of floral lace, three dimensional rose and petal appliqué which continues to run through this collection.

Busardi Autumn/Winter 2014

Busardi Autumn/Winter 2014

Alongside Busardi were the latest in upcoming designers, from Hiroko Nakajima’s sumptuous knitwear to Alexandra Harper’s sleek millinery designs, and stopping off at Carrie- Anne Stein’s structured, androgynous and oversized silhouettes with allusions to smutty seaside humour, advertising examples of sexual innuendo and a brash colour palette. Forward PR showcased designers truly coming into their own and embracing a more mature, a more adult persona. 

Hiroko Nakajima Autumn/Winter 2014:

Hiroko Nakajima Autumn/Winter 2014

Hiroko Nakajima Autumn/Winter 2014

Alexandra Harper Millinery Autumn/Winter 2014:

Alexandra Harper Millinery Autumn/Winter 2014

Alexandra Harper Millinery Autumn/Winter 2014

Photography: Josh Brandao

London Fashion Week AW14 Streetstyle: Part 1

STYLEFAN brings you precious street style moments during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014.


In order of first appearance:

Womenswear Buyer, Meimei Zhao, looking flawless in her beautifully crafted coat in bright red. Necklace: Aku Aku
Coat: Bottega Venetta
Dress: How And What
Bag: Prada

Womenswear designer, Claire Barrow, looking original in her self-painted biker outside the Newgen A/W14 showrooms.
All: Claire Barrow

L'Officiel China's Contributing Fashion Director, Candy Li, looking sweet in rich turquoise.
Earrings: Dolce and Gabbana
Coat: Jicheng
Bag: Topshop

Lurve Magazine's Fashion Editor, Kristina Gisors, sported multi layers with a back surprise!
Coat: Diana Orving
T-shirt: Lanvin
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Nike
Bag: North Face

Creative director of Kiev Fashion Days, Daria Shapovalova, exits the David Koma show in a Koma and fur combo - delightful and elegant!
Coat: Dior
Dress: David Koma
Shoes: Carven
Bag: Max Mara

Fashion stylist and DJ, Peggy Gould, wraps up in red armour - she reminds us of Mulan!
Coat: Dot and Dash
Leggings: Topshop
Shoes: Nike 

Head Buyer of China's The New Classic, Jiajun Zhang, puts on Comme evil roses for LFW.
Jacket: Comme des Garçons
Jumper: Ralph Lauren
Trousers: Burberry
Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti
Bag: Hérmes

Model Mondays: An Interview With Sang Woo Kim

Korean face of Burberry and exclusive for Kenzo, Sang Woo Kim, has bright prospects this season and beyond. STYLEFAN caught up with Sang after his casting at Central Saint Martins for their upcoming MA show. Let's hear what the man now on Stone Island billboards has to say.

Sang Woo Kim - Illus 1 - 1.jpg

'What is best thing about being a model? Meeting people and travelling. The opportunity to be able to meet people that other people would die to meet and travelling the world.'

Sang Woo Kim - Illus 2 - 1.jpg

'I feel real style is one that is true to you. I don't follow trends, personally, I literally wear what I like to wear and I don't think my style is going to change that much.'

STYLEFAN-INTERVIEW-MODEL-SANG-WOO-KIM-2.jpg

Tuck Muntarbhorn Sang, what are you wearing today?
Sang Woo Kim: Today I'm wearing...my Daks coat as I wore last time when I met you at Burberry - I'm also carrying the same bag by Juun J. x Beanpole, my sweater from COS, Givenchy trousers and limited edition Nike Air Force Ones.

TM: Could you tell us briefly about your background?
SWK: I was born in Seoul and came to London when I was four months old so I do just tell everyone that I was born here, a slight lie, but what do I know at that age, it’s basically the same as being born here [Sang laughs]. My dad worked in London for a very long time until he moved back to Korea. I was brought up in Hampton in Southwest London and I went to Hampton school. I was a minority to say the least (being Asian) and seeing as I look so Asian people are always surprised by my British attitude - mainly my accent!

TM: And now you are at Goldsmiths doing Fine Art?
SWK: Yes - I did my foundation course at Central Saint Martins last year and I joined Goldsmiths in September 2013 to study Fine Art.

TM: So tell us a how you got into modeling.
SWK:  At Saint Martins, a lot of fashion students asked me to model for their work and I thought - why not? If they are picking me for their projects for them and then why shouldn’t I try out for an agency? Encouragement of friends and what not I eventually plucked up the courage to walk into M+P and I was with them for a month or so before their men's division shut down – Literally the next day I walked into Select, down the road, and they wanted to represent me. Obviously I couldn’t believe it. I walked in on both occasions – so it’s not all about getting scouted!

TM: What made you choose modeling as a profession?
SWK: I knew a few friends in the industry and they say you get to meet incredible people and get to travel the world – which is a vision that I am very fond of. It seemed for what you do, you got a lot of privileges.

STYLEFAN-INTERVIEW-MODEL-SANG-WOO-KIM-1.jpg

TM: What were your highlights this season? Why?
SWK: There are just too many highlights – I can’t say… Burberry was a complete shock so I guess that might edge it….? I don’t know [Sang laughs].

TM: Tell us about Burberry.
SWK: I wasn't even requested for the casting! My friend Mac at AMCK was requested to cast for Burberry and I was upset about not being requested for it because it’s every British models dream, and being Asian, It was an impossible thought due to the lack of versatility, in terms of race, on the runway. So I rocked up with Mac and Jamie Mensah from Models 1 in my Burberry bucket hat and my Burberry scarf [Sang laughs]. I got into the casting, somehow, then the next day I got called for a re-call which was a more refined group so we had to go back to Burberry HQ to do a fitting for a standard look where everyone wore the same thing: tailored trousers, blazers and fishnet vests.  We met Christopher that day and I did my walk again. The next day I was called in for a fit-to-confirm at Burberry HQ. I put my two looks on, which I was ecstatic about, and then did my walk again, got two photos taken in their studio and they called my booker and booked me! It was a dream because it was an impossibility in my mind.

TM: So that's Burberry, how was Kenzo?
SWK: Kenzo was an incredible show. I met the casting director, Angus Munro, after the Erdem Spring/Summer 2014 show at Central Saint Martins and he gave me his card and asked whether I wanted to walk for Kenzo next season - which was the one I just walked in. I kept in contact and a few months after I was directly booked through Select due the fact I am not yet signed in Paris! Incredible.

TM: Tell me about your Stone Island Spring/Summer 2014 campaign.
SWK: Yeah, it was my first proper job with Select! It was the week after I signed with them and then I went to the casting and got the campaign! It’s crazy when your Dad sends you photos of you on Milan billboards! 

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TM: What's the biggest difference between Asian and British/European culture?
SWK: There are so many, naturally. Well, they look so different for a start [Sang laughs]. On a social aspect British/European people are more open-minded, liberal and just more chilled.

TM: Is it harder to be Asian in the modeling industry then?
SWK: I'm in such a niche market (being an Asian male model in the modeling industry) which means that there is less competition for me compared to other boys. I'm a completely different market – they have much more competition within their markets because it is much more developed and accepting. The fact that I'm so British is a plus because I’m competition to other Asian models that aren’t used to English as I am – which I think helps in the social aspects which is very important in the industry.

TM: Do you think that being an Asian Brit gives you the edge to be on top?
SWK: Maybe. I'm quite an outgoing person and I do like to meet new people in general. My understanding of British culture inevitably gives me an edge in terms of social scenarios and this, I feel, is important because it is a lot to do with character. Especially in the male modeling industry but recently more so for the female industry too. I think my very British accent coming from a very Asian looking face is quite unique to casting directors [Sang laughs]. 

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TM: You say that for guys it's character that stands out - do you think that it's because girls can change drastically with make up and be given a persona, in contrast to men?
SWK: Yes, I guess - in five different shoots, girls can look completely polar - opposite. With guys it's literally like you have your mask but the character is something you can show within a shoot. With guys, I think, you give your own unique persona and act the way you want to be portrayed. I believe Cara Delevingne has broken this boundary - she's not just beautiful a girl, she's so good with using social media to portray her character.

TM: So, models like Cara who market themselves as a brand seem to do well?
SWK: Yes, all based on character I believe.

TM: Asian male models are few and far between. Do you believe this will change?
SWK: Definitely - it's changing right now - I mean the fact that an Asian male model has been casted for six London shows in itself...

TM: Like you?
SWK: [Sang laughs] Like me [continues to laugh]. Come on it's not down to me…it's all down to casting directors. It's been a blessing and a massive privilege and I really can’t believe it – it’s crazy. What happened to me this season is just incredible.

TM: Even Asian designers sometimes put an all-white cast on the runway. What are your thoughts on this?
SWK: I don't think the designer’s race would dictate who they cast - they can do what ever they want - it's their vision for their brand. Fair enough, there may be some kind of patriotism with some designers. Kenzo casted a lot of Asian models this season for their menswear show. As a model though, I am sort of like an ambassador of Asia [Sang laughs].

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TM: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
SWK: I've only had one girlfriend.

TM: Are you not a man of commitment?
SWK: Erm [Sang laughs]. I would like to say that I am a man of commitment [continues to laugh]. Currently I am way too busy and I would feel bad and it would make me upset due to the fact I wouldn’t have enough time to invest – eventually in time the right person will walk in I guess [Sang smiles].

TM: Best thing about being a model?
SWK: What is best thing about being a model? Meeting people and travelling. The opportunity to be able to meet people that other people would die to meet and travelling the world.  It’s been incredible for example I didn't know I was going to actually work with Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana and it was about 3 months since I joined Select – so unexpected!

TM: Do people think you're vain?
SWK: It's a difficult one. In a job such a modeling I guess it’s difficult not to be a bit vain seeing as you’re whole career depends on the way you look. I would say I'm confident but I think the confidence has grown especially over the last year. There was always casual racism when I was younger and naturally that causes boundaries and I didn't believe in myself really, especially about my looks. Then I went to Saint Martins after school for my foundation and everything changed. I opened my eyes to a new world where people understood me and I felt more accepted. These people noticed me as a person, Sang, as opposed to 'an Asian' [Sang laughs].

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TM: Your nose ring is rather distinctive. How did the idea come about?
SWK: I was bored [Sang laughs]. I got my rook done and then a week later I got my septum pierce done and I knew that I could just tuck it up if I didn't want to show it. ‘A very model friendly piercing’ as they say in the industry.

TM: Has people around you changed since you became a model?
SWK: I live with three boys - two of them go to Goldsmiths and one goes to Chelsea college of Arts - all that I met during the foundation course at Central Saint Martins. They are my boys, they are my brothers. They're the most incredible people. Although, some other people are a bit upset (because of the change) in the sense that due to the modeling I am more busy than I ever was, on top of university. I struggle to find time for even myself!

TM: As a straight male model in somewhat a feminine fashion industry, how does this feel?
SWK: Great [Sang laughs]. There are so many beautiful girls in the industry its overwhelming and also quite intimidating.

TM: What are your favourite designers? Designers you dream to walk in their shows?
SWK: Miuccia Prada is at the top of the list. To walk the Prada menswear show would be the biggest dream. I admire how Prada incorporates smart, clean and minimal cuts with a funky twist. Beautiful.

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TM: You were a visitor to the shows prior to becoming a model and walking the shows, whereas, for many male models they would just walk into the industry fresh. What was the transition like for you?
SWK: To be honest, for many models, it is simply a job. For me, coming into the industry, there was a novelty, because I was already interested in the industry and I have many friends at Saint Martins who were so involved, so naturally I was within this environment. Around six months ago, I saw the Burberry Spring/Summer 2014 show with the Editor of Vogue Korea. I remember seeing Malaika Firth walking for them and six months after, I walked the show and shot with Malaika a few weeks after which was a massive surprise! Mad times.

TM: Do you have advice for other Asian men, or anyone else who wants to get into modeling?
SWK: Go for it! Don't be scared, it's not all about getting scouted! As sad as it is, I think its difficult for Asians to get scouted around London but this is right time to do it - this is the time to do it more than any time due to the fluctuation of the use of Asian male models recently.

TM: As a fine art student at Goldsmiths, do you see fashion as an art form?
SWK: Of course. I see ‘beauty’ as some form of art and fashion strives for beauty.

TM: Finally, are you a STYLEFAN? What is the meaning of style to you?
I feel real style is one that is true to you. I don't follow trends, personally, I literally wear what I like to wear and I don't think my style is going to change that much.  I mean, I wear a lot of my Dads clothes. The trousers and the coat and my bag were all passed down from my Dad – my prized items.

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Model: Sang Woo Kim @ Select
Interview: Tuck Muntarbhorn
Photographer: Danny Lowe
Fashion Illustrator: Scott W Mason

An Interview with Petra Metzger of EINE: Erotic Inclination towards High Fashion

EINE is a sensual range of luxury apparel and accessories that allows modern women to embody their own erotic domain. Founded in 2013 by MA Central Saint Martins graduate, Petra Metzger, the brand aims to capture the essence of the female erotic scene and to provide womenswear beyond the constraints of traditional fetish wear. STYLEFAN got an exclusive insight into Petra Metzger's creative and erotic world, at the EINE studio in Dalston Kingsland, London.

EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Campaign

EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Campaign

Petra Metzger at the EINE studio in Dalston Kingsland, London

Petra Metzger at the EINE studio in Dalston Kingsland, London

'The reason why I started the brand is not just to start another fashion label. I want to create a three-dimensional brand with an aesthetic and mindset for women who desire to be strong and erotic but not in the typical kinky manner and being an object for men.'

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Tuck Muntarbhorn: Tell me about the past five years of your life.
Petra Metzger: In early 2008, I returned to London from Paris having worked with Haider Ackermann. Later in the same year, I decided to conduct an internship with Hussein Chalayan before I completed my BA in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in 2009. It took me a couple of years before I decided to conduct my MA at Saint Martins and established my own personal design style. After my graduate show in 2012, it took me another year to define EINE and launch the brand.

TM: What inspires you?
PM: Modern women inspire me: their self-expression, sensuality and confidence.

TM: Is this feeling more towards womenswear than menswear?
PM: I am not a man, I don't know what men want to feel like when wearing certain clothes. This is one of the reasons why I could not be a menswear designer. Although recently, a photographer from Germany visited our pop up store and tried my clothes on. It looked great on him, just slightly too small. He suggested that I should consider to do menswear which was really surprising.

TM: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?
PM: As a young child I always loved to draw, make things and I loved to play with fabrics. My grandmother had an old Singer sewing machine and I started to make dresses for my dolls before dressing my friends and myself. After I came back from Australia I decided that making garments would be my profession.

TM: How would you relate the concept of 'fashion' to that of 'style'?
PM: Fashion is something that is directed from trends, which come from other people and are presented seasonally in magazines and media mainly to consume. Style is personal and a form of self-expression in a unique, personal appearance, which builds over years.

TM: Which adjectives would you use to describe your style? Why?
PM:
There's an element of androgyny in my way of dressing. My style is more silhouette and texture orientated, less decorative. A balance of femininity and masculinity. With my long hair I feel feminine but I like to contrast it with masculine elements such as wearing garments with emphasised shoulders, tailored trousers or braces.

TM: Why did you name your label EINE? What's your vision for the brand?
PM: EINE (pronounced 'ai-ne') means 'one' in German. It reflects the whole, the singular and the bond between femininity and masculinity but still represented in a 'female' word.  The reason why I started the brand is not just to start another fashion label. I want to create a three-dimensional brand with an aesthetic and mindset for women who desire to be strong and erotic but not in the typical kinky manner and being an object for men. I believe women are often seen as a sexual object rather than being the active figure and I want the brand to be in-between this. EINE is split into different dimensions for modern women. EINE is the tailoring side of the brand; EINE Studios is a place for collaborations with other artists, designers and craftsmen; and, EINE World is the voice of the brand.

TM: Could you describe EINE World in more detail?
PM: EINE World is not due to be launched until next year, so I'm afraid I can't tell you too much, but it's a platform for EINE-woman to explore and challenge their pleasures and sensuality.  EINE World is the lifestyle element of the brand and aims to connect our audience to both the brand and like-minded women.

TM: Why do you think women see themselves as a sexual object? Is your clothing a rebellious act against this?
PM: I cannot speak for general womanhood, but I feel that in the media women are often portrayed as a sexual object, which is often a quite narrow cliché. With EINE, I want to give women an option to explore and express their femininity in different ways and define their own sensuality.

TM: Describe the EINE-woman. What's her lifestyle?
PM: She is open, curious and has her own direction in life. She has her personal style and is not directed by the media or fashion magazines. The EINE-woman is self-confident, open-minded and owns her sexuality. A modern, independent and lively woman.

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TM: What's your earliest memory of fashion?
PM: I grew up in a really fashionable household. Both of my parents travelled a lot to foreign countries and collected souvenirs and clothes from all over the world. My grandma, who was an opera singer back in Berlin, used to dress up in beautiful dresses and wore amazing hats. On her LP she wore a little brown felt hat with a flower on the side, which I still remember vividly today. She organised art exhibitions in our house and little concerts. It was a meeting point for lots of many artists and other creative people. It was so exciting!

TM: Where are you from originally?
PM: The Black Forest in southwest Germany.

TM: What was it like growing up there?
PM: It was beautiful! Our house was in the forest with a huge garden. Me and my sister spent a lot of time playing outdoors. I was very close to nature growing up.

TM: Is there any chapter from your childhood years that has marked and influenced your creative development?
PM: Our parents encouraged us to learn things like playing musical instruments, ballet dancing and horse riding. My dad showed us how to build tree houses and my mum taught us gardening, how to make pottery and many other creative things. My parents showed us the world - taking us to places like Mauritius and America. Through this, we developed a curious eye which allowed us to gain inspiration from all kinds of things.

TM: What were your teenage years like and where were you living?
PM:  I was quite a late bloomer. In my early teens I was still in Germany and then I moved to Adelaide when I was 17.  This time gave me the opportunity to explore and become independent.

TM: What was it like growing up in different cultures?
PM: It gave me space to define what's me. It was so liberating and encouraging to define my own way in my life.

TM: When did you understand that fashion would be your future?
PM: It was when I created EINE and established the brand's aesthetic that I really saw my future in fashion.

TM: What did you gain most out of studying your MA in fashion at Central Saint Martins?
PM: One thing for sure, I learnt how important it is to stay true to yourself.

TM: What was it like to be taught by Louis Wilson?
PM: It still is a great privilege to be taught by her. She is such an inspiring and unique person, but so brutally honest! I learnt how important it is to take feedback on your work and to not to take it personally which encourages you to continuously improve your work. Honesty takes ego out of your work, which I believe it is important to create something special. I learnt about seeing. Seeing what's in front of you and not seeing what you want to see - often we make something and we have in mind what it should look like but it doesn't look like that in reality. I also learned about clear communication, appropriate presentation and a lot about myself.

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TM: What aspects of living in London do you draw on for inspiration in your collections?
PM: Definitely the people and of course certain scenes [laughs]!

TM: This leads us straight to the next question...you seem to be heavily inspired by the contemporary fetish subculture in your collections. Are you a part of this scene? How do you bring this inspiration to your collections?
PM: [Laughs] Yes! What I find extremely beautiful is that people in the fetish scene do not dress to appear in some way, they do not dress to be part of a certain class, but they simply dress up to express their soul. That's something I find really inspiring, beautiful and strong. Realising who you are and having the courage to express it. This is what I am trying to bring to the EINE-woman.

TM: What would you say to those who frown upon this scene or are simply missing out?
PM: People have an image of what this scene is like, but a lot of people don't really know for sure. To get a picture of the scene you need to get a taste of it in order to judge. It seems quite scary and loud to outsiders but it's actually quite fragile, personal and friendly and extremely respectful. Much more respectful than any normal club in London I would say.

TM: You talk a lot about the fact that your garments offer women the chance to indulge their secret desires. What are your secret desires? How are they reflected in your designs?
PM: If I told you my secret desires it wouldn't be a secret anymore [laughs]! I think it comes back to what I relate to, but I don't really design for myself, I design for other women.

TM: Who would you like to see wearing your garments?
PM: I like to see unique, confident women wearing my garments. Not even big stars - for me I love to see women putting my clothes on and styling it their own way. It's amazing and makes me so happy!

TM: What are your thoughts on celebrity endorsement in fashion and how fashion is represented in the media?
PM: It's actually something that really doesn't interest me much. I think that the whole fashion machine is so dusty and bores me in many aspects. In publications, people get told what is to wear presented by some hyped celebrities. There is so much commerce behind it. I try to keep my distance from this whole fashion machine.

TM: What rules in fashion do you find most annoying? Do you choose to break them?
PM: There are just too many! I think the whole consumption side of it - this extremely fast moving wheel with four seasons a year. Also, the certain steps you need to take: showing at fashion week, showing in a showroom, getting a stockist, and then finding the right PR company to develop a strong press portfolio and maybe you'll get some money back or maybe not. These steps are costly and you also lose touch to the client, and to me the client is so, so important. Instead of giving the money to big PR companies, I prefer to have small events for my clients and get feedback from my clients directly.

TM: Do you feel you need to be a part of this fashion chain to be a successful fashion designer? 
PM: I don't think you need to. I think people want you to believe you need to, because they want you to be part of the system. It might take longer to succeed but you'll find your own way if you are being true to yourself.

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TM: What is it about the female form that you find inspiring?
PM: Oh the curves [laughs]! The female form is more sensual especially the hips and the waist. In my designs, it's the play of exposing and covering which is sensual such as a covered jacket with a really long slit in the back, or a certain look where she wears a long coat with just suspenders and stockings.

TM: Do you incorporate other art forms into your designs let it be art, photography, film, music or literature? If so, how?
PM: Definetely film and art - The Night Porter. It's a film about human desire, darkness and roles. The mood of films, photography and art, creates a certain unique story which I develop further in my designs and make them relevant for a modern woman.

TM: What's your approach to designing? Do you start from e.g. research, sketches or draping?
PM: I definitely start with research to establish a key idea and aesthetic. There is then this continuous dialogue between sketching and draping (I call this 3-D sketching) before coming back to research again and tying the collection together. 

TM: What are your favourite fabrics? Why?
PM: I love wool gabardine. The liveliness, the bounce and the smell when you steam it is just amazing. Wool is best for tailoring and it adds a certain shine to the garment.

TM: Comfort or beauty, what comes first?
PM: I think its beauty, but there is no real beauty if you don't feel comfortable in something - you can't look beautiful.

TM: All of your past work experiences has been with male designers. Do you think that the womenswear industry is dominated by male figures? How do you feel about this?
PM:
Part of it is a biological reason. They're not just male designers, many are gay male designers. For women, it is quite tricky to bridge the gap between having a child and work - you need to compromise. I find it a bit odd to be honest because the reason why I design is because I know how women want to feel.

TM: What is special about a female designer designing for other women? What inspires you to design for other women?
PM: It's this feeling of empathy. There's a sense of solidarity because I can relate to women in many different ways instead of doing something I'm completely distant to.

TM: Why do you think women ask men for fashion advice?
PM: Because they're probably not secured enough to define for themselves what feels right. I believe many women often don't trust themselves or how they want to feel. Coming back to the point I made about women being an object for men. I think that many women think that they always want to be attractive for men.

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TM: What drew you to conduct work experience with Haider Ackermann? What was your role?
PM: I chose to work with Haider because I really like his tailoring, and his sensual and androgynous aesthetic - which I find beautiful. Also at that time he had a really small team in Paris which meant that I could help him with all kinds of useful things. I was his direct assistant at his atelier for his Autumn/Winter 2008 collection. I helped design part of the fashion and accessories collection, sourced fabrics and developed patterns and toiles.

TM: What did you gain from working with Haider Ackermann that was not taught in your educational degrees?
PM: That working in the design field involves a lot of many small things that needs to be done. There are a lot of small tasks to set the ground of a glamorous collection. When you order fabric it may not come right, you then have to call fabric suppliers, send it back and order it again. The process of creating a working garment takes a lot of really precise work.

TM: Do you think young designers could start out independently and maintain that independence even while growing to a global scale?
PM: I don't think I can tell you as I'm about to find out myself [laughs]! I think if you have the will and the strength to keep on going independently, then maybe.

TM: Will you be independent forever? If so, why?
PM: I really want to be independent. I think ownership of a brand is really important in order to feel completely connected to it. The reason why I started EINE is a slightly different reason than a normal fashion brand that's why I feel I really need to connect to the brand. I need to have ownership in order to drive it to the right direction.

TM: Do you consider having your own boutique one day?
PM: I think no. I prefer to have events, pop-up stores and open my studio to clients for them to see how the clothes are made and create a private atmosphere. The pop up store is a good way to have projects and collaborate with other artists (at our recent pop-up store I collaborated with interior designer Derek Hardie Martin). As a long term shopping possibility, I have my online shop.

TM: What kind of knowledge have you acquired from the beginning of your career till now?
PM: I think through my in-depth education, I have gained many experiences from sitting on a sewing machine, seeing production lines and understanding the whole production of fabrics through to finishing garments. I have also realised that fashion is not just something flashy, the craft behind garments, that pure making aspect of garments and attention to detail is very important. Through working with designers, I have learnt that every design house works differently and how every team works differently. My education at Saint Martins has also taught me to be very self-directed in terms of how you direct your creative process and enabled me to explore and really define my style. Based on all this, I am continuously changing and improving my design process.

TM: Finally, how would you like to be remembered?
PM: Maybe as someone who opens doors for a new perspective, probably that. Or maybe as someone who creates this space for women to explore and define themselves. I hope people think of me with a smile.

 

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EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Campaign:

EINE Autumn/Winter 2013 Look book:

www.eine-studios.com

Interview: Tuck Muntarbhorn
Photographer: Thang Le

An Interview with Anya Kamarek and Hektor Kowalski

Monochrome is a conceptual unisex fashion label that integrates visual arts with fashion. Founded in 2012 by Polish fashion designer, Anya Kamarek and creative director and visual artist, Hektor Kowalski, the working couple has created a clothing line that showcases their inspirations, identities and personal experiences. STYLEFAN.NET got the exclusive chance to talk to the creative minds behind Monochrome in their first published interview. 

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'My first memory of fashion was that I did not fit into social gender distinctions...I have had this natural tendency to blur the differences between gender insignias since a very young age.' - Anya Kamarek 

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'We want to see and experience the merge between fashion and other art forms, both to be distributed alongside each other, bound by a certain mood and concept. We want our brand to be a significant part of this cultural transformation.' - Hektor Kowalski

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Tuck Muntarbhorn: Tell me about the past five years of your life.
Anya Kamarek: After I completed a BA in Sociology in Poland, I came to London in 2007 to study for a BA in Fashion Design at Middlesex University. Upon graduation, I went on to study a postgraduate course in Innovative Pattern Cutting at Central Saint Martins, followed by an MA in Womenswear at London College of Fashion. After my studies, I started designing under my label 'Anya Kamarek' before I decided to launch Monochrome with Hektor last year.
Hektor Kowalski: Five years ago, I was finishing an MA in Digital Fine Arts at the University of Arts London and I was getting into fashion - slowly. It was around that time that I met Anya.

TM: So, how did you guys meet?

AK: At that time I was doing research for a menswear project for my BA, based on the 'Cremaster' series by Matthew Barney. This series wasn't widely distributed since it was only available in galleries and so I asked a friend whether he knew someone who would be able to get hold it. My friend told me about Hektor and that's how we met!

TM: Anya, how did you progress from sociology to fashion?
AK: I have always been interested in the fashion aspect of sociology. I really got into the change in womenswear alongside feminist movements. I wanted to create these works myself and so decided to create unisex clothing for Monochrome.

TM: Why did you choose your respective postgraduate university courses?
HK: I chose the MA in Digital Fine Arts course because I became interested in digital media and video installations. At the time, I was also interested in the interactive aspect of digital arts. The course was very open in terms of the format and media we could use, which really drew me in.
AK: I really wanted to learn pattern cutting because I already had knowledge about the creative side of fashion after my BA. This course at Central Saint Martins gave me so much technical knowledge on how to transform creative ideas into reality.

TM: What was your time in Poland like before you moved to London?
HK: I lived in Krakow, which was an inspiring and very interesting place when the Soviet Union collapsed. We were the generation to experience this transformation. When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1990, borders opened for a wide range of new influences.

TM: What was it like when you first moved to London?
HK: I came to London a few weeks after I finished my BA to stay with a couple of friends living in East London and spent a lot of time around the Truman Brewery which was then the place to be. I decided to do my MA here straight away because I saw how free and how inspiring London was and still is - people have open political views and don't stick to strict rules.
AK: I felt my unisex personal style was strange when I was in Poland and used to question whether there was something wrong with me. But when I came to London, I was able to express myself.

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TM: What's your earliest memory of fashion?
AK: My first memory of fashion was that I did not fit into social gender distinctions. I have always been sporty, had short hair and wore boyish clothes. I have had this natural tendency to blur the differences between gender insignias since a very young age.
HK: I took fashion more seriously when I got into the punk movement at the age of fifteen. That was the first time I started expressing myself through clothing by adopting the punk aesthetic. People would notice me on the street, which was exciting, and made me feel unique - special for me as I came from a relatively small, undistinguished town.

TM: Anya, can you tell me more about your mother's clothing label? Did she inspire you to work in fashion?
AK: My mum really inspired me - I followed her around a lot when I was young. She started her clothing business under the label 'Hanna' (her first name) in 1992. That was the time when communism in Poland started to collapse and it was a difficult time to find clothes. As a teenager, she travelled to America with my grandmother to gain inspiration for her clothes such as tailoring and eveningwear. She wanted to express herself by making clothes she wanted to wear and started making clothes to sell to others. In a way this really inspired me as I'm now doing just the same thing. 

TM: Why did you name your label Monochrome? How did this idea come about?
AK: The name represents our aesthetic, deriving from things that inspire us and stem from our origins. Eastern European Brutalist architecture, grey and foggy industrial cityscapes and dark snowy winters create a mystical atmosphere which we find inspiring. Monochrome also represents our fascination with urban and utilitarian wear and our passion for the monochromatic color palette and dark imagery.

TM: Who's the Monochrome man/woman? What's their lifestyle?
AK: Monochrome garments are made to function within an urban setting, tailored to different lifestyles and weather conditions. We imagine the Monochrome client living in urban cities such as London, New York or Tokyo. They get up very early to head to the office or studio, then head to galleries and off to parties wearing the same waxed cotton jacket which can be transformed into a backpack for cycling. The utilitarian aesthetic in our designs reflects our objective to create garments that are practical whilst also modish. 

Illustration by Guilherme Valente

Illustration by Guilherme Valente

TM: Did you start off designing for men or women? How and why did you progress to designing for both?
HK: Anya started to produce clothes for herself and expanded this to Monochrome. The initial point was womenswear but cross-gender dressing has always been Anya's approach, a concept to which I also relate.

TM: Do you think men and women can relate to the same aesthetic?
HK:
Some men (and women) may find it difficult to relate to the same aesthetic but we want to progress with this vision. The shape of the body is the only obstacle and we want people to express this in a way that is unrelated to sex.

TM: Do you think unisex garments have limited commercial opportunities? Will you divide into menswear and womenswear?
HK: In a practical context we may need to obey the rules of fashion and present our collections to womenswear and menswear buyers separately, but each collection will have a coherent and similar vision throughout. 

TM: Anya, what's your approach to designing? Do you start from e.g. research, sketches or draping?
AK: I start by draping to set my vision for the collection and establish shapes and silhouettes. I then do some research into particular themes to build a concept for the collection before drawing up technical sketches to prepare precise patterns for each garment.

TM: Do you often feel like you know what fabric you need to execute a certain concept or idea?
AK: Yes. For example, with the idea of functional urban clothing we used waxed cotton to make waterproof jackets and capes that were durable. Wearers can cycle in this in an urban setting which would protect them from the wind and rain. Also, we are interested in using bio-fabrics such as coated cotton, which is a good replacement for leather and much more environmentally friendly.

TM: Do you incorporate other art forms into your designs let it be art, film, music or literature?
AK: Yes. I really appreciate Suprematist works of Kazimir Malevich and black-on-black compositions by Ad Reinhardt - at the moment I am incorporating different shades of black fabrics in our current Autumn/Winter 2014 collection and using a variety of embossed and texturised fabrics. In terms of films, I really appreciate the works of Béla Tarr, especially his film ‘Turin Horse’. Apart from art, new technologies and scientific research especially in the field of space travel and military clothing also interest me and are main sources for my inspiration.
HK: We continue to seek and collaborate on unique projects that combine our clothing and accessories with other conceptual art forms. In our first collection (Autumn/Winter 2013), we collaborated with Nat Urazmetova, a visual artist and photographer. For this collection Nat used microscopic photography to reveal the strangeness of organic patterns, textures and formations to create prints for t-shirts and trousers. 

Interview-Monochrome-Designers-04.jpg

TM: Fashion is moving at such a fast-forward pace in this digitalised era. What role does social media place in fashion?
HK: That is the way that information travels these days. One can express and show one’s vision through these mediums and different channels where narratives are constantly changing. Social media is crucial. In the past one had editorials and that's the way one promoted fashion. Social media is an inevitable way to go, as it is parallel to having editorials to promote one’s brand. It gives more freedom and one’s own space to express one’s concepts. We are now able to express ourselves visually with platforms such as Instagram or Tumblr. People always wanted to broadcast themselves but there was no platform to do so. In the past, one could have one’s own blog, but that was about it.
AK: I agree with Hektor. Social media is important because one can show one’s vision and aesthetic of the brand. Sometimes with editorials one doesn't have control of the press.

TM: Given the choice and financial backing of either showcasing your collection in the form of a catwalk show or presentation, which would you choose?
AK: We would choose to present our collection in the form of a fashion presentation or exhibition which gives us the possibility to experiment with different art mediums to showcase the mood of our collection. Moreover, I believe it is a much deeper experience for the audience than an ordinary catwalk show accompanied by loud music. I think a gallery space is the best place to present our collections where everyone can get involved by wearing our clothes.
HK: Yes, indeed, we would like to present fashion by other means as opposed to that of a traditional fashion show. I think it is good to experiment given that there are so many possibilities to present fashion nowadays. I mean, it is great to experience fashion on a model, but for instance a gallery space or in fact any other space is as effective as showing on a catwalk at fashion week. Also, we have access to all media which can be used to send our message and concept of our collection to the press.

TM: Where else would you like Monochrome to be stocked? Do you consider having your own boutique one day?
AK: We would love to stock in our own flagship store!
HK: A place where we could work, sell and exhibit, perhaps a combination of a work and gallery space. We would like to have unisex mannequins to display our products and give customers the chance of meeting the designers behind the works.

TM: Finally, where will Monochrome be in 5 years time?
HK: Monochrome represents a particular aesthetic and approach to fashion. In five years or so, we want to see and experience the merge between fashion and other art forms, both to be distributed alongside each other, bound by a certain mood and concept. We want our brand to be a significant part of this cultural transformation.

View the Monochrome Spring/Summer 2014 collection below:

Photographer: Felipe Enger
Fashion Illustrator: Guilherme Valente
Photographer's Assistant: Tony Donson