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A Conversation with Kiko Kostadinov


    • Interview
    • Chais Mingo
    • Photography
    • Tom Fletcher
    • Dialogue
    • Issue 03, Page 091

In his 1967 essay “System de la Mode,” French theorist Roland Barthes explores the semiotics of the fashion industry and states,“calculating industrial society is obliged to form consumers who don’t calculate; if clothing’s producers and consumers had the same consciousness, clothing would be bought (and produced) only at the very slow rate of its dilapidation.” Barthes goes on to suggest it is “better to separate Fashion from its creator gods [so that] it is imputed not to its producers but to its consumers.” At just 26 years old, Kiko Kostadinov is part of a new generation of designers intuitively mindful of Barthes’ sentiments toward the fashion industry and its need for transformation. When speaking about his creative process, Kostadinov dryly remarks, “Does it need to exist? That needs to be questioned all the time because there is no need for more shit. There’s no need for another shirt or trousers or jacket.”

This new generation of designers has its feet firmly planted in reality, making clothes that they and their friends want to wear. Informed by their interests, environment, and eccentricities rather than some lofty escapist ideal, they understand the inextricable link between their garments and the consumer buying them off the rack. Kostadinov needs and wants to sell his clothes, both to remain in business and to fully understand how it’s received and assimilated by real consumers. “I want to make money from it so it’s not just ideas you know? If you don’t have the business it’s just pointless.” Though keenly aware of the importance of making goods that will sell, it is not the principal motivation behind his eponymous brand. For Kostadinov, authenticity is the driving force: this is his project and his passion and it is not forced or imitated.

 


 

I met with Kostadinov on a quiet Saturday afternoon, in his studio in the Wood Green district of North London. With parted hair that fell above his shoulders and dark features, he projected a calm and sincere demeanor that belied his age. He wore an oversized tee shirt, a black pair of his signature trousers and a pair of chunky black trail runners by French maker Hoka One One. He briefly showed me around his modest studio with a large table in the center, a few sewing machines, rolls of fabric and hangers full of samples. It’s hard to imagine that the small studio doubles as the sole production space for his burgeoning label.

As we sat down at his desk to start the interview he got distracted by my pen: a ballpoint with a clear molded plastic casing displaying its cartridge, by German manufacturer Lamy. It’s one of those typical straightforward German designs that look as modern and practical now as it did when it was first produced in 1980. Unfamiliar with the brand but recognizing it’s utilitarian design, he spoke about how he is now fine-tuned and hyper-sensitive to utility and functional detail – not just in clothing but also in everyday life.

“I’m really into utilitarian pieces now — like, very obsessed with it. Having a brand that’s utilitarian, I’ve always liked stuff like that but now it’s a question of how do you represent yourself? You go to a meeting and you pitch your brand. If you come up with something like this pen, it’s like, “What’s this?” It’s very interesting to see the elements of image even in myself, like the perception in me, like I need to present myself more with a uniform base. It works because I’ve seen it in other designers, and that slowly, your brand becomes you. It’s very interesting trying to organize things and really starting to change your life into a system.”

Kostadinov had barely finished his master’s degree when he received the prestigious NEWGEN MEN sponsorship and was given the opportunity to present at London Collections: MAN (LC:M) in June. With only a few weeks of preparation time, most designers in this position would simply re-hash their thesis collection, but Kiko saw this as another opportunity to push himself to do something new and show his level of commitment to his new label.

 

 

“We had 8 weeks to do the collection because I got told that I could do a show in April, and the show was in June. So I did it without any knowledge of anything like business, studio, or brand. We did the Dover Street Market production and we did the show, which was quite different from my master’s presentation in terms of fabrication and new silhouettes. Usually when someone receives something such short notice, they just show the MA collection again because they’re not stupid like me to start a new collection in 8 weeks. They will just make a new collection in a different colour like, “Lets re-style it, you have 10 looks already, let’s take it easy.” But again, it was like, “Can we do it?” I’ve got this space — I might as well do it. And we were ready a week before the show. It was good. It was organized. It’s been decision-making 100%, there’s no hesitation. You just can’t lose a day — you decide what you want to do and just do it.”

The hard work paid off and the collection was a highlight of the season and garnered widespread praise from press, buyers, and the general public alike. Deceptively simple, the clothing was utilitarian and modern, cast in muted tonal colours and juxtaposed against large hats and the chunky Hoka One One boots that have since gone on to gain a cult-like following amongst industry insiders. The show itself was also well received, setting a high standard for Kostadinov’s debut.

“My first presentation, it’s supposed to be a presentation but we were like, “We’re not doing a presentation, we’re doing a show.” Usually you get a presentation and you just put static models and it’s for 2 hours. People walk in, walk out, they see it — whatever. We wanted to make it more engaging, so we did 3 mini shows in those 2 hours with models. We just wanted to just take the opportunity and show a level from the very first moment and that’s it, that’s where I want to perform. And it paid off; the New York Times picked us as one of the top ten moments of the season along with Prada and Balenciaga. So it’s good to see that people actually see a level and a commitment.”

When Kiko launched his collection at LC:M, he was already on the radar of insiders and savvy industry watchers alike. Sparked by a massively successful collaboration with Stüssy that saw him cutting up, dyeing, and re-constructing the brands iconic graphic hoodie, the designer has been gaining steam ever since with his deconstructed and utilitarian designs. The Stüssy project — made exclusively for Dover Street Market London and Ginza — helped pay for his master’s degree and gave him hands-on experience outside the confines of the classroom, making something that actually goes to market while also forging valuable relationships with Dover Street Market. He now works with a small team alongside stylist Stephen Mann, a handful of friends and Central Saint Martins students and alumni. This makes for a community atmosphere with the infectious and exciting energy of a personal project organically building into a viable career and future legacy. With this tight knit group, Kostadinov landed a veritable dream team for his LC:M presentation.

“For the show and casting I’ve had the privilege of working with people at a really high level. One is Laura Holmes, who does production for Loewe. Working with Stephen Mann, who has helped from the beginning, that’s how I met her, and her assistant and I studied together in the foundation course at LCF. She produced the whole show for me and put it on that level as well. And then casting I worked with Jess Hallet. She’s incredible — she used to do all the McQueen shows with Lee McQueen from the ’90s as well as Stefano Pilati’s Zegna period. Laura asked and luckily she was free. The first season was an incredible team just to show a level, and people took it more seriously so hopefully I’ll be able to keep working with them for the next season and continue to progress our work relationship. I was lucky to be able to work with them. It was done properly, and their work was reflected in the show.”

 

“I’m really into utilitarian pieces now — like, very obsessed with it. Having a brand that’s utilitarian, I’ve always liked stuff like that but now it’s a question of how do you represent yourself?”

 

 

 

 

 

“The first season was an incredible team just to show a level, and people took it more seriously so hopefully I’ll be able to keep working with them for the next season and continue to progress our work relationship. I was lucky to be able to work with them. It was done properly, and their work was reflected in the show.”

 

“Inspiration came from my dad and then he’s there, and I’m building the environment with him. It was a very unchallengeable thing you know, you couldn’t ask me why I did that. “

 

 

Though it was likely on the wish list of many buyers, the SS17 collection was sold exclusively at Dover Street Market — a co-sign that speaks volumes about Kiko as a designer as well as Rei Kawakubo’s excellence at recognizing and supporting new talent when she sees it. For his installation Kostadinov utilized DSM’s unique space as best he could. Custom industrial lighting — the same used in his LC:M presentation — was brought in, and the clothes hung on a sparse metal tube surrounded by unfinished drywall, a reference not only to the workwear elements in the collection but also to the influence of his father and his career as a contractor. As he explains, everything came inexplicably full circle in the creation of the space:

“I did it with a close friend of mine; he’s an architect who lives in Stockholm now. I had a few concept ideas so I drew a little one and based on the initial idea, he took it to the next level in the proposal and everything. So he came here from Stockholm to help build it, and we did it with my dad — we all did it together. It was very full circle with my dad. Inspiration came from my dad and then he’s there, and I’m building the environment with him. It was a very unchallengeable thing you know, you couldn’t ask me why I did that. Well, you could ask me but I’d have the answers and for me, that’s why I feel confident about my work — it’s not bullshit, it’s not really a fantasy.  It’s just like we did this because of this. It’s full circle.”

So how did he get here? Born in Bulgaria, Kostadinov immigrated to London with his family at the age of 16. Despite the recent trend in so-called “Post-Soviet” aesthetics, he does not readily identify his home country as an aesthetic or personal influence. Expressly contemporary-leaning, he viewed the transition and his new life in London as an entirely new chapter and thinks little of nostalgia or his youth when it comes to his designs. Discovering fashion as a teenager, his initial experience of clothing was hands on, skimming through racks at TK Maxx rather than pages of Vogue.

 


 

What was it like growing up in Bulgaria? Did it significantly influence you?

Well, I moved when I was 16, so that’s about ten years ago now. I didn’t want to stay there. I find it really difficult now to remember what was back then. I know it’s very strange. Because I don’t go back, I don’t keep in touch with a lot of my friends that I grew up with, which is a shame. It’s very strange. In the beginning I used to go every holiday, so three times a year I’d go back home and just hang out with my friends and go on holidays.  And since I kind of decided I want to be in fashion — or study and commit to that — then I really focused on it, even on a cultural level. Back when I was growing up, there was no art, there was no French movies, none of this. I wouldn’t say I wasn’t cultural but it was just a different kind of thing, like playing football all day. It was very relaxing — it was a small town. Then suddenly I’m here starting at Saint Martins and I need to compete with all these international people, most of them quite well trained and have more knowledge. So if I’m going to do this I need to commit across all levels.

So nostalgia plays no role in your work? 

Not at all, I don’t think so. I find it uninspiring really, looking back. I don’t think any of the stuff I grew up with will be relevant now, because other people are doing them and I don’t feel like, “Oh yeah that style of jacket, I wore it.”

I always imagined Eastern Bloc countries as less consumerist or influenced by advertising. But maybe being born in 1989, that was already changing?

By the time it was really changing, my parents were really into buying, especially clothes. Not a lot, but they would buy in 1994 or ’95,  Adidas trousers and jackets and shoes, or Nike. Because it didn’t exist there, that 5 years wasn’t enough. My uncle came maybe 5 years before us, so for those 5 years he was in London he would send me all these amazing Umbro kits for football, and shoes, and I was always looking super cool at school because no one else had those things and I think that really was a big part of me liking clothes and always caring how I looked in a way. So when I came here I was just buying clothes. I just loved clothes, I still do. It was different; I was buying Diesel and Energie all this stuff that was popular back in this time. I would go into TK Maxx and wouldn’t go to college, and I would spend time looking at like all four TK Maxx in central and just literally flip through stuff just to find something cheap and cool. So I think that’s why I like clothes. It wasn’t like I was drawing clothes when I was 14 or something: it came from wearing clothes. My relationship with clothing and fashion and garments is about wearing them rather than fantasizing about them.

 

 

The key to this new chapter was ultimately found at Central Saint Martins (CSM). The London institution is recognized as one of the top fashion schools in the world, and with alumni such as McQueen, Galliano, Jacobs, Pugh and more recently Craig Green, it’s easy to understand why. After a half-hearted year studying IT, Kiko enrolled in the entry program at London College of Fashion and following one failed attempt, eventually landed in the Bachelors program of Menswear Design at Central Saint Martins. Though he knew he was interested in fashion and clothing, being a designer was not some childhood dream or even a plausible thought at the time. He envisioned working in styling or marketing, but decided to turn to design on the advice of one of his foundation course tutors and an intransigent instinct to take an alternative path.

 

 

How did you make the transition from IT to fashion at Central Saint Martins?

When I came here I didn’t want to stay here at all. The only thing I knew was I liked computers, and I used to play video games online like day and night. Literally that’s what I was doing; there were parts of my life — like 2 or 3 years — where I was playing a game. I moved here with my mom. My dad was already here three years before us. I kind of wanted her to stay and for me to go back so they could send me money and I’d be alone in Bulgaria and have fun [laughs]: that was the goal. I just applied for college, and I was really hoping that I wasn’t going to get in so I wouldn’t be able to start, but I got into an IT course and had to do it. It was OK, it was like Excel and really basic shit; it wasn’t really like coding and stuff. Maybe if it was coding I would be into it, but it was not special or exciting enough to keep doing it. And I decided I didn’t want to spend all day in an office sitting at a computer, I didn’t want to do spreadsheets all day. So I was like “What do I like? What do I want to do? Where do I want to go?” And I said, “I like clothes, maybe I’ll do either styling or marketing” because in my head I was like, “What can make me money?” as well. I never thought about being a designer, it wasn’t even in the cards; it was styling or marketing. I did a foundation course at LCF (London College of Fashion), it’s one year but you do everything. You do PR, Marketing, live drawings, styling, you do basically every aspect — photography as well — and you pick what you want to take from there and apply for a BA. My goal was styling and photography, but there were maybe 200 people in the course and maybe 90% wanted to go for that course, and I was like fuck, if 90% want to go for this, I want to go somewhere else. One of our tutors was from Saint Martins, so she kindly recommended, “You should try design and marketing” — that was the course at Saint Martins. I didn’t even have a portfolio but I applied for it. It’s crazy you have all these stages where you apply online, you submit your portfolio, then you wait during the day and if they call you, they call you for interviews — it’s exhausting. So I went for the interview and I didn’t get it the first time. So I was like fuck, what am I going to do? I was a really depressed 18 year-old, “Oh fucking hell” [laughs]. So I went back home, that was the first time I went back properly to Bulgaria and stayed there for probably 3 months just doing nothing. And I came back and applied for an internship with Aitor Throup, and I stayed there for one year and re-applied for the BA and got in that time.

 

Kiko would go on to complete his BA and enter the Masters of Fashion Design, spending several years at the school learning how to focus his burgeoning tastes and interests into a cohesive idea and well-defined personal vision.

 

What are some of the most important things you took out of your time at Central Saint Martins?

It kind of changed my life; I was there for seven years so I don’t think there are just a few things I can pick. I don’t have something I can compare it to. In the end it’s more about you, who you are and what you like and use all of this to make it work for you and be really honest, rather than trying to be someone else. Like if you like pink, just make pink stuff [laughs], don’t try to design black Yohji stuff. Just be really honest with yourself and work really hard because the school doesn’t produce fillers in the industry. It doesn’t produce someone that goes and gets a normal job. It produces — or the aim is to produce — someone who has something to say, not generic fashion designers. The tutors have incredible knowledge; they can read you like a newspaper front to back just by seeing a few images of your portfolio and they’re very interesting people, their knowledge is huge. To be a head tutor of MA you need to have that knowledge because you face so many students and you need to have the reference to help them and guide them in the right direction. They don’t compare you to any other students and they treat everyone differently. Some they shout at and are really horrible to, so they get the best out of them in different ways. Some of them are calmer. It’s like a mental institution in a way, but for fashion.

They’re like psychiatrists…

They have to be because it’s so personal, especially if you give a lot as a student. I think that the tutors feel like they really need to help you because they feel like you are really going for it, and if you don’t give, they’re not going to. It’s front to back.  First of all, you need to come with a lot of work — like actual work, not just Tumblr research or whatever — and then they’ll help you. But if you come in and are like, “ Help me now”, it’s like, “Fuck off, go do some work, what do you mean help you now?” It’s not that kind of help — that’s wasting both of their time. I think that’s kind of what CSM taught me. I met a lot of people as well. Most of the industry is from our school and if you know a couple generations — a few years ahead and a few years behind — it’s very easy to basically know almost everyone. There’s almost a thread that goes across companies back to the school. It’s easy if you are from Saint Martins because they know that — if you go work somewhere — you know how to research, how to go through a process of designing. Garment making? No, that’s not what the school is known for because it’s more — I wouldn’t say conceptual in terms of like crazy stuff — but it’s more concept driven, ideas rather than technical abilities. You know Bunka is really known for pattern cutting, so in a way you shouldn’t be taking people from Saint Martins if you want someone to cut or make you a jacket.

 

“It [CSM] kind of changed my life; I was there for seven years so I don’t think there are just a few things I can pick. I don’t have something I can compare it to. In the end it’s more about you, who you are and what you like and use all of this to make it work for you and be really honest, rather than trying to be someone else.”

 

 

“I don’t know where it’s going to go — it might go to people who like Prada, or it might go to people who like Neighborhood and WTAPS, or it might go to people that like Vetements, I don’t know. It’s up to the customer. I am happy to see anyone wearing it.”

 

Setting the standard for fashion and arts education Central Saint Martins demanded more than strictly fashion knowledge. Under the direction of CSM’s elite tutors and professors including the inimitable Masters Fashion course director Louise Wilson, Kiko was led him to explore culture at large to better understand the importance of art, film, and music in becoming a well-rounded and well-informed designer.

“I found a lot of stuff that I like, like the director Robert Bresson. Even the title of the collection was inspired by one of his quotes. And the director David Cronenberg, who is all about transformation and changing from one thing to another. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in a sense. I had that with clothing when I started buying Yohji. I know on the tube I feel like I’m wearing a really expensive coat but I look like a homeless person, and I like that someone across from me doesn’t know how to treat you. They misjudge you, but you know you are wearing really expensive clothes. I really like that and I think that’s influenced even my work now. And that’s why I feel like I have two lives now, having one back home before I came here and now.”

Was it always your intention to start your own label when you graduated?

No, no. Maybe the last bit yeah. Through Stüssy I already kind of have the shop connections in a way, the semi-exposure, and meeting the Dover Street people in Ginza and here as well, and through the MA. They were like, “Just make stuff that you like” so it was more like my wardrobe than the stuff where I’m crazy, in terms of one-offs for the MA collection. The goal was to propose something and propose when it’s shown to those doors to Dover Street and be like, “This is what I did for my MA: it’s producible, not like one-off, art project pieces.” I think that’s kind of how it started. And then obviously I wanted to apply for NEWGEN, so those things kind of lined up and it was the right thing to do, and then the studio space came as well. It just starts very slowly. You always have it — even when you’re a student like, “Oh I’d love to do my own thing” — it’s always in the back of your head because you see a lot of your classmates above you doing well, like Craig Green or whatever. And it’s not that far from you in terms of people you have seen everyday. You don’t really know how much it takes to do it because no one tells you that, in terms of money, time, and organization. I don’t think I’d do anything else really. Even when I speak with close friends, they’re like, “We always knew that you were going to have your own thing, even from first year of BA 5 years ago.” I guess my character kind of showed but me, I never thought I would.

Is there a philosophy behind it? What impact do you hope to make?

I think the philosophy behind it is kind of growing now. Finding it really in the beginning, rather than starting with one thing and just like being in between it. Making stuff that I can’t necessarily find somewhere else, really trying to push the cutting element and really go deep, more 3D rather than working flat. The research should be very personal. First hand, not generic. The rules for my own thing are just things that feel personal, things that I want to buy in a way. If I make something and am like, “Oh I can buy this from this person,” then I don’t need to make it and put out the same product. Like, does it need to exist? That needs to be questioned all the time because there is no need for more shit. There’s no need for another shirt or trousers or jacket. I keep saying there’s a lot of shit, but there are a few people that do good stuff. I always just question it like that.

Do you have a particular customer in mind?

My friends around me and myself. For now it’s just product that I want to buy, or the people around me want to buy if they have money, and that’s really it. Just building that kind of story around it. Because people around me mix it with other stuff, it’s nice to see how it reacts. I don’t know where it’s going to go — it might go to people who like Prada, or it might go to people who like Neighborhood and WTAPS, or it might go to people that like Vetements, I don’t know. It’s up to the customer. I am happy to see anyone wearing it. I don’t have a particular customer because, I have to say, I like clothing. I have respect for why I wear it, so it’s not like I wear black jeans and black t-shirts, or something like that, and design for someone else. I wear all the stuff that I make, so hopefully someone else will like to buy it.

Along with a rigorous education from CSM, another aspect that influenced Kostadinov was his previous intern work with two of menswear’s most respected and enigmatic menswear figures: Errolson Hugh, founder and designer of Berlin-based technical label ACRONYM, and Aitor Throup, the Argentinian-born designer and artist known for his own garments and his incredible work with C.P Company and Stone Island. It’s apparent that Kostadinov absorbed a certain appreciation of product and attention to quality and functionality from these mentors. Both designers garner a cult following and remain independent while cleverly sidestepping or simply ignoring the traditional fashion system, and both view things with a laser focused vision and disregard trends. It would be easy for a young designer to exploit these connections for nothing more than improving sales and tapping an already loyal audience. However, Kostadinov is adamant about carving his own path and doesn’t want his creations and public reception to be clouded by the design aesthetic of those he’s worked for, regardless of their exceptional reputations.

“I think that’s why I don’t really have a design influence. Say you have been at Lanvin for eight months: when you do a collection, you get that kind of Lanvin feeling because that’s how you grew up as a designer. I didn’t really grow up as a designer next to Aitor and I didn’t really grow up as a designer next to Errolson; because it was for a shorter time, it was more like I grew up in terms of learning a work ethic, rather than a design aesthetic. That’s why, at the moment, it doesn’t feel relevant for me to mention any of them whenever. I don’t want a press release to say I worked for Aitor Throup or Errolson Hugh or something like this in 5 years. That’s why I don’t mention them; it doesn’t feel relevant for my work really. I wouldn’t say it’s selling it short but if it’s the first thing that someone thinks about when they see it… It’s not that I don’t want to say I went there, it’s just not like I designed two seasons for Aitor and two seasons for Errolson, you know?”

You don’t want to be seen through their lens?

Not really. Not their design lens, but more like on their level. The level of studio Aitor and Errolson have, both studios are doing other projects and also doing their own projects. I think that’s what I took from that, how they can do their own thing but also work on other things. I think that’s the goal here as well: to follow this system in a way, this formula. As you said, I don’t want to be seen through their lens.

 

 

This devotion to personal discovery is most apparent in his research. You won’t find any Tumblr photos, images from other brands or magazines on the walls of his studio. The inspiration comes largely through his direct experience, focusing primarily on cell phone photos of workers and everyday people he see’s on the street — a place where individual eccentricities provide far more inspiration than the polished and overthought images of a fashion magazine or online blog.

“I’m always trying to be very culturally aware of what’s going on and being in touch, being up to date with relevant exhibitions. Keep looking at people everyday through my travels and keep photographing them if I see something I like. Now I see it actually taking shape. That’s the very first time I actually started putting photos up on a wall. Usually I didn’t feel the need to do that, but now it’s actually quite nice to start doing that and it gives you more confidence because it’s not borrowed research, it’s things I’ve seen and things I like. It’s very interesting to see how this will work out, if it will look too over mixed or mood-boarded because I hate that word mood-board. But it’s very personal so I’ll just keep doing that and might start doing books for myself with all the photos for each season.”

If his current collection demands a categorization, it would likely be workwear. The trouble with this categorization is that — in the menswear lexicon — the word is embedded and, almost subconsciously conjures up images of chore coats, chambray shirts and blue jeans. Kostadinov is working hard to subvert this fixed reference point. For him, the workwear inspiration is entirely modern. The silhouettes are delicate but masculine. Materials are stiff and functional, but the tailoring and cutting is flowing, precise and three dimensional, culminating in what Kiko refers to as the “classless uniform.”

 

 

 

You mentioned Japanese workwear, though it’s not traditional Japanese workwear like Noragi’s, right?

No, contemporary, like uniforms. Because when I looked at stuff and was thinking about workwear when I was doing my MA, I was thinking of this rolled, kind of tacky Dickies trouser, or ’50s ’60s French workwear, like those blue jackets that everybody’s doing—I really hated that. So I was just looking for modern workwear. I don’t want to look at old stuff; I don’t want to look at old clothes too much. I want to look at what’s now and what are people wearing now, and making my own version of it, rather than looking at 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, whatever. There’s some cool stuff but I think that it’s exhausted. For my own portfolio, my own brand, that’s how I tend to work. You need to look back a lot, maybe 20% in the past and 80% today. And that’s why the Japanese workwear. They have amazing catalogs that are really funny that show this. Because their stuff is cut with function, they have all these gussets, all these bends and the fabric that they use. So they have all these funny photos where they move and show the moves, and they have these weird colours like lime green, and yeah, it’s beautiful and it just felt really fresh. I thought that’s something I want to look into. So I ordered a lot of stuff and started copying out some of them and mixing them together — like started styling them — and then from styling, it becomes a completely different garment. Like it’s a shirt, then you wrap another shirt on the front and it becomes a different garment, it becomes a shirt with an extended front and another layer, things like that. It becomes a completely new thing instead of “Yeah, lets just copy this and copy that.” I just don’t feel challenged by that.

If I’m going to make something it has to be my own thing, it needs to be really worked on and it doesn’t necessarily exist yet. Like the trousers I came up with through a lot of developing — you can’t find something like them anywhere. It was nice to hear that feedback from people and now it’s nice to see people actually buying it at Dover Street Market, because it’s one thing to get the customer reaction and one thing if stuff will actually sell. It might be cool in the show or if friends wear it, but when it actually reaches someone in the shop, do they actually buy it, does it function in their lives and mix with something else? Now it’s all about this question, but in school it was like, “Yeah lets make something cool!” Now it can be cool but if it doesn’t sell, do you continue making it and continue believing in it? So it’s interesting to see. I’m approaching my next collection in the same way. I don’t think it will be guided by what people buy and didn’t buy, and what buyers bought for the next collection, that will be in the shop in January. It’s very exciting the things you don’t know until you start doing them, because I never worked for anyone—in terms of a big company—to learn those things. I just literally pushed to create a brand, and all these other things like production. I feel like the reception has been great but fuck, I need to deliver product as quick as I can because people actually want it. It’s a really strange place to be. It’s great but I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t feel scared, but it’s very exciting and I just want to go for it.

Do you feel that functionality is still important?

Yeah, just very basic level functionality. Like today, what do you need? You probably carry a charger, your phone, your wallet, your oyster card, your water, and your sunglasses, all these little things — where does it go, do you need a bag for all these little things? Like you look at hospital uniforms—I like Japanese doctor uniforms—they have all these amazing pockets on the side, things like that. Then comes the textile research, the colours and then on top of that, the pattern cutting. How do you actually make it your own, how do you subvert a sleeve or waistband so it goes on the next level, where you are actually designing rather than mixing and matching or just styling it together? The point is not to create simple things with interesting details; it’s a bit deeper than that. It’s more like you’ve got those things, but then it’s raised—the actual garment making—rather than just surface level. Because there’s a lot of people that do nice stuff in nice fabrics and nice finishing so again, does it need to exist? That’s really the question with most of the stuff.

You used Ventile and Tyvek.

We used mostly Ventile for the whole collection. For the MA we used Bulgarian military fabrics and policeman uniforms and stuff like that, so it was just finding a new textile that was utilitarian and actually functional. Ventile was kind of the obvious choice; I’ve never worked with it, so it was very challenging to see how some of the stuff would work and how it would drape. And the Tyvek — we want to do more stuff with it but it was hard to make it not look like a bin-bag, you know? So that’s why we just did one jacket and sleeve in it.

You also kind of put the spotlight on Hoka One One. 

I have like three pairs now — brand new. They’re just not interested in fashion; they’re more interested in performance obviously. So it’s good to give them credit for that. They’re not really falling into what Salomon is doing with other people. I quite like that they said no, that they’re not really interested and they don’t have the customer. It’s interesting to see more people wearing them, more fashion people. I don’t think it’s that many people, but these are sold out on their website. All the black ones are gone and I’m like, “What the fucking hell?” Takahiro Miyashita was here and we had dinner and he was like, “Hoka! All black Hoka! Where did you get them?” He’s another person that is next level, someone I look up to a lot. He doesn’t give a fuck, which is great. He has the other stuff — the basic collection — but he needs to tell the story to keep him motivated, that’s the whole point. That’s how I want to work. I want to keep telling a story for myself, not for anyone else, and if it’s relevant for the time and for other people, great; if not it ok well, it’s stuff I like and it has enough cultural reference for music and fashion. It’s not following a trend or anything. I don’t want to get too realistic and stiff, so once everything is kind of working a bit better in terms of the studio, I would like to start pushing stuff a bit more modern in a way. I don’t want to be known for one thing; I want to be changing every season or every two seasons.

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