Having founded Soulland in 2002, Silas Adler has developed the label into a leading name in fashion circles not only in Europe but around the globe. Soulland’s design esthetic is rooted in traditional Scandinavian craftsmanship and through great attention to the detailing of the clothes, classic menswear is reinterpreted with a present-day esthetic. A rich concept that coincides with the opening of the U.S. Import, a retail project conceived with Stine Kinch who is also an integral part of Soulland. With a large red, white and blue sign that reads “U.S. Import” has hung over the store through several ownerships. Honoring the tradition of laziness and recycling, the sign will remain up and has given name to the store it makes for a compelling outlet for Soulland as well as unique space in the Copenhagen market. Here Silas Adler and Stine Kinch provide us with a greater insight into the project having answered a few of my questions.
U.S. Import – Soulland, Stine Goya, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Ann Sofie Back, Veronica B Valleness, Libertine-Libertine, Christel Thue Høgsted, Popupshop, House of Billiam, Sofie Bille Brahe / Force of Nature, Uslu Airlines, Apartemento Magazine, Colors Magazine.
Photography by Sascha Oda.
SLAMXHYPE – Can you both tell us about your backgrounds and how your path led you to where you are today?
Stine – I have a degree in textile design from a Danish Design School and I did my major at Universität der Kunste in Berlin in “Raum und Scenografie. I applied to the school because at the time Vivienne Westwood was a teacher there, though I never attended one of her classes. To me Vivienne Westwood is über-über. I wouldn’t wear her design, but I’m really into her approach and will to communicate visually. I’ve always had a deep passion for fashion but never felt like designing clothes. It’s the space around it all and the search for the underlying meaning of it that drives me. There must be something to it since a whole generation is so obsessed with new sneaks and it-girls – you could say that I’m driven by a possibility to communicate.
I opened my first retail space in Copenhagen a few years ago, Force of Nature, and this led me to Soulland and the opportunity to be a part of U.S. Import. Creating the physical space and visualizing a feeling is what turns me on – and most importantly being a part of a team that helps and supports each other.
Silas – Well, I founded Soulland and work as the designer and creative director. For the last couple of years we have been focusing on building the brand and making all that work. It’s been a bumpy ride but things are definitely moving in the right direction and we have a really good team in place.
SLAMXHYPE – How does your daily settings inspire and influence you on a regular basis and how do you manage to maintain a fresh approach?
Silas – Well it’s hard for me to point to one thing I do. I think every day is a new day and there are always new ways to absorb influence and to find inspiration. Being open and positive is always a good start. Stine and I always talk about some kind of revolution that can be inspiring as well, the will for change and wanting more.
Stine – It’s so hard to box influences and inspiration without sounding like a recipe. I’m a strong believer that there is no formula to maintaining a fresh approach – except finding your own formula. I like working with a method but at some point I try to let go to make things find there own way and soul (shit, I sound like my Mother;)
I think the time is ready for honesty – we truly and honestly love our customers – we have a store and we’re very dependent on our customers, but we would never promise bigger boobs to get someone to buy our stuff.
Silas – I’m really glad that you’re saying that, because honesty is one of the key elements that makes up Soulland. Making honest clothes.
SLAMXHYPE – How would you describe the philosophy of Soulland and what separates your design ethos from others out there?
Silas – We get this kind of question a lot and it’s always really hard to answer. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at other men’s wear brands so it’s hard for me to explain. I do believe that Soulland is doing something that is important in contemporary menswear and that is giving back when we design. As with many other brands, the past has a big impact on our design and brand, but I’m very conscious of adding something from the present to the
design. For instance, when we made the Adler fedora it was not only about working with Danish heritage, it was also about designing for the future and creating something new with something old. We think like that all the time. You can’t steal but you can borrow, and borrowing also indicates that you give back at some point.
SLAMXHYPE – Can you please go into a bit of detail about how the label has evolved since beginning in 2002 and what direction you think Soulland will go down in the future?
Silas – When I started the brand it was about making t-shirts for my friends and for myself. I didn’t know anything about designing, fashion or how you run a business, but I was very eager to make the project into something so I just kept going. We started doing full ready to wear collections three years ago and that’s when Soulland really started growing and things started happening. With the attention also comes pressure, which has become a very important motivational factor for me. When I’m working on a project I don’t want to look back and feel that I could have done more. During the last two years Soulland also become a company with employees and I have had to learn not only to think about myself. I’m really happy with the team we have. I seems that everyone has the same high expectations as me.
SLAMXHYPE – Your retail space ‘U.S. Import’ is an exciting move, and one that you both must be hugely
proud of. How would you describe the concept of the store?
Silas – It’s a dream come true. I know Stine from when she had Force of Nature, and it was my favorite store in Copenhagen. I always admired the aesthetics that Stine had created and when the store closed Stine started working for Soulland. I knew then that it would turn into more. Jacob (my partner and the co-owner of Soulland) and I have had our eyes on the space for a long time, years actually, and when it came up for sale we went for it.
Stine – When a dream is coming true you sometimes don’t realize it before you are in the middle of it, suddenly you stop up and go all *wow this is it*. I’m definitely an ambitious girl but I try not to be so determined that I miss out on opportunities. U.S. Import is an opportunity turned dream, and we are very proud – but not satisfied until our customers are.
One thing I am particularly looking forward to is meeting our customers, meeting the demand for Soulland, opening our market up and attracting the female customer, she’s out there…and she wants to dress her man in Soulland 😉
A lot of the concept was served to us through the story of the former shop – being an old hidden porn shop with an amazing lightening store sign. U.S. Import is, however, not meant to be a concept-store. That phrase mostly feels like it’s created in advertising and we didn’t really want to go all ‘MadMen’ on the concept since it’s an honest story – but of course everything has a sell-sell side to it. Basically, U.S. Import is designed as the store we would love to visit ourselves, to attract Bobby and Kate and a space that is able to shift in form and content as we change and as our costumers’ needs develop.
SLAMXHYPE – How did the name of the store come about? Does it have a hidden meaning?
Silas – The name has been the name of the store for 25 years. The two prior owners kept it and we wanted to do the same. There are many hidden meanings and we will tell you about them, when you come visit the store. However, our slogan ” we love our customers ” obvious be clear to everyone. The phrase is from the hangers you get when you pick up dry cleaning and symbolizes great service, which we intend to provide. We are not into the “don’t talk to the customers thing”. That era is over.
Stine – In so many ways the name of the store and the sign reflect our consumer history in Europe – it would be so interesting to write a novel just about that – but we mostly visualize, so who knows what the future brings on that topic… it feels like it’s never ending at this point in time.
SLAMXHYPE – How do you see the correlation between the store and Soulland. How deeply will the store represent Soulland and what do you see for the future of the store.
Silas – U.S. Import is an independent project started by Soulland. Of course we represent the Soulland collection and have a wide range of Soulland products, but all the other brands are important as well. The thing about U.S. Import is that we stock both men’s and women’s wear. It’s really new for me to work with women’s wear. Soulland isn’t, however, going to start making women’s wear, but it’s just great to be able to put Soulland together with brands we love in the way we think looks good.
Stine – Surely there’s a link between Soulland and U.S. Import – mostly in the approach of combining the old and the new. The challenge will be to attract the female audience – but I don’t think we’ll disappoint the girls – there’s a lot of exciting project in the making and I promise to keep you posted!
SLAMXHYPE – Can you provide us with a great insight to how you perceive the stores will fit into the Copenhagen scene, the European scene as well as on a global scale?
Silas – I think that we are bringing something new to Copenhagen and that will definitely have an impact on the city. The store isn’t located in the center of the town but it’s still in a location that’s central and we pretty much have the area to our self. It’s cool to see more independent stores opening up and making noise all over Europe, like when Niels and Aude opened Hunting & Collecting in Brussels the word spread quite fast because it was clear from the beginning what they wanted the store to be very personal. The same goes for Goodhood in London, Coffee n Television in Bergamo, and Pigalle in Paris. Independence and originality is universal and Europe is doing it very well at the moment! Maybe we should start the European Independent Original Store Union 😉
Stine – There is always room for new action – for U.S. Import to take on the scene is definitely one of our goals. We Love Our Customers!
SLAMXHYPE – Words to live by?
Silas – Listen to wu – tang !
Stine – When the plane crashes – remember to give your elf air in order to provide help to others.