Last week saw the opening of Soulland’s latest retail venture – a shop-within-shop pop-up space in West London’s The Shop at Bluebird. Sitting comfortably next to the likes of Marni, Maison Martin Margiela and COMME des GARCONS the Copenhagen-based brand has adapted the space to reflect its own aesthetic, its Autumn/Winter 2013 ‘Catastrophe’ collection neatly lining the walls of a minimal, architecturally minded space, alongside a small selection of accessories and a preview of the brand’s Spring/Summer 2014 offering. Eager to check out the new venture, we headed down to the store to catch up with Soulland founder/designer Silas Adler while he was in London for a couple of days overseeing the launch. Over coffee we discussed the space, inspiration behind Soulland’s AW13 and SS14 collections, the brand’s development and how Soulland fits into the Scandinavian design picture as a whole.
SLAMXHYPE: Hey Silas, what’s been going on?
Silas Adler: Well we’ve been travelling a lot over the last couple of weeks. The week after next we’re going to Shanghai to do a pop-up restaurant for one evening. Instead of doing a fashion show for Spring/Summer 2014 we did a video of our catwalk show in the woods and to present it we did a dinner in Copenhagen for a small group of press and buyers, so basically we got asked to do a similar thing in Shanghai. There are so many thing going on at one time but we try not to be away for too long.
SXH: Can you tell me a bit about what you’ve done here at Bluebird?
SA: The idea with this project is that we were asked by Bluebird to do a special pop-up to launch the brand here in the shop. It’s the first season of ours that they’re selling. It’s super nice for us to be sitting alongside Margiela and Marni, COMME des GARCONS and all these brands that we really like, so it’s nice to be here with this mix of brands. It’s also a nice opportunity to put our clothing in an environment that reflects our aesthetic and where we’re coming from. If you look at the shop design, it’s not over cluttered, it’s very simple and minimalistic but it’s still very visual – in our space you have the fold walls with the marble and the mirror and we’re able to show the film in there so its really nice to be able to present our collection in a closed environment.
SXH: So you’re just showing Autumn/Winter in here?
SA: Yes, it’s all Autumn/Winter, with a small selection of Spring/Summer 2014 for people to see what’s coming next.
SXH: Can we talk about the inspiration behind the Spring Summer Collection? You’ve mentioned that it’s Bauhaus inspired…
SA: Each season I have an inspiration or topic that I follow quite astutely and I always try to take inspiration that is linked to a country. For AW13 it’s Japanese baseball in the 1920s and ’30s because I stumbled across some Japanese baseball cards from the ’30s and was like, “this is something I know nothing about”, so it was a combination of the country and something niche about the culture.
For Spring/Summer 2014 it’s the Bauhaus movement, which is something of a constant inspiration in all creative aspects because it is such a strong and important creative philosophy in the modern world. If you look at many of the products in this room, they are in some way related to the Bauhuas movement. But I wanted to find something that not many people knew about, so I discovered this ballet that was a part of the movement. The special thing about this ballet is that it was the first dance or performance where the scenography was an actual part of the dance act; the people became the scenography. And I thought it was interesting in the way that the human being becomes the architecture, becomes the design. So I looked further into that and I found this picture from the first time they performed the ballet, of these people standing with these cards, ’emotion cards’, that stated the emotions that were being danced. One of them said ‘Katastrophe’, which means ‘catastrophe’ in German and I thought it was such a brilliant phrase. It’s interesting the way that fashion works in the media – the way that people proclaim “this designer is the greatest right now” or “this show is horrible”, you know, people are so eager to be dramatic. So I thought it would be interesting to call the collection ‘Catastrophe’ – it’s interesting to make a statement that is confusing.
It’s funny, Nick Wooster posted one of the pictures from the lookbook of a model wearing the ‘Catastrophe’ sweatshirt, but his caption was, “I wouldn’t call it that”, which was the perfect way of relating to the theme and then commenting on it in a way that understood the joke. In terms of our inspiration, the way we do clothing is very symmetric and in terms of Bauhaus that made a lot of sense.
SXH: That was something I wanted to talk about. Soulland to me is a very geometric brand – minimal and clean – but then you’ve got this juxtaposition where you’re brazenly placing slogans across things, or collage-like prints and patterns, it’s almost like a clash – an interruption of this minimal aesthetic.
SA: Exactly. We want to make classic menswear but we also want to push classic menswear. That’s why we have these classic styles that have an extra dimension. For the prints, I always start very analogue. That’s why it’s often a collage or hand drawing, or now I’m starting to do more with water colours. I really like when you have something that is so minimal and simple but you also do something where you pinpoint that there is room for mistakes, room for things that you don’t control. That’s a very important part of the collection, to be able to blend those things.
SXH: How do you see Soulland fitting into Danish and Scandinavian design?
SA: I think one of the things that is strong about Soulland is its ability to reflect on certain things that are traditional to Scandinavian design, like the minimalism, functionalism et cetera. So in that sense we are Scandinavian but we also take a lot of risk in terms of what we put on the clothing. For instance, the sweatshirt that says ‘Catastrophe’ could also just be a logo. That would be more obvious. Or on a certain print, say the one with masks and multicolours, it’s a bit weird but that’s where we’re trying to bring out an international aspect where we dare to do things that are different. To me that’s important. I don’t just want to be a Scandinavian brand, I want to be a brand. But I’m not going to neglect where we’re from either, I want to combine both.
SXH: In terms of function versus conceptuality where do you think you sit?
SA: If you look at the Spring/Summer 2014 pieces, we’re combining both. Take the striped jacket – it’s reversible – each side has completely different detailing. On one side there’s a classic workwear double stitch and on the other there is no stitch, it’s more of a tailored finish. Some of our fabrics are very techy, using Teflon and weaving to deflect water.
SXH: In terms of your developing brand aesthetic, where do you want to go from here?
SA: We have a way of doing things, where instead of doing something completely different each season I prefer to develop this and work with it more and more, trying to push it forward. The company is growing so we now have the opportunity to work with factories and fabrics that we couldn’t work with before. We’re now developing our own fabrics from scratch. The next step is to create more exclusive materials. We make everything in Europe which is part of our design philosophy. It’s like the Danish gastronomy scene at the moment, there is this movement called ‘New Nordic’ which is increasingly using products grown or sourced locally. You work with what you have close to you. For us, we see Europe as our back yard. Lots of our production is in Portugal, some is in Lithuania, and we do our hats in Copenhagen. It’s an important point to the collection.
The Soulland pop-up at The Shop at Bluebird is open between October 10th and November 10th, 2013.
View Soulland’s SS14 lookbook here.