Photo by Camilla Stephan
Photo by Serena Pezzato
Bankers, Boot Camp and Bodies for Sin
Vice: You have a degree in Economics, how did you go from banker to fashion designer?
I'll never forget the moment I got my acceptance letter from Saint Martins College. I wanted to escape the seemingly tedious life as an office worker, and this was my ticket out! Saint Martins was the only college that I applied to so it was a great relief. I guess I always secretly wanted to become a fashion designer, but never really had the courage to actually do it until then. I couldn't even draw, but I didn't think twice about leaving the banker thing behind. It was just full steam ahead.
Did the other fashion kids bug you because you came from the real world?
No, but there was definitely a lot of competition going on. Coming from an economics background, art school did feel a little bit like a playground in the beginning. I couldn't even draw properly when I started. However, the most annoying person was this girl who was constantly hovering around me, looking over my shoulder, trying to check out how many garments I had made and what material I was using. I always had this chick right behind me. In the end she knew more about my designs than I did.
I hear that studying fashion at Saint Martins is a bit like a boot camp…
When I'd gotten into the MA course all the students just got shouted at constantly. For all kinds of silly things. It really is a love-hate relationship. My professor was known for her notorious rants, and when she gives you a go, you have to believe it because she is very passionate about your work. She even shouted at me for having a stupid face. She said I always looked so grumpy and aloof, and told me to go practice in front of a mirror if I wanted to be a designer.
Sounds like Tyra Banks! Did you ever cry in front of the class?
It's a bit like that when the competition gets tough, crying was inevitable for most of us. There were a lot of tears, but somehow I managed to never let it go too far though. I just worked harder.
Are the girls you design your clothes for worth going through that shit?
I hope so! And I want to help give them the right attitude for situations like that with the clothes I design. I usually have a quite young, androgynous woman in mind.
Who would you like to see wearing your clothes?
Melanie Griffith when she plays Tess McGill in "Working Girl." I think it's because of her "I've got a head for business, and a body for sin" kind of thing. I want all my girls to have that.
In Favor of Nordic Rigor
Vice: How did you two get started in the fashion business?
We both went to fashion school, and after a couple of years in the Milanese pret-à-porter we realized we needed to make something that was our own. thanks to some Japanese investors, we started February in 2003.
What inspired your new collection?
Lots of different things. The films of Antonioni, the art installations of
Raynaud as well as the interesting patterns in our bathroom tiles. We were aiming at a simple, clean collection, based on simple geometric shapes such as squares and circles. You could say it's a basic collection. If you don't appreciate that concept, you can't appreciate our work.
The thing that I like about your clothes is that even if they're very rigorous and austere, there is always a sense of fun too.
The fact that we use basic shapes allows us to have much more freedom with everything else. We want to produce clothes that make people feel at ease, clothes in which they feel comfortable. To us they are a way to make your life less complicated. A sense of play and irony is absolutely fundamental.
Who are your favorite designers?
We're big fans of what Raf Simons is doing for Jil Sander. We love his simple lines and his Nordic rigor. The numero uno remains Pierre Cardin. He was the first designer to disassociate himself from the classical interpretation of clothes. We also love the fact that he can put his brand name on absolutely anything: clothes, penholders, planes, forks... It's a bit whorish but, commercially, it's awe-inspiring. We both sleep on Pierre Cardin mattresses.
If you could dress a fictional character, who would it be?
We'd like to be costume designers for the characters in Miguel Angel
Brian the Brain
As a designer, what do you consider to be a true sign of success?
Having contraband versions of your clothes for sale in street markets.
Do you wear your own designs?
Sure. We love to wear the ones that never put into production. They are our illegitimate children.
INTERVIEW BY SERENA PEZZATO
Photo by Tomas Falmer
Bringing the Class Back to Metal Babes
Vice: How did you go from the Black Metal hotbed of Bergen, to having your own label in London and friends in high places in Milan?
Bergen was never where I found my inspiration, but I was wisely advised to get a tailoring degree from there before I left. Even before I was a teenager I knew how to sew. When I was 22, I got into London's Royal College of Art, and directly after graduating I was offered a job as the head designer for Harrods International, then I went on to Charles Jourdan Paris for Japan. While that was happening I launched my own label.
How did you hook up with Donatella Versace?
Donatella was introduced to me through an "insider" and immediately chose me to be her new protégé. It was part of a project where established names select one up-and-coming designer to create a collection for them. I am very honored she chose me, I really get a lot of vital advice and support from her and it will give my brand a bright future.
What do you do when you get in the office in the morning?
I create my pieces from sketches. We make all the patterns and samples on the model's body. I rarely use a mannequin. With my tailoring background, I am very involved in the making of the garments. I like to mix contrasting fabrics, like soft vs. hard, masculine vs. feminine, shiny vs. matt. A typical dress of mine would consist of a sculptured leather bustier against floaty silk chiffon drapes.
Gross question, but do you have a "muse"?
Yes, but it's a fantasy one. She is a modern-day romantic femme fatale heavy-metal vixen. Each collection is an essential part of the saga of my muse; and every season she adds a new element to her wardrobe and conquers new territory. Still, every new piece blends perfectly with her old.
Are you a big Frank Frazetta aficionado?
Sometimes I need to escape my chaotic and stressful world and let my mind drift off into fantasy. With my fashion, two worlds collide. It's an explosion of heaven and hell, with a splash of blood; $4 million rock babes meet high-society extravagance.
INTERVIEW BY KATARINA POBLOTZKI