Ahead of tomorrow’s LC:M presentation, we sat down with CMMN SWDN to hear their story and take a peek at the collection’s moodboards.
Forget Brooklyn, Berlin or Peckham, the wunderkinds of the menswear sphere are Malmö sprung (now London-based) duo Emma Hedland and Saif Baker, the creative minds behind CMMN SWDN. Thanks to their sharp tailoring that blends streetwear ease with a high fashion finish, the label has been going from strength to strength since it launched in 2012. Having already racked up a heady list of accolades including NEWGEN sponsorship, CMMN is leading the way for forward-thinking fashion.
CMMN have that innate skill of taking familiar silhouettes and rendering the materials in unexpected ways – making for collections that both surprise and delight. An exaggerated sleeve, an extra high waist, a flash of orange on a plain white shirt; their considered aesthetic never fails to take what you know and twist it so slightly out of recognition. Ahead of LC:M, whilst putting the finishes touches to their AW16 collection, we caught up with Emma and Saif to discuss designer DNA, launching a new label and working with Kanye West.
You obviously have a successful creative partnership, how did you guys find each other?
We met back in 2004 in London when I was studying menswear at London College of Fashion and Emma womenswear at Central Saint Martins. We were both a huge support to each other during our degrees. Initially I think we were drawn to each otherʼs dissimilarities. We both find inspiration in contrasting elements and this is visible in both our design and in our relation to each other. After graduating we worked at several fashion houses such as COS and Wooyoungmi and it wasnʼt until I moved to Paris and joined Emma at Kanye West that we got to work together professionally for the first time.
What was your experience of setting up Kanye’s brand in Paris – how did you start working for the label, what were the challenges you faced?
Emma: I was approached by Kanye after graduating from Central Saint Martins back in 2008. I was just about to start my MA when Kanye visited Louise Wilson at CSM looking for a designer to work with on his new clothing line Pastelle (at the time). Saif joined the team a few seasons later and together we set up a Kanye West fashion studio in Paris. Setting up a business in Paris and dealing with the French bureaucracy proved difficult even for someone as successful and famous as Kanye. You needed a VAT number just to buy milk at the shop..!
What made you want to start your own label? And how was it launching from Malmö (Sweden)?
Weʼve always had the desire and dream to one day set up our own brand. Helping Kanye to set up his studio and label in Paris triggered the desire to fulfil that dream and run our own label. So when Kanye decided to move the studio to London, we figured it was time for us to head back to Sweden and start CMMN SWDN.
What have been the most unexpected elements of running your own label?
How much time, effort and work there is behind it and how little time there is left to be creative and to develop the collections.
What’s the dynamic between you both when you work?
Weʼve known each other for so many years and already at college we used to pick each otherʼs brain and share ideas. Sharing the workload and having someone to bounce ideas off of is amazing and so helpful when you run your own business. The design process at CMMN tends to be quite dynamic. Emma’s womenswear background means she works with more focus on textiles, the small details and trimmings whilst Saif will be focusing on the cut the silhouette and perhaps a bit more on functionality. It is through that hybrid that our collections take shape.
Your collections have quite a rhythmic quality in the balance of statement and staple look, is that why you chose to build collections in this way?
Yes, I think itʼs directly linked with us as two individuals with two different backgrounds. The contrasting elements create a balance.
Other than yourselves, who are the exciting players in menswear at the moment?
Menswear is more exciting than even with players like Grace Wales Bonner pushing and bending the rules. At the same time there is room for established brands such as Gucci and Loewe, to re-invent themselves and become current again.
What’re your favourite materials to work with? Is anything off limits?
We love to experiment with fabric and new materials and there are really no rules to what is allowed or not. Every season we try to re-invent and push ourselves to work with unfamiliar and new materials. In previous seasons we have created our own materials such as bonded wool and denim and perforated, lasercut nylons.
Menswear has rapidly evolved – in terms of CMMNs aesthetic, where do you want to push it over the next couple of years?
We want to continue to evolve and challenge ourselves to create new and interesting collections every season, all built on the foundation of the CMMN DNA.
What’s in store for 2016?
We’re looking forward to LCM, it’s young and diverse and has grown in reach and reputation to rival the fashion weeks of established menswear capitals Milan and Paris. It is a great platform to be part of and the highlight of each season. We also recently launched our online store and it is exciting to have a platform to communicate with our audience. SS16 was a great success and we’re excited to see the clothes in the stores soon.
First published on Wonderland Magazine, January 7th