Hemma Exclusive: Common PreviewFASHION
17 March, 2012
The creators behind new label Common, Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund, are exclusively premiering their A/W12 lookbook with Hemma.
'It’s a fusion of London edge, Paris chic and Scandinavian minimalism,' says Bakir. And the continental mixture of influences makes sense, considering Bakir and design partner Emma Hedlund studied at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins in London, worked for Wooyoungmi and Kanye West in Paris before moving back to their native Malmö to kick start their new design venture last year.
But there’s more to the Swedish connection than just a sense of simplicity and minimalism; Common is all about domestic manufacturing. Travelling the country, Bakir has sought out factories that can supply Common with quality, traditional fabrics and materials. But their obsession with municipal heritage does not mean Common is all about traditional Swedish national costumes. Rather, and this is where Bakir and Hedlund’s creative might shines through, Common manages to combine luxurious fabrics with suave cuts and subtle colour combinations, creating a hyper-modern brand anchored in national pride.
Add to this Bakir and Hedlund’s ambition to work with fellow creatives each season in an ongoing series of collaborations. For Autumn Winter 2012, Common hooked up with artist Lars Jonsson who supplied the bird print used for the characteristic animal camouflage seen on bomber jackets and caps. This pattern, plus the striped silk trench coat perfectly balances the more basic and simple side to Common’s wardrobe vision. What Bakir and Hedlund have cleverly understood is the male need of a predominantly functional and thought-through sartorial base, but with a few added highlights.
There’s a current trend kicking about that stipulates a ‘back to basics’ idea for many fashion brands. In a saturated market, these labels find that pursuing their roots give them the USP that customers are looking for. For some of them, stuck in years of square design and fruitless creativity, the result is nothing but a see-through market ploy. Common bucks that trend and if the S/S13 is anywhere near as good as this debut season, other brands will soon add the ‘Made In Sweden’ label to their clothes.
With Saif Bakir
Can you tell us how the brand came about?
I’ve always had the desire to run my own label and when I started to plan for it, I realised that I didn’t want the label to carry my own name but to have an identity of its own. I also wanted to create a company that was more then just another fashion label, but rather a creative company that would work across all disciplines of design and that’s when the idea of Common Affairs took shape. Being a menswear designer it was natural to start with a clothing line; Common. I was later joined by Emma Hedlund, who I used to work with Kanye West. Having worked as a team for sometime, we developed a shared sense of aesthetic and style.
What would you say define the brand, what's its DNA?
The way we differentiate ourselves from others by going against the grain and doing things our way. When others choose growth by quantity we choose growth by being unique and exclusive. It’s not necessary the right nor the easy way - but it’s our way. Our DNA is one of opposites. We’re influenced by our diverse experiences and there’s a constant play on contrary elements that are interconnected and combined to create a balance.
What's the reasoning between only using Swedish factories?
Sweden used to be renowned as a country of high quality textile production. We wanted to revive and nurture what’s left of the industry. We are unique in offering a menswear collection that is 100 per cent manufactured in Sweden. Our commitment to responsibly produce our concept also contributes to the environment and offers a chance to dress with awareness.
Has that turned out to be problem? What's Sweden's current status as a manufacturing country?
It hasn’t turned out to be a problem but a challenge and an exiting journey to the city of Borås, which was - and still is - the centre of Swedish textile industry. We have met with very interesting people that run textile factories that’s been in their families for generations and who, despite the financial climate, still manages to stay afloat. They are very keen and exited about our concept and the future looks bright for these companies as we hope and believe that others will follow in our footsteps.
You're bringing on collaborators each season - who are you working with for A/W12?
Yes, we have launched a series of seasonal projects under the name Common Grounds, which is a line of collaborations between us and Swedish craftsmen and artists. The idea behind this is to continually develop exciting and unique products, that reflects the ethos of the brand, as well as serve as a complement to the collection. The resulting products reflect our style and aesthetics, not only in fashion but also across all disciplines of design. Our aim is to inspire and promote Swedish craftsmanship and design. This season we had the pleasure to work with Lars Jonsson who is regarded as one of the greatest artists in his field. His artistry is characterised by a passion for birds and their habitats, an interest that he has had since early childhood. It’s a collaboration that we are very proud of and one that has left a strong mark on this collection.
What's the story behind the bird camouflage?
The idea came up when I was having lunch in Les Tuileries in Paris and suddenly I was surrounded by a flock of sparrows eagerly trying to eat the crumbs from my baguette. I then realised that I have seen these birds in every city that I’ve lived in, it was almost like seeing a familiar face in a crowd. Staring at them for a while, I started admiring how beautifully their colours blended in with the surroundings; it was almost like camouflage. After doing some research I found out that the house sparrow originated from the Middle East, which attracted me even more as we share the same origin (Bakir was born in Iraq).
I discussed the idea of a bird camouflage with Alex Milsom, a graphic designer who I used to work with at Kanye West. Together with Alex, we then developed unique textile prints based on Lars’s colourful interpretations of our most common bird, the house sparrow.
You have both lived for years in Paris, London and the US... why go back to Sweden?
Well, when the idea and the concept of having everything made in Sweden took shape it felt natural to also have the company based in Sweden, and in the city of Malmö instead of Stockholm where most fashion companies are based. It’s also my hometown and Malmö is more diverse and somewhat underprivileged and therefore more creative. It’s a metropolis in the making and I wanted to be part of that.
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