- As a fresh face to Taiwan’s market and Taiwanese fashion followers, can you please briefly introduce yourself?
COMMON is a menswear brand aiming to create hybrid quality wardrobe staples mixed with progressive standout pieces. Drawing inspiration from youth sub-cultures, fused with the elegance of classic sartorial menswear, COMMON propose a new image of masculinity. COMMON was launched in 2012 in Malmö, Swedenʼs multicultural and creative hot spot. COMMON is designed by Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund, who first met in 2004 in London while studying at prestigious schools Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion.
- What is your growing background and how did it influence who are you today?
We first met in 2004 in London where Saif was studying menswear at London College of Fashion and Emma womenswear at Central Saint Martins.
After graduating we worked at several fashion houses such as House of Holland, COS, Wooyoungmi and latest in the row as Head of Designs at Kanye West.
It was at Kanye’s fashion house in Paris that we got to work together professionally for the first time and realized that we were quite compatible on many levels.
Our previous experiences have tought us a great deal, broadened our contacts and developed as designers and entrepreneurs. It’s important to have great knowledge of the industry before setting up your own label as it differs a lot from what you are thought in school and this is one thing we have learnt by working for others.
- What obstacles and challenges have you faced along the way? Please briefly describe the most significant one.
Finding the right people and manufacturers to work with.
- What inspired you to become a designer or an owner of a brand?
We’ve always had the desire and dream to one day set up our own brand. It is the ultimate Helping Kanye setting up his studio and label in Paris triggered the desire to fulfil that dream and run our own label.
- After all these struggles and challenges, how would you define yourself as a designer or a creative director today? Do you think it will change in the future?
Experience is the best teacher and obstacles make you stronger. You need to constantly push yourself to be forward-thinking and unique and this will not change by time in opposite I think it might even become more difficult.
You can easily disappear in the crowd of talented young brands. It is important to stay focused and not loose sight of your initial vision and aim with your own brand.
- Please use one sentence to describe your brand’s identity and aesthetics.
Progressive design with clean aesthetics
- Since AW14 collection is the first season for this brand to be in a store in Taiwan, can you briefly talk about the inspiration and focus for the AW14 collection?
This time around we looked towards ‘Tech-Noir’, a hybrid genre of fiction film combining film noir and science fiction, for inspiration. In line with our design vision, the collection fuses classic and stylish Hollywood dramas from the 40s and 50s with technical and sartorial science fiction.
The AW14 collection is inspired by the engineered, polished and purified world seen in Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca film, where the past and future are combined and interconnected to create a perfect balance of style and avant-garde. This sense of futurism is mixed with the visual ideas of Gerhard Mantz, one of Germany’s most well- known digital artists. Each season COMMON collaborates with an artist on the graphic identity in order to continually develop exciting and unique products, which reflect the ethos of the brand, as well as serve as a complement to the collection. The colour palette in Mantz’s ‘Blinde Freiheit’ (1998) has influenced the collection and his virtual images has been reworked and digitally printed onto technical fabrications for outerwear and sweaters.
- Within the AW14 collection, what is your favorite garment that you think customers should definitely have it in their wardrobe?
The neoprene bomber jacket, a staple COMMON piece.
- For AW14, what styling advices would you give for readers and fashion followers in Taiwan?
Wear your long shirt with technical sportswear. Accessorize your streetwear with well- made smart. Itʼs all about creating a balance
- As a designer, you know that creating a collection is not only about constructing individual garments, but also having a vision for the entire look and style for the season. What is your own style and where is it mostly influenced from?
We always find inspiration in our surrounding and in current events. Our years in London has influenced us greatly, the diverse style of the city is a huge inspiration and as we still spend a lot of time there. This is very much part of our identity as a label. Living in Paris our sense of style matured and became more sophisticated. We usually describe COMMON’s identity and aesthetic as a fusion of London-edge, Paris-chic and Scandinavian-minimalism.
- Nowadays, a lot of brands are creating similar fits and just crowning their owns as “essentials.” In your opinion, what are some real essential garments that can survive through trends?
It’s all about making it your essentials. Trends are mainly about how you wear or combine your essentials.
- Everyone knows that fashion industry is getting very saturated and industrialized, how do you separate yourself/your brand from the crowd?
We stay true to our aesthetic and brand identity and tend not to look to trends but aim to create them, rather than follow them.
- With the explosion of social media’s power (tumblr and instagram) for people to share their inspiration and ideas, do you think it’s a bonus for designers to find more inspirations or do you think it’s a limitation for designers to come up with unique and creative ideas for developing his/her own identity? In other words, is social media a plus or minus to designers?
The explosion of social media is in one way a revolution that has transformed the industry’s branding and fan base. Social media brings awareness. Bloggers and twitter now dictates a scene that used to be dictated by editors and PR companies. Runway shows are streamed live online, lookbooks and editorials are shared online and attracts an audience of millions across the planet. However, with social medias fast pace news also much quicker becomes old news.
When a lookbook or a catwalk is spread online there is an instant demand for the clothes. No one wants to wait half a year for the clothes to be released in store. By that time it is old news. Social media creates a higher demand for news and this puts a higher demand on the designer.
- The fine line between streetwear and high-end fashion is blurring. Do you agree with this on-going movement? In your opinion, Is this trend/movement a good or bad thing for fashion industry?
High-end fashion has long been flirting with streetwear. Look at Prada and Calvin Klein for instance. It is a movement that might be more visible today and we embrace it. It makes fashion so much more interesting and wearable.
- In addition, the seasons are slowly blurring as well. Is this slowly becoming an issue for you to design garments according to just Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter?
It’s not so much an issue when you design you collections but an issue when it comes to production and releases in stores. It forces you to divide your production into pre collections and mid season drops.
- After this successful AW14 collection, what can we expect from the brand moving into next season and next year?
We look forward to our second show during London Collections: Men. We have a great new collaborative artist for coming season that will see Common take a slightly different road when it comes to surface decoration and print.