London-based Swedish designer Simon Ekrelius has always had a secret passion for subtle architectural influences in his work. In previous collections he was inspired by buildings such as the Philips Pavilion designed for the 1958 Brussels World Fair by Le Corbusier’s office, but in his Spring/Summer 2014 he decided to combine architecture with modern art and classic cinema.
Entitled "The Other Half", Ekrelius' new collection moves construction-wise from the Art Deco lines of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis poster (View this photo), while the panelled elements and stark white palette are borrowed from Robert Rauschenberg's "White Paintings" (View this photo).
Rauschenberg's modular works were characterised by a bright neutral shade that hinted at the divine, celebrating the freedom of absence as well. Ekrelius marks with this collection a print-free moment in his career, in favour of a return to tailoring, linear forms and asymmetry. Different textures including paper-light cotton, silk organza, vinyl, poly blends and canvas are employed to create contrasts in dresses, blazers, jackets, pencil skirts, ballooned shorts and hand-pleated pieces.
Can you introduce us to the arty and cinematic inspirations behind 'The Other Half'?
Simon Ekrelius: I followed the "Dancing Around Duchamp" season at the Barbican, with its focus on masters of modern art such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg and fell in love with Rauschenberg's "White Paintings". They looked so simple and it suddenly all made sense. I find it important to follow the news and what's happening politically around us, and it has been a very difficult couple of years - think about the events in Syria, and so many other countries where there are political or religious tensions. Pondering about all these events I felt that, while everyone has a right to believe into something, religion shouldn't be used to oppress people or rule a country. When I saw these white paintings I felt it was about time to do a collection all white and transparent to hint at peace. The second inspiration came from the fact that I've always loved antique posters, especially hand drawn ones, and the lines and the mood in the Metropolis poster were a perfect addition to my moodboard, they looked dramatic and that is what I feel with my collection too - light and linear yet dramatic. I replaced the dark with different shades of white, using different textures to create a sort of shadow effect.
In some cases you employed plastic-like materials in your designs, was that a reference to futurism and to Metropolis in particular?
Simon Ekrelius: Yes, it was! I also employed them since I like the reflected effect they produce: it can be very hard to see through such materials under certain conditions and these materials can also highlight the fabric and colours underneath in a super attractive way. I've always used vinyl, even when I graduated over 10 years ago I used vinyl to create interesting contrasts with the skin underneath.
Did you find any stages of making this new collection difficult or challenging?
Simon Ekrelius: In a way every season is a challenge! I love drama and creating a collection it's a battle of love. Anything simple is boring, some of my new pieces may look simple but there is a lot of drama and love involved. It was a challenge to create the open pleats in silk and to figure out the texture; keeping the prices realistically affordable for the buyers; finding the right seamstresses, patternmakers and graders; constructing the shoot and doing the model casting after spotting the right location.
All the collection is made in the UK: is it important to let the consumers know where everything is made?
Simon Ekrelius: Absolutely! I tested India and China many times to check their quality and I can tell you they don't equal my British factory. Their French seams are a nightmare to look at. I like mine nice and tidy and straight above all! My work focuses on the designs and not on fast fashon, so it has to be perfect. I might look around in Europe for help when I get big orders, but it's unlikely I will go to Asia for manufacturing a collection since also their shipping procedures do not go well with my modus operandi.
There is a bigger focus on your tailoring in this collection, do you feel that wearers are more interested in tailored pieces that last rather than in fashionable and eye-catching prints?
Simon Ekrelius: I like prints who are well made and who have a story behind them, but we have seen too many prints lately and quite often they don't have that "wow factor" anymore. While this collection had to be print-free because of its main inspiration, I also feel buyers trust my tailoring, a skill I developed during my education. I will obviously reintroduce prints in my work, but I'd like to employ them in different ways, not as the main focus for a fashion collection. At the moment for example I'm collaborating with Keka in the USA, designing prints and using motifs from my archive for mobile phones, iPads and Kindle devices. They look perfect for modern accessories and I find it very exciting to see them in another context.
Where are you selling this collection?
Simon Ekrelius: I'm selling at Tjallamalla in Stockholm, and I might start selling at a new online shop called 'The Fashion Blueprint' here in London, and at the Alter store in Shanghai. There are plans for other places, and you can keep updated by following the news on my Facebook or Twitter pages.
What you up to now?
Simon Ekrelius: I'm designing the Autumn/Winter 2014-15 collection; I got two amazing assistants this season who are just adorable, and I may develop some new prints as well. All will be revealed in February 2014, so stay tuned!
Image credits for this post
Shoot of Simon Ekrelius, Spring/Summer 2014 collection "The Other Half"
Photography – Jenny Hands
Photography Assistant – Harriet Drew
Fashion Editor – Kate Ruth
MUA – Nicky Weir
Hair – Michael Bosacki
Model – Matilda Lowther / Select
Millinery – Judy Bentinck
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