Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exclusive Interview With Stiaan Louw

6, the new collection by Stiaan Louw will be revealed today. So in anticipation of the release we thought we would post an exclusive interview we had with Stiaan earlier this week.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for our little blog.

So let’s get right into it.

If we may ask, we are dying of anticipation, what is 6 by Stiaan Louw?

Simply put it is my sixth menswear collection. It was the starting point of the projects we are currently in progress with. It is a turning point of sorts.

I felt I had reached a point where I had to step away from doing fashion week shows, even working within a specific season (for the time being, at leas and redefine where my brand is going.

I believe this has given me the opportunity to create something very special. This project has been in development for more than a year now, but I had to step back and give it (and myself) some breathing space.

What did winning the african menswear designer of the year at the 2010 African Fashion Awards mean to you?

I think it is an honour to be chosen as the best menswear designer in Africa, especially as Fern Mallis from New York Fashion week was part of the judging panel. It was anti-climactic on some level though, knowing that there were so few designers to choose from in this category. Menswear, especially contemporary in design, face many challenges in South Africa and Africa, I imagine.

Why the Cape Town Fashion Week boycott earlier this year?

This is the second year I have declined doing Cape Town Fashion week. I have been questioning my participation in fashion weeks since my last show in 2008 [the debut of the menswear]. They started off being a incredible marketing tool, but seldomly translate into physical sales. I realised we were able to build an incredible marketing platform online without the cripling cost. The shows are also very generic and I have taken time to carefully consider my brand perspective and image, whom I collaborate with and where I see it in several years. The shift to menswear have also brought very unique challenges that call for original sollutions...It has not been an easy journey.

Tell us about the November 2010 Wallpaper cover which features your designs.

It all happened very fast! I was contacted by them a few months ago for a digital lookbook of my work. Shortly after that the stylist Chrisna de Bruyn contacted me with references of my work and what they wanted for a prospective cover of South Africa. The response locally has been amazing!

Do you think that local designers get enough exposure and is there a market for local designers?

I dont think exposure is necessarily a stumbling block. I believe it is relatively easy to generate your own exposure with all the online opportunities that have developed. But designers are faced with much greater challenges here: financial sustainability of an independent brand, distribution, manufacturing, fabric sourcing and supply, to name just a few.

Do you think there is a bright future for local desigers?

I think that designers have the opportunity of creating their own future here. There are so many gaps in the local market. Having an independent label comes with its rewards, and equal challenges.

Any upcoming local designers we should keep our eyes on?

I hope more menswear designers will emerge to stimulate the market.

What made you decide to do majority menswear?

I didnt even consider designing menswear when I graduated in 2000. The market was relatively new for independent brands (and still is). Our design democracy is still in its infant stages. I went through a very tangible shift in 2008 when a working and personal relationship ended unexpectedly. It was then that I felt inspired to design a small collection of menswear, which almost instantly became my new focus.

Is there a return to womenswear in the cards?

Yes. I am working on a new womenswear collection now. I had to develop my visual language as a menswear designer first. The womenswear I did before the menswear was very different to the work I am doing now, and it makes sense for the womenswear to be an extension of the menswear.

Planning on opening a Stiaan Louw store anytime soon?

No, I think owning a store as an independent label in South Africa is a huge fanancial risk, especially in menswear. But I am currently working on several ideas to overcome this. I am working on an online store (it has been in progress for little under a year) and a continuation of the pop-up showrooms I used host in Joburg. It will happen on a more frequent basis though, and I am considering how to make this sustainable.

What message do you want to relay with your clothes?

I believe '6' will answer that question.

If you didn’t end up as a fashion designer what would you have been?

I studied photography and film before studying fashion design, but I dont believe I was in the right frame of mind at the time.

I want to spend time experimenting with photography again. I also wanted to be a journalist.

Are your family supportive of your career choice?

They have been incredibly supportive, and I feel very blessed. I think they are proud, but it is somewhat removed from their reference framwork.

Do you just wear your own designs? And if not who do you wear?

I only wear my own clothes. It was part of the inspiration for starting the menswear - being able to make the clothes I could find. It has become a habit.

What do you want to accomplish with your fashion line?

It is constantly shifting. I want to create a brand that is internationally recognised.

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