With a subtle, raw and almost poetic aesthetic, Ubi Sunt were one of the real highlights of Stockholm Fashion Week. Entitled Ensemble, the label's third collection concerned itself with looking elegant with ease, beautiful but not forced. In the opulent surroundings of the Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien (quite the mouthful), the presentation showcased wearable pieces for regular days and evenings in grand saloons. It was easy to fall for its charms because Ubi Sunt is a label that revels in small details and this assured collection featured frayed edges, unstructured suit jackets and an exquisite knitted jersey that longed to be worn. When so many designers over think garments, there was an intriguing and comforting simplicity to Ensemble. It is about letting things have their way, for them to simply be.
Now, those who had a far better education than I did might know that the name comes from the Latin for “where are”. The label is the brainchild of design duo, Moa Wikman and Aidin Sanati, who echo the Latin sentiments by crafting a similar poetry like concept from fabric. Much like the longer latin sentence of "Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?" (“Where are those who were before us?”), the design duo craft menswear that evokes the transience of life, youth, beauty, and human endeavour. The driving vision behind its concept and indeed the collection that caught my eye, is to celebrate and express gratitude for what once was. It is inspired by developments in humanity, the achievements of those long lost but not forgotten. It strives to celebrate all of those hours and effort and continue the progressive path with textile as its medium...
Here I am catching up with one half of the design duo, Aidin Sanati, shortly after the presentation for Bon.se.
We will always make simple clothes for the guy who is confident and doesn't feel the need to show off, a balance between dressed up and casual", Sanati proclaimed after the show. With a combination of formalwear, sportswear and luxurious basics, the talented duo certainly achieved such a balance in Ensemble...
A selection of shots from the presentation courtesy of Ubi Sunt.
Ubi Sunt is a well thought through concept cloaked with integrity. In three short seasons, the design duo have crafted a design signature of poetic, subtle and raw garments that effortlessly and confidently stride down the balance beam of formal and casual wear. Here, we follow up with the design duo to learn more about the roots of the label and their hopes for the future...
SS: What were your inspirations, your dreams and the driving catalyst behind launching Ubi Sunt?
Aidin Sanati: When we started Ubi Sunt we where saying ”if we are going to start something it had to have something unique at its base, something with dignity and with the ambition to contribute to contemporary menswear.” For us, it is important to create something that is consistent, slowly evolving without loosing our main values, those where our criteria’s that we wanted to build Ubi Sunt around. Our inspiration are people throughout history, those that achieved, lived or built something with dignity. For example, Constantin Brancusi a big influence in many ways for Ubi Sunt or the approach Daniel Day-Lewis has to his acting.
SS: How did the two of you meet, what are your design backgrounds?
Aidin Sanati: We both studied fashion design in London and met while we where working in a small design studio. Moa has a background in pattern-making prior to her studies in London and I studied History of art and at Royal Insitute of Technology in Stockholm before dropping out and moving to London.
SS: What were the first and last item you remember designing together?
Aidin Sanati: It was the short cocoon shaped jacket, a jacket that encapsulates many of our aesthetic values, it creates one single shape without too many details. It is a focus on shape, proportion and texture. The last item must have been one of the more commercial looks when the collection already had taken form.
SS: Your name is latin for 'where are' but what does Ubi Sunt mean to you?
Aidin Sanati: While we where starting Ubi Sunt and had shaped our values it was time to find fabric that echoed them. After a trip to the fabric fairs in Paris, we found these fantastic Japanese jerseys that really caught our attention. They use these old techniques that take so many hours so there we had something unique with dignity. We also wanted that to reflect in our brand name, and therefore we chose the name Ubi Sunt. Ubi Sunt as a phrase is a literal concept used a great deal in poetry that evokes the transience of life, youth, beauty, and human endeavour. We want to express gratitude to those before us and their achievements, therefore in excess of our Japanese jerseys we also have chosen to produce everything in the few remaining Swedish factories. In our point of view this gives our brand a uniqueness and dignity that satisfies our own personal values.
SS: “Ensemble” is focussed on relaxed elegance. What was the starting point for the collection and how did it evolve in to the collection we see today?
Aidin Sanati: The focus for the “Ensemble” collection was to create something that wasn’t forced and too dressed up. We wanted to create something elegant and relaxed that could easily be worn in many different occasions. We also wanted to evolve the collection from the solid base we had laid the previous season, which were quite drapey and fluid. The idea was to put in another layer to the style to add depth to the collection and we thought of using more structural pieces to protect that fragility almost like a shell. We thought that this would enhance the poetic look we are striving for.
The starting point was our trip to the Basque region of Spain, where luckily our biggest influences where having exhibitions within a one hour driving range. Brancusi and Serra had their exhibition in the Guggenheim museum, which is by Gehry, and not far away we had the Cristobal Balenciaga museum. So four astonishing artists work so close to each other, there is no better way to start a collection than by being there in our point of view. Fantastic inspiration in a fantastic landscape. We will definitely explore the north of Spain again.
SS: As designers, would you agree that you are more interested in style than fashion. How would you describe your approach to design?
Aidin Sanati: Our approach to design is to create something that remains, that is consistent. We focus a lot on shape, proportions and texture, also trying to take light reflection in as a main element in our creative process. Therefore we have eliminated unnecessary details, strong colours and prints so far, so we can focus on what is important for us, we see us work as sculptures rather then working with flat drawings, but the shapes have to have a purpose not just for the sake of beauty as we are designers not pure artists.
SS: I was particularly drawn to the luxurious fabrics used, in particular the Japanese jersey that you mentioned earlier), could you talk us through a few of your favourites?
Aidin Sanati: The Japanese jerseys will always have a big role in our collections, its our basis.
We particularly like the pieces that create long shapes and those that you just need to pay a little more attention to and slowly explore. The turtleneck is a good example of what Ubi Sunt is about. It’s an exquisite Japanese jersey with a slightly loose turtle neck so it doesn’t feel to uptight and you can combine it with either casual jeans/chinos or dressed wool trousers for finer occasions.
SS: For me, your designs push a form of luxury fashion to new limits. Proportion, silhouette, cut, fabric and method are all central components. What is luxury to you?
It’s only natural to question luxury and it’s role and position with the basis we have laid for Ubi Sunt. Luxury should enhance the purpose of clothing, which for us is an expression to complement the character of people. The best way to do this is by the shape and proportion so the main tool will be the fabrics used to achieve that specific shape, once that is decided you have to find the best cut for the chosen fabric, so one thing basically leads to another. Menswear is not as extreme as womenswear can be, so you have to play with more subtle components which we also have made to a central point of Ubi Sunt aesthetic values. Also, in comparison with womenswear, menswear is not as traditional in regards to brand image. Menswear might be more traditional in clothing itself but much more evolved and open regarding requirements to be considered as a luxury brand for the consumer.
SS: There is a definite sense of timesless-ness to your designs achieved through a fusion of tradition and innovation. With this in mind, is there a moment in or era of style that you are particularly drawn to?
Aidin Sanati: Not really a specific era in menswear that always is present in our collections, not by purpose at least. There is obviously a lot of influences in each collection from different epochs and in the “Ensemble” collection we researched some late 19th century menswear, that’s the most concrete influence directly from previous eras in menswear. But we always try to make clothes that are timeless and as contemporary as possible, to find the balance is the formula.
SS: If you could go back in time and experience one moment or era of fashion, what would it be?
Aidin Sanati: I think we would go back to the 1920´s not only for the clothing but because of the cultural development in Paris. The demand of personal freedom and the change of morals after the war shaped the art movement and fashion along. The middle class grew stronger and could enjoy life in new ways that only the upper-class could previously and fashion wise women could get rid of the restricted clothes and it was good time for the French fashion houses as well. It was a cultural explosion that had a huge influence on people and life.
SS: What excites you about the future of menswear?
Aidin Sanati: What excites us is that menswear can still define luxury and style in a very free way. It’s not as heritage based as womenswear can be where it takes at least thirty years to maybe obtain luxury status. There is much to explore without going nuts on the role of the genders in society and so forth, it’s much more sophisticated and open-minded in its values. It excites us that by having a good well thought through concept and be able to pull of styles that meet the brand values, your brand can be successful without losing its soul and dignity.
SS: Finally, how would you like to see Ubi Sunt develop over the next few seasons and beyond?
Aidin Sanati: I guess the main objective is to clarify what Ubi Sunt really is about and enlighten our target group with our vision by doing great emotional collections so Ubi Sunt can slowly grow. Ubi Sunt is an expression where we have chosen clothing and menswear as our tool to express the mood of Ubi Sunt. Hopefully it get’s appreciated by many so we can evolve and branch out to accessories; womenswear and later to other design products and art forms. Although we won't branch out before we know that our menswear is as good as we wish, and with the demands and values we have set for Ubi Sunt this might take some time!
It is clear that Ubi Sunt has scrutinised itself and now knows what it stands for. It is only a matter of time before more do and believe in its values.