Few debut collections cause such a well deserved flutter as Common's did for AW12. Yes, the Lars Jonsson collaborative sparrow print exquisitely applied to bomber jackets set pulses soaring but it was the Swedish duo of Saif Bakir and Emma Hedlund's mix of design cultures and desire to showcase local manufacture and craftsmanship that really captured our imagination. Having graduated from London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins respectively before honing their skills whilst working for both Wooyoungmi and Kanye West, the talented friends returned home to Sweden to craft their design dream. With its heady cocktail of contrary elements and constant play of dualities. From street wear and traditional menswear, combinations of vintage and innovative and wardrobe staples alongside seasonal specials, there was an assured balance and sartorial mixology throughout. It was a debut all too easy to get drunk on. The excitement was not just limited to the blogosphere, buyers were just as enthused and the collection has just nested in Tres Bien Shop and Storm.
For Spring Summer 20123, the design duo continue on their shared quest for an elegant modernity but choose to fuse it with the rough and harsh realities of boot camp. As with last season's accomplished debut, Wilderness' focus is on a Smörgåsbord of wardrobe staples proudly sitting next to more colourful and unique showpieces. It is a wilderness to get lost in. As the latest Patrick Lindblom shot look book was unveiled we decided to have a virtual sit down with the talented twosome...
SS: After graduating from London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins respectively and working with both Wooyoungmi and Kanye West, you returned to Sweden to launch Common. Where did the two of you meet and what was the catalyst for ultimately launching Common?
Saif Bakir: I met Emma back in 2004 at London collage of Fashion where I was doing my BA degree and Emma was at the time in her foundation year before starting her BA at Central St Martins. We were both a huge support to each other during our degrees. We worked closely together and constantly picking each other’s brain and exchanging ideas. It wasn’t until Saif moved to Paris and joined me as head of designs at Kanye West that we got to work together professionally and realized that we were quite compatible on many levels. Setting up Kanye’s studio and label in Paris we came to realise that we could be doing the same thing for us and this triggered the desire to run our own label. So when Kanye decided to move the studio to London we thought it was time for us to set up Common.
SS: Evolving out of this design background, I'm fascinated by the label's seemingly effortless fusion of personality traits from London, Paris and Scandinavia. How did your experiences at college and working in Paris influence your aesthetic?
Saif Bakir: Our collage years in London has influenced us greatly, the diverse style of the city is a huge inspiration and 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.
SS: Expanding on this identity of fusion, what does Common mean to you? What can you tell us about the story behind the name?
Saif Bakir: The name for the brand is Common and the company is called Common Affairs. Both names play on the different synonyms and meanings of the word common. The idea came about of having something in common with our customers, followers and the factories we work with and also creating something common in a very uncommon way.
SS: With 'Wilderness', you are continuing your quest to create an elegant modernity whilst combining many facets. What did your mood board look like for SS13? What inspired you?
Saif Bakir: For Spring Summer 2013 we explored our fascination with a “bad boy” attitude so we started looking into youth camps for troubled youth but also scout movement back in the 30s and 40s. The combination of harsh and tough yet disciplined and sophisticated are contrasting elements that inspired us for this collection.
SS: The collection flows from the accomplished debut collection seamlessly. For example, a number of key pieces from AW12 including the Helmut and Bomber jackets, could you describe their use and refinement for the latest season?
Saif Bakir: Our collections are continuous, a story under constant development. We want our collections to be able to sit together as one. The Bomber is one of the cornerstones of our collections and is one of the pieces that we constantly develop and refine. As for the Helmut jacket, it is one of our top sellers and a perfect jacket for both autumn and spring therefore we found that it should be carried over but in a new fresh summery colour.
SS: In both collections there has been a real visual and graphic edge. What can you tell us about the evolution of the gallop print for SS13?
Saif Bakir: For SS13 we wanted to dig deep in our Swedish handicraft heritage and find an artist with an expressive and unique style. We wanted to look for a collaborator in an un-common and unexpected place for a contemporary menswear label As the National Association of Swedish Handicraft Societies, Hemslöjden turned one hundred this year. They held an exhibition to mark the anniversary and this is where the expressive work of Hans Krondahl caught our eye. We contacted Hans hoping he would find Common, our ideas and values equally as interesting. It turned out that he lives just around the corner from us in Malmö so he joined us for coffee and a chat in our studio. Looking through Hans work we were drawn by the bold graphic style of the print Gallop. Together with Hans we decided to give this print a new lease of life by updating it with a new colour way and playing with proportion and scale.
SS: There's a real sense of collaboration, both between the two of you, your Swedish manufacturers and creative talent that you work with each season. How important is collaboration to Common? Who would you love to collaborate with?
Saif Bakir: Collaborations are in the DNA of Common and a key feature in our collections. To emphasise this we launched COMMON GROUNDS. A platform were we each season will bring in a new Swedish creative collaborator. For future collaboration we would love to step out of our comfort zone and work together with a designer from a different discipline perhaps a furniture or product design or even architecture.
SS: Craft and local manufacture are obviously very important to you both and the label is proudly made in Sweden. From what I can gather, Sweden is a bit like the UK in the fact that it's a challenge to do so. How have you found it sourcing and working closely with Swedish Producers over the last two seasons?
Saif Bakir: To produce in Sweden has proven to be a greater challenge then we thought. Much of the know how and skills has unfortunately already diminished. This does unfortunately restrict and limit the possibilities of producing a full range in Sweden. We still aim to work as much as possible and when possible with domestic companies and manufacture.
SS: Finally, how would you like to see Common continue to evolve over the coming seasons and beyond?
Saif Bakir: Our aim is to constantly remain current in our thinking and to bring new and fresh ideas. We would also like to see Common featured in an international menswear fashion week in seasons to come.
Look book shot by Patrick Lindblom with art direction by Stinsensqueeze and styling by Andrej Skok
This pair were never in the design wilderness. There's a definite sense that Common's collections are continuous. Creative evolution. Their's is story under constant development and I cannot wait to continue reading and watching the pair develop.