“For this collection it was about creating a gang of characters” explains Sahzene Nilhan Durmusoglu Johansen (known as Sn. DJ) referring to the eclectic menswear pieces, which earned the St Martins graduate a place at Oslo Fashion Week as part of the Cocoon New Talents project at the beginning of last month. A collection conceived upon a mish mash of inspirations including music, street wear, gang culture and a childhood spent in Istanbul, the results rely heavily on needle felting techniques with patchwork kaleidoscopic knitwear garments making a regular appearance. However, the designer cites her showpiece as a haute-couture head to toe bank robbery outfit constructed from white crochet. “This character makes fun of fashion in a way and makes you think” says Johansen. “He is a misfit guy who can’t really afford anything but still spends all his money on clothes”.
Dazed Digital: What drew you to menswear?
Sn. DJ: It was just about being closer to my inner self I guess. That is what art/design mean to me in the first place; expressing myself. I am a girl all right but I am a boy too. So doing menswear keeps me balanced and mentally healthy.
DD: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Sn. DJ: Someone with good humour and a fearless character – that’s beautiful to me.
DD: Which menswear designers do you admire at the moment? Are there any that have influenced you as a designer?
Sn. DJ: I like to keep up with up and coming menswear designers and graduates from various colleges. The level is getting higher and higher which excites me much more than many established designers or houses who follow a certain business path. On the other hand I have always admired Raf Simons. Especially his first collections. They are really honest, cool and timeless without being too 'fashiony' if you know what I mean. I should mention Siv Støldal too. I got the chance to work with her quite a lot through my college. She is so politically correct in this crazy fashion world. Right now I am collaborating with another menswear designer from Norway, Camilla Bruerberg. She is also a very inspiring person and a good friend. Names like Vivienne Westwood, Martin Margiela, Christopher Shannon, Rei Kawakubo too are of course on the list. But in general, I like fashion designers who can say 'we' more often than 'I'.
DD: Most of your collection is built around knitwear, what do you find so fascinating about it?
Sn. DJ: I didn't plan that from the beginning. A crochet table cloth from my mum and a woven badge from an old jacket I had were among my inspirations for this collection. Hand-knitting was something that followed from taking a closer look at these inspirations. I had sponsorship from a wool factory in the western part of Norway too. It was like being in a chocolate factory when I was there to pick up materials. In the end I had so many different colours and types of yarns that I was having a hard time choosing which ones to use. So I used all of them, mixing randomly and playing with it. Actually the most fascinating thing about the knitwear in this collection is the prints I created. The camo print for example was a result of scanning and photoshopping knitwear pieces I had made.
DD: What are your favourite pieces from the collection and why?
Sn. DJ: I like the jacket I made for my second show in Oslo Fashion Week. This jacket is called bonus track. I like the mix of printed front with knitted back. That garment simply makes me happy. I really like the 'top to toe crochet' showpiece too.