Swedish designer Simon Ekrelius studied fashion at Stockholm’s Tillskärarakademin . Though the education he received there provided him with great technical skills, he felt his creativity was stifled since students weren’t allowed to use materials such as leather and plastic. Breaking the rules he made a collection using plastic and moose suede and ended up winning an award at a local competition. From then on, refusing to conform became his motto and, when it came to start his own label, Ekrelius first settled on haute couture, moving onto ready-to-wear only four years ago.
His Autumn/Winter 2010-11 collection, entitled 'Stardust', proves a design can truly shine like a precious stone even when it’s not covered in sparkling crystals: indeed, Ekrelius’s organza skirts remind in their silhouettes the geometrically complex crystal shapes of minerals, while the configuration of diamonds reappears in the graphic black and white prints and in the body panels and reinforced shoulder pads of his jumpsuits.
Dazed Digital: Do you feel that your upbringing somehow influenced your career choices and your style?
Simon Ekrelius: Education was always considered as very important in my family, but so was creativity. My dad worked as a painter and my mum as a hairstylist during the ‘60s and ‘70s, and they always supported me. They’re very strong yet open-minded and even now we talk about art, design and craftsmanship. My grandmother was a strong creative influence in my life, even though she died when she was just 56. The time we spent together was amazing, though: she modelled for couture houses, worked for a ceramist, sew clothes and made toys for us kids and was also an excellent illustrator. I started cutting up clothes and sewing them back together when I was 6: as soon as my mum went to work, I would sneak in and borrow her sewing machine. When I grew up, I realised I would look much better if I did my garments by myself, so I started designing my own trousers and T-shirts. I remember I used to spend hours styling myself.
DD: The cut of your designs at times appears to be almost architectural, what inspires your creations?
Simon Ekrelius: Modern and post-modern architecture and architects such as Vladimir Tatlin, Sir Norman Foster and Le Corbusier have always been a great influence in my work. My style is modelled on a woman I imagine living among such architectures and experiencing the sort of stories you would find in Pedro Almodóvar’s films such as Kika.
DD: What is the main theme behind your A/W 2010-11 “Stardust” collection?
Simon Ekrelius: A woman beneath a firmament who looks at space with the suspension of disbelief of a child and sees the stars as shiny and shimmering mineral-like forms. The collection also retains an architectural influence since it was also inspired by the Philips Pavilion designed for the 1958 Brussels World Fair by Le Corbusier’s office.
DD: When you settle to work on a new collection, do you start experimenting with fabrics or do you sketch first?
Simon Ekrelius: Usually, after thinking for a long time about the new designs, I start working on the fabric and draping it. Fabric is very important in my work since it has to present the right technical solutions to my fascination with that particular design and silhouette. I guess you get the best results when you balance this two aspects of creativity, sketching and fabric construction, and I’ve often noticed that I need to be alone to reach the perfect balance. Sewing and construction can be very stressful aspects for a designer, but the best part of a design process is definitely when you get to see the final results and you realise how your idea works beautifully on the body.
DD: So far who has been the greatest influence on your career?
Simon Ekrelius: As I said, my grandmother, Pedro Almodóvar’s films, my friend and mentor Magdalena and my friend and muse Sasha. I usually look up at people who don’t follow trends or try to copy others, but are just happy being who they are as I find them very inspiring.
DD: What has changed in your way of creating fashion since you started your haute couture label and what’s the most important lesson you learnt throughout these years?
Simon Ekrelius: I guess the main lesson I learnt is “Never look back”! Many things changed since I started, but for the better. My work went through a huge change for what regards the style and presentation, since when I first moved to London I wasn’t so well-known and it was difficult to get the right models and photographers. My cut remained essentially the same, though it now verges more towards ready-to-wear and the designers are easier to produce. Besides my haute couture pieces were designed for one person or one specific event, while my new collections are obviously aimed at a broader customer base.
DD: Do you think haute couture will keep on existing in future?
Simon Ekrelius: I love haute couture and I think it’s still very vital in some ways, even though it has only got very few and selected clients. When I have time I still do couture pieces, in fact I would love to have more time to spend on them. Maybe one day, when my ready-to-wear collections are more established, I will even open up a small secret atelier somewhere.
DD: If you hadn’t become a fashion designer, what would you have been?
Simon Ekrelius: That’s a very hard question, who knows, maybe a stone or mineral sculptor!
DD: You recently featured in London and Paris’s On|Off exhibition: did you enjoy it and will you be at other fashion events in the next few weeks?
Simon Ekrelius: I loved it and really enjoyed working with the On|Off staff. Lee Lapthorne is very professional and this event covers a lot of different design areas. Half of the collection will now be travelling to the Far East to take part in different events over there.