Johan Lindeberg not only participated in making Diesel one of the hottest denim brands of the 90s through forward-thinking ad campaigns, but he also created the Swedish fashion brand J.Lindeberg at the end of that decade. As such he helped build the powerful Scandinavian aesthetic that we today take for granted. After leaving his own label in 2007, the bearded and bespectacled designer began working with Justin Timberlake's William Rast label before, in the summer of 2010, Lindeberg decided it was time to launch his own label again.
Cue BLK DNM. Now based in New York, Johan and his team has not only scaled down the design operation and the fundamental aesthetic of the brand to a look that is essentially close to what Lindeberg today wears himself (jeans, leather jackets, T-shirts, casual suits etc) but he has also reconfigured the way he interacts with customers. Using BLK DNM.com as his flagship store, and only opening up a handful of physical shops, the brand cuts out the expensive retail middle man, and saves the customer money by scrapping the mark up. Dazed sat down with Johan for a chat, and an exclusive Behind-the-Scenes insight from the Martin Thurah-directed film that was created in conjunction with BLK DNM's launch.
Dazed Digital: How did BLK DNM come about?
Johan Lindeberg: It started it eight months ago so it's all gone pretty fast! I woke up one morning and felt I wanted to create something new for myself again. I worked with Justin Timberlake and his William Rast label after leaving J.Lindeberg and it was a good exercise in terms of working in the US. I learnt a lot from being around him, I was his personal stylist so we went to the Grammys, Madonna gigs, music video recordings and so on...
DD: The brand is centred around its website shops rather than physical stores - why?
Johan Lindeberg: It feels right to be digital, I'm tired of trying to fit into other people's concept shops and different floors in department stores, that's why online is the main outlet for BLK DNM.
DD: Where did the name come from?
Johan Lindeberg: I like black denim, and I prefer brand names to generic, like American Apparel and White Cube - so BLK DNM felt right. I also wanted it to be based in New York. I've always lived and worked in different cities and now I just wanted to settle down here and do it all in New York.
DD:Why based in New York, rather London or Stockholm?
Johan Lindeberg: I feel like a New Yorker now. The city is international and its style mirrors that. I'm from Sweden and my style Scandinavian I suppose. It based on my intuition because I really wanted to create something that I feel represent myself. The way BLK DNM looks is how I've dressed for years.
DD: How do you feel about not working with J.Lindeberg any more?
Johan Lindeberg: It's quite nice not to use my own name, it's less restricting. I don't care about not having my name as the brand name. I don't feel bitter or angry, I feel nothing when I go past a J.Lindeberg shop, it's like another shop. It's given me creative freedom to work with less people.
DD: How would you describe BLK DNM and its style?
Johan Lindeberg: It's downtown New York attitude with a Parisian chic twist. No seasons, 60 products and add on each month with no main collection or diffusion line. focused on the products that I, and people around me, like. I have no retailer so I cut out the middle man and that's why the prizes are reasonable. Thirty dollars for a T-shirt and around 140 for jeans. If I'd sold them wholesale they would be 200 dollars but I don't have a mark up! I give that money back to the consumers. But we do have a few more pricey items as well - we sell a shearling cape that will set you back 2,000 dollars, for example... Jeans and tailored trousers, but no chinos - don't like them! There's lots of leather jackets, no sportswear, and for girls the style is just what I want girls to wear.
DD: The price point is very reasonable, how did you think in terms of brand positioning?
Johan Lindeberg: It doesn't feel very modern to give a brand status because it costs lots of money or because it's produced in a particular country. Consumers are too smart for that. I've always liked taking the tougher path instead of following a specific pattern, which is probably why Style.com called me a 'fashion anarchist'... I just think the culture of a brand, not the price, should set the status of the label...
DD: Tell me about the film you did with Martin Thurah...
Johan Lindeberg: I was just tired of fashion shows, we did 10 shows in Milan and I've done a few in New York. I was looking for a new way to introduce the brand, something that was both interesting creative.
DD: How did you find him?
Johan Lindeberg: I had seen his film for Fever Ray's 'When I Grow Up'. We started emailing and he's now done two films for us. The first film was about relationships... I had just split from my wife so it made sense for me. It's about the difficulties of finding synergy with another person and signing up to commitments. The second film is about being obsessed with women...
DD: There's a magazine coming out as well...
Johan Lindeberg: Yeah, The first issue is called Gazette 1, and then there's number 2 of course. It's the same with BLK DNM; we have jeans 1 and 2, leather jacket 1 and 2. The shops are called Gallery 1 and Gallery 2 and so on... But anyway, I felt like doing a magazine and it doesn't have any clothes in it, especially not any BLK DNM. The editor just to do Rebel in Paris and she's curating Gazette by using artists, directors and photographers around us. It's a poster magazine... slightly anarchistic... I'm old enough to remember Paris 1968 and the anti Vietnam war movement, so I think all of that has inspired me.
DD: Do you have a favourite piece in the collection?
Johan Lindeberg: The biker jacket for girls and a look with tailored jacket and high-waisted trousers. I think I'm more inspired to design womenswear than menswear at the moment. To dress a woman is one of the most inspiring things I've ever done!