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Masculinity and Androgyny: Laitinen S/S 10

Tuomas Laitinen talks to Dazed Digital about the influences and inspirations behind Laitinen’s first collection entirely dedicated to men.

Laitinen’s Spring/Summer 2010 menswear collection is a reinterpretation of more classic themes and garments. Presented in June at Milan’s White Homme, the collection mixed melancholically gothic and androgynous inspirations and featured tailored looks in a palette mainly comprising white, grey and black. Accessorised with peep toe sneakers, short suits with grid-like prints, leather jackets and trousers with architectural ribbed motifs and light ethereal jumpers were all characterised by sharp silhouettes, subtle details and a great attention for fabrics. The design duo also played with patterns and prints, collaborating once again with photographer Chris Vidal better known for transforming images of everyday objects into abstract photo-collages and prints.

Finnish siblings Tuomas and Anna Laitinen officially started their career after winning the special award at the Festival International des Arts de la Mode in Hyères in 2006. The award gave them the chance to collaborate with Italian fabric company Punto Seta and launch their label during the Autumn/Winter 2007-08 season.
 
Dazed Digital: Did you enjoy showcasing your collection in Milan?
Tuomas Laitinen: It’s always great to have the chance to show your work and we had a really great casting. Our closest friends flew from all over the world to help out. At the moment of the presentation and a few weeks beforehand we are normally so stressed out that we can’t really enjoy what’s happening. We’re always fearing for the worst and praying that everything’s going to go by smoothly.

DD: What inspired your S/S 2010 collection and how many looks did you design for this collection?
Tuomas Laitinen: We never really change our inspiration from season to season. We think it would be silly to do hippie for Summer and go all goth for Autumn. We want things to be as authentic as possible and give a bit more subtle and discrete message to our clients. We have our own world and every collection is a continuation of the previous one. Before starting with a new season we simply ask ourselves what we want to wear and which things from the past should be evolved further and which elements should be replaced with something completely new. We edited the presentation down to 22 looks, but there are always more pieces in the showroom.

DD: What kind of man did you have in mind when you designed your new collection?
Tuomas Laitinen: Pretty much myself, my boyfriend and my friends. I don’t know enough of other people’s lives to think about what they’d like to wear!

DD: A few details of the garments in your latest collection are almost sculptural: did you get your inspirations also from the world of architecture?
Tuomas Laitinen: Not intentionally, but some people say there’s an architect inside every Finn. We are basically breastfed with Alvar Aalto’s work. Alexander McQueen once gave us a lecture at Central Saint Martins and he said that architecture was the worst source of inspiration for a fashion designer because buildings don’t tend to move.

DD: Which is your favourite Laitinen collection so far?
Tuomas Laitinen: It’s always the latest one we love and hate the most at the same time.

DD: Did you have time to follow the S/S 2010 menswear catwalk shows? Which designers do you think are bringing a fresh perspective into the world of fashion?
Tuomas Laitinen: It was the first time in years I actually had some time to go and see some shows in Paris. I think designers are being overtly cautious now because of the economy and there’s not much new happening. From the young ones I found Blaak and Thomas Engel Hart very interesting and I’m quite intrigued in what Damir Doma does. From the more established designers I loved the new sexier Ann Demeulemeester, but I always tend to love what she does. I respect people who stay true to their own vision, no matter which are the current trends or movements. My absolute favourite is Carol Christian Poell, who only shows one collection a year nowadays, but the clothes are made with love and with unrivalled craftsmanship.

DD: In 2006 you won a special jury prize at the Festival d’Hyères, do you feel that this award has helped you emerging?
Tuomas Laitinen: Without Hyères there wouldn’t be a collection. We never really thought about starting on our own before the prize, but, if you’re offered a sponsorship by one of Italy’s best fabric mills and Maria Luisa in Paris wants to place an order, it’s a bit stupid of you not to produce the collection.

DD: Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
Tuomas Laitinen: Our family and friends, who’ve always supported us in everything we’ve decided to do and sometimes they’ve also been the only voice of reason. Anna and I aren’t the easiest of people and it takes a lot of patience to be around us from time to time. Also the MA Course Director Louise Wilson at Saint Martins taught me more than a few valuable lessons about fashion and life in general. Many designers inspired us in our work, but there’s actually too many to mention. We love all the typical Belgians and Japanese, but we also have the greatest respect for the anonymous designers who have created all the amazing vintage workwear and military pieces Anna and I are scouting from the flea markets everywhere we go.

DD: People who work as a design duo often say that, though there may be contrasts between them while they are working together, it’s exactly these contrasts that inspire them and often generate the best ideas. Do you feel it’s the same for you?
Tuomas Laitinen: We actually pretty much share the same taste and inspirations. We look the same and even dress the same. Some people say that we’re identical twins separated by 5 years. We tend to finish each other’s sentences and often come with the exact same ideas without the other one knowing…some people find it rather spooky!

DD: What’s the fashion scene like in Finland at present?
Tuomas Laitinen: Finland and Norway were probably the last of the wealthy countries to really embrace fashion and now it’s getting a bit too trendy for my liking in Helsinki. It’s still a bit more alternative and dark compared to Stockholm for example, but it’s getting more and more uniform in terms of look. I always think it gets boring when the look or trend becomes more important than genuine love between the person and what he or she is wearing. We have some really cool stores with all the cool designers, but I’m not sure if people are buying their Ann Demeulemeester boots for the right reason. The coolest Finnish designers for us are still the 60s classics: the original Marimekko and Vuokko Nurmesniemi. They really were part of the fashion revolution, produced incredible designs that have become modern classics and rose to an international level which none of us young kids have achieved yet.

DD: You work with a famous mill based in Italy, Punto Seta: would you encourage any young designers to contact such established mills and do an internship or start a collaboration with them?
Tuomas Laitinen: Working with big companies teaches you a lot and Punto Seta can produce the most incredible things for your collection. It’s also very important for a fashion designer to understand the whole process of creating a fabric, no matter if it’s printed, woven, knitted or embroidered. Of course for a young label the prices and minimum orders aren’t easy and you’re most likely to be the last one to receive your fabrics after all the bigger clients, yet in most cases it’s worth the pain and wait.

DD: Do you often visit the mills you collaborate with?
Tuomas Laitinen: We go to Italy and Germany a few times a year. It’s nice, but these factory people tend to start working at 7am, which is sometimes a bit challenging for us!

DD: What plans do you have for the summer, working or relaxing?
Tuomas Laitinen: It’s been a lot work and travelling to Milan and Paris. We were supposed to go to Spain just to relax, but apparently we’re going to visit some leather suppliers…work never ends!