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pihakapi ss19 leather collection vejas kruszewski
Pihakapi SS19Photography Camille Vivier

The designer behind Vejas on his new leather-focused label Pihakapi

We catch up with Vejas Kruszewski after releasing his second collection for the new brand

After launching his eponymous gender-fluid label Vejas in 2016, Canadian designer Vejas Kruszewski decided to go on hiatus – leaving a void for his cool, conceptual designs that earned him the title of the youngest LVMH Prize winner ever. “I can’t talk about it too much but it felt like the right thing to do,” the designer explains when we catch up with him. Fans of Kruszewski’s work can rejoice though, as the designer has returned to design to helm new label Pihakapi.

“With my eponymous label, we would throw so many different things into a blender and create something out of that, but with Pihakapi it’s a lot more focused – specifically on leather,” the designer tells us. Launched under Italian luxury group Pellemoda – an owner of a leather manufacturer for the likes of Céline, Balenciaga, and Calvin Klein – the label was created as a way of employing new and innovative ways of working with leather but under in-house instead of for other brands. “I love working with leather,” Kruszewski explains. “You can do a lot of things with it technically, but it’s also interesting because it comes from a living animal. It’s a socioculturally loaded material, but I think it’s possible to be critical of certain aspects of the material while also celebrating its potential.”

For the label’s debut for AW18, this meant going back to basics. Think leather jackets bonded to Aran knit jumpers, aviator-style hats, and monkey boots reimagined as topstitched leather tops. “We were trying to establish a foundation for the brand,” the designer says. “We started by reworking familiar garments typically made from leather but subtly working in references like pointed collars to reference a bull’s horns.”

“I wanted to keep things simple for the first season and then begin evolving and focusing more on design – it’s far more interesting” – Vejas Kruszewski 

With the designer’s newly released SS19 collection, he wanted to move beyond basics to look at evolving the codes of Pihakapi – “It’s really more of a design-focused season,” he says. For SS19, this meant introducing materials like cotton and denim to complement and contrast the leather pieces, but the main material obviously still plays a big part – appearing in the form of slick jackets with horns at the cuffs reminiscent of a beetle, harness-like belts that cover trench coats, and denim bonded with chaps. “Moving into design was always my plan,” Kruszewski says on evolving the label. “I wanted to keep things simple for the first season and then begin evolving and focusing more on design – it’s far more interesting.”

While Pihakapi is still in its infancy Kruszewski wants to continue strengthening the label’s signatures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean staging a runway show. “There are different ways to expand on the vocabulary and build up the world of a brand, it doesn’t just have to be a show,” he explains. “There’s a way I want to communicate the visual language and I think there might be some interesting collaborations that could be possible in the future.”