WITH CMMN SWDN
Launched in the Swedish city of Malmo in 2012 and now based out of East London, CMMN SWDN blend their inherent Scandinavian sensibilities with the creative chaos of London. The label merges elements of youth culture with a more elegant, sartorial outlook utilising unique fabrics, modern cuts and subtle detailing to craft a collection of tailored pieces that sit together perfectly. We hopped on the 149 bus for the short trip to CMMN's HQ to meet founders Emma & Saif to discuss origins, the perils of running a label and living in London.
How did you guys meet?
Emma: We first met in 2004 in London through mutual friends. Saif was studying menswear at London College of Fashion and I started my BA in womenswear at Central Saint Martins.
What was the defining moment that led to you guys setting up the label?
Saif: After graduating we worked at several fashion houses including COS and Wooyoungmi before heading up design for Kanye West in Paris. It was at Kanye’s fashion house in Paris that we got to work together professionally for the first time and realized that we were quite compatible on many levels. Setting up Kanye’s studio and label in Paris triggered the desire to run our own label. So when Kanye decided to move the studio from Paris to London, we thought it was the right time for us to head back to Sweden and launch CMMN.
What is it about East London that brought you back here from Sweden?
Saif: East London has in fact many similarities to our home town, Malmo in Sweden. When Malmo became too small and too far away from the industy, East London was a natural choice for us. We love being part of the multicultural and creative hub of East London. Our studio is right on Kingsland Road and we only have to open the door to be inspired by the creative chaos outside.
How does living and working in London inspire the label?
Emma: There is no doubt that our Swedish roots are still evident in the aesthetic of the brand but our London years have inspired us hugely and defined the image of the brand. London is individual, more experimental and people strive to stick out from the rest. It is dynamic. London has always been known for debuting young raw talents, a place where trends start before trickling down. It is a very exciting place to live and work.
How would you define your new image of masculinity?
Saif: I would like to think that it’s our different backgrounds, our aesthetics and the design principles that differ us. Me, a middle eastern growing up in monochrome Sweden with an interest in sartorial menswear combined with Emma’s womenswear background and eye for colour and texture, I believe that is the recipe. It’s that mix that once fused together creates an interesting collection.
What does each of your individual skill sets bring to the brand?
Emma: We are both very involved in all aspects of CMMN from designing to running the day-to-day life of the brand. When it comes to designing it often starts with an open dialog where we discuss and present what’s been inspiring us lately and how we could turn that inspiration into a collection. With Emma’s background as a womenswear designer she tends to be the one that focuses on material and colours whereas I will be focusing on cut and silhouette. But again we both compliment each other’s areas and together we shape the final direction and collection.
Claude Garache Print
What do you find most challenging about running your own brand?
Saif: The fast pace of the fashion industry.. it is equally as exciting as it is exhausting..
A lot of the styling, silhouettes and colour tones of CMMN seem to reference the 1970’s. Is this a beloved era of yours?
Saif: I don’t believe it is so much about referencing a specific era as it is about looking at colour and texture. For AW17 we found inspiration in West German Pottery, particularly from the 1960s and 70s. The pottery from this era has a particular aesthetic using a vibrant colour palette and layered textured formations which is later reflected in our choice of material and colours.
What keeps you motivated?
Emma: The amazing feedback from our customers and followers. The ultimate satisfaction is always to see someone wear your creations.
What’s an average day like in the CMMN SWDN studio?
Saif: There are no average days. No day is like the other. But one thing is for sure, we always start our day with a cup of strong Swedish coffee.
How do you think social media has changed the fashion landscape?
Emma: Social media platforms have somewhat shifted the power and helped many young brands establish themselves without the big machinery that is PR or an enormous budget that previously was needed for such exposure. Brands can today communicate directly with their consumer/follower etc. It can grow organically and increase its presence on a global market much quicker. Before brands would start expanding in one market at a time. Social media brings awareness. Social media now dictates a scene that used to be dictated by editors and PR companies. Runway shows are streamed live online, lookbooks and editorials are shared online and attracts an audience of millions across the planet. The explosion of social media is in one way a revolution that has transformed the industry's branding and fan base.
Do you relate to the traditional ideals of Scandinavian design (clean lines/minimalism etc) or do you see CMMN as something totally different?
Saif: Swedish culture and identity is usually described as simple, clean, uniformed and quite democratic in a way. London on the other hand is more individual, more experimental and people strive to stick out from the rest. We find this contrast very inspiring and think the combination of the two creates a perfect balance. I think that is what CMMN is all about.
What does the future hold for CMMN SWDN?
Saif: We will continue to build our brand and push our collections and are excited to showcase AW18 during Paris Fashion Week in January.
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