Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Horst Interview: Tuomas Laitinen

With their new collection for SS09, Finnish designer team Anna and Tuomas Laitinen impressively demonstrated what they are capable of: creating overwhelmingly beautiful clothes with an outsider edge. Defining new modernism while staying true to their roots. The Laitinen Spring/Summer collection releases pure desire and admiration with cutout details, subtle layering, complicated knitwear, macro prints and accents in electric blue. We all love the 90s, let's all love Laitinen.

Laitinen Spring/Summer 2009

In July 2008 little Horst was honoured to have a little talk with Tuomas.
A time when the SS09 collection was just in the making...

First of all, welcome to the world famous Horst interview. How are you?

Thanks, it's my pleasure. I know one should always say that he's fine, but in all honesty we're pretty much on the edge right now. There's the production and deliveries for AW08 and we're also trying to make sense out of next season's collection, which seems to change direction every day still. We're pretty much going borderline cuckoo with something every day. Right now we must figure out why the machines at our mill insist on turning black and gray prints into blue. Maybe they've got something against us.

Where have you been the last days?

I was in New York for 10 days with my boyfriend to see old friends and relax, but instead of having a blast I ended up worrying about fabrics and deliveries. Right now I'm at the factory worrying about fabrics and deliveries plus occasionally watching very bad TV. Actually we flew to JFK through Munich and took this fancy Lufthansa plane. You know, one of those new double-decker ones with downstairs loos and really good entertainment systems? Sadly that aircraft has been the highlight of my recent past.

How would you describe the relationship with your sister?

There's 5 years between us, but we're pretty much like identical twins. We often come up with the exact same ideas simultaneously. I mean a real product, not just some vague scribbles doodled while you're on the phone with somebody. Well, maybe that's not so weird because we share the same aesthetics and taste when it comes to 99% of things. Also we're not the easiest people to deal with and of course to us our shared oddities are nothing unusual. When it comes to our work we're both very harsh and critical. Anna's even worse at binning her ideas than I am, so it's always good that there's someone picking the stuff up from the rubbish. Sometimes she can really push my buttons and I'm sure I do the same thing to her, but for the most of time we love each other to bits.

I once quoted you when you were talking with Diane about the 90s, about being a teenager and buying The Face magazine. How do you feel connected with the nineties? And what about the 00s?

To me the 90s was the age of innocence, you know the kind of painfully sweet years of finding oneself. When you're a teenager you're introduced to all these new exciting things like music, sex and fashion. Also that's when I decided I was going to ignore totally what the rest of the world thought about my appearance and other choices in life. So I carried my bowl haircut with pride and dreamt about making out with Brett Anderson of Suede. I loved the whole androgyny thing with rockstars like Justine Frischmann, Jarvis Cocker and Alex James, they've definitely left a mark in our work.

There was also this roughness and melancholy in music, photography and movies, which was probably caused by the recession. Fashionwise there was Helmut Lang and the 2nd generation of Belgian designers including Raf Simons plus all the new photographers like Corinne Day, Juergen Teller and Wolfgang Tillmans. The 00s just seem way too calculated and commercial to me, everything's a plastic re-edition of the past. You know there's even this super popular band in UK called 1990s? There's so many bands, models and designers, who all come and go so bloody fast that I'm not even bothered to keep up with them anymore. That's what I've got my students for.

The outsider theme seems to be your driving force. Is it still?

Well I've never really wanted to be an insider of any group, so I guess it still is on the background of all the things and decisions I end up making. I somehow naturally avoid all sorts of groups and clans; both Anna and I are terribly asocial. We hate when people try to force things into boxes and make up fake movements etc.

I wonder if you have a muse?

Everyone with individual style and something to say.

What's the perfect outfit for a man, for a woman?

Anything which feels natural and right for them. No matter if the result seems disastrous to other people's eyes.

What's your favourite piece of clothing?

Anything black and a bit lived-in, so basically everything I own.

Your Autumn/Winter collection looks really precious, the knitted sweater, the metallic parka, but at the same time very casual and effortless. What's the idea behind?

We just wanted it to be different from the SS08 collection, which was more floaty and romantic. Opulence isn't normally what we go for, but we wanted to do kind of depressed bling and use metallics and exquisite finishes in very subtle designs. So that it wouldn't be too obvious. We never really think about comfort or wearability too much, it somehow just comes naturally. We're no-nonsense people in the end and our clothes are meant to be worn. Also I don't think people look or feel that sexy wearing stuff, which makes them feel uncomfortable.

Laitinen Fall/Winter 2008

Which techniques did you use creating these sensual surfaces and structures?

There's a lot work in that collection. We work a lot with prints because our Italian mill is specialized in them, even the golden foil is printed. The furry looking texture on jackets and dresses is embroidered with mohair and wool on cotton. That took ages to do and almost bankrupted us, but we really love it. All the textured knits with gold-thread and angora were handmade by Anna.

Would you like your clothes to be perceived as luxury items? Or art pieces?

I don't really like the word luxury, because the word only means status nowadays. Everybody has some freaking ugly Louis Vuitton or Gucci under their arm. But I do like making a quality product using top notch materials. We sell in luxury shops next to big names and our clothes are rather expensive, so I guess some people could call us a luxury brand. But we don't really design for the crowd who want to buy into brands or status, it's the complete opposite end of fashion we're all about. We'd like to think our customers still have their own opinions left. Of course there's an artistic side to our work, but unlike works of art our stuff has to function in daily life.

Laitinen Spring/Summer 2009

I have the feeling there is a special 'pattern' especially in the women's clothes. Like an evolution. For example you are redefining a printed dress over and over again. Like there always exists the matching men's shirt. Is it a leitmotif. A starting point for every collection?

Most of the collection is rather androgynous; a skinny boy could easily everything from the women's collection excluding the dresses. We like the androgyny, but it's not about making matching his and hers versions of the same product. We have a limited amount of fabrics for every season and the collection is small, so of course the same print ends up appearing in a few places. We like to develop our style with time and fine tune our skills bit by bit. We're not the kind of designers who are hippie this summer and go all goth for next autumn. A collection should be a continuation of designer's true individual style. That is really the only starting point for our work as well.

Do you design the men's, and Anna the women's line – or is it a collaborative process. How will the SS09 collection look like. Can you describe a key piece?

Before our roles were more defined, but now we're both involved with everything. Anna's still more in touch with the knits, because that's her specialty and I continue designing the more tailored pieces. SS09 is still rather vague in our minds. There's all these colorful fabrics in the studio and now we're wondering what on earth we were thinking when placing the order. Somehow we'd like to do something rather minimal with functional touches and also throw something romantic in. Basically it's still a one big mess.

Thanks Tuomas.


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