Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Horst Interview: Ida Sjöstedt

Ida Sjöstedt Fall/Winter 2009

The work of Swedish gem Ida Sjöstedt noteably stands out from the restraint Swedish fashion landscape. With her provocative and relentless approach to tackiness and clichés, she re-defines the Scandinavian concept of wearability and adds a highly gracious facet to womenswear. Her collection for Fall/Winter 2009 seems to unite all aspects of the risky yet tasteful and well considered Ida cosmos. As the stunning and glittering fashion show finale itself, every Ida gesture puts a happy smile upon your face.

Graceful Ida, thanks for a wonderful collection. I have to take a bow. But first of all, welcome to the world famous Horst interview.

Thank you, it’s a pleasure. I love your interviews – they go beyond the ’what’s the most important colour for next season’ that I usually get to respond to.

How are you today? And: What are you wearing right now?

I’m fine thank you. I’ve been sleeping half of the day as I was dj’ing last night and then went for drinks with friends. Right now I’m sitting in my bed wearing adidas track suit bottoms, a Polo Ralph Lauren sweater and my usual underwear.

What intrigues you about exuberance and what would you see as your design signature?

In general I think I’m afraid of everyday boredom and the swedish motto ’lagom’ (not too much not too little). I’ve always preferred eating noodles one day to be able to have champagne the next, rather than having every day being the same. I also think that being a fashion designer is a really tough business and if I’m doing it I might as well try to get as much fun out of it as possible. Colour, sparkles and beauty is what turns me on creatively so inevitably that reflects in my design.

Your collection for Fall/Winter 2009 is consequently tacky. Is kitsch on your agenda?

I don’t see it as consequently tacky at all myself! However I always aim for a tongue-in-cheek kind of elegance in my collection – never aiming for kitsch for the sake of it. I always do what I think is fun and pretty and I’m actually not very fond of pure kitsch like John Waters for example. I aim for some kind of balance between prettiness and kitsch so it doesn’t become vulgar or repulsive. I do find that – especially in Sweden – people label you as kitsch as soon as they see pink, ruffles and other stereotypical feminine references.

Dawn Davenport in Pink Flamingos (1972) by John Waters

Shedevil is the name of your collection. What is the devil-esque about the pieces?

It’s more about the look than just the individual pieces – and this season I was thinking of a good-girl-gone-bad. I wanted to create something slightly more aggressive sexy than what I did for spring which was super romantic – and to me mixing lace, net, sequins, fun furs and pvc etc. signals kind of ’I don’t give a f**k if you look at me’ which can be quite intimidating. Designwise, I focused on the coats with fur details that are a bit power womanish as well as the cape details that connotate super hero powers for instance. Powerful women are more or less always described as bitches or she devils which is something that always has bugged me and also is why I often come back to it when working on my collections.

I think snakeskin is the new leopoard, even though I am a declared kitten lover, it has something mythical, don't you think?

Yeah that’s true. Snakeskin is a bit more subtle than leopard because it doesn’t necessarily reference ’hooker’ – it’s more mythical, surrealistic and not so in your face. It’s funny though – when I first introduced leopard in my collection spring 2005 my agent had to hide those pieces for the buyers in order to not scare them off. They thought it was too tacky... Snakeskin hasn’t really breaked yet and I guess it’s one of these things you never know if people will eventually wear it or if it’s just going to stay on the catwalks. It’s also funny how Christopher Kane got all the credit for snakeskin last year when someone like Roberto Cavalli or D&G has been doing it forever. I just think it’s funny how the world of fashion works. It’s all about putting what you do into a certain context.

My favorite, I must say, is the black neck-wrap dress, as it seems to be a foreign matter. A rebellious hint to minimalism?

Haha – that’s actually one of my favourites too. Initially it is a development of an old Ida-classic: the dress with the ’bust-bow’. I first did it in 2004 and it has become one of my signature styles. This season I played around a bit with draping it different ways and I liked how it became more of scarf and it also hints a feeling of being tied. Honestly that one is more about product development than conceptual ideas though!

You dared to revive the flare with super wide, almost dress-like trousers. There was always a fierce fight about trouser shapes throughout fashion history. So, to speak with the words of Heidi Klum, what were you thinking when you created your designs?

One of the main influences for this collection was the rock scene of the sixties and seventies and in particular how it’s portrayed in the Russ Meyer film ’Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’, so flared legs felt like a must. Also I’ve become pretty sick of these skinny highwaisted trousers that’s been dominating the last seasons so I really felt it was about time to lower the waists and flare the legs. I felt an urge to change the silhouette slightly from what I’ve been doing previously and now I think it’s actually more flattering wearing flared leggings than the skinny ones that totally reveal your natural shape. To me it was about creating something modern by being retro and it’s also a hint to the early nineties when everyone used to wear jazz pants. It’s time for a comeback.

Could one see your collections as an escape to Barbie world? I remember this Barbie dress my sister owned that could be taken 1:1 from your collection...

I get that a lot – so well, yeah maybe... I think to me it’s more about escapism from boredom in general as I mentioned before. Then of course it all started off with Barbie. I still have saved some clothes I made for my dolls when I was a kid. Back then you coluldn’t always wear what you wanted yourself but you could dress up the doll however you liked. I guess I’m pretty much doing now what I did as a kid but in a larger scale.

I think the sex in your collections is always a subtle connotation only. Never too explicit but still resonating: Lace bodies, skinny tights, sheer dresses. How would you define the bedroom appeal of your clothes?

I’s funny you say that – I think it’s because I’m a woman designing for other women, and I think it’s about a look that is more appealing to other women than to men. Men (I know I generalize now) are often intimidated by women who are dressing up to much because they don’t get it and think it’s too fake. The Carrie Bradshaw look is the best example – women love her style but most men think it’s just ugly. But then you also have the peacock effect of course. I mean wearing pvc leggings, sequin dresses and big furs do attract a certain amount of attention when you wear it... It’s like it goes straight to the reptile brain.

To go back to the subtlety though – I would never dress a model on a show or a shoot in something she’s uncomfortable with like showing off her boobs explicitly or so. Speaking of it, however, it makes me think of an incident last year. One of my customers – a store in a smaller Swedish city - used one of my image pictures in an advertisment in a local paper. It showed the model sitting on a stair with her legs spread apart but wearing a quite long denim skirt. A really commomn fashion image if you say. However one person found it offensive, reported it to the Swedish Review board and it was pressed guilty for being discriminating women. That only happens in Sweden...

Spring/Summer 2009

What is your personal background, where do you come from? What do you think influenced your view on fashion most?

I’m from a typical Swedish middle class background. Both my parents are academics and I grew up in a suburb south of Stockholm. I don’t think I had much fashion influences as a kid – except from some Finnish Romani women who lived in the neighbourhood and wore their traditional dresses, and watching my first episode of Dallas aged 5. I also started reading the fashion pages of the newspapers really thoroughly almost before I even knew how to read, and had a longing for glamour for as far as I can remember…

My mum didn’t have any interest in fashion when I was younger – she does now - but my grandmother who was jewish and immigrated to Sweden during the war had an unfulfilled dream of becoming a fashion designer and she always gave my nice fabrics and helped me make dresses for my dolls. The mum of my best friends was also really good at sewing so when I was about 12 my mum paied her to let me go to their place once a week and she taught me how to sew my own clothes.

Leslie Hall

Do you know Leslie Hall, the gem sweater lady?

Yeah I love her sweaters! I didn’t know her name actually but I remember having some pictures of her on one of my inspiration walls a couple of years ago!

What is your all-time favourite piece? Which one the most hated?

From my own collections? I really can´t tell. The pieces I’ve worn the most is probably one of my jackets like the Rosemary jacket from fall 05 (navy with gold buttons and a ruffle in the back) to me that’s a classic Ida-piece. I don’t hate any of my designs – they’re all my babies.

What is your vision, what would you like to see as your achievement?

I want to do what I do and be able to balance that with my personal life. Getting time for the people I love and not having to worry too much about economy. It’s pretty simple.

Fashion show finale Fall/Winter 2009

I was wondering, how would the Ida boy look like? What is he wearing?

I’ve never been into macho men really so the Ida boy would definitely be more of a cutie. However I must admit I’m pretty conservative when it comes to menswear and I really don’t like peacock style boys either so I think it would be pretty much about classic pieces but really considering the silhouette and and a nice comfy fit as well as focusing on details and colour.

Or is there one piece out of your collection that little Horsti could wear? Maybe lace leggins?

Hmm... I’d rather recommend a sweater or maybe the dollface t-shirt.

Thank you!

Image credits Fashion Week by Berns, Lina Eidenberg

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